GearPods, a company based out of Polson, Montana, manufactures “modular, lightweight adventure and survival gear to help the outdoor enthusiast to prepare for the unexpected.” Their gear systems combine interconnecting, waterproof containers with pre-built survival kits. Users combine any number of containers and gear to arrive at a customized kit, something like my emergency ditch kit. I’m currently testing out GearPods Wilderness system, which includes first-aid, survival gear, a lightweight stove, and the GearPods Shelter. Because the system is modular, I’m reviewing each component separately. I’ll wrap-up the reviews in a final overview and opinion of the products with a separate post. Because, I travel in lightweight style, I prefer gear that functions double-duty. I much prefer gear that functions in normal camp as well as in an emergency. With that in mind, I set out to test GearPods Shelter system.
The GearPods Shelter system includes a one-person ripstop nylon tarp, 25 feet of nylon cord, 6 Line-Lok® Line Tensioners, and a hypothermia/thermal space blanket. The tarp is double coated with silicon for maximum water protection and features 9 fabric tie loops including a reinforced center loop. A large container (3.25” diameter, 4.75” height) holds the kit. The tarp itself is bright orange. The orange is a great color for emergencies, but for blending into the woods, it’s not that great. Considering that this is sold as an emergency tarp, it’s hard to fault the orange.
- GearPods Adventure Tarp: Ultralight one-person silicon-coated ripstop nylon tarp (4.5′ x 6.5′)
- Thermal blanket
- 1.4 mm Nylon Cord – 70lbs breaking strength (25ft)
- Six (6) line tensioners (1-2mm)
- Printed instructions (PDF)
- GearPods Large Container (3.25” diameter, 4.75” height) with sticker on outside designating the contents
- Stuff sack
- Tarp w/cord and tensioners – 5.7 ounces
- Stuff sack – 0.3 ounces
- Space blanket – 1.8 ounces
- Large Container – 3.3 ounces
- Total: 11.1 ounces
- Extras (not included): Four stakes – 1.9 ounces
To prepare the GearPods Shelter for use, you must decide how to cut-up the supplied cord. I’m a big fan of using tarps to camp under, and my typical system is to use two 10-foot lengths for the ridge line, four 5-foot lengths for the corners, and 3.5-foot lengths everywhere else. With only 25 feet of cord to work with and such a small tarp (4.5′ x 6.5′), I decided to cut the cord into four equal lengths and using bowlines tie a length to each corner. This set-up allows me to pitch the front with my kayak paddle (shown in the picture), and I can vary the height of the shelter’s back to gain more usable space in light rain. If GearPods included 40 feet of cord, I think the tarp would be more versatile. Luckily, it’s easy to buy more cord, and if you’re so inclined, GearPods sells a 40-foot length of paracord. Because the tarp doesn’t come with stakes, I threw four into my boat for testing (1.9 ounces). I recommend preparing the tarp before using it in the field, because during an emergency, the quicker you can complete chores, the more you can take advantage of adrenaline. Fiddly knot tying on small diameter cord slows work down.
Testing the Tarp
After preparing the tarp, it’s easy to set-up. Stake the rear corners out taut at 45 degree angles to the tarp, wrap each front line around the paddles shaft, and stake out the front two lines. Then adjust the line tensioners to make the tarp taut. The tarp itself is small. At only 4.5′ x 6.5′ it’s a tight squeeze to fit completely under while lying on the ground. With any rain splash, to stay dry, you must use the included space blanket to cover up with. In a survival situation, you’re going to remain in one location until rescue. While waiting for rescue, you’ll be able to shore-up the sides with sticks, etc. to help prevent rain from coming in. For day-to-day use, I’d much prefer a slightly larger tarp. A 5′ x 8′ tarp doesn’t seem that much bigger on paper, but in use the extra length allows for different and drier set-ups. I’d like to see another option from GearPods that provides a larger tarp with their kits.
If I’m going to carry a piece of gear, I want it to perform double duty and this tarp does do that. Using a slightly higher set-up raising both the front and back provides just enough room for two people to comfortably cook. If I’m using a tent for sleeping, I’d be tempted to bring along this tarp just to use as a cooking shelter. On several trips, I’ve been windbound under tarps for days at a time. With just two people, this one would probably work as a place to get out of the wind.
On the medical and first responder front, the tarp is just big enough to package a hypothermic victim. Combining it with the space blanket and any insulation you have on hand could make a nice response kit.
The hardest part about using the GearPods systems in general is repacking the contents after use. They’re stuffed into the containers tightly. I’ve found that practicing replacing the items at home significantly increases the speed of repacking in the field. The Shelter System is no different. The space blanket works best if wrapped around the outside of the container (if you use the blanket, all bets are off, because they are near impossible to fold back into to small package). I found that folding the tarp and then rolling it so it’s the same height as the container works best for stuffing it into the sack. Once it’s into the sack, getting it into the container takes some force.
Space blankets have their uses, but for a slight price upgrade, GearPods offers the Shelter Pro. It includes Adventure Medical Kit’s Heatsheets Emergency Bivy. If you’re expecting to spend the night out with just a GearPods kits, the bivy upgrade is worthwhile. Plus, the Sherlter Pro includes a poncho.
Although I’d prefer a slightly larger tarp and more cord to rig the set-up, the GearPods Shelter system packs a lot into a small container. Considering that this is included with the much larger GearPods Wilderness system, I’d say that it provides the necessary function. As a piece of emergency gear, you’d be hard pressed to find anything as functional in a package the same size and weight. For adventurers looking for a small kitchen tarp, the price seems right. For guides looking for an emergency shelter to hold an injured person before evac, it’s about the right size. If you’re looking for a small tarp, check this one out before you buy; for the price, it’s a good deal.
My Other Reviews of the GearPods Kits
Get GearPods Now:
- GearPods Wilderness at Amazon.com.