Scramble's G-38 Ultralight Solo Tarp
To understand how we arrived at the (hooped) bivvy + tarp setup, please read our companion post "Reasons To Go Modular".
The G-38 is the upgraded version of Scramble's G-Mod 38. Although the tarp looks almost identical (the main fabric and most of the component materials remaining the same), there have been a number of ("under the hood") improvements. Simply put, what can be improved has been.
As always, we're looking at the Scramble G-38 from the point of view of long distance trekking over tough terrain.
Test subject: Height: 5ft 8"
Test item: G-38 (Final)
Kit Tests: Winter, Summer (multiple)
Disclaimer: The G-Series tarps are manufactured by Scramble. We made them because we weren't happy with existing offerings (as outlined below). So this is less of a review and more an outline of a product. Clearly we think they're the best, otherwise we wouldn't have gone to the trouble of developing them.
|Main Fabric: 20D Silicone Impregnated 360T Ripstop Nylon||-|
|Treatments: PU Coated, Seam-Sealed Underside||-|
|Attachment Points: 420D AC Coated Ripstop Cordura (Number = )||8|
|Attachment Loops: Dyneema/Polyester Cord + High Retraction Elasticated Cord (Corners Only)||8 x 1.5mm / 4 x 3mm|
|Dimensions: Length x Width (Coverage)||210 x 180 cm (3.78 sqm)|
|Tarp Weight (measured): Tarp + Tarp Bag||~283g + 7g = ~290g|
|DAC NSL Pole Dimensions (3 sections, Total Height x Width):||123cm x 0.9cm|
|DAC NSL Pole Total Weight (measured, 3 sections + ends + arch connector):||83g|
|Fixings: Cordage, Clips, Line-Loks (Total Weight = )||21g|
|Scramble's G-38 Price on SYSTEM (current 10% discount cap / RRP)||£54.00 / £60.00|
|DAC NSL Pole (3 Sections) - Scramble's Price on SYSTEM||£21.95|
- Upgrade: What's Changed?
- What Hasn't Changed?
- Tarps & Their Dimensions
- Recommended Accessories
- Conclusion, Rating & Product Images
The G-38 was developed to fulfill two primary purposes:
- As an adjunct to a hooped bivvy, an extended "tent porch", providing better than average headroom (100cm) for cooking under, getting changed, and packing / unpacking your gear when it's bucketing down. The G-38 also allows the hooped bivvy to fully vent, reducing the condensation associated with single-skinned shelters, as well as providing protection for all the stuff you can't fit or don't want inside your hooped bivvy.
- As a quick shelter for short breaks in poor conditions during the day.
The G-38 is a minimalist ultralight tarp, designed to be setup quickly in harsh conditions with minimal fuss. If you enjoy outdoor origami; flirting with myriad tarp configurations then there are many heavier options out there with numerous attachment points to play with. However, we designed the G-Series tarps for people like us, who sleep on the ground (not in hammocks) and who want something functionally proportioned, that packs down small and is very light yet robust enough to deal with the worst mother nature likes to hurl at us.
For those that like to push the ultralight envelope, there's no reason the G-38 can't be used with just a bivvy bag (as illustrated below and in the product images), but in more severe conditions we recommend either the larger G-55 (due out in early January 2020) which, due to its larger coverage offers better all-round protection, or the hooped bivvy option pictured above.
Upgrade: What's Changed?
- The first is a little superficial but worth noting. We now deal directly with the HK factory and thus are able to control the process a little more. So the G-38s are now logo and print free (in line with the other Scramble products which are made without logos as we don't like treating people like billboards).
- The corner attachment points have had a minor but important re-design. They are slightly larger with larger wrap around tabs. This means there is more surface area for additional lines of stitching and a central flag-stitch. Basically, they are more fail-safe and able to handle greater stresses.
- The stuff sacks are now made in the UK from a superior, stronger fabric (40D sil-nylon ripstop). Since we now make the stuff sacks we made some changes that make it easier to pack away the tarps when conditions are far from ideal. This is more relevant to the G-55 (the G-Mod 55's stuff sack was a little on the tight side) whose stuff sack is far more accommodating.
- We've switched over the threading to this one by Gutermanns.
- Now more of the manufacturing is done in the UK, the G-38s are little more expensive to make, but we've decided to cap the price for as long as we can so they'll cost no more than the old G-Mod 38s.
- We've dropped the all-black attachment ("incognito") versions which weren't so popular. So now the high-viz colour-coded model is standard.
What Hasn't Changed?
No reason to change the excellent seam-sealed main tarp fabric with its PU-coated inner and silicone impregnated outer providing an outstanding 8000mm hydrostatic head. Superb stuff - nothing to improve here.
Interesting to note what Roger Caffin, an expert in the UL materials industry, recently concluded on Backpackinglight.com: "So I have to admit that Sil / PU coatings may be the way of the future for really high performance". We came to the same conclusion and of course this is exactly what we use for the G-Series tarps.
We still use the same lightweight stuff sack cord, tarp attachment material and attachment loop cord from Germany. Now everything is put together by our trusted manufacturers up in the Scottish West Highlands.
We're using the same 420D Acrylic Coated Ripstop Cordura for the attachment points for its outstanding tear resistance. The 8 attachment points feature 1.5mm Dyneema / Polyester cord loops, which have a breaking strength of 125 kilos yet each 20cm loop weighs just 0.32g. Each corner still has the additional attachment option of 3mm high retraction elastic cord. This is substantially stronger and has much less give than traditional shock / bungee cord, and are there when you need to reduce the strain on ultralight tarp poles in high winds. Generally, the corners lowest / pegged to the ground are best attached / pegged down via the elastic 3mm cord.
Although we've improved its design, we've stuck with the wrap around / clamp method for the attachment points. Traditional attachment points generally have two parts: a reinforcement material onto which is stitched the attachment point. This means there are two points of failure the stitching of the reinforcement onto the tarp and the stitching of the attachment loop onto the reinforcement. The G-Series' wrap-around design combines these two elements into one piece, reducing the failure points to one. In addition the Cordura attachment point is stitched onto itself essentially clamping the tarp. Further, this allows the user to use any number of materials for their own attachment loops (d-rings, clips, carabiners, other cord loops etc.).
The G-Series tarps will work with any poles but have been designed especially with the excellent DAC 9mm and 10.5mm Featherlite NSL poles in mind. These are incredibly strong for their minimal weight. The 3 section pole (available here) stands 123cm tall and weighs just 70g. DAC provide an arch connector (13g) for these poles (its intended use is to join two NSL poles at a 140 degree angle) which makes an excellent attachment point for the G-38. 1.5mm Dyneema loops can easily thread through the slit (tested in winter with gloves) and be looped over its protrusion or clipped to a guyline.
Attachment Loops Now High Viz Only
At each corner there are two attachment options (mentioned above), 3mm high retraction elastic cord for use in high winds and 1.5mm Dyneema / Polyester cord for better stability / rigidity. The G-Series tarps use the more popular high visability option, which features white elastic cord at two of the corners (black on the other two). In poor light it's not always easy to see which is the long side, so we've colour coded the elastic cord, grab the two corners with the white loops and you're holding the short side of the tarp.
Dimensions: Sit Up Straight ... Or Not
Everything else about the G-38 is the same. So here we'll just reiterate some key points from the G-Mod 38 review.
In "Reasons To Go Modular" we pointed out that outdoor manufacturers of ultralight tarps have either tended to hedge their bets and make a single product for both bivvy and hammock users (two distinctly different use-cases) or have somehow missed the glaringly obvious - that bivvies are waterproof! We assume and hope it's the former.
A hedged bet? Alpkit's Rig 3.5 (image copyright Alpkit)
Most solo tarps tend to be too narrow for anything other than being horizontal. If you want to sit upright and actually do stuff while sheltered, good luck. We're not picking on Alpkit (they make fine tarps - just to a specification that we don't understand), Rab's Sil Tarp 1 has very similar dimensions, being only 10cm wider. Since a bivvy is waterproof, for non-hammock users, length is less important than it may at first appear.
Looking at the picture above, simply imagine driving wind and rain. Now imagine the person getting out of their bivvy, getting changed, kneeling and packing up all their gear. It may be okay for sleeping under, but not much else.
What a difference a foot makes
Below we've illustrated the point using two traditional tarp setups, the A-Frame and the Lean-To. First let's look at what it means to sit upright under an A-Framed tarp with a variety of widths.
As you can see, as soon as you sit upright, that 140cm width provides minimal coverage from wind and rain. What's interesting is that it doesn't take a great deal of extra width to make a big difference.
Now if we look at the simplest of "Lean-To" setups. Again we see a similar problem when sitting. Here, the 140cm width, assuming 80cm of headroom, creates such a steep angle, that the avid explorer is forced to sit so far forward that they get almost no overhead coverage at all. The Rab Sil Tarp 1 looks a little better, but again, that extra 40cm width makes a big difference and the G-38 provides significantly more overhead coverage.
The G-38 is a little heavier than its predecessor (about 10g) and in terms of weight falls between the Rab and Alpkit offerings but provides about 0.4 sqm extra cover.
If you want an extreme ultra-light option, you'll have to wait for us to finish testing our HUL-42. Which is a little larger than the G-38 but weighs in at a stunningly light 220g. However, it has a much lower hydrostatic head and will struggle to compete on toughness.
- Guy line cord: 1.5mm Dyneema / Polyester Cord (we use 2 x 2.5m with line loks and 1 x non-adjustable loop of 2 meters).
- Cord adjusters: Clamcleat Line-Lok Minis (x 2 = 1.5g)
- Guy line attachment clips: Mini Carabiner with Wiregate and Eyelet (35mm x 2 = 8g)
- Pole: DAC Featherlite NSL 9mm Tarp / Tent Pole (3 Sections, ends + DAC Arch Connector = 83g)
- Tent Pegs: Clamcleat Alloy Y Pegs (x 2 = 26g) & Cleamcleat Titanium Titan Pegs (x 2 = 38g)
Conclusion & Rating
The G-38 is a minimalist, ultralight tarp designed to be setup quickly in harsh conditions with minimal fuss. Targeted specifically at bivvy, hooped bivvy and UL tent users, the G-38 provides 3.8 sqm of cover with enough width to offer meaningful shelter in stormy conditions. Colour coded, high retraction attachment loops aid setup in low light conditions and help reduce stress on ultralight tarp poles in high winds, while Cordura reinforcements and Dyneema/Polyester cord loops offer superb tear resistance and load tolerance. With an impressively small pack size and weighing in at around 290g the G-38 may be lightweight but has proven, over years of testing, that it's tough enough to handle itself in extremely challenging conditions.
We made the G-Series tarps because we weren't happy recommending UL tarps that simply didn't serve our purposes. Sometimes if you want something done properly you have to do it yourself - we're very happy we did. The G-38 is Scramble's, unashamedly, top pick in the UL Solo Tarp category and our recommendation for anyone who has Reasons To Go Modular.
Rating (out of 10)
Scramble make the G-Series tarps, and while we've tried to give a rating as objectively as possible (partly based on the idea of what the competition would have to improve upon for us to throw in the towel) please take this rating with a certain amount of salt.
* The value score is derived from two factors:
1) Competitive Market Price (CMP). This represents our judgement of a competitive online price point if we were to stock the item. e.g. if we feel we would need to sell an item at 40% off (i.e. 60% of its full RRP) to be competitive, then our CMP score will be 6/10.
2) Customer Value Price (CVP). We then make an honest appraisal of the maximum price we would be willing to pay for the item (and we're mean). So if we'd pay 80% of its RRP our CVP score would be 8/10.
We then average the two scores to get our final value score, which in our example would be 7/10.
Last Updated: 25/10/19