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Noob tarp question
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Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Noob tarp question on 11/20/2013 10:53:53 MST Print View

I recently acquired an 8x10' silnylon tarp from MLD. I have never used a flat tarp before, but I've been itching to try one. I am reading tons of stuff about how to set it up...a bit of a learning curve I guess!

Anyway, just wondering what to do about the guylines: do I just carry a big supply of line and attach as I need it in the field, do I pre-tie them and leave them attached to the tarp? There just seem to be so many configurations, I just don't know what to do with the lines!!!

And any other advice for a flat tarp newbie would be greatly appreciated. There is almost TOO much info out there, I seem to be drowning in it.


Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Skurka has a System on 11/20/2013 10:56:30 MST Print View

Hi Jen!

Check this out:

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Noob tarp question on 11/20/2013 11:45:15 MST Print View

I had a similar question and here is the thread with lots of helpful responses:

I ended up using braided mason's line and tautline hitches. So far it's been mostly for supplemental tie-outs on tarptents, but seems to work well and it got me started on knots. And yes, I think the idea is attach them to the tarp or tent once and leave them there.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Noob tarp question on 11/20/2013 11:58:16 MST Print View

Good to see you picked up a tarp. I think you can work a tarp and the lines in different ways. If you sleep under it every night, I prefer set lines that I always keep attached and set it up the same way almost every night. If you are only sleeping under it sometimes or using it for an additional rain shelter, I see some advantages to cutting line on site.
This past weekend, I did a paddle/hike trip. My sleeping shelter worked great with pre-cut lines. Our group also brought a large tarp to use as a living area while it rained, which was most of one of the nights out. It was a large tarp and we cut lines on site to secure it high on existing trees. It was the better option for this type of pitching.
One option would be to keep at least some fairly long lines attached to the tarp as a compromise.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Noob tarp question on 11/20/2013 12:13:49 MST Print View

Hey Jennifer,
I've found that if I leave them attached to the tarp, I usually end up with a big tangled mess. I usually wrap the guy lines around my stakes.

I love using tarps, so many options. Unlike most others I don't prop it up with trekking poles. I tie it off to trees, rocks, ect.
My favorite set up when not dealing with ran but no wind is to set up a wide, head height canopy. It's luxurious.


Maris L
Re: Noob tarp question on 11/20/2013 12:46:21 MST Print View

I use lengths of Lawson's Glowire threaded through Linelocs at the tie-outs, with a small loop at the stake end. The loops hook onto the stake and simplify taking on/off. For adjusting tension I like the ease of using Linelocs vs. knots since my finger dexterity is crap when my hands are cold, which is often.

I fold my tarp up leaving the guylines attached, and it could be this particular rope, but I've never had a problem with tangling like others here. I start by folding my tarp lengthwise in halves twice so that my guylines end up in neat little bunches together - then I just flop them onto the tarp and fold them in.

I'm still experimenting with what lengths I like to leave on, but I think I started with 5ft at the sides/corners and 8ft at the ends. Depending on your pitch style you can definitely get away with less. For me it's not worth shortening them to the minimum I expect I'll need because I've found I have more versatility in pitching with longer lengths than with saving a minute amount of weight by cutting off a few feet.

Andrew Zajac

Locale: South West
Re: Noob tarp question on 11/20/2013 12:53:06 MST Print View

FWIW, I usually leave my guylines attached to mine, but I also pitch it A-frame 95% of the time. I tie a small loop in the end of each guy line and then girth hitch it to the tie out. This is secure, easy to undo, and gives some extra string to the tie out to distribute force a little more and put less wear on a webbing tie out. I usually leave an 8 foot section attached to each of the ridge line tie outs and also leave a total of 6 - 4 foot sections on each of the four corners and then one for each of the perimeter tie outs between the two corners on either side. I also usually carry four extra 8 foot lengths which add some weight, but gives me some versatility and helps tremendously in the wind. I used kelty triptease and a truckers hitch and have loved this system for almost all weather conditions. However, this system really sucked for me when temps dropped unexpectedly into the teens after a few hours of 30's and snain and I had numb fingers. In that situation I might switch to line lockers or a nite-ize figure nine or maybe even just switch to a pyramid shelter.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Noob tarp question on 11/20/2013 13:06:27 MST Print View

Edit. Oops! Typing the same time as Andrew.

My preference is to set up my tarp in an A frame but I like to have the flexibility to modify it if necessary.

I use a bowline to connect my guy line to my tarps. It's not a big deal for me to untie it if I need to move it but you could just tie the knot (not attached to the tarp), pull the standing end through the tie-out, and back through the loop of the bowline to secure it that way which makes it even easier to move.

I use the taut line as well but sometimes I'll incorporate a trucker’s hitch with it for the ridgeline if I'm attaching it to a couple trees.

This isn't text book but when I'm using my fixed lines with a shaped tarp and I need to shorten the line, I'll just tie a slip knot in a way that the loop will tighten around the stake. If you get it backwards, you'll know right away.

Some knots are stronger than others but I haven't had any problems with any of the above.

This is my list of knots that I use for ground shelters.

Bowline (to a tie-out or stake loop for fixed lines)
Clove hitch (use with a pebble to create new tie-out in tarp)
Prussic (attaching a tarp to a ridge line)
Slip knot (when I’m lazy to adjust a fixed line)
Taut line (end of guy line for non-fixed lines)
Alpine butterfly (I use the alpine butterfly and the taut line together to assemble the trucker’s hitch.)

This is obviously just one technique of many.

Edit again to add, I leave mine attached and move them as necessary.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 11/20/2013 13:56:51 MST.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Re: Noob tarp question on 11/21/2013 08:28:45 MST Print View

Thanks guys, this is exactly what I was looking for! Can't wait to play around with it in the backyard this weekend. Yeah!!!

Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: Noob tarp question on 11/21/2013 09:08:45 MST Print View

Hi Jennifer,

Congrats on the new tarp! I grew up with 8x10 flat tarps, and always keep one in my arsenal; especially in warmer weather, it's my go-to because of the pitching versatility.

A question: does your tarp have linelocs sewn in at the tie outs? I'm betting since it's MLD it probably does, as Ron seems to spec them for all his shelters. They'll certainly make life easier when guying out.

I typically carry (10) 5' cords, and (4) 10' cords, each with a loop tied in one end for easy staking. The extra 5' cords allow me to extend any of my guypoints a bit, while the extra 10' cords allows for wrapping around a tree trunk if necessary. The extra cordage weighs only a few grams, but really extends the versatility of the tarp. If you have linelocs make sure any cord you buy is thick enough to be compatible. I wrap my cord around stakes to prevent tangling; the 10' lengths around two stakes and the 5' lengths around the rest of the stakes, allowing for easy differentiation.

Have fun with the tarp! I'm a big fan of the lean-to pitch when the weather is mild; I love the views and ventilation.

Edited by cooldrip on 11/21/2013 09:09:28 MST.