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Simple tarp for a shelter
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Anton Solovyev
(solovam) - F

Locale: Colorado, Utah
Simple tarp for a shelter on 11/16/2012 12:06:27 MST Print View

I am trying to switch to using a simple rectangular silnylon tarp for a shelter (Siltarp 2). The place I spend the most time is southern Utah, t.i. desert.

I am looking for some advice on tarp setup in conditions when there's no trees, there's not much wind protection and the ground is either a soft sand or hard slickrock (no stakes possible).

I have had a decent success on a hike to Gannett Peak in WY: some 25-35 mph wind sustained, an open area. I had tarp set as a low A frame perpendicular to the wind and while not ideal it worked.

The more recent experience was in Utah. Wind gusts to 45mph, alternating direction 180 degrees and it was pretty much hopeless. I had tarp set up as a "half pyramid". Spectra guy lines were torn, 15 kg rocks that the tarp was tied to thrown around 6 feet and such. This is not really strong wind either, I have seen much worse many times. A decent tent with extra guy lines and a couple of hundred kg of rocks will survive 70mph gusts.

I have read Andrew Skurka's reports about using a tarp for hundreds of nights. I can't figure out how this is possible in places like Alaska where it's got to be very windy at times.

So, here's the question: is there any hope for tarp as a shelter in open and windy conditions?

Thank you!

Colin Krusor

Locale: Northwest US
Beaks on 11/16/2012 12:19:33 MST Print View

Large, integral (not removable) beaks at each end help immensely with stability under windy conditions, in my experience. This reduces the pitching versatility, but it might be worth it (it has been for me).

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Simple tarp for a shelter on 11/16/2012 12:48:53 MST Print View

Lots of tieouts helps (including midpanel). I hike mostly in east/southern UT as well and if it's going to be windy I take a more enclosed sheter that can be pitched to the ground (currently an SL2). Changing winds combined with sand (the big difference between the desert and other environments in this scenario) is just not fun in a tarp. If you do it, site selection is pretty paramount to a good night.

I'm not sure if your "recent" experience happened to be last weekend, but if so I was out there too and it was brutal (didn't take my own advise and had a shaped tarp). Still cleaning sand out of my ears. I usually have success guying out with a combination of rocks/shrubs/etc. Spectra line is essential in the desert IMO. I shredded the nylon sheathing on a couple lines last weekend but the cores held.

Bottom line for me is check the forecast and make the appropriate changes.

Edited by brendans on 11/16/2012 12:49:26 MST.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Simple tarp for a shelter on 11/16/2012 13:09:34 MST Print View

Yeah, I have encountered stuff like that. Mostly it is simply finding a more sheltered location. Unless you are on a flat, open plain, with no surrounding hills, you *will* find spots that are more sheltered than others.

Selecting a site can be difficult. Usually the eastern slopes just below a ridge or peak will give you some cover. You mention no trees, so the best I can do is equate that to a beach in a 50mph gale like storm. You mention no stakes, so good sized boulders or largish stationary boulders are your only option for tying off. Clearly, you need more of them, if they are being dragged 6'.

1) Get the tarp as close to the ground as possible. Closing off all air vents to the bottom will help a lot with the vacume pressure exerted by high speed winds. On the beach, I was using a 24" and 12" stick, nearly breathing in the tarp as it pressed down over me.
2) Keep whatever doors, corners, flaps anchored and closed. Letting in air can lift the tarp. Avoid that as much as possible. Tie off center lines *inside* if you have internal tie outs. You can hold these if necessary, but not sleep with them.
3) Keep minimal surface area in the wind. You might find diaganal orientations to be better than "square".
4) Add a wind break around your shelter. Even a single layer of 6-8" rocks and boulders can help.
6) Put a few on top of the tarp, if you have to. You can seal it later if it starts leaking; you need shelter *now*!
7) Dig a few inches into any sand with your foot. Ground friction will help reduce wind velocity, so, the closer to the ground you are, the better. Keep it inside, though, you don't want to puddle any water from rain.
8) Add double lines, diagonally across the shelter. Assuming you brought 100yd of light line, use it. Extra lines are painfull to set up and tear down, but better than getting wet or all sand. These will keep the tarp from billowing up. Extra tieouts on each loop will help. Extra tie outs in between (a pebble tied off works pretty well as a tarp anchor.) This will also reduce any air comming in the bottom, trying to billow the tarp up.

LOW and fairly well SEALED should let you survive a night of 40-50mph winds. Perhaps not comfortably, but OK. I mention a beach because this is common when paddling. The wind from the lake can be in your face at night and at your back in the morning. I try to set up at an angle to the winds, esp in spring and fall.

Worst case, You can simply roll in the tarp, keeping the edge down. You might have a bit of condensation, like a bivy, but you can get some sleep.

Edited by jamesdmarco on 11/16/2012 13:11:21 MST.

Anton Solovyev
(solovam) - F

Locale: Colorado, Utah
Re: Re: Simple tarp for a shelter on 11/16/2012 15:24:06 MST Print View

Yes, "recent" was late last week. We were hiking Hayduke section 2. Thursday night was gusty and tarp just got blown off. Friday we did not even try to set it up. Both nights we found small overhangs and with a bivvy, it was fine.

It was by far not the worst wind event I have seen in Utah, BTW. Seems it's a rule to have a lot of wind in spring. Apparently fall is not immune either.

What I have learned from this is that I probably did not need a tarp at all. An extra 30 minutes to find a nice ledge/overhang mostly solves the issue.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Rect tarp in wind on 11/16/2012 16:36:13 MST Print View

Yes, the wind can blow in southern Utah, but after tripping at various places around the states, Utah doesn't seem any worse than anywhere else.

You will find situation like you talk about almost anywere.

There are many options with a Siltarp 2, not as many as other tarps, but you do have options.

I have camped in NY State with a Siltarp 2 in very strong winds. I had to really think about how I was going to pitch and ended up using all the tie-outs tied to my stakes laying flat on the ground with piles of big rocks on top. The ground just wouldn't hold stakes in that wind.

I pitched very low and against a big rock wind break. It still didn't stop the flapping, but even though I didn't sleep well, I survived.

I eventually ended up with an Oware tarp that has mid tie-outs. Mid tie-outs can be added to a Siltarp.

Other than the wind, southern Utah is prime tarp country, actually, it's prime cowboy camping country. I rarely needed a tarp when I've campeed there.

Any frost or dew dries up quickly and it doesn't rain that much. When it did rain on me, I just pulled the tarp over me and went back to sleep and pulled it back off when the rain stopped.

If bad weather is on the ajenda, take time to secure your shelter, pitch low and try to find natural wind protection. A flying diamond pitch against a rock wall can be the best option for a tarp without mid tie-outs.