Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Tarps Above Timberline
Display Avatars Sort By:
Dale Murphy
(getlightmurphy) - F

Locale: North Central Texas
Tarps Above Timberline on 06/21/2010 20:28:09 MDT Print View

I will be spending 7 days in the Weminuche in early July. One of my compatriots has spoken to a Ranger who is supposed to be an avid hiker and according to the Ranger we are going to have a tough time with tarps above timberline because the ground will be too hard for stakes. Is this a legitimate concern and should we abandon the tarps for tents?

Mat Tallman
(wehtaM) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Tarps Above Timberline on 06/21/2010 20:50:33 MDT Print View

For the record, I've never camped above treeline in any manner.

That being said, an inability to sink a stake seems like an odd reason for you not to be able to use any particular shelter. Even a free-standing tent would need to be firmly staked to the ground above treeline, due to the increased propensity for high winds.

If the ground is rocky and hard, you can use rocks in place of stakes.

I would be inclined to believe that the less wind-resistant nature of most tarp setups, in comparison to some tents, would be a tougher obstacle above treeline.

Edited by wehtaM on 06/21/2010 21:02:18 MDT.

Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
above tree line on 06/21/2010 22:31:51 MDT Print View

I do quite a bit of backpacking above tree line in the sierras. I have been thinking about getting a tarp and that is a concern of mine too. In the sierras if you are above tree are pretty much ion granite and cant use stakes at all. However, like said above....I think you could easily use some parachute cord and tie to rocks where stakes would be needed.

Dale Murphy
(getlightmurphy) - F

Locale: North Central Texas
Thanks for the input guys. on 06/22/2010 06:08:30 MDT Print View

Thanks for the input. I was hoping that somebody that had been above timberline with an ultralight shelter would post about there wonderful experience and help ease my paranoia! The hardest part of getting light is the anxiety and second guessing.

Tim Heckel
(ThinAir) - M

Locale: 6237' - Manitou Springs
Re: Tarps Above Timberline on 06/22/2010 09:25:53 MDT Print View

Not really. Making a blanket statement like that is totally absurd.

If you can stake a tent you can stake a tarp. You will have to be careful about site selection of course.

There are other reasons I personally wouldn't take a tarp, but I don't have a lot of tarp experience.

If you have enough experience with tarps in high winds, driving rains, mosquitos, and snow then you *might* be ok.

Depending on where and when you are going I might see you there. I'll be in the Weminuche starting this Saturday for 10 days. I'm using a tarptent the first few nights (at treeline), then switching to my Akto for the remainder of the trip (no I'm not carrying both, it's a long story).

Mark Regalia
(markr) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz
This is one reason I abandoned tarps on 06/22/2010 09:54:59 MDT Print View

I camp a lot above tree line. Finding a spot that is smooth, has good drainage, runoff is not routed through it AND allows staking is a trick. I gave up and went to a free standing tent. My particular set of circumstances was such that I wasn't saving any weight anyway. I don't use hiking poles, have dogs that when wet go straight for my sleeping bag, and then there are the mosquitoes.

No reqrets, loving having a tent which shelters me and my dogs without my having to share my personal space with wet dogs and keeps out the mosquitoes.

John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Cowboy camp or Tent on 06/22/2010 10:00:47 MDT Print View

+1 on the above. I too gave up since I tend to spend most of my time above or at timberline and wasn't really saving much if any weight. If it's just a couple of nights and I am confident in the weather being nice, I just cowboy camp with a small 3mil plastic tarp and no bivy. Most of the time I am using a tent to get away from the wind and/or bugs, either a BD Skylight or Hilight.

Dont Wantto
(longhiker) - F
freestanding above treeline? on 06/22/2010 10:01:59 MDT Print View

I'm not sure I understand why a free-standing tent is better above treeline in Colorado.. is it impossible to stake it out above treeline but not below? And a free-standing tent is OK above treeline without staking out?

I'm hoping to using a Tarptent Cloudburst for my thru-hike of the Colorado trail this year and was hoping to do a few nights above treeline in the San Juans if the weather permits..

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Tarps above Timberline on 06/22/2010 10:11:35 MDT Print View

For Outward Bound and similar schools, all they take
are tarps for shelter. In the Sierra Nevada, Wind Rivers
North and South Cascades, with some trips mostly above
tree line, they use large group tarps and small solo tarps.

Site selection is a big deal. You won't find them camping
on exposed ridges if at all possible. They will look
for large boulders for wind breaks, use rocks as big as
can be carried instead of stakes, sleep on granite slabs
to avoid damaging vegetation and to stay clean (no mud
on your sleeping gear). Sometimes a rock wall can be built
for a wind shelter, tho pulling rocks out of the dirt is
avoided as these often shelter insects.

Tho I don't bring trekking poles or tarp poles myself, the
students are issued tarp poles to make tarp set up easier
when there are no trees.

It takes time, effort and ingenuity to use tarps above
treeline. The discipline that is developed is part of the
learning process in these school outings.

But, you hike your own hike and may want to spend your time
cooking, climbing or taking pictures instead of tarp craft.
A light tent may be more suitable for your needs if so.

One final consideration about tent stakes. In some highly
used areas they are discouraged due to the damage in some
soil environments. In those cases, shelters that require
few or no pegs are preferred or required by the land

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Tarps above Timberline on 06/22/2010 11:34:04 MDT Print View

Tarps are going to give you more pitching options, and you can sleep in places where a tent is not going to fit. As Dave mentioned, site selection is critical. Also, if you use a tarp often, then pitching it does not take long.

If weather requires a shelter, I try to go below treeline anyway, especially in the summer where thunderstorms are frequent. I don't want to be the highest point on the ground.

But if weather is good, the tarp stays in my pack. Nothing better than a full panorama of the sky from your bed, or the view from a high treeless place.

IMO, it doesn't matter whether you use a tarp or tent above treeline, but your securement methods are often different that other places, and you need to be competent with either type of shelter.

bryan english
(apoxtle) - F

Locale: so cal.
above treeline on 06/22/2010 13:47:00 MDT Print View

i've used a tarp many times above treeline. actually more than a tent. i usually just tie my guylines to rocks. i don't think you would have a problem and wouldn't worry about it. i'll actually be using it up on top of san gorgonio on the 4th of july. fireworks look pretty cool thousands of feet below.

Mark Regalia
(markr) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz
Don't get me wrong on 06/22/2010 15:04:27 MDT Print View

You certainly can use a tarp above treeline. I just found that it was more trouble than it was worth, especially considering that I was not saving any weight. Actually I never took to tarps at all. I seem to have really bad weather luck and keeping my bag dry with two wet dogs in camp is a problem. There is a seldom described natural force of attraction that describes how the attraction between a dog and your down sleeping bag is directly proportinally to how wet the dog is. My Big Sky Evolution 1P with dual vestibules is just too perfect of a solution for my needs.
If I was below treeline, after mosquito season, and not expecting any rain, and I knew I would have an over head branch to suspend my tarp from (I don't carry any poles) then a tarp sounds good, but then I wouldn't need a shelter.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Don't get me wrong on 06/22/2010 15:15:09 MDT Print View

Tarps are not for everyone!!

However, my "double size" BPL Nano at 5 oz, is much, much less weight than any tarp tent.

I would not recommend anyone use a tarp like this above treeline, unless they have a lot of experience with tarps.

Another light option is the GG SpinnTwinn at under 9 oz. Similar size as the Nano, but about 1/2 the price with Spinaker material.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Re: Don't get me wrong on 06/23/2010 05:35:10 MDT Print View

Yes, tarps require experience. Lots of tie-outs are a plus.

Tarps do have some advantages above treeline. They can be more flexible. A tarp will allow you to make shelter between rocks(or other objects) where a tent would not fit. The rock(s) can become part of your shelter structure.

In the worst case you could roll up in it like a burrito if trapped in a tight spot during lightning storm.

You can pitch a tarp low and aerodynamic when needed or high for shade and a windbreak on a cloudless day.

My one experience tarp camping in gail force winds above treeline camping required 50+ lb of rocks on each tie and even then some of the rocks didn't hold well.
Be prepared to really pile them on.

We didn't have to camp above treeline, but the trees in the area below were mostly dead from fire and disease. We didn't feel comfortable being surrounded by dead trees in gail force winds.

The boy scout troop over on the next ridge had lots of tent poles break that night.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
"Tarps Above Timberline" on 06/23/2010 08:10:32 MDT Print View

I suspect Will Rietveld has more experience in a tarp in the Weminuche than most on this board. I'd send him an email.

I've never had a problem staking above timberline in the Weminuche. And, as said, when you are on rocks, you used the rocks to hold your guylines.