Fly-Lite (Rain Fly/Tarp)- Lightweight, Modular Hammock System in the Making
After developing the most recent working prototypes we have proof that the concept design of the Fly-Lite will work. The first version that I was happy with, from a protection stand point, weighed in at 20 ounces.... Not exactly what I call light weight - but a good starting point. So now the major question is, can I strip the Fly-Lite down enough to make it a truly lightweight camping product?
In doing our market research we found several "tarps" on the market that were very lightweight. In general the brand accomplishes this in one of three ways.
- Extremely light weight fabric (Cuban fiber)
- Decreased area coverage of the tarp (short ridgeline length)
- Excluding essential items from the listed weight of the tarp (stakes, guylines, ect..)
The fabric is obviously the biggest weight contributor in a tarp product. Right now we have not found a feasible way to manufacture with Cuban fiber, so unfortunately that goes out the window immediately. The typical tarp design in today's market is either: a simple rectangular piece of fabric (A Frame setup), a rectanglular piece of fabric turned asymmetrically (rectangle turned to use two diagonal corners as the ridgeline). I have drawn these out in Figure 1.
The great thing about these two designs for the manufacturer is, they waste minimal fabric and construction is very simple - thus cost effective for the manufacturer. The problem with these designs is they are very generic designs that in some regard don't attempt to address the multitude of variables or issues present in hammock camping.
- Minimum tree distance is important to consider when looking for versatility. An 11' tarp ridgeline means that you can not set up a hammock with two trees that are closer than 11', or you risk having a major sag in your tarp.
- End protection is important if you ever encounter an actual rain storm while using your tarp. Let's face it, that's why you're buying a "Rain Tarp".
- Hammock suspension enters this equation every time because it is an entry point for water. Though it is difficult to completely stop, the design should make attempts to limit this.
I dive into these problems in a much more detailed fashion here, so revisit this if you'd like. We addressed all of the variables we found when we created the Nubé Hammock Shelter, but there are some occasions when you would be better served with a lighter more modular hammock system and that's why we are creating the Fly-Lite.
When I began trying to bring down the Fly-Lite weight I redeveloped the following accessories: Sky-Hooks, Closure Sleeves, and the Line Lock systems. All of these features are used on the Nubé Hammock Shelter and are vital to protecting your Pares, Solo, or xPlor Hammocks; these features add protection and ease of use to the product but do not need to be as beefy as the Nubé's design, every ounce counts! After redesigning these features I began tweaking the square inches of fabric used to achieve the protection that we desire. This is a balancing act because every single square inch must be accounted for and proven necessary and beneficial. This is where the rubber meets the road as a designer - I could have stopped on Prototype 11.0, but it's not perfect, so stopping isn't an option. We created a total of 12 Fly-Lite prototypes during my last visit to SMr ILLUMINATE and we still have several more to make before we are ready for beta testing. What I learned through these 12 prototypes was that the blend of geometry and fabric usage is the key to making this a light weight functional product. I have decided to try to keep the Fly-Lite to a two stake product, this will keep setup simple and minimize the number of stakes. The tie out geometry is probably the most challenging part of the process because there are so many different positions people enjoy sleeping in hammocks. We will most likely end up favoring the Asym tie out design so that a diagonal sleeper is covered, as well as the central sleeper. It is possible that there will be two end tie offs from the lower center of the Fly-Lite that will tie around the base of the tree, this really prevents wind spray from a big storm without requiring large inaccessible storm doors. Lastly, I was able to incorporate attachments to the interior of the Fly-Lite for a few of our future modular products that will be released soon, namely the Bug-Lite and a few new products we can't reveal just yet.
We did get the total Fly-Lite weight down to 15 ounces, which I think is very close to what a product like this should be. There is still much work to be done but we are getting close! So as we continue developing this, I'd love to hear from you - leave a comment below!