November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Tarps and . . . snakes? Please enlighten the noob
Display Avatars Sort By:
Neal Anderson

Locale: North Georgia
Tarps and . . . snakes? Please enlighten the noob on 03/30/2011 14:40:41 MDT Print View

Does anyone have anything to share about issues with snakes with tarp tenting? I see a lot of tarps on gear lists here and was curious to know if any of you make adjustments depending on the season or if there are other means of keeping the reptiles from using you as a hot rock.

I just heard a second anecdote from a friend who's Army buddy woke up with a rattlesnake next to his sleeping bag cowboy camping in the Mojave on a maneuver. While in the Mojave, they were specifically instructed not to sleep on the ground for that very reason and, sure enough, he had a visitor. I've heard the coyotes will come and hang out, also. My buddy and I figured it would be different here since snakes likely have burrows and the ground's not as hard as in the desert. Another Army Special Forces buddy of mine in our BSA Troop has had it happen to him, as well.

I live in the southeast US where we have copperheads (everywhere) and eastern diamondbacks along with a plethora of others too numerous to name. We plan on mainly doing backpacking-style campouts and short excursions in the north Georgia mountains until my son is old enough to go to Philmont if we can afford that.

I'm concerned because I frequently change sleeping positions at night to stay comfortable since I'm heavy and if there would ever be a snake next to me, I wouldn't know about it until it was too late.

It would be my preference not to go back to a tent because I enjoy the minimalism and dryness of a bivi-less tarp. I do have a very simple Mombassa bug net for insects but I fight with it and it has no floor. Should I get a tubbed bugnet and use that during snake "season" - and when might that be?

Thank you in advance for helping the noob!

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Snakes can't climb trees on 03/30/2011 15:12:03 MDT Print View

Get a hammock!

It'll also help with your sleeping - very comfortable, especially for us non-ultra-lite body types!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Tarps and . . . snakes? Please enlighten the noob on 03/30/2011 15:20:51 MDT Print View

"Should I get a tubbed bugnet and use that during snake "season" - and when might that be? "

That sounds like a plan.

I used to be paranoic about snakes when I was a kid. Then I spent one summer in Army Infantry training in Louisiana. We learned to sleep on the ground, typically just on top of, or rolled up inside our ponchos. There were pygmy rattlers and also coral snakes on the ground.

What some guys did was to carry insect repellant, typically the Army issue Jungle Juice (full strength DEET). When bedding down for the night, they would sprinkle a few drops in a perimeter around their poncho. That stuff was pretty bad on bugs, snakes, scorpions, or anything else crawling through it, so maybe it worked.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Snakes can't climb trees on 03/30/2011 15:35:21 MDT Print View

"Snakes can't climb trees" ( ? )

Tell that to the snake.

green tree snake

Fortunately, I don't think that there are many in North America. Roger probably has some good ones Down Under.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Snakes can't climb trees on 03/30/2011 15:42:24 MDT Print View

Hi Bob

Very nice green tree snake!
Yes, we have similar ones here - they have crawled across our verandah at times. NON-poisonous.

Yes, we have plenty of deadly snakes here, as everyone knows. But I weigh 64 kg, while a snake might weigh 1 kg. They don't want a fight on those terms, so when they hear me walking around they stay out of the way.

Most snake-related deaths are young males, often with a blood alcohol reading, and they were often trying to kill the snake anyhow. Stupidity is its own reward.

In general we don't worry at all about snakes, especially at night.


John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: Re: Snakes can't climb trees on 03/30/2011 15:52:58 MDT Print View

"Snakes can't climb trees" ( ? )

Want a laugh? Google bad@$$ bunny video with the correct spelling or just click on the embedded link.;-)

At about 3 kg. I declare the bunny the winner.

Party On,


@ Neal,

I use a tarp and a zipped up Meteor Bivy.

Edited to add embedded link

Edited by Newton on 03/30/2011 18:46:18 MDT.

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Bunny on 03/30/2011 16:49:52 MDT Print View

That's one bad a$$ bunny, alright!

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: Snakes can't climb trees on 03/30/2011 17:01:16 MDT Print View

"Snakes can't climb trees"

I was sitting on a break during a hike in VA. I looked over my shoulder and a copperhead was curled up a ft from my shoulder. It was a toilet paper moment (maybe not for Mike!)

I used a tarp bivy setup in the N Ga mountains and haven't worried or had anything bad happen to date. But maybe I should worry..... :O

And as far as Coyotes. I would rather be able to look up and see what is making the noise instead of dreaming about bigfoot stomping around eating my snickers bars. Could bigfoot get into a bear canister?

Edited by gg-man on 03/30/2011 17:03:23 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Snakes can climb bushes.... on 03/30/2011 18:12:40 MDT Print View

...but I've yet to see a poisonous North American snake that can climb an 8" or bigger tree, one that grows straight up out of the ground for a height of six feet or so before it branches a tree you'd hang a Hammock on!

If you have evidence to the contrary, please show me - I'm always happy to learn something new!

Edited by grampa on 03/30/2011 18:13:12 MDT.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Tarps in Southeast on 03/30/2011 18:32:47 MDT Print View

I used a tube tent, and hiked the AT and Shenandoahs in MD & VA - several sections 2-3 times. Never, ever had a problem. I like a tarp now - for the versatility (lunch breaks in the rain), and breezes that make sleeping in the summer nicer.

I wouldn't no worries about snakes. It's the spyders that get you...

ps: For folks who haven't tried tarp camping and may be reading this, I find the mosquitoes are bad around dusk when I'm eating dinner, but go to bed before I do, so I don't get any more mosquitoe bites than I did in a tent. I DO get 1-2 spyder bites a night but that seems like a small price to pay for a 1 pound tent that is breezy on the 85*F nights we have here.

Mark Rash

Locale: North Texas
Spider bites on 03/30/2011 20:41:39 MDT Print View

1 to 2 spider bites a night is acceptable?!!!! Have you ever seen what happens when someone gets bitten by a Brown Recluse?... your skin literally rots away.

Here in Texas at night if you shine your led light on the ground it will literally sparkle like the inside of a diamond mine. Those sparkles are spider eyes. It completely freaks me out knowing they are EVERYWHERE at night.

Edited by markrvp on 03/30/2011 20:45:23 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re:snake vs bunny on 03/30/2011 21:13:02 MDT Print View

The video didn't work for me. But ...

I was clearing some weedy scrub near a corner of the farm many years ago, and disturbed both a rabbit and a red-belly black snake. Note that a bite from a red belly snake can be fatal to humans.

The snake was interested in the baby bunnies in the burrow as dinner, but the bunny mummy (or daddy) had different ideas. The bunny hopped a few times around the snake, which had reared up to strike, then it leapt forwards, grabbed the reared-up snake with its front paws and held it close so it couldn't bite. Then it disembowelled the snake with several kicking slashes of its back feet. Then it leapt away, leaving the snake to quietly expire on the spot. The bunny was not bitten.

I jest not. I watched it happen. Tough bunny.


Eugene Hollingsworth
(GeneH_BPL) - F
Killer Bunnies! on 03/30/2011 21:22:04 MDT Print View

...too many re-runs of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" Roger? Remember the Killer Rabbits?

Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Re: Spider bites on 03/30/2011 21:24:37 MDT Print View

Most actual recluse bites* occur in the home, for the reason that recluse are both very reluctant to bite and have a darn hard time forcing their tiny fangs into your skin even if they DO want to bite you. Most bites occur when recluse get into clothing that is then put on by the victim, squashing the spider against their skin.

It should be clear why this is a lot less likely to occur in a UL camping situation.

1-2 spider bites per night could, I suppose, be attributed to wolf spiders. I love turning on my headlamp in a dark forest and seeing hundreds of tiny little eyes shining back at me; even the tiniest wolf spiders give a pretty good eyeshine. That said, most spider bites are not actually spider bites, which brings me to the asterisk above...

*based on findings by arachniologists and medical researchers who actually study these things, the vast majority of diagnosed "brown recluse bites," particularly those that are diagnosed with no witnessing of the bite incident itself, are just necrotic skin infections with no relation to spiders. A little splinter or shard of fiberglass with the right bacteria on it gets under your skin unnoticed, and before you know it you've got a little necrotic lesion and the doctor says "yup, recluse." That little lesion might even expand and melt a good chunk of flesh away. Regardless of the old "white dot" myth, it's impossible to reliably differentiate between bite and infection without a tissue biopsy that turns up spider-venom proteins. Actual bites are often made much worse than they otherwise would be due to secondary infections. Recluse bite diagnoses were found to be common even in geographic regions where recluse are not present to be biting people.

So maybe spiders are biting you, maybe you're just getting pricked by tiny nonsterile sharp things while you hike and noticing the "bites" after your immune system reacts and makes an itchy little bump overnight.

Just in case I seem entirely too serious about these things, I have a history of nerding out just as much over the science regarding venomous spiders in North America as some here froth over the hydrostatic head of exotic fabrics and etc. Considering going to school for entomology, we'll see.

Edited by er1kksen on 03/30/2011 21:30:48 MDT.

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: Tarps and . . . snakes? Please enlighten the noob on 03/30/2011 21:34:48 MDT Print View

Tarp + bivy w/headnet

Problem solved.

(Yeah sure, seƱor rattlesnake could get through, but mr. spider won't.)

Eugene Hollingsworth
(GeneH_BPL) - F
Non-Spider Spider-Bites? on 03/30/2011 21:37:59 MDT Print View

"...based on findings...the vast majority of diagnosed "...bites,"...are just necrotic skin infections with no relation to spiders. A little splinter...with the right bacteria... and before you know it you've got a little necrotic lesion..."

Am I correctly interpreting this as: some people getting lots of "spider bites" while I never get any in the same local (house, campsite, hotel) may just have a susceptibility to infections from getting poked by a really, really, tiny splinter of something?

Seems to fit. One person I know now tends to have a lot of minor skin infections, by years ago blamed it all on spider bites, even though I never saw any spiders of every were bit myself.

Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Re: Non-Spider Spider-Bites? on 03/30/2011 21:51:14 MDT Print View

That's perfectly plausible. We all have different levels of immune system responsiveness and we all have different bacterial populations on our skin. People even vary in the overall toughness of their skin. Undoubtedly some are more susceptible to immune overreactions to little pricks or have skin bacteria that's a little more antagonistic and likely to infect any openings they find (or both).

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Tarps and . . . snakes? Please enlighten the noob on 03/31/2011 02:49:01 MDT Print View


I tarp in the Mohave and Lower Colorado desert a lot. I don't worry about snakes when sleeping. They are not going to come after you... you are bigger and cannot eat you. They also can sense you. I don't bother with a bivy for protection... only use a bivy with a poncho/tarp. Large tarps never a bivy.

The only worry is that you might accidently step on or near one and it might bite in defense mode.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
I moved to tents on 03/31/2011 09:00:44 MDT Print View


I used to sleep under a tarp but various creatures would visit me and I changed to tents.

I've had something (mountain beaver?) run right over my sleeping bag on the way to the creek. I've had mice play with my hair and run over my bag. I've awakened with a big slug on my forehead.

My friend found a small rattlesnake in her boot one morning and a marmot tried to run off with one of my boots. So my boots are now tenters too.


Jason McSpadden
(JBMcSr1) - M

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Tarps and...snakes? on 03/31/2011 09:19:05 MDT Print View

Daryl! Don't you see that sleeping under a tarp just gives you more stories to tell?! A tent is positively boring. I love my stories of using a tarp; like the time I must have pitched right over a porcupine highway--that was a fun night!


Edited by JBMcSr1 on 03/31/2011 14:06:45 MDT.