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Advice about tarp camping...
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Ryan Gardner
(splproductions) - F - M

Locale: Salt Lake City, UT
Advice about tarp camping... on 05/27/2008 06:59:59 MDT Print View

This weekend was the first time I really got to use my MLD Grace Duo "out in the wild". I've set it up and slept in it in the backyard, but that's about it. Since my wife goes on most of my trips with me, I end up bringing the tent so she is more comfortable.

So... this weekend was a disaster. She wasn't coming, so I brought the tarp and my MLD bivy. The ground (in S. Utah) was about two to three inches of soft dirt followed by rocks everywhere. I could hardly find a place to push a stake in, and when I did, the dirt was so loose that when a slight wind would come up, out the stake went. I tried using my sand stakes and doubling them up with needle stakes, but the ground just wasn't solid enough. So... I ended up cutting rappel webbing, looping it to my Triptease pullouts, and then looping the webbing around massive rocks I went and collected for 20 minutes. All in all it took me about an hour to set up the tarp. It was ridiculous. I slept in it for about an hour and then the wind started picking up. I decided I would rather put it away and jump in my brother's tent at 10AM instead of at 2AM when the thing blew over, so I put it away and slept in the tent.

I honestly don't see what someone more experienced would have done in this situation (besides stick it out through the night). I have been in other places in S. Utah where I know I would have the same exact situation. I backpack down there a lot, and I feel like if I can't rely on my shelter I could be in a lot of trouble. I also would much rather carry a little more weight and know I can set up camp in 10 minutes instead of scouring the area for rocks.

Any advice or thoughts? I am strongly considering putting the tarp and bivy up on the gear swap and getting a little one-man tent. Help me out here!

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Advice about tarp camping... on 05/27/2008 09:03:57 MDT Print View

The first observation is that site selection is more important with tarps than with bivy or free standing tents. In most cases I would have searched for an site where I could more easily pitched my tarp. Places where there were enough gaps in the rocks under the soil where I could pound in some nail stakes, places where I could easily tie my guylines out (sturdy vegetation or rocks in place), or where there were crevices that I could wedge something into to hold my guylines.

That said... there are some locations that using a tarp is pretty extremely difficult to impossible. I haven't run into any in the last five years, but when I was doing a lot of climbing this was somewhat common. In these locations I would pay the extra weight and go with someone that would be significantly easier to pitch.

Richard Allen
Stakes & Tarps on 05/27/2008 10:37:43 MDT Print View

Ryan, I know exactly how you feel.

I found myself in a similar situation the other day. I wanted/needed to park it on a small site consisting of deeep, soooft, dryyyy sand!

FYI, I didn't have anything to tie off to. I suppose I could have used a couple of bushes and looong guy-lines for two tie outs? Possible, but???

Long story short: I used one of my LuxuryLite Big Stiks to hold up the Gatewood Cape. I removed the unnecessary Needle Knife/trowel from it and used that for one stake. Took apart the other Big Stik (a four piece) and now I had four additional stakes; including my version of LuxuryLite's basket tip (tip top kit).

I use an extension for my LuxuryLite umbrella .... voila, a sixth stake.

Result: A freaking rock solid set-up which easily withstood 20 mph winds and rain .... I stayed warm and dry!

Not even the best sand/snow stakes I have used in the past would have served given the conditions.

Mark; proper site selection is an oft heard comment. And you are absolutely correct in mentioning it. BUT proper site selection is not even an issue inside a steep river canyon. Especially that particular day. So I had to make do. Strange, before this day I hadn't thought of using the LL pole sections for stakes.

BTW, no crevices, not rocks, no nail stakes and no way to pound them into volcanic rock. Just a few bushes, poorly located and covered w/blackberry vines (ouch).



Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Advice about tarp camping... on 05/27/2008 11:26:56 MDT Print View


Before I converted to hammocks I seldom set my tarp the same way twice.

My tensioning adjustment was on the tarp end of the guy rather than the anchor end.

Natural anchors were generally better than stakes. My hammock fly has 4 guys and over the Memorial Day weekend I used 2 stakes one night and 1 stake the other night. I use a mooring hitch to attach to vegetation to prevent the sawing effect that can damage the vegetation.

The way I generally make a rock anchor is attach the guy to a stick with a clove hitch then set a rock on top of the stick.

I did a 5 night trip into the Grand Canyon in early May and never set my tarp. One evening I got a few rain drops and just put the tarp over my sleep gear secured with rocks on the corners.

It is very easy to stay dry while hiking or sleeping. It is cooking and camp chores that are difficult in the rain.