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Tarp Camping Techniques for Inclement Conditions
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Tim Heckel
(ThinAir) - M

Locale: 6237' - Manitou Springs
Leave no trace on 10/18/2012 10:21:26 MDT Print View

First, thank you for this article.
But I have to say, again, I think BackPacking Light should be more careful to encourage Leave No Trace principles in it's publications. Two of the three campsites pictured in this article violate widely accepted LNT principles, and many state and national park and forest regulations too, by being WAY too close to water.
Backpacking Light should promote responsible enjoyment of our remaining wild places.

Edited by ThinAir on 10/18/2012 10:22:30 MDT.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Leave no trace on 10/18/2012 11:18:06 MDT Print View

I completely agree with Tim.

Jason McSpadden
(JBMcSr1) - M

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Tarp Camping Techniques and LNT on 10/18/2012 11:26:08 MDT Print View

I guess I don't have a problem with it. Take a look at the topography around the lake in those two pictures. I would bet that there were few spots that were good for a site. Now one could say, "Then don't camp there." But sometimes the topo maps show that there "should" be good campsites and then when you get there--nope. Maybe there are extenuating circumstances that made this best of available choices.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Article pictures and LNT on 10/18/2012 12:34:31 MDT Print View

Rules for the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness:

Campfires are prohibited at the following lakes within 1/4 mile of their shorelines: ..."

So the campsites were technically legal as long as there were no campfires, even though they violated LNT principles.

However, I do feel that BPL could set a far better example by not violating LNT practices in photographs in their publications!

...camping 200 feet (70 adult steps) from water is a good rule of thumb....It should never be necessary to camp on...islands of vegetation..."

Yes, I've had to violate LNT practices and even USFS rules, especially in areas where all the trees are dead from bark beetle so the only safe alternative is to camp in a meadow and/or too close to the trail (if I have to break the rules, I'll camp too close to the trail rather than too close to water). I don't take pictures of such camps for publication, though!

Edited by hikinggranny on 10/18/2012 12:49:02 MDT.

Daniel Benthal

Locale: Mid-Coast Maine
Silnylon Tarp Links on 10/18/2012 13:57:10 MDT Print View


Here are some options for silnylon tarps:

I have a tarp from Oware (first link) that has served me well for over 10 years.


Justin C
(paintballr4life) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Great Article on 10/18/2012 16:57:06 MDT Print View

I really liked this article (even if the LNT police are around), these are the kind I signed up for BPL in the first place.

George Geist
(geist) - M

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Square flat tarp can turn into a shaped tarp on 10/18/2012 19:50:04 MDT Print View

Ray doesn't mention it, but another advantage of using a square flat tarp is that you can set it up as a tetrahedron to shed wind from any direction if the weather requires it. Just stake out three corners, fold the fourth corner back to the mid-point. Crawl under and raise up the center with your pole and you get the following shelter.

9'x9' tarp pitched as tetrahedron

This is a 9'x9' Lawson cuben tarp

WV Hiker

Locale: West Virginia
LNT issues on 10/19/2012 09:49:42 MDT Print View

I don't have a problem with the pics in this article. The first one in particular with Ryan looking at the lake is impossible to determine how far away he is from the water - in fact he could be well away. I know the second water pic looks close and the third one could again be far enough away. If these were shot with a telephoto lens then the distance is distorted. Sorry but the LNT police and zealots on here will just have to fume.

William Goodrich
(BoulderBill) - M

Locale: Where the plains hit the peaks
Re: Silnylon Tarp Links on 10/19/2012 10:41:54 MDT Print View

Thanks for the links, Dan.

I think I'm going to go with the FlatTarp3 9.5'x9.5'. Seems like a winner!


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: LNT issues on 10/19/2012 10:48:52 MDT Print View

I guess I just don't get the name calling and belligerence that seems too prevalent on BPL these days. Tim brought up a valid concern, Jason answered with some very valid points as to why things might not be what they seemed. Agreeable disagreement. Good discussion. I love having varying sides of an issue brought forth.

But then some folks feel the need to start calling names and such. Why? What does it get you? WV Hiker, you bring up valid points about how telephoto lens can distort distance, but feel the need to end your note with an unnecessary poke in the eye? I don't get it.

Seems like a lot of angry folks on here these days. At least y'all sound angry.

Adam Klagsbrun
(klags) - MLife

Locale: Northeast US
Re: Leave no trace on 10/19/2012 10:50:15 MDT Print View

BUZZ KILL! Tim, you are so cool for pointing out how close Ryan's tarps appear to be to the water, without even knowing if your "facts" are correct. In addition, I would assume Ryan practices LNT and teaches it to others. I for one am all about pitching your tent or tarp wherever you can do the least damage, regardless of rules. Nobody is going to do damage sleeping near water, regardless of the laws, as long as they don't cook or go to the bathroom there. Furthermore, as someone who has been ticketed by a ranger at a campsite where I chose to camp on an already impacted site rather than the legal distance from the lean to, we all know the laws don't adequately protect the wilderness. Where I live they'd rather you create more impact in a fresh site, creating more damage than if you were to simply set up on the same already impacted sites in the lean to and campsite areas. The laws on the trail sometimes make it impossible to enjoy yourself camping by preventing an adequate campsite. I'd rather break the law any day, enjoy myself, leave no trace, then pay a ticket if I get caught. But thanks for being the LNT nazi Tim, you had such great input here that nobody ever thought of before...

Daniel Benthal

Locale: Mid-Coast Maine
Oware Tarp on 10/19/2012 13:52:51 MDT Print View


Just be aware that the 9.5 x 9.5 tarps currently listed are all heavier fabrics. "Normal" silnylon is the 30 denier fabric available on the 9x9 tarp.

Edited by DBthal on 10/19/2012 13:53:44 MDT.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Tarp Camping Techniques for Inclement Condition on 10/19/2012 14:54:28 MDT Print View talks about camping, washing up and cooking 200 feet from the water. A recent video frown Ryan shows a group cooking by a lake. They look to be about 200 feet away. The main thing that struck me about the video was how fantastic it was to see these young kids getting outside.

The campsites Ryan has chosen don't seem a problem to me. Also unless you were there it seems difficult to make a good judgement.

Joseph Reeves

Locale: Southeast Alaska
Re: Leave no trace on 10/19/2012 15:20:34 MDT Print View

The Forest Service has no credibility in asking for, much less having regulations that demand anything resembling leave no trace. Their idea of leave no trace can be spotted from any aircraft flying over Southeast Alaska and the western United States. My fire pit along a beach can't be compared to the destruction they have brought to the national forests.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Leave no trace on 10/19/2012 15:23:05 MDT Print View

The big difference is that they get to make the rules and you don't.

Joseph Reeves

Locale: Southeast Alaska
Re: Leave no trace on 10/19/2012 15:33:25 MDT Print View

Fortunately, there are no rules where we backpack and kayak, which is why I"ve never paddled in Glacier Bay though it is just a couple of day's paddle from here.

Ron D
(dillonr) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: Leave no trace on 10/19/2012 15:39:18 MDT Print View

Tim is right on the LNT issue, BPL is in an established leadership and training role in the backpacking community. The individuals posting here have virtually no impact beyond that of their individual campsite, BPL reaches and influences thousands of backpackers. BPL is subject to a higher standard for issues like LNT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Tarp Camping Techniques for Inclement Condition on 10/19/2012 15:58:34 MDT Print View

If someone is doing something that is technically illegal, but what they are doing is respectful not harmful to the environment they are in, then it's really nobody's business to call them out on it. If they get in trouble, it's their problem, not yours.

Leave No Trace is a great organization that provides guidelines and suggestions for not leaving a trace is high use areas. Stop acting like they are some kind of law. It's like a bunch of sheep yelling "but... but.... you are violating LNT! LNT LNT LNT!" These things can and should be open to personal judgement based on the area and it's level of use.

Curt Peterson
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Tarp Camping Techniques for Inclement Conditions on 10/19/2012 19:53:46 MDT Print View

Great article - and I'm not even a tarper. Love the technique stuff and enjoy the quality writing. Thanks!

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: LNT issues on 10/19/2012 21:11:35 MDT Print View

"But then some folks feel the need to start calling names and such. Why? What does it get you? WV Hiker, you bring up valid points about how telephoto lens can distort distance, but feel the need to end your note with an unnecessary poke in the eye? I don't get it."

It starts every year about this time, Doug. People start warming up for the flame war season as the sun sinks lower in the sky and SAD begins to set in. Wait a month or two and then watch the fur fly.

Lordy, how I miss the early years of The Great Carbon Flame War. Back then it was an art form. Now it's just plain bad form. ;o]