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Tarp Camping Techniques for Inclement Conditions
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Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Tarp Camping Techniques for Inclement Conditions on 10/20/2012 19:49:02 MDT Print View

Good article, nice to see BPL going back to its roots and talking tarps. Good advice too.
I never cared for cantanary cut tarps. They are specially designed to maximize my least favorite pitch, the A frame and on top of it the added complexity and cost is only to make it easier to get a taught pitch which is not hard to do anyways with a flat tarp. Why ruin one of tarps best strengths, its flexibility?
I like the square-ish idea. I don't personally think 8 feet is long enough for me and wouldn't recommend it. I prefer a 9 or 10 foot length.
Other pros for a simple flat tarp is the cost, the realistic possibility of MYOG, and the ability to cook in the rain and get out of the rain with muddy shoes without getting your floor dirty. You can also easily separate your wet and muddy shoes and gear underneath.
I think tarps work great in the White Mountains because the forest is thick and you literally have to go out of your way to go above treeline and most likely violate regulations to camp in an exposed area. Tarps can also be pitched over vegetation and rocks so you can find a suitable camp spot easier in the forest.

Gregory Allen
(Gallen1119) - M

Locale: Golden, CO
Fabulous article on 10/20/2012 21:35:47 MDT Print View

New new UL and was looking at different replacement options all summer for my freestanding not-so-light tent for wife and me. Now I'm pretty sure ill get a plain ole flat tarp sometime this winter. Maybe even MYOG! Couldn't have come at a better time. Love all the pitch options. May need to add net option for midsummer trips, but option of leaving net at home when bugs not out and shedding weight is very appealing. Seems that nothing beats flexibility of going old school! Thanks for the inspiration.

Adam Klagsbrun
(klags) - MLife

Locale: Northeast US
tarps from photos? on 10/21/2012 23:06:53 MDT Print View

Does anyone know who makes the tarps in the photos? (maybe they are MYOG?) I'd especially be interested in who makes the 12'x16' tarp the scouts are using...

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: tarps from photos? on 10/22/2012 06:00:21 MDT Print View

Most any place with sewing capacity can make one up. In a lot of cases, larger companies won't.

Basically, only a felled seam may be new. Often, a local fabric shop will offer classes, including use of a machine, if needed. But, it is usually not hard to find one used, for a fairly good price, ie ~$30-50USD. You don't need anything except a straight stitch. No computerized countrols, no fancy zigzags, etc...A good driver or advancer mechanism is needed. Walking feet are often used and found at the sewing shop.

Material is either coated silnylon or cuben for light weight tarps, ~60" wide (5'.)
Seconds, cosmetic, are fine for most camping, bears don't care.

I have put together several. I am NOT a taylor!! Tarps are only roofs, if they stop sun and rain, it was good enough.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Tarp Camping Techniques for Inclement Conditions on 10/23/2012 21:52:34 MDT Print View

Nice rehash, and what you've learned over the years is especially insightful. Thankfully, I got to that point (KISS) pretty fast. I "fear" the flying insects more than weather so hopefully I can figure a way to make my netting "door" removable so I can eat, read and sleep in peace when the skeeters are heavy.

As James Marco suggested, my corner loops are shock cord though that's largely due to my using polycryo, which isn't as strong as the other materials. As such I designed it for just one pitch (half pyramid) though I could do any pitch in good weather.

For David Pex asking about tarp tie-outs, you'd be sewing/gluing your own additional tie-out points and you should view the papers on tie-outs at

Doug Hus, I'd suspect .7 CF would be best for a storm-worthy shelter. .5 could work but may not last as long.

David Eitemiller
(DavidE) - MLife
Managing changing storm conditions on 11/18/2012 17:25:13 MST Print View

Ryan - great article as always. Have a question concerning managing an 8x8 flat tarp type setup in changing wind conditions. Mountain areas have varying wind patterns (morning to evening) or with a storm that could start and end with different prevailing wind directions. How would you adjust your setup for this referring to the main "storm pitch" technique mentioned here?

Drop front and raise back when / if it occurs? And accept that the occurrence of such a dramatic change and infrequent enough to not merit other arrangements which could add weight or complexity?

I have another question regarding cuben fiber weight / strength - but will post on separate thread to keep conversation coherent.

David Eitemiller
(DavidE) - MLife
Cuben fiber weights needed on 11/18/2012 17:31:37 MST Print View

Is there any advantage to a heavier cuben material for a flat tarp? Some manufacturers which I assuming are quality (Zpacks for example) are supplying flat tarps at 0.5 oz (CF5 I guess this is), others HMG for example at CF8 (.8 oz per square yard).

Are the stresses one would expect at failure points or puncturing susceptibility in these two weights significant enough to merit a the heavier Cuben material? Or is the same care needed for both and therefore the heavier cuben (albeit almost immaterial weight addition) of limited advantage? Or put another way, should we be looking for manufacturers that use only CF8 when purchasing flat tarps to be used in alpine, strong storm prone areas?

Edited by DavidE on 11/19/2012 14:45:41 MST.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Tarp Camping Techniques for Inclement Conditions on 12/08/2012 22:34:02 MST Print View

Excellent article bringing the evolution of Ryan's tarp experience up-to-date. Appreciate it very much, but have found the following "problem" paragraph (from the section on rigging guylines in preparation for a fast storm pitch) a little bit confusing --

"To the rear ridgeline tie-out, I tie a “single length” guyline (I define “single-length” as one armspan). For a storm pitch, this guyline loop gets propped up with a short (< 24”) stick and then staked out taut. The guyline is attached to the guyline loop with a sheet bend, and an overhand loop is tied in the other end. All guylines are tied this way."

The "problem" paragraph's first sentence starts things off OK by making a pretty clear statement about tying a "guyline" to the rear ridgeline "tieout" -- but then, in the very next sentence, Ryan talks about "this guyline loop" getting propped up and staked out.

Whoooaaaa there, now! What is does this phrase "this guyline loop" have to do with tying a "single-length guyline" to the "rear ridgeline tieout" anyway?

Sounds like Ryan is saying that the "rear ridgeline guyline" is attached to a "guyout loop" that has first been tied to the tarp's "rear ridgeline tieout" (just as Ryan's paragraph immediately preceding his "problem" paragraph describes 6" loops being tied into the tarp's "tieouts" at the four corners) -- especially based on the third (final) sentence of the "problem" paragraph where he says that "the guyline" (the rear ridgeline guyline, presumably) is attached to the "guyline loop" with a sheet bend.

Would much appreciate Ryan (or anyone else) clarifying what's being tied to what with this "rear ridgeline tieout single length guyline loop" in this "problem" paragraph.

I'd probably just tie a loop in each end of the three-foot long rear ridgeline guyline, then use one of those two loops to attach the guyline to the rear ridgeline tieout, then wrap the guyline a few times around a short stick, stick a stake through the loop on the other end of the guyline, hammer the stake into the ground, and call it done.

But that doesn't sound like what the "problem" paragraph is describing. Or is it?

And if so, how does a "sheetbend" knot come into play under the "problem" paragraph?

Thanks in advance for any enlightment to come.

Edited by JRScruggs on 12/08/2012 22:37:47 MST.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: tarps from photos? on 12/10/2012 06:29:32 MST Print View

"Does anyone know who makes the tarps in the photos? (maybe they are MYOG?) I'd especially be interested in who makes the 12'x16' tarp the scouts are using..."

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: tarps from photos? on 12/10/2012 08:07:05 MST Print View

I see a 12' x 14' that you sell - must be that?

Cute - it's snowing on your blog - and the direction of the snowfall depends on your cursor position : )

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
FlatTarp5 on 12/10/2012 12:30:04 MST Print View

I believe those are the 10x14' ones that Ryan bought. I call them a FlatTarp5 since most groups use that size to shelter 5
people. In really stormy conditions, an extra ground sheet, poncho or solo tarp can be used over the open end.

Jim Milstein
(JimSubzero) - M

Locale: New Uraniborg CO
Re: Tarp Techniques on 01/09/2013 18:50:41 MST Print View

Umm, 120/5 = 24. Not 20, not 25. This is fun. Arithmetic police!

Edited by JimSubzero on 01/09/2013 18:55:08 MST.

Gabe P
(Gabe) - MLife
Tarp on 02/05/2013 13:25:34 MST Print View


Edited by Gabe on 02/11/2013 08:56:06 MST.

robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
Thanks! on 02/06/2013 14:17:51 MST Print View

Heh, the opening quoate with the line about "sounds of little feet scurrying everywhere in the darkness over sleeping bags" got a laugh from me! Been There, Done That. I don't mind so much except when the little buggers dance on my head...

Fantastic writeup, I enjoyed it very much, and ya got me thinking that maybe I should be packing more stakes along?
But then, I usually operate in a forest and tie tarps off to trees, bushes and stuff, and have yet to try a tarp above the tree line.

Ya know, the very idea of using a tarp for shelter is simply horrifying to many Trad campers. Some time back I started a simple post on Trailspace about tarps, and some of the comments are quite interesting. I have since come to think of that forum as "Tentspace"!

Daniel Fish

Locale: PDX
... on 05/13/2013 22:49:09 MDT Print View


Edited by on 06/08/2013 19:15:26 MDT.

Richard Mock
(moxtr) - M

Locale: The piney woods
Re: Great Job! on 05/18/2013 02:00:53 MDT Print View

'cribbing' I will definitely use it. Thanks (especially for hammocks)

Ryan Slack
(RWSlack) - F

Locale: Minnesota
Easy method for attaching removable lines to tarp pullouts on 07/21/2013 11:28:21 MDT Print View

Instead of using a sheetbend or any other knot to directly attach a line to one's tarp grommet/pullout, I have found it far less hassle to simply tie a small loop in the tarp end of the line using a simple overhand loop or bowline. Just like how you would attach a yo-yo to your finger, one can then simply thread the loop through the pullout and run the rest of the line through the loop (kind of a girth hitch). Knots will not be stuck on your tarp, ever, and switching lengths of line among various grommets/pullouts takes seconds. Bigger loops can be better for speed here and can double as short peg loops like what RJ puts on the corners.

One other insight: My one small bungee loop I sometimes bring for my larger tarp is used on a mid-panel guy, and is dual-purposed as an easy hairband-style closure for my pack liner bag.

Definitely agree with the simple cord management technique of a knotted loop. I have tried and have seen others try to make neat little bundles of cord, which takes a long time and doesn't always keep in a stuff sack.

My next step is color-coding cord by length.