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The Tarp as a 4 Season Shelter
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Nick K
(nkline) - MLife

Locale: Northeast U.S.
The Tarp as a 4 Season Shelter on 02/03/2009 13:44:04 MST Print View

On page 74 of Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking he says "The tarp is not meant as a four season shelter, but I have camped beneath tarps in fairly heavy snowfall, without incident."

What do you guys think? I am particularly interested in experiences from people who have used a tarp in "harsh" environments. How did the tarp hold up? Which material was the tarp made of?

If not a tarp as a four season shelter, which design would you recommend (the tipi, etc.) ?



Matt Brodhead
(mattbrodhead) - F

Locale: Michigan
The tarp as a 4 season shelter on 02/03/2009 19:32:18 MST Print View

I think this thread may lead to one of those "it's all about what you can deal with" discussions. Skill may have something to do with it, but I'm not quite sure how much. For instance, how capable are you in optimizing your protection given the weather conditions vs. how capable are you in "mentally" dealing with the weather conditions? There may be more to this equation, and again, this is probably something we could debate until our faces turn blue.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: The Tarp as a 4 Season Shelter on 02/07/2009 22:02:23 MST Print View

There was a brief article here about poncho tarps in incidental conditions.

I have used tarps in nasty conditions: heavy rain, high winds, and snow. It's possible to do a storm worthy pitch with an adequately large flat tarp (10x10 for me, some people are happy with smaller tarps)... bit I generally think that shaped tarps (pyramid, tipi, hex, dual peak, etc) make a lot more sense in nasty weather because they can give you a locked down pitch much quicker than you can get with a flat tarp.

Some people will do fairly open tarp pitches even in nasty weather. As a quilt user (and someone who doesn't use a bivy) I find this isn't a good option if I expect the winds to be more than 20mph or there to be snow case spindrift is no fun. I want a more sheltered environment that I can get from a shaped tarp.


Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: The Tarp as a 4 Season Shelter on 02/08/2009 08:17:23 MST Print View

tarps can be used for wintercamping, especially below the treeline, they are actually very handy in deep snow conditions where you can dig out a cozy space and block the sides of the tarp with snow and also if you have the time, pile up the back and half the entrance. I think Silnylon would be a good choice, any lighter may rip with snow loading, any heavier and, well more ounces.

I do my winter camping in mid shaped tarps. My favorite is the megalite black diamond, but i havent used the Hex shaped golite or Oware mids. The golite looks like it could possibly get a quicker pitch, but you'd have to ask someone else. I prefer no flaps, and digging in than having spindrift flaps.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
The Tarp as a 4 Season Shelter on 02/08/2009 17:55:12 MST Print View

I've used the GG TwinnSpinn several times where we dug out snow to have more room. From experience, I'd recommend a bivy sack if that's the route you go. Finding the right location in snow is more difficult with a tarp. It has to be highly protected but often the snow is very soft and takes forever to pack in those locations.

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Definately possible on 02/08/2009 18:55:04 MST Print View

A tarp is definitely usable in winter conditions, at least here in MN - we're all wooded forests with nothing above treeline. However, as stated, it could be a matter of what you can handle. I would recommend a bivy and a tarp you can stake to the ground. You would need snow stakes or some other type of solid anchor you can rely on.

Trauma used a GG White Lightning tarp with Dodgers on his uber trek from a few years ago - he got stormed down in a 4-day blizzard and got through it unscathed.

Jim Yancey
(jimyancey) - F

Locale: Missouri
Re: The Tarp as a 4 Season Shelter on 02/08/2009 22:03:12 MST Print View

Tarps are certainly useable in the winter. A great example IMHO is from the book "Dangerous River" by R.L.D. Patterson. He describes a trip hiking down the South Nahanni River to the Liard River in Canada in the winter with only a canvas tarp (not UL, but a tarp nonetheless) in deep snow and well below zero F. He did build a fire every night, but still...

Its an inspirational read.