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Benchmark time for Tarp Set Up?
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Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Benchmark time for Tarp Set Up? on 02/09/2006 15:55:37 MST Print View

I broke down and got the tarp...after many years of using light tents.

Given standard, clear weather, sub-alpine or alpine terrain (either plenty of duff or rocks to use), how much time should it take on average to set up a 6x8 tarp using two treking poles on each end and 8 or so tie outs?

The only reason I ask, is that my hiking partners seem to think it takes a long time to do if I practice...I would like to know a reasonable benchmark to hit.


Ryan Faulkner
(ryanf) - F

Locale: Mid atlantic, No. Cal
Re: Benchmark time for Tarp Set Up? on 02/09/2006 16:04:23 MST Print View

I like lean tos, pyramids, and modified A frames (half lean to and half a frame) because they only need two guylines( or if creative, none!), and in my opinion, are more comfortable because they are easier to enter/exit than A frames, and also, if set up right, will hold up just as well in snow/rain.

when setting up any of these, it takes me only 1-2 minuets. beating my freinds setting up their tents by a long shot. but when setting up an A frame, it takes longer, and is harder to get a good taught pitch because there are so many guylines to adjust.
just my 2 cents.

Try setting up different pitches in your back yard, you will find what is best for you.

Edited by ryanf on 02/09/2006 16:07:02 MST.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Benchmark time for Tarp Set Up? on 02/09/2006 18:09:13 MST Print View

It shouldn't take more than a few minutes to pitch a tarp under conditions like you describe.

Generally, I spend more time choosing a spot for the tarp than actually pitching it. And you do need to be much more picky about site selection (with respect to drainage and wind aspect) than you would with a tent. On the other hand, you can fit a tarp in a lot of spots where you couldn't possibly pitch a tent.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Benchmark time for Tarp Set Up? on 02/09/2006 20:11:03 MST Print View

Sounds like others are a bit faster than me. For me, five minutes was a reasonable time to get the tarp fully and optimally pitched. The tarp was up faster, but there were at least a couple of minute when I was adjusting the tarp to make it taut enough not to flap.


Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Benchmark time for Tarp Set Up? on 02/09/2006 22:05:04 MST Print View

OK, how about an alternative viewpoint.

Any dork can pitch a tent. They're built that way, dumbproof. Insert poles here, stake there, the shape is self-actuating.

The tarp, on the other hand, now that is art.

Some folks can't pitch a tarp for the life of them. It sags here, it droops there, the angle of a guyline is messed up, you know the deal. Most of the time it's because people are too fast to pay attention to the pitch. Even when they arrive in camp at 4 pm and have all the time in the world.

Pitching a tarp should not be dependent upon speed records. Because like the child that spends 3 hours creating a Crayola masterpiece worthy of the fridge, the ultralight backpacker who can create a tarp worth photographing, and located in a pitch worth remembering, now - that's beauty!

So, take your time. You're not impressing your friends so much as creating art within the landscape.

Unless it's raining really hard and you're freezing and you don't care and no one is around to take photos...then just nail the corners to the ground, crawl underneath it, and worry about all this aesthetic BS later.

Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Re: Benchmark time for Tarp Set Up? on 02/10/2006 09:18:11 MST Print View

I suppose the practice part prior to going out is key. For me, I like to have a mental checklist of what I do next, so I am not scratching my head after each step...and that just requires a little repetition.

The only other question I am kind of fuzzy on long to make each piece of guyline for the most universal pitching options. I suppose the corners and sides could be relatively 24/36 inches...but what about the each of the ends. Does anyone have a system for sizing and sorting the lengths of rope for easy deployment?

...And it is not so much impressing my friends, as avoiding too much negative attention. A little negative attention is fine...but being the running joke for 5 days is worth avoiding!

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Benchmark time for Tarp Set Up? on 02/10/2006 09:34:00 MST Print View

Scott, don't worry too much about being the running joke. I've gotten used to being the "comic relief" tarper. It brightens up my buds' day when they watch me try to pitch my poncho-tarp. I get to chuckle on the trail when their heavy 40+ lb packs have them draggin' their tails by day's end.

Michael Wands
(walksoftly) - F

Locale: Piney Woods
Tarp Pitching Options on 02/10/2006 14:09:31 MST Print View


If you get a few minutes check out Under the "hiking gear" folder there are some pictures of various pitching options for tarps and ponchos. I don't really care for the military slant at this web site, but they have obviously spent a few nights out on the ground.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Benchmark time for Tarp Set Up? on 02/10/2006 15:23:03 MST Print View

I think Ryan's post was awesome.

My own exerience is that is way more important to spend time finding a good spot to pitch the tarp than anything else. Being impatient at the end of a long day is a great way to have a lousy night. Make sure you set your pack down while looking for that optimum spot too.

As for being the running joke, it isn't avoidable in the long term. And pitching a tarp gracelessly is small ball compared to a lot of stuff I've done and watched others do. Friends still give me static about forgetting a box of matches (of course, I had exactly eleven emergency matches so we salvaged the trip with that). Both my brother and father have forgetton eating utensils ('cmon, it isn't *that* hard to make chopsticks or a spoon). Those are way more worthy razzing opportunities than anyone pitching a tarp.

Frank Ramos
(frprovis) - F
tarps vs tents: he who laughs last, laugh best on 02/10/2006 19:08:11 MST Print View

Wait until those tenters break one of their poles, and then we'll see who's laughing.

There's some good advice about pitching the Ray-way tarp at This same advice would apply to any A-frame style pitch.

I find the hardest part of pitching a tarp or tent, especially above the treeline, is getting the damned stakes into the ground. Much alpine land is mostly rock with a tiny bit of earth and grass on top of it. Whether with tents or with tarps, you want the option of being able to place your stakes far away from your shelter, in case that is the only place you can get the stakes into the ground, so I would recommend long guy lines for mountain use, much longer than would be necessary if you were always pitching on soft turf.

The above brings up an obvious question, instead of placing the stakes far from the shelter, why not move the shelter closer to where the stakes will go into the ground? The answer is that the alpine ground is often very uneven, so that only certain parts are acceptable for lying down comfortably. The shelter must go there, and then the stakes go where they will fit.

Edited by frprovis on 02/10/2006 19:19:57 MST.

Stephan Guyenet
(Guyenet) - F
tarp tips on 02/11/2006 15:10:25 MST Print View

Okay, these may seem obvious but I didn't know them when I started tarping and they've shortened my setup time a lot. For me, setting up a taut A-frame takes abut as much time as your average tent:

Keep your guylines tied to your tarp so they're ready to go when you unfold it.

Tie loops in the guylines ahead of time so this is already done. Then you just stick your stakes through when you're setting up. I like to tie a few loops in each line for pitching options.

Don't limit the length of your guylines because you're worried about weight. Guyline weighs so little and it contributes so much to tarp stability that it's worth having a little extra. Carry a few extra pieces so you can lengthen a line or tie a clothesline under your ridgeline.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
tarp set up on 02/11/2006 20:44:58 MST Print View

Stephan I do the exact same thing. Makes life a heck of alot easier once I get to where I am going!

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: tarp set up on 02/12/2006 01:39:19 MST Print View

Stephan and Ken:

Do you do also keep your guylines attached to your poncho-tarp? If you don't use a p-t, would you plan to keep the guylines attached if you used one?

If so, do/would you just let them dangle, or tie them up in some fashion?

Edited by pj on 02/12/2006 01:40:14 MST.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: tarp set up on 02/12/2006 06:55:37 MST Print View


I do not leave my lines attached to the poncho/tarp.

I leave a belt salvaged from a pair of REI Sahara pants in the rear tie outs. After putting the poncho on I reach around, unbuckle the belt and buckle it over the poncho in front. I think that this solves most of the traditional poncho problems.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
tarp set up on 02/12/2006 08:56:19 MST Print View

For me Paul, I just let them hang and then stuff them into my stuff sack. I can't speak for others in how they do things. I just like the convience. Sometimes they might get tangled, but more often than not they don't. I just like the ease of set up. Oh, and I don't use a poncho/tarp just for clarity.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: tarp set up on 02/12/2006 10:28:38 MST Print View

Richard and Ken, Many thanks for taking the time to reply. Thanks for sharing your insights with me.

Scott Peterson
(scottalanp) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: tarp set up on 02/12/2006 11:31:00 MST Print View

Yes...thanks from me too!

Do you think 50 feet total of line is suffecient? That seems to be how most is sold.

I think I am going to get the triptease for guylines. Even though it is a little more weight than other options...I like the reflective quality (really important at night if you have 6 people in camp and long guylines) and it seems to be a little more knot friendly.

Stephan Guyenet
(Guyenet) - F
Re: Re: Re: tarp set up on 02/12/2006 16:58:10 MST Print View

Paul, I don't use a poncho-tarp, so I'm not much use in that department.

Scott, I use an 8 X 10 tarp with center guyloops and 50 feet is not enough. It might be enough for a one-person tarp without center ties. Again, guyline is a very lightweight and multi-use item, so don't be afraid to bring extra.

I use triptease for my tarp but I'm not sure I'd buy it again. The reflective fibers, strength and handling are all awesome but I suspect it stretches when wet. My tarp gets very saggy from rain or even dew. I can't say for sure that the guyline is contributing to that but I suspect it is.

Does anyone have thoughts on non-stretching guyline and whether or not triptease stretches when wet? Does spectra in general stretch when it gets wet?

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
kevlar reinforced line on 02/12/2006 17:18:11 MST Print View

I think they had it at - don't see it on the website now (my tarp from him came with some)

a bit heavier than aircore, but very stiff too

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: Re: Re: tarp set up on 02/12/2006 19:44:11 MST Print View

It isn't the triptease that stretches. It is the tarp itself. The nylon of the tarp absorbs water from the air, gains weight, stretches, then sags. You will find that happens no matter what you use for guy lines.

The old tautline hitch tied to the pull-outs or around the stakes is the traditional solution. Either way, you have to take the time to make the adjustment during the night. If you tie the hitch to the pull-outs, you can make the adjustment from under the tarp instead of tramping around the tarp in the middle of the night in the rain.

It costs a little weight (maybe an ounce), but shock cord loops will pull the overnight stretch out of the tarp without any attention from you. They will also protect the tarp from wind shock. And tripping bears, clumsey campers, etc.

Spectra (Dyneema) doesn't stretch when wet. But neither does triptease.

I agree with the other posters that it takes no longer to set up a tarp than a tent...with practice. You don't want your first attempt to be on a dark and stormy night.

Edited by vickrhines on 02/12/2006 19:45:55 MST.