Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Swack Shack Product Review

I have been asked to review the Swack Shack. Several folks including Commander Zero have been on the fence about getting one so it's only fair to give my impressions on it to help with their decision making.

The Swack Shack is basically a huge (9'X7') rectangular ripstop nylon tarp with a bunch of attachments to tie off from. There are grommets on the corners and two sets of them equally spread on the long sides. The middle of the short sides have nylon web loops as does the center point. According to the site it weights 1 1/4 pounds which is pretty darn light.

The concept of use is definitely as a shelter. However I suppose you could use it for anything a huge piece of waterproof cloth could do. It could certainly be used as sort of impromptu piece of raingear or as the water proof piece of a bedroll type setup. Onto the usual format.

The Good: This thing is huge! The description that it can cover you, your gear and firewood is not an exaggeration. The size and numerous well thought out attachment points give you all sorts of options for setting it up. Granted anybody who has been in the field a time or two can rig up some crazy poncho hooches but this makes it easier. I put roughly 8' pieces of paracord on the corners to cover my standard tie off needs. If you live in a place with little to no vegetation a tent pole/ hiking pole/ whatever or two would bring plenty of options back into play.

It seems like a very well made piece of kit. Solid construction and very well thought out in terms of size and all of the attachment options. Also though they made a mistake in shipping they were cool about it. The problem was fixed quickly, cost me nothing and they tossed in some swag.

The Bad: It is a bit pricey at $88, once you seam seal it and pay for shipping it's probably a bit under $100 at your door. We will revisit this in the discussion portion.

The Ugly: For reasons I do not understand this product does not come seam sealed. A piece of gear in this price range it should come ready to go, not need more time and money put into it just to function at a basic level. Seam seal isn't expensive and it didn't take long to do but really they should send the product ready to go.

Discussion: I want to talk more about the cost. The sticker price is certainly a bit steep if you compare it to a $10 surplus poncho or a China Mart 8x10 tarp. On the other hand if you compare it to ripstop nylon products by quality manufacturers it is fairly in line with the various competitors. USGI Poncho's seem to be going for $50, the Go Light product (which is 2 feet narrower) is $60,  Dave Canterbury has options from $60-150, Kirafu products cost 2-4X as much. We could certainly debate the benefits of all these systems but at first glance only the Kirafu stuff is better set up to use as a shelter (attachments, etc).

Obviously if you compare the Swack Shack to a $10 poncho or China Mart tarp with an emphasis on cost those options are far cheaper. Heck, When I was a teen we probably did a dozen camping trips with a piece of clear plastic sheeting as our shelter. On the other hand if you are looking for a shelter that covers a lot of space, folds up small and is very light the Swack Shack brings a lot to the table.

I would say this is probably not a 'putting together your first BOB/ backpacking setup on a budget' piece of gear simply due to cost. You can make something else work just fine, however it will probably be bigger/ heavier to carry and cover less area. For me the Swack Shack came into play once I had most, if not all, of the basic stuff I needed and was looking to upgrade to lighter/ better stuff. Baring a huge buy the best right away budget the upgrading once the basics are covered approach is probably where the purchase of a Swack Shack fits best.

Based on my limited experience I recommend the Swack Shack, it's a fine piece of gear. I'm certainly pleased with the purchase. As always questions or thoughts are welcome.


Anonymous said...

What is the noise level of the material in the wind? That is my pet peeve against synthetic tarps, the inexpensive tarps I've used are very noisy (though very lightweight). Like trying to sleep in a potato chip bagging factory sometimes...

Also, light transmission. Does the shelter glow through from fire light or flashlight ?

I appreciate you taking the time for this review - thank you.

riverrider said...

i kinda like their boonie hat rain cover, but the swack shack is a tad expensive for me. i bought several digital woodland silnylon tarps from sportsmansguide for what this costs. so far they are working well. i used one to cover a pile of lumber for a year before it dryrotted. good helpful review,thanks.

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