Yes, such a thing does exist. Behold, with a .38 special for size comparison:
It's the Ultralight Multicam MEST (Multipurporse Emergency Survival Tarp). And, in a game of "ounces equals pounds, pounds equals pain" it gives you an excellent way to shave off critical weight or carry a functional shelter when you otherwise would not.
Really, you look at it and pick it up...when packed up in its stuff sack, it's hard to believe that the little, air weight package contains something big enough to sleep under. But it does.
5x7 isn't huge, but it is roughly the same size as USGI poncho, which soldiers have been sleeping under for years. And it weighs something like 1/3 the weight and takes up dramatically less space. Given that the availability of surplus USGI ponchos has dried up over the past few years, the MEST is only few dollars more, too.
|A quick shelter with the MEST. An adult male and moderate size pack can fit under it easily.|
Now, being ultralight weight, the MEST isn't going to be as tough as the good ol' GI poncho. That said, it is made from some fairly sturdy 40D Ripstop nylon and has held up well in my use. A bit o' duct tape can easily make field expedient repairs should they be needed.
And, it's a hell of a lot sturdier than anything else in its weight class...which would be something like a drum liner, cheesy dollar store poncho, etc.
The MEST uses mil-spec webbing tabs versus grommets, which is a good thing. The sewing on my example is a bit messy, but hasn't proved to be a problem yet.
The tarp comes with an attached stuff sack, which is awesome. Wisely, Bushcraft Outfitters sized the stuff sack generously. I keep some tent pegs and bungees in mine, which allows a hasty shelter to be set up in only a minute or two.
With the bungees and pegs, the kit is still under 12 ounces.
The weight and tiny pack size of the MEST are a huge plus when packing a kit. Shelter is a critical kit item, but often times folks compromise or go without. You can pretty much always find a spot for the MEST. It currently has a spot riding in my Max Velocity-style war belt.
Being a tarp, it is of course multipurpose beyond just rigging up an overhead shelter - ground cloth, materials collection, pack cover, improvised rain gear, etc. You imagination is the limit.
Being Multicam, the MEST can give you an added level of camouflage, too.
The UL MEST is just shy of $60, which falls somewhere in the middle of affordable and pricey. It's a good product and has some really pretty unique characteristics for a compact shelter. Unfortunately, it looks like BCUSA will be out of stock on the UL material until June.
In a similar weight package, they have coyote brown sil-nylon MESTs for $40.
Other, less expensive material options are available, too - Coyote and Woodland are under the $30 mark, at the penalty of 4 or so ounces and a bit o' pack size. They are 70D material, so a bit heavier weight material.
If you're looking for a larger size tarp, BCUSA has other options, up to 10x12. All are made in the USA, and most are made with 100% American-made materials, too.
Bushcraft Outfitters >
Note: We're not affiliated with Bushcraft Outfitters and they have been in no way involved in this review. The product was purchased independently for use in my kits - I've been impressed wanted to pass along the heads up to the tribe!