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Small Tarp
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Chris Muthig
(cmuthig) - M

Locale: Georgia
Small Tarp on 05/02/2012 06:37:53 MDT Print View

Here's a question for SUL hikers out there. If you were using a small tarp, say 5'x9'. Would you prefer it to be a flat tarp or an A-frame with a cat curve?

I was thinking of making myself a small tarp for summer use in the SE and was deciding between the two different possibilities.

The thought with the A frame is to make the head wider than the foot. So say something like this

I've used some large A frame tarps and liked it, but I haven't used a tarp this small or used a flat tarp before, so I just wanted to see what others have experienced.

Patrick S
(xpatrickxad) - F

Locale: Upper East TN
Re: Small Tarp on 05/02/2012 08:14:25 MDT Print View

For something that small I prefer a flat tarp for versatility. Its kind of fun to play around with different ways to set it up and find out what works. If you plan on pitching it A-frame all the time then I'd get a cat cut.

That thread is a great source of cool options to pitch a flat 5x8. I just feel with a tarp that size you can get better coverage if you don't pitch it A-frame style.

James Jones
(maniacjwj) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Purpose of a Tarp on 05/04/2012 13:56:54 MDT Print View

I've always been a tent camper until my last 2 trips when I've used a ZPacks Hexamid Tarp but it comes down pretty close to the ground on 3 of the sides, leaving a gap for ventilation. I see pictures of tarps 3-5 feet above the sleeping bags. Is it to block the sun in the morning? If I camped like that, I wouldn't bring a tarp, I'd just sleep out in the open. I liked some of the configurations that protected on 3 sides, but many of the configurations don't seem to protect from the rain. In Colorado, we can get rain every afternoon/evening. I think I'm missing something. Does it protect from dew in the morning?

Arlan Beeck
Re: Purpose of a Tarp on 05/18/2012 23:15:24 MDT Print View

Funny! I also camp at altitude in the or above treeline...and rain and high winds are a daily problem...

My primary shelter for 4 yrs. has been the "long" Campmor/Equinox poncho-tarp (58 x 104, 9.5 oz., $69.)

Erected in a half-pyramid, with three walls to the ground and the support pole set at 3.5 feet, this shelter has been a rock. I can sit up inside it, I have 8.5 lineal ft. along the back wall to sleep in, and, it has kept me dry through the most violent wind-driven rain-storms you flatlanders could ever imagine.

After sitting out one gale-force storm above Conundrum HS, I noticed that the rushing water had dug 8" deep gullies under my Mylar groundsheet, but my gear and I remained dry.)

Later, while walking up to the Hot Springs, I noticed campers in expensive ultralite tents who were outside literally wringing out their sleeping bags...

Just 9.5 oz. for my shelter AND rain gear that totally covers my pack.

James Jones
(maniacjwj) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
tarp purpose on 05/19/2012 00:57:02 MDT Print View

I'll have to check it out. I've now seen lots of configurations of tarps, many able to keep out rain. Others seem to keep dew off or sun because pitched so high above the ground.

James Jones
(maniacjwj) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
bugs with pancho tarp on 05/19/2012 01:07:05 MDT Print View

what do you do to keep the bugs away?

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: bugs with pancho tarp on 05/19/2012 03:21:30 MDT Print View

Small piece of screening. Or, use a tent. There are two months bugs are BAD in the ADK's...May and June.

Brandon Guy
(brucky) - F

Locale: Central Cal
High Pitches on 05/19/2012 11:03:49 MDT Print View

Some people will pitch a tarp high so that there is more room and comfort. Then just in case rain comes it is already up and only needs a few adjustments to become wind/rain worthy. Much easier to lower the tarp and re-stake guylines than it would be if you were cowboy camping, got woke up by rain, and had to completely set up your tarp in wind and rain.

James Jones
(maniacjwj) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
High Pitches on 05/19/2012 11:23:44 MDT Print View

Thanks Brandon. That completely makes sense. Something someone coming from tent camping didn't think of

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Bugs on 12/21/2012 15:03:51 MST Print View

Kinda late on this.
On the subject of bugs under a UL tarp, many of us use a UL bug bivy or bug tent.
Not only does this protect against bugs, but also helps protect against wind blown rain and splash and can add warmth by reducing convective heat loss by reducing the breeze. Also, most act as your ground cloth.

As an example my SMD Meteor weighs 6 oz, which isn't much when you consider it acts as a ground cloth, adds warmth and the added protection means I can get by with a smaller tarp.

On the subject of pitching a small tarp high: As stated, better ventilation on a hot night and easier to change the pitch than to start from scratch if the weather turns bad. But it also means that if you are only getting a light rain, it could be all the protection you need.

I know the NY, NJ, CT area often get light rains in the middle of the night in the summer and I am usually able to sleep through with a high a-frame pitch on my 5x9 flat tarp. If it should turn bad, I can readjust without getting out from under it.

Pitching a high tarp also reduces dew that you normally acquire on your bag when cowboy camping. This is important in areas with high humidity. It can be difficult to get you bag or quilt to dry.


Locale: Piedmont of the Carolinas
flat tarp on 12/27/2012 08:57:47 MST Print View

My vote is definitely for a flat tarp for the versatility. I can't imagine having a small tarp (5' width) and not being able to do pitch it in a half pyramid.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

Re: Small Tarp on 12/27/2012 15:33:45 MST Print View

If you were using a small tarp, say 5'x9'. Would you prefer it to be a flat tarp or an A-frame with a cat curve?

Speaking only for myself and my style of using shelters... a 5x9 a-frame with catenary cut on the top and straight edges on the sides.

If the weather gets really bad you can always stake the foot end to the ground and still have a solid shelter due to the catenary cut.

Here is a video of my 80.24 grams (2.83 ounces) 9x6 tarp. While I do not under any situation recommend 0.34 cuben fiber material you can see that a 9x6 is more then enough room for all but the rainiest of seasons by seeing how much room this shelter has, so going with the 5x9 should be good.

My next tarp will probably be a 10x5 with catenary cut on the top and no cat cuts on the sides and 5 tie outs per side.

All that said, there is something to be said about a 10x10 square tarp... the amount of ways you can setup a square tarp is oh so glorious.


tyler marlow

Locale: UTAH
SE flat tarp on 01/03/2013 13:11:02 MST Print View

Chris, I use a 5 x 8 flat tarp I made on nearly every trip I take. In fact I just got back from a short overnight on top of Cowrock Mtn with mine. Clear skies where I was but everything around was socked in by low clouds. Site selection helps, but even with such a small tarp I feel confident anywhere. I would recommend going with 5 x 9 though, or even something like the cuben flat tarp Matt Kirk made with a seam in the middle to get the most out of the fabric width.

I'm planning a new tarp out of that Impetus Sil/PU stuff from DIYgearsupply that should be between 6-8 oz

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Or maybe a little bigger on 01/08/2013 14:10:43 MST Print View

One of the problems I have with a 5x9 flat tarp is that it gets really difficult during torrential wind blown rain. There is very little room when you get it pitched tight to the ground and if you do pitch it with one side higher, you have to re-pitch when the wind changes direction.

If I know I'm going to have to deal with weather extremes, I go with a slightly larger MLD Patrol or GG Spinnshelter. They are both basically 7x9 shaped tarps.

The shaped aspect makes for a much more comfortable, weatherproof, tight and/or warmer pitch when needed, but still has the flexibility to be pitched high and open for summer heat.

In comparison to a say 7x9(or more common 8x10) flat tarp, you may have more options, but a weatherpoof pitch takes a bit more work to tweak and will have a tendency to flap in the wind, and believe me, after spending a night under a flapping tarp in a strong wind, this can be important.

The shaped equivalent is a no brainer to deal with and can be setup in 2 minutes. This gets kind of important if you are out for weeks at a time.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Re: Or maybe a little bigger on 01/11/2013 09:06:36 MST Print View

"One of the problems I have with a 5x9 flat tarp is that it gets really difficult during torrential wind blown rain."

Having a DWR shell on your sleeping bag or a DWR bivy mitigates that to a fairly large extent.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Or maybe a little bigger on 01/11/2013 09:38:47 MST Print View

But if you have DWR shell, and especially if you have a bivy, it weighs more, so you may as well have a bigger tarp instead

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
Re on 01/11/2013 12:15:30 MST Print View

True but small tarp + bivy you get bug protection. I don't like bugs and most of the time it's not raining.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re on 01/11/2013 12:28:40 MST Print View

"Most of the time it isn't raining."

In some places, it rains every day. It even falls vertically now and again. :-)

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
With a bivy on 01/11/2013 12:36:23 MST Print View

Regarding a DWR bag or bivy. Yes, fully waterproof breathable is heavy.

I personally use a UL waterproof 6oz bivy when I use a 5x9 rect. tarp. Not only to repel most windblown rain, but also for bug protection and as a ground cloth.

One issue that I have with the 5x9/UL bivy combo is that it can sometimes get annoying dealing with some spray getting through the DWR in torrential rain and the spray getting in my face when I'm trying to sleep.

This forces me to have to get up often to re-position either you and/or the tarp.

A larger tarp, shaped or not shaped, allows for a better night sleep on those rare occasions.

I am not the only one that has complained about this issue with small tarps. Some people still deal with it and accept it as the price to pay to have a lighter pack. Others chose to go shaped and/or slightly larger.

For most, a 8x10 or 9x9 seems to be the sweet spot or a slightly smaller shaped tarp.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Shaped variations on 01/11/2013 12:48:44 MST Print View

In reference to what I am talking about, check out ice-axe's pix of the MLD Patrol:

Patrol Shelter Thread

Compare this to a 5x9 rectangular or even a cat cut 5x9.

The ability to block rain from all directions can be a plus and at probably only 2oz difference in weight compared to a flat 5x9, I think I may just use it all the time and only carry the 5x9 as a day-hike emergency shelter.