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Mesh-Wall Tarp Gives ‘Oasis’ From Bugs While Camping

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Bugs can wreck a camping trip, or at least make it much less comfortable. A tarp from NEMO offers a bug-free zone to cook and hangout.

Nemo Bugout 2
Sheltering under the Nemo Bugout 2; Photo by Jason Zabokrtsky

A few years ago, I was packing up to guide a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for Ely Outfitting Company.

I was leaving on a 4-night trip with a family from New York City in the morning. It was June, which generally means the mosquitoes were in full force.

Nemo Bugout Tarp
The Bugout tarp ready for use; photo by Jason Zabokrtsky

Jason Zabokrtsky, the lead guide and owner, pulled a stuff sack off the shelf and suggested I take this “bug tarp” along.

It was bulkier than my normal tarp, but I threw it in anyway. I figured we might use it, and if nothing else I might as well humor the boss. What happened over the coming days changed my perspective on a product I’d never considered before.

Bugout Tarp

The Gear: NEMO Bugout Tarp ($199 – $249); available now.

First Use: It ended up raining every day on that trip and we lived under the Bugout Tarp. When we are on the water the bugs weren’t bad, but when we hit camp, setting up the Bugout became a priority. We played lots of Uno, cooked, ate, laughed, and told stories surrounded by rain and bugs.

Now, when the bugs are out, the tarp is always on the top of my pack when I am guiding. It makes camping with groups—and especially kids—much more enjoyable.

Made in: Vietnam.

Where To Use It: The Bugout Tarp is perfect for anywhere the bugs are likely to drive you into your tent. From car camping to backpacking, it can make all the difference when the blood suckers are out and looking for dinner.

Pole Attachment

Down And Dirty: The tarp is made of 75D PU Polyester Ripstop (1500mm) and the walls are made of 15D no-see-um mesh. All four corners of the tarp have a grommet, which will accept a trekking pole, or a collapsible tent pole, which NEMO sells as an accessory. You can also set up the shelter by tying off to trees, which saves weight and works well in wooded areas like the BWCA.

Bugout Mesh Down

Bugout – 9ft x 9ft Version

  • Price: $199 USD available at REI
  • Minimum Weight: 4 lbs, 1 oz
  • Trail Weight: 4 lbs, 12 oz
  • Floor Dimensions: 108 x 108 in
  • Floor Area: 81 sq ft
  • Interior Height: 72 in
  • Packed Size: 16 x 8 in

Bugout – 12ft x 12ft Version

  • Price: $249 USD available at REI
  • Minimum Weight: 6 lbs, 3 oz
  • Trail Weight: 7 lbs
  • Floor Dimensions: 144 x 144 in
  • Floor Area: 144 sq ft
  • Interior Height: 84 in
  • Packed Size: 23 x 8.5 in

Awesome! The Bugout Tarp weighs a couple pounds more than a standard nylon tarp, but the comfort and versatility that the no-see-um mesh walls add are worth their weight in gold. In fact, there are plenty of things I would leave home to shave weight from group gear before I jettisoned the Bugout.

Bugout Tie Back

Loops along the bottom of the no-see-um mesh allow you to secure the netting to the ground for added protection. When a breeze blows the bugs away you can easily transform the Bugout into a conventional tarp by tying the netting out of the way using the convenient tie-outs spaced along the edge of the tarp.

Bugout Mesh Up

Flaw: Inevitably a bug or two gets in when you enter or exit the shelter. This often happens when you enter a tent as well, but it can be harder to swat them under the tarp because it is a much larger space. The Bugout is also considerably more expensive than a standard tarp.

Who Should Buy It: This is the perfect bug shelter for groups of 3 to 10 people looking for relatively light weight and portable protection from rain and insects. The 9 x 9 version weighs less than 5 pounds, which is well worth the comfort it affords when traveling in a group. It is especially nice when you bring the kids along because it provides a relatively large bug-free area to play games, relax, cook, and hangout. If you often travel with 5 or more people, or if you do a lot of base camping, the 12 x 12 size offers a lot more room and only weighs 3 pounds more.

Contact Brand/More Beta: Nemo Equipment

–Dave and his wife Amy Freeman are wilderness guides based in Minnesota. The couple was named National Geographic Adventurers of the Year in 2014.

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