Updated January 2021. Tarp tents offer a lightweight and compact alternative to regular tents, while avoiding most of the downsides of traditional square tarps. But with an average price tag above 300$, this is not an option for everyone. The LanShan 2 by Chinese manufacturer 3F UL, also sold as Flame Creed 2, is a noteworthy exception, usually selling at around 100$. Too good to be true? We put it to the test.
I ordered my 3F UL LanShan 2 from Aliexpress in the summer of 2019. I was delivered after a couple in weeks to Canada, where I tested it in the woods for a few nights before carrying out many small modifications. Don’t get confused with the LanShan 2 Pro, which has a sewn-in inner, and sacrifices a lot of versatility for modest weight gains (around 200 g / 7 oz lighter).
The LanShan 2 came in handy several times in Sudan. Surprisingly, the inner proved to be particularly valuable as an improvised mosquito net in some local hotels. This was followed by more or less 3 weeks of continuous use in Saudi Arabia, before the trip came to an abrupt end due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The tarp tent was in use a few more nights in the German Alps and Frankenjura, and lately in Bulgaria, followed by 4 months of continuous use in Turkey. Overall, this amounts to a total of around 160 nights in a wide range of conditions across 6 countries. I should add that I always use a thin plastic ground sheet, whether I carry the inner tent or not.
Weather Resistance 3/5
Water Resistance. The tarp tent faced some seriously heavy rain in Turkey, sometimes several days in a row. Overall, the silnylon fabric behaved very well. The seams are factory sealed, except the two attachment points in the middle of the side panels, which for some obscure reason are stitched through, eventually letting some water in. WTF? Not a big deal, but this could have easily been avoided by the designers.
Recently the fabric started to slowly saturate with water in heavy rain. It does eventually get damp on the inside, but the inner stays dry.
A much bigger issue is splashback, especially if the LanShan 2 is pitched over hard ground. I usually try to pitch it low if I expect rain. Sadly, the entrances are a few inches higher than the sides, which means that the tarp tent has to be set up very low. Which in turn results in the inner sagging too much to be used comfortably. This is the only major design flaw.
Wind Resistance. After withstanding several episodes of strong winds, with gusts estimated at 50 kmh / 30 mph, the LanShan 2 gets the thumbs up. It performs best if pitched low and with one of the well-tensioned vestibules facing the wind. The larger side panels are harder to rig for high winds, but the lower angle and the guy-out attachment in the middle help.
Again, the entrances could really do with being level with the sides to facilitate that high-wind low pitch. So once more it’s best to ditch the inner for that low set-up.
There are certainly more bombproof tarp tents out there, like the Black Diamond Beta Light. But for a cheap Aliexpress model, it coped admirably well during storms, standing strong while some Decathlon tents around broke.
The LanShan 2 weighs 1.1kg / 2.4lbs out of the box, plus 100g / 3.5oz for the stakes. Removing all the plastic bits and straps brings it down to just over 1kg / 2.2lbs. With all the rigging lines I added I once more get 1.1kg on my scale. For lightweight missions, the outer tarp tent on its own weighs 600g / 1.3lbs, including all guy lines.
As a reference, top-of-the-range dyneema composite (Cuben fiber) tarp tent designs are usually 10-40% lighter. And 500-700% more expensive… So 3F UL came up with a very reasonable compromise for the budget-minded campers.
Condensation. As already mentioned above, this can get problematic if the LanShan 2 is pitched low without the inner to keep bugs, wind or water out. The small vents (with integrated mosquito net) at the apex help a bit, but are often insufficient. This is however to be expected from most tarp tents and single wall tents. Moral of the story, take the inner with you if you can!
Space. The tent inner fits two standard sleeping pads. I’m 178cm / 5’8″ and there is still a little extra space to store gear at my feet. But it could get a bit cramped for two tall people, especially if you are carrying lots of gear like climbing equipment. There is ample space to sit in the middle. If you ditch the inner you obviously gain a lot of space.
The two vestibules are big enough to store a backpack, shoes and a few extra items. It’s possible to get in and out in the rain and keep the inner dry.
Bottom line: ample space for two as long as you don’t carry too much stuff. Palatial for one.
For a tarp tent, pitching the 3F UL LanShan 2 is average. Using the factory tensioning straps and guy lines on ideal grassy ground is fairly straight-forward. However, this is far from optimal for stormy weather and hard ground. Also, the webbing loops that accept the poles at the apex are a little to big. To avoid the poles occasionally sliding out, it’s not a bad idea to modify them slightly by adding a little extra webbing across the loop holding them in place.
I’ve carried out several modifications (explained in detail here) that vastly improve the versatility of the tarp tent. This somewhat increases the complexity of pitching the LanShan 2, but with a little experience this usually doesn’t take me much more than 5 minutes. And installing the inner from the inside when it rains becomes much easier.
So far I’ve encountered no major issues, expect for some troublesome cats wreaking havoc on the mesh inner. The bottom of the inner is made out of thin and slippery 20D silnylon. I wouldn’t expect it to resist abrasion well, but I always carry a thin plastic ground sheet, and simply ditch the inner when I want to shed weight.
The outer is made out of a different ripstop 20D silnylon fabric. The ripstop pattern is thick and so far, durable. The aluminium stakes bend easily, but immediately switching to rocks for pitching on harder grounds means you don’t have to replace them with quality (and heavier) ones.
My main concern is the durability of the small and cheap-looking no-brand zippers. I religiously try to keep dirt and sand away, and to operate them smoothly. Again, so far so good, but if I had to venture a guess, I’d say that this part is most likely to fail first.
The Lanshan 2 sells for around 100-130$. If the price is higher, just be patient, the tarp tent is regularly on sale. To have a fully operational set-up you still need two trekking poles. If you don’t already own a pair, you can get something like the Pioneer trekking poles for another 25$. Either way, this is a fraction of the cost of the competition.
The Lanshan 2 can be pitched out-of-the-box. If you find a nice piece of lawn. However, a few modifications dramatically increase pitching options and weather resistance. And you can save up to 100 g / 3.5 oz in the process.
There are a lot of small plastic clips, rings and tensioners. The main problem with this setup is that you are dependent on stakes. If the ground is just a little too soft or too hard, pitching becomes a headache. That happens a lot, and is the main drawback of tarp tents and other non-freestanding shelters.
By relying on cord and knots instead, you can start using rocks and trees. Or a stake much further away. There are a few options, but I like using the bowline and the trucker’s hitch as shown in this video. There is a short initial learning curve, but soon you’ll be able to pitch your tarp in a few minutes.
Tarp Tent (Outer)
First, the two vestibules. The original guy lines are fixed at the small top black vent, go to a stake, and then back to a little plastic hook for the doors. Weak and complicated.
We can get rid of all the plastic. Instead, I linked the vent tie-in point with the one on the apex with cord as pictured above. The guy line attaches to this cord, creating a stronger, self-equalizing set-up. The vestibule gets its own short guy line.
Second, I replaced the straps at the four corners with cord from an old paraglider. Thin, light, and extremely strong. Same for the loop at the base of the doors. Regular cord would be fine too. They have a little sewn in loop at the end as seen above. That gives me the option to lark’s foot a rock or a log and pitch the tarp very quickly on hard/very soft ground.
Third, I reused a small plastic hook on the door. This way I can close the vestibule while leaving it unzipped. This is great for maximum ventilation while retaining some privacy and wind resistance. It also reduces wear on the Achilles heel of the tent, the zippers.
First, I also replaced the tensioners at the four corners of the inner with cord. The little loop at the end also allows me to lark’s foot rocks if required. If the anchor is too far, I can use the tie-in loops on the outer. With this modification it’s much easier to install the inner tent from the inside. That way you can stay dry in the rain.
Second, the corners have a little attachment going to the outer tent about 10cm off the ground. But the clips are too short. I put a few alpine butterfly knots on a small piece of cord. That replaces the ring on the outer tarp and makes adjustments quick and easy.
Third, I replaced the loop of elastic cord and toggle in the middle of the floor with a simple loop of small cord. The trekking pole goes through this. That’s perfectly adequate to maintain the inner in place.
3F UL LanShan 2 Tarp Tent:
For around 100$, you get a tarp tent that, with modifications, can face most conditions. Yes, it is certainly not as well designed as its 600$ competitors, and the quality of the materials is lower. But with only a little extra care the LanShan 2 can clearly accompany you on a similar number of adventures.
So who is this for? The LanShan 2 is ideal for 1-2 people looking for a lightweight, compact and versatile budget camping and trekking shelter. And don’t mind complex pitching and potentially making some modifications. If you are alone and already carry a pair of trekking poles, this is also an excellent and spacious choice.
If you are heading for somewhere like Patagonia and expect a lot of extreme weather, the Lanshan 2 is however not your best bet. Similarly, if every gram/ounce counts and you have a bigger budget, check out other budget tarp tent alternatives here. And if you are after the no-nonsense simplicity of pitching a traditional tent, have a look at the Naturehike Cloud Up 2 which sells at a similar price.