A beginners guide to tarps

6:29 p.m. on March 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Tarp Shelters

I thought I'd write a bit about one of the most basic, overlooked and old fashioned bits of gear around, the simple tarp.
On trips I've always liked to sleep out on the ground or under improvised shelters of one type or the other, while it seems every single friend of mine has preferred a tent.
But in this day and age of ultra-high-tech, expensive, high-speed-low-drag, designer label, not-just-lightweight-but-ultra-light and over-complicated gear, I find it enjoyable and useful to get back to basics now and then.
After all, one of the reasons I enjoy the Green World so much is that it is an escape from the complicated world we humans have created for ourselves, and once in a while it's nice to leave the complications behind.
Certainly, I think it's a good idea that every outdoors-person should be well enough acquainted with this simple yet versatile piece of gear to be able to readily fashion one into a comfortable shelter in a short period of time.
I think it's a good idea to introduce young people just starting out camping to this type of shelter first. This gives them proper training and a grounding in shelter making basics, and accustoms them to sleeping in a more open environment, as I really think most peoples insistence upon tents is almost entirely psychological.


So what are some of the advantages of a simple tarp shelter?

Low Cost.
No other portable shelter is as inexpensive, which is a great advantage for young folk just starting out as well as refugees the world over.
Also, if one looses interest in camping, you haven't wasted much coin.

Low Weight.
Tarps are lighter then tents, sometimes much less so depending upon what material the tarp is made out of. This single fact alone is reason enough to make the tarp an ultra light backpacking favorite.

Cooking.
You can easily cook under one, A great rainy day advantage.

Camp fires.
Where appropriate , you can build a fire in front of one, which is nice in cold and wet weather,.
Of course you can build a fire near a tent, but those expensive nylon tents don't react well to flying sparks, and they don't concentrate the heat of a fire anyway. Burn a hole in a cheap tarp and all you have to do is simply patch it with duct tape.
A properly rigged tarp can reflect the warmth of a fire and create quite a cozy little sanctuary.

Closeness to Nature.
After all, this is why we're out there, isn't it? So why enclose yourself completely in a nylon envelope if you don't have to.
Under a tarp you can have shelter and still see the wind and rain, taste the air and see the stars. One is still part of the great outdoors.
Inside a buttoned up tent, you might as well be in your backyard.

Of course tarps are not perfect shelters. If they were tents would never have been invented.
The flip side of the tarp coin is;

Bugs.
This is perhaps the single biggest complaint of tarp shelters.
If the blackflies are so thick you get twenty calories of protein with every breath, or the mosquitoes so bad your hiking companions look pale from blood loss, then a tarp might not be the best idea.

Above The Tree Line.
It's nice to have a handy tree or two to string a tarp from. This is where the weight savings really shine.
Tarp shelters can be used in treeless areas of course, if you are willing to carry poles or spend some time looking for sticks.
But there are times when a true freestanding tent is called for, like crowded camp grounds or when a storm is trying it's level best to blow you off a mountainside, or really wet weather when the rain and wind is swirling around, constantly changing direction from every compass point, or when it's so cold out you need to conserve every last calorie of heat.

Skill.
Tarps take more skill to use. You have to know a few knots for one thing, and every time you set one up you have to decide how best to do so, taking into consideration the weather and the surroundings. You have to look for not only an nice flat spot with good drainage and no deadfalls ready to come down on it, but also handy trees, bushes, rocks or whatever to hang the tarp from. Which way is the wind blowing? Will it change direction after nightfall? Need to cut or find poles? With a tarp, taking advantage of natural windbreaks, dips in the terrain and so forth is far more important.
With a tent, you couldn't change things around even if you wanted to. All the design and engineering has been done for you, and all you do is assemble it, the same way you do every time you use it regardless of the conditions or location.

Well, with knowledge and practice comes skill., so let’s dig out a tarp and play.
The tarp I'm using here is from Harbor Freight. It's 9'6" by 7' 4" and cost me $6.99. According to harbor freight it weighs 1-3/4 pounds, but I didn't weigh it.
I think this is a decent size for a nice solo shelter.
If facing really bad weather or new to tarp shelters bigger is better, but inexpensive woven poly tarps are kinda heavy for their size. Something on the order of 8’ x 10’ seems like a good compromise.  

Tarp, plenty of para cord, ground sheet, and eight stakes. Weight for the mess is just a tad over three pounds.


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Three pounds isn't bad for the weight of even a solo shelter, but it really isn't any better than many solo tents. If we were using an expensive coated nylon tarp and simple plastic ground sheet we could cut a pound off this weight, and if one spent the coin on a Silnylon tarp we could really get the weight down. Still, this cheap tarp will do nicely for several seasons if well cared for, and you can outfit a whole scout troop for the price of a single solo tent.

This first pitch is sometimes called the diamond pitch. It's one of my favorites because it's so easy to do and really blocks the nasty weather.
So you find yourself walking along in high wind and maybe rain, and are fixin' for a break. This is so fast to rig there is no reason not to put up the tarp this way even for a lunch break.
Start looking for a likely looking tree with a flat spot before it.
Put your back to the wind and walk right up to that tree, and drop your pack, leaning it against the handy tree.
Open the top of the pack, and take out your tarp. Tie a corner of the tarp to the tree. Of course, you already have short cords tied to the corner holes in the tarp, so this is done without having to fumble cord out of the pack. Grab your bag of stakes out of the pack.
Now walk backward into the wind, pulling out the tarp as you go, and stake down the opposite corner of the tarp firmly.
Now the tarp is captive, and although it may flap a bit the battle is over. Now stake out the two sides of the tarp and you’re done!
Get under it, spread out the ground cloth, open your mattress pad and relax. Light the stove and cook dinner or lunch.

Like many tarp pitches, this probably works better with a square tarp. With a rectangular tarp such as this one side will be more open than the other.
Nothing to worry about, just angle the tarp so that side is a little more sheltered, and you put your stove there.
In really bad weather you keep the tarp pretty low to the ground. In better weather you can tie it higher to the tree for more head room under it.
It's more sheltered then it looks. What you get looks something like this -


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Next, we should mention one of the oldest and most basic pitches, the simple A pitch.
This is simplicity itself. Just stretch a rope from two handy objects, throw the tarp over and stake it out.
With a well tensioned rope and eight stakes, this is perhaps the sturdiest pitch there is, and it probably provides the best shelter.
One open end can be mostly closed simply by pitching that end of the tarp real close to a big tree or bush. The opposite end can be blocked with your pack or rain gear as needed.
It is nine and a half feet long though, so little rain will blow in and reach you.
What this doesn't have is much head room, so it's better for sleeping then for cooking or other camp chores.
Recently I slept under a tarp like this with my three nephews. Two people per opening, and our feet met in the middle. It worked very well and was a very simple and lightweight way to shelter four people.


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Not much headroom, but pretty cozy in there
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 -

What if you find yourself in open terrain without any trees handy? Well, you’ll have to find a stick or two.
For a one-stick pitch, stakeout one long edge of the tarp first. Then lift the center of the opposite long edge with the stick, and hold it upright with cord and a two stakes set in a V. I think of this as the Pyramid Pitch.
With this particular tarp there is no center grommet, so I cheated and my pole isn't centered, so one side doesn't reach the ground.
I may have to put a new grommet in the center of this tarp and experiment more with this pitch, it looks promising, but to be honest I’ve never spent the night under this arrangement


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One long, sturdy stick can also be used for the diamond pitch show at top, and with two sticks and plenty of cord and stakes or other things to tie the cords off to, one can also manage an A pitch. The A pitch is by far the hardest to do without trees though, because the ridge line needs to be pulled very tight for it to be sturdy, and your end sticks will want to fall over unless staked or tied up very firmly. When using sticks I’d stay with some sort of one-stick pitch unless I had lots of practice first.

 

Now we come to an oldie but goodie.
This is the lean-to pitch.
Using a cord suspend one long edge between two trees.
Pull the tarp out at a 45 degree angle, and stake down the opposite side.
I modified the pitch here, and folded one side over for a corner.


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This pitch is more open than the others but it is an all-time favorite if you are in an area where you can build a fire.
With a bright fire before the tarp the heat is nicely concentrated by the tarp and it's very warm.
The little wall behind the fire not only reflects some heat, but helps create a backdraft and keep the smoke out of the shelter.


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Ah, this is the life. Now all camp chores can be done sheltered and warm. It was so comfortable here relaxing with my boots and coat off that I almost fell asleep.
Then the wind changed...
As I was relaxing the gentle breeze picked up and changed direction. The shelter filled with smoke. No worries, you have to be philosophical about this sort of thing.
Ah well, nothing is perfect.
I rolled over and faced the back of the shelter where there was no smoke. My eyes closed...
And a flash lit the shelter, clearly visible though my closed eye lids!
Huh? someone taking a picture with a flash?
KABOOM!!
Nope. That was thunder, and close by! The lighting struck, the thunder boomed, and marble sized hail stones came down in a torrent and bounced all around.
I pulled the edge of the ground cloth over me to keep off the ricochets.
Camping with a tarp shelter I think it is a good idea to use an oversized ground cloth that can go around your sleeping bag!
So I lay there before my fire and watched the storm, warm and comfortable, with the whole forest open before me.
Nope, you don't get a view like that in a tent.


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You can spend allot of coin on fancy modified tarps. They look like bat wings, A frame tents without the walls, pyramids with a central pole, and just about every shape imaginable. Although they certainly are lighter than a woven poly tarp of equal size, are they really any better shelters?

Properly setup and used, they all will keep you dry in a rainstorm and let you cook a meal over your stove. None will protect a person from bugs, and that is the biggest complaint I hear about tarp shelters, and none will match the versatility of a simple square or rectangular tarp, once you learn to use it properly.  

OK everyone, let’s see your tarps and hear your tarp-ing stories!

 

 


 



7:03 p.m. on March 23, 2012 (EDT)
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A very nice read EtdBob! I use my tarp in the winter here. I've got the Kelty Noah 9. Alittle bigger than what I need for my kitchen area. But Rita loves it car camping too. I'm on of those tent people, I just seem to sleep better that way. But the tarp is a great wind, rain blocker. And at times that I have had to hunker down in big PNW winter storms, the tarp allows me a way to get out of the tent and enjoy the weather. LOL It is a must for me in the winter.


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11:01 p.m. on March 23, 2012 (EDT)
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Good post! Enjoyed the read. Once a year, generally in winter, our scout troop has the older boys spend the weekend under an 8x10 tarp. They learn a lot about wind current and weather movement. They have explain to the younger less experienced boys why they pitched their tarps as they did, and what they would do different next time. Tarp camping can teach a lot.

2:55 p.m. on March 24, 2012 (EDT)
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nice

7:25 p.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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A concern or two.

Setting up a tarp properly to handle rain or wind is, as you pointed out, something that takes a bit of experience. Not something to suggest for newbies, obviously, who could find themselves out in the bush in a storm with a soggy sleeping bag and no protection from the elements at all.

The various siltarps, meant to be erected using hiking poles and a bit of cord, are intended for use in an emergency, although some experienced purists have used them for ultra-light backpacking. I'll carry a guide tarp  if I'm leading a group, but it usually gets used as to walk them out to safety, not as a shelter.

Bugs aside, there are two big problems with using a tarp for shelter. One is the lack of a waterproof floor, which can result in a non-insulating wet sleeping bag. You can die of hypothermia even in the southern states if you and your gear get too wet.

I also do a lot of hiking in the Canadian Rockies, and a tent provides a psychological barrier for bears and other animals. You will sometimes hear one sniffing around outside the tent, but it is very rare for them to actually try to get in. A tarp that's open at both ends offers no such protection.

7:51 p.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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"I think it's a good idea to introduce young people just starting out camping to this type of shelter first. This gives them proper training and a grounding in shelter making basics, and accustoms them to sleeping in a more open environment, as I really think most peoples insistence upon tents is almost entirely psychological."

While I think your article is well written, I have to disagree with your basic premise. Unless they have an experienced camper with them, most beginners will not have the skills to set up a tarp properly with just some instruction off the Internet.

Beginners, IMHO, can and should compensate in part for lack of knowledge with gear that others may consider superfluous. This is true of stoves as well as shelters. It can be discouraging for someone to spend a weekend soaked and cold while trying to use a tarp if the weather turns on them. You do point out some of the shortcomings of tarps and yes, they can be cheap, but the benefits you point out can be far outweighed by the disadvantages depending on the weather. I have read far too many stories about people winding up cold, wet and hungry or being rescued because of inadequate gear or clothes when something as simple as a good shelter could have prevented their predicament.

Call me old school, but staying dry and warm should be priority 1 and a good tent is the best way for a beginner to ensure that. I must also point out that in many parks, open fires are prohibited so the romantic idea of sitting under your tarp watching the campfire is not going to happen in a lot of places. Complaints about cheap, leaky family style tents from big box stores used to be a staple here until we stopped answering questions about them.

I back up my assertion by the amount of space you took to explain how to use one and your admission that it takes skill to put one up properly. I can show someone how to properly set up a small tent in about ten minutes and the skill needed to do that is minimal. I used to have a Sierra Design Flashlight-a non freestanding tent that I could put up in about five minutes if I was in a hurry. No one ever showed me how to use it. I just followed the instructions that came with it. It didn't take a lot of thinking and once up, it was a dry shelter that would withstand some pretty heavy weather. I know this because I was inside it in some serious weather and was perfectly dry.

You have also presumed that everyone wants to be in a "more open environment." Not sure, but even if that were true, the implication that a tarp is a better shelter than or equal to my bombproof winter tent is easily refuted. Sure, you can use a tarp in winter, but I know from personal experience the advantages of a tent like mine (or something similar) in a storm or heavy snowfall. I can assure you that the advantage is more than just psychological. I can put up the pictures to prove it if need be.

This is not to say that tarps don't have their place, but in the hands of a beginner, not the best option.

7:52 p.m. on March 25, 2012 (EDT)
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A tarp requires experience.  It is not for newbies.  I like tarps myself, but I am required to be more aware of my site selection, the ground, the weather movement, the time of year & conditions, where I pitch the tarp and how I pitch the tarp. 

Find a hiker group.  Get with knowledgeable & experienced people.  Practise in your backyard.  I'll bet I've set up my equipment next to my house almost as many times.  Especially new equipment.

12:33 p.m. on March 26, 2012 (EDT)
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I have a standard blue nylon Tarp I use for many purposes. Its 8' X 6' and I have tied parachute lines to the corners and two midpoints on the long end. I have used it as a tent,lean-to,ground sheet and simple bivi.


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Here it is on a recent hike here in the catalina Mtns with our sleeping bags on it.

3:37 p.m. on March 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Well, to each his or her own!

But I am surprised to see such a negative reaction here.

Usually the only real objection I get to the whole tarp idea is BUGS.      I’ve never before had anyone say they weren’t adequate shelters under most conditions, or good for beginners.

 Yes, staying warm and dry, and having a comfortable bed to sleep in is indeed always top priority # 1.

But I think a beginner can more easily achieve this with a ten dollar tarp than they can with a 50 dollar tent, even a 200 dollar tent, especially on the relatively easy trips a beginner is most likely to be starting out on. Really, it doesn’t take some lost arcane knowledge or rocket science to rig a tarp properly.   

Yes, a tarp can take a bit of skill to use properly. But this applies equally to tents!

I don’t want an inexperienced person to wander out into the wilds with just a tarp and an internet post for shelter.

I also don’t want an inexperienced person to wander out with an untried tent and steadfast reassurance from a pile of experts on the internet that guaranteed ‘em that a tent will protect them from whatever mother nature had to offer, be it bears or bad weather.     

I don't want to tell a person they simply must have this or that.

A person new to camping and wanting to head out on his or her first trip really, really should try out whatever shelter they have chosen in the back yard and on day trips first, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a tent or tarp.

Tents are much harder to set up than tarps.  

With a tent, you open it up, spread it out and read the directions. Hopefully it’s well written with a few simple diagrams or illustrations. Hopefully the person setting it up has the patience for puzzles.  The time to do this is well before your first trip, not when it’s time to set up camp for the first time, and  certainly not when the sky suddenly darkens, the wind picks up and the rain falls!

Then you lay out the poles, assembling poles, inserting the right pole in the right place, clipping the tent body to the poles, ( or worse, threading the poles through fabric sleeves ), maybe staking it out so it stays up if a non-freestanding tent, then sorting out the rain fly ( which side goes up anyway? ) and fitting that in place.

If it’s raining out when you set up camp, the tent can be soaked before you get it up! This especially applies to beginners who may be fumbling with that tent or even changing its location and orientation a bit during the process.

Tom, an experience operator, says it takes him a full five minutes to set up his Sierra designs Clip Flashlight tent, if he hurries. How wet will the insides of that tent get in the process if this is done in the rain?

And how much condensation will accumulate in that now damp tent overnight, saturating ones all important insulating clothing and sleeping bag?      

I bought the same tent, a Sierra designs Clip Flashlight, just last year. It’s an old design, has fantastic reviews, and is nice and light. I took it for a rigorous five day trip with my wife and was soundly disappointed by this expensive tents horrible performance.  

In wet weather it is simply to cramped to cook with the stove out in front of the tent, and you can't leave the door open without getting water inside. I had to cook outside, away from the tent and then pass in our dinner and scrunch up in there with my wife. Everything got wet in the process.

In rain it’s even hard to keep the doorway open at all, because the tent ships so much water.

It has no vents, and so this little tent is a real condensation magnet, especially with two damp people crammed in there -  

This is supposed to be the type of shelter a beginner needs? I don’t think so!

I was so shocked by the amount of condensation this tent gathers that I had to take photos –

These were taken one morning when the weather was fine and it had not rained the night before.

 


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This tent is simply to cramped and wet ( from condensation and from water getting in the poorly angled door ) to make a serviceable shelter for two in wet weather.

To reduce condensation one needs to keep the door wide open, which of course you can’t do when it’s raining.

As a solo shelter it would probably work reasonably well, and it would shine in dryer conditions, but who needs a tent in dry conditions anyway?

My wife and I would have been better served by a ten dollar poly tarp on that trip. Sad, but true.  

Because of the ventilation under a tarp you very seldom get this kind of dripping condensation.

Just how easy and fast can a tarp be to set up?

Well, if one starts off with say three foot cords tied to the corners of the tarp all you have to do is put yer back to the wind, walk up to any likely looking young-ish tree - watching out for relatively flat ground with good drainage and no dead branches overhear or nearby dead standing trees that may come down in a wind, the same stuff one looks for when  setting up a tent.  

Pull the tarp out, tie one corner to the tree, doesn’t matter which one because they all have those cords tied to ‘em, stretch out the tarp into the wind and stake the corner down. Now no matter how nasty the weather is that tarp is now tamed, and all one needs to do is stake out the remaining two sides. Is there any tent that pitches easier?

That’s why I started off with the Diamond pitch. It’s so easy and fast to do, given you are operating in a forest.  

Lack of a waterproof floor?  Huh? One carries a generous ground cloth when using a tarp. It gets spread out after the tarp is up, and the dry ground cloth is sheltered from any rain.

Taking the shelter down in the rain is also easy and has several advantages over a tent. Under a tarp everything can be packed away safe and dry, including the ground cloth, into your pack. The tarp comes down last, after you have donned your rain gear and are ready to head out. No soaked-through tent to try and pack away. Most of the water simply shakes off a poly tarp, and hopefully you can tie the tarp to the bottom of your pack frame or outside the body of the pack so it doesn’t get the contents of the pack wet.  

At the next camp, the tarp will work just as well, even if it is wet. The same can’t be said of any tent.

A tarp set up like this is also perfectly safe to cook under, just keep the stove away from everything, preferable off to one side out from under the tarp.

Make sure that if the stove gets knocked over the pot doesn’t dump onto the nice dry ground cloth.

( yes, I gather that cooking anywhere near one’s shelter is frowned upon by some here. But that is a different subject )

I dunno, maybe I just operate in wet weather often enough to really appreciate these advantages. It may seem counter intuitive, but a tarp is often better wet weather shelter than a tent is.

Anyway, that is why I wrote this post, to inform inexperience folk just how easy it can be to use a simple tarp for shelter.

I figure that even if they do decide to use a tent, ( I myself own three tents ) they should know how to rig a tarp.

After all, having more options is a good thing.

 





 

4:07 p.m. on March 26, 2012 (EDT)
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I've written long screeds against tarps in my trail journals over the years and have seen several "operators" bailing into tents when conditions turned south.  I spent the winter of '82 and the winter of '86 in a tarp in the mountains of North Carolina and gotta say, never again.

**  Let's not even talk about the bugs---noseeums, black flies, gnats, mosquitoes.

**  Ground Water---this is a big one in the Southeast.  I call it the Lake Effect.  In a deluge, two things happen, ground sheeting and lake effect.  No campsite will stay dry in a butt heavy rain deluge.  Ground sheeting is the mvt of a half inch of rainwater moving downslope and into your tarp.  A good bathtub tent floor will not leak and will lift the floor like a water bed in such a rain. You'll stay dry.  A tarp ground sheet will invariably get swamped since all edges must be elevated several inches, i.e. like in a sewn-in floor.

The Lake Effect occurs when the water settles onto your campsite for 10 or 20 or 30 minutes during and after a deluge.  Water bed time.  A good tent floor will keep it out.  A tarp?  Get ready for squatting and placing everything you own on top of your boots or sleeping pad, and prepare to stuff your sleeping bag while you're at it.  Stay in squat mode until runoff stops.  I haven't even mentioned the water splatter than bounces sideways and under a tarp.

**  High Winds---Let's set up at 5,500 feet during a windstorm or blizzard and see what happens.  First, you'll have tremendous snow spindrift---it's happened to me and to my tarpist friends.  What is spindrift?  When you wake up in the morning after an all-night blizzard with 50mph winds and are covered by 10 inches of snow---WHILE STILL INSIDE YOUR TARP.  Not good.  And then there's the bugaboo of high wind.  Tremendous winds.  Butt cold winds.  Tarp vs Tent?  Always a tent.

MINOR POINTS

**  The guyline footprint of a tarp is usually as big or bigger than a tent footprint.

**  Possible single wall condensation and "misting" whereby drops of water hit your gear in a devilish rainstorm.

**  Finally, my tent goes up very fast---2 minutes.  The interior is hung by the fly and so little gets wet.

None of this is to say I have a beef with tarpists, and I applaud your enthusiasm for starting this thread.  And thanks for sharing your pictures. 

5:05 p.m. on March 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your intent, but it almost sounds like you prefer 'heavy, inefficient and lo-tech' just for the sake of being a bit more primitive.

I have a cheap tent that's my personal favourite. It has a bathtub floor 6" deep, a full fly with two doors and two vestibules, it weighs 2.4 kg, and I am always the first person in any group to have a shelter up.

I can set it up and take it down in the rain while keeping the body dry, and I don't get condensation. If I get rain or dewfall on the outside, I just shake it off. Unlike a tarp, I can set it up in an open area with no trees to hang it off of, and I don't have to worry about leaks or storms. The design can take unexpected snow without deforming from the weight, and I've never had a damp night inside it.

I'll use a tarp in an emergency - it's better than nothing - but IMHO a tarp isn't a secure shelter from a storm, and certainly not if that's all a cold, wet and panicky beginner has for protection.

6:02 p.m. on March 26, 2012 (EDT)
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I am not a tarp fan.  To me tarps are an emergency shelter, nothing else.  Unless you are possitive of no bad weather tarps are a bad idea.  If you are into sleeping in wind, rain and bugs, by all means.   

 

If you need a cheap tent: walmart (please don't)

 

If you need a light tent:

http://www.mountainhardwear.com/Hoopla%E2%84%A2-4/OU9615,default,pd.html

If you want a tent that will protect you from bugs and bad weather so you can sleep in peace:

Don't use a tarp. 

6:02 p.m. on March 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Yep, sounds like you did indeed misunderstand my intent. I’ll have to work on my meager writing skills.

I hate anything heavy and especially anything inefficient.

2.4 Kg is what, five and a half pounds? I think that’s very heavy for a solo backpacking tent, but I have carried an even heavier tent than that on solo canoe trips.

Yet a tarp, even a cheap woven poly tarp is much lighter, and in the forest I can set one up in the time it takes to get it out of the pack, tie one knot, and sink in some stakes.

As I wrote above, so fast and efficient why not set it up just as a lunchtime shelter from the wind?

My intent with this post was exactly as stated – A beginners guild to tarps - To offer beginners unfamiliar with tarps a bit of advice on how I go about using them.

A woven poly tarp is cheap, so much so that there is no reason why a beginner should not get one just to play with it out on day trips, in the back yard and so forth, and maybe even see if it might not answer for their shelter needs, at least at first and on easy trips.

Certainly I think it would be wise to play with a cheap tarp and learn how to set one up first, before a person drops a pile of coin for a silnylon tarp or tarp tent.  

If a person is thinking about tarps, where do they go to learn how to pitch one properly? I had hoped they could come here.

I wasn’t trying to argue with people about tents. I’m not trying to get people to abandon their favorite tent, buy a canvas tarp and a hair shirt.

I’m not trying to argue that a simple tarp is the perfect four-season-above-the-tree-line-in-the-snow-sub-zero-ultimate-shelter.

But they do work, often very well, and can do things tents don’t do well.     

I had hoped that maybe even others here could offer other tips for using tarps for beginners?  Apart from avoiding them altogether and getting a tent, of course.

As it stands any beginner reading this thread may disregard the whole idea of a tarp because all the experts denounce the very idea as folly, and will never learn how to properly set one up or how simple and easy they can be to use.

7:58 p.m. on March 26, 2012 (EDT)
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While I am sure this conversation will go on for a while, I would like to point out that five minutes is not a long time. Setting up anything in the rain means getting wet. I liked my Flashlight. it had two poles, easily identifiable and four pegs at minimum. It was also light for its time. I don't recall any condensation problems, but it was a long time ago when I owned it and I wasn't using it in hot muggy weather-cold and sometimes wet was the norm where I was with it.

One lesson for a beginner is to practice setting up a tent or tarp at home before heading out. Familiarity with all your gear is a must- stoves, tents, compass, etc.

10:07 p.m. on March 26, 2012 (EDT)
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I think EtdBob demonstrates an ability to write a good tutorial with a little story telling added in, a good recipe I think!

I am just really hesitant to call tarps a good option for new solo backpackers. They don't all pay attention or listen, they just don't.

I am a big fan of tarps at certain times, I own several, from cheaper ones to the large, expensive, silnylon tarp for my hammock.

When ground dwelling I don't use a tarp without a bivy for my sleeping bag anymore though, and I don't think it is a good shelter option for a solo novice. Or should I say that I don't think it is good advise for the masses considering my experiences with some newbies over the years.

You tell them tarps are for warmer weather, it goes in one ear and out the other with some folks. All they remember is someone told them where to get a cheap shelter some months ago and now it is late fall. They got some young girl they want to take camping....

Over the years I have watched, and had to help, several young inexperienced people who got themselves into trouble using minimalist gear they did not have the experience to use.

You'd think people would check the weather report & plan for bad weather even if it was not predicted, carry extra clothing etc. - unfortunately some people simply do not exercise good judgement, or simply do not fully understand that things can and do go wrong and that they will be on their own out there. They just don't.

I can't tell you the number of times I have met young people who were headed to a campsite in the mountains, in chilly to cold weather, wearing blue jeans and a cheap cotton hoodie. Couple that with inadequate shelter, some rain and a little wind chill and you have the potential for hypothermia.

You'd think they would know about hypothermia, many of them do know what it is, they just don't understand how easily it can happen to them or fully understand the process by which it manifests itself. They should - but they don't.

Just as we would expect these new & inexperienced people to know better than to wear blue jeans (especially when you tell them not to), those of us who give out advise must know better than to expect new people to always follow our advise or even to remember it all once out there.

That is why I believe it is prudent to recommend gear with as flat a learning curve as possible for their environment, that is also as forgiving as possible to a newbie just figuring things out.

The notion that a young twenty something (or some people of any age) will follow all your advise and make sure to camp in fair weather, or learn to use gear at home is just not realistic.

I have had many people go along with me on short trips who went out of their way to ignore my advise because they did not understand the rational or prudence behind it. That is something I plan for now; with newbies I carry knowledge, gear, or clothing, to back up their hardheadedness for them. I don't say anything anymore, the extra stuff is just there if they need it.

In the case of an inexperienced hardheaded newbie who is out solo, there may not be anyone out there to back them up.

We need to give advise that takes that into account - for them, for their safety.

Mike G.

11:20 p.m. on March 26, 2012 (EDT)
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I have had some reasonable success offering advice to novice hikers I have encountered.

However; for the most part ... they were European, Asian, Canadian, Croats, Russians.   They seemed to understand, despite my limited language skills (I speak some of their languages; albeit, rather basic).

Americans?

Beyond "hardheaded".

I feel that they can be reached when "Darwin's Laws" kick in, and their colleagues become statistics.

Oh, well ....

                            ~ r2 ~

4:38 a.m. on March 27, 2012 (EDT)
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I use tarps exclusively when backpacking in the Rockies for their versatility and light weight and for the connection to the environment. That connection is the reason I am out there and I do not want to be cut off from it in a tent. I only use tents for privacy when car camping.

A tarp used as part of a system makes a perfectly good shelter for most situations. I have given a lot of thought to my tarp system and it has worked quite well for my needs. Like most things, it requires knowledge and practice to execute it successfully. I practice each different setup in the backyard until I can pitch each one quickly and easily.

My multi-person system consists of an Integral Designs 10' X 12' silnylon tarp, ID 5' X 8' Bug Tent, ID 2 person ground cloth, and two trekking poles.

The large tarp offers plenty of protection from the elements for people and gear, with many different options to pitch it. The bug tent provides a refuge from the bugs and a bath tub floor to keep runoff out. The ground cloth protects the bottom of the bug tent from abrasion. With two trekking poles, this can be set up anywhere. When pitched as an A-frame, each end can be closed off with an ID 5' X 8' sil-poncho or tarp.

This will sleep up to three people and has kept us very dry under many different situations.

These two pics show an A-frame pitch with the rear opening closed off with a poncho (although it is rather hard to see). It effectively blocked the wind which was blowing from that direction.


DSC_0277.jpg

DSC_0278.jpg

Here is an open pitch with an extra set of poles holding one side up. This was set up for a gentle but steady rain with little wind.


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This is just the bug tent on a clear day ready for star gazing.


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The weight of each piece is :

Tarp                 20 oz,

Bug Tent           27 oz,

Ground cloth     12 oz,

18 stakes           6 oz,

Poncho             10 oz,

Trekking poles  15 oz,

Total                90 oz or 5 lbs 10 oz.

This sleeps up to three people for under 2 lbs each and many of the pieces serve more than one function.

My solo system consists of an ID 5' X 8' silnylon tarp, ID event Unishelter, ID 1 person ground cloth, and two trekking poles. It is my favorite set of equipment.

The tarp keeps my gear and the Unishelter's opening dry while the ground cloth protects the bivy from abrasion. The Unishelter has a bug screen panel and is very comfortable and versatile.

This was hurriedly set up before a hard rain shower on the only clear, semi-level ground I could find.


017_8A.jpg

This was after an overnight snow storm.


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The weight of each piece is :

Tarp               7.5 oz,

Unishelter       32 oz,

Ground cloth   5.5 oz

10 stakes        3.5 oz,

Trekking poles  15 oz,

Total               63.5 oz or  3 lbs 15.5 oz.

This is a four season system that gives maximum campsite flexibility and great protection for the solo hiker.

Tarps are certainly not for everyone but with adequate knowledge and experience they are a great way to stay connected to the great outdoors, which is why we venture into the wilderness in the first place.

2:39 p.m. on March 27, 2012 (EDT)
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These photos are from a trip to Yosemite. The tent is a TNF Mountain 25, one of the better winter tents around. There were two of us in it. The weather was pretty bad the second day and I was sick. If anyone would rather be out under a tarp in those conditions, have at it. If anyone thinks that a tarp gives you equal or better protection in winter than a tent like this one, I see no point in trying to convince them otherwise. Judge for yourself.


Yosemitewinter2005-3.jpg


Yosemitewinter2005-1.jpg

4:42 p.m. on March 27, 2012 (EDT)
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SnowGoose said:

"Like most things, it requires knowledge and practice to execute it successfully. I practice each different setup in the backyard until I can pitch each one quickly and easily."

A siltarp, ground cloth, poncho and poles, plus a an interior bug screen, sounds a lot like a tent to me. :-) And the weights seem very close to what my tent weighs.

While there have been some conversations here about the degree of comfort someone might want, most people here agree that using a minimalist shelter like a tarp is not for beginners. I'm glad to see you're one of them.

Since I have some experience and some proper outdoor training, I could probably survive a winter night in the snow by curling up in the snow pit under a spruce tree. To me, that's pretty close to camping under a tarp in winter. If I want to have a more pleasant night, I'd make a quinzee. But if I want to be comfortable, I'll use my tent.

The flaw in the original post is that it was aimed at BEGINNERS. Heaven help a newbie who believes that, without experience, training or practice, a tarp is a reliable shelter in bad weather.

People (especially the young) will select from any information they're given. Tell them a tarp is something that only capable and skilled outdoorsmen can use, and they will assume that includes them.

8:11 p.m. on March 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Peter1955 said:

"People (especially the young) will select from any information they're given. Tell them a tarp is something that only capable and skilled outdoorsmen can use, and they will assume that includes them."

Very well said, many times this is absolutely true.

It was once true of me.

Mike G.

1:22 a.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Well this is all interesting and everything and the whole tent vs tarp is always a great debate and often very lively!  BUT....

I have to agree with EtdBob for the most part.  I started camping when I was 5 or 6, maybe earlier, but I don't know for sure.  We never had a tent, always tarps.  And yes I was with my parents or other adults, not by myself.  Given that probably 90% of this was Washington Beach camping in the summer, as many of you know, rain is not something that goes a way here in the summer.  We often sleep right on the ground (sand) or on a sheet of plastic (dirt) and used a big blue tarp for cover and rain / wind protection. 

By the time I was solo camping, over nighters and weekends, I was often using a plastic tarp or a plastic "tube" tent, really just a tarp with a built in ground cover.  I think I was about 12 at this age, I really got into it in Junior High or middle school.  I don't remember my first tent, I think it was a handy down, I just remember it was blue, but I remember it did not work any better then a tarp. 

As for setting up tarps with out trees, do you use hiking poles?  These work great for several of the most common layouts.  Propped up sticks and overturned stumps seem to be the most common items on the beach. 

When I read trouthunter post I had to laugh at one spot;

I can't tell you the number of times I have met young people who were headed to a campsite in the mountains, in chilly to cold weather, wearing blue jeans and a cheap cotton hoodie. Couple that with inadequate shelter, some rain and a little wind chill and you have the potential for hypothermia.

This is what I call "Natural Selection", Sorry if that offends some of you, but kids learn or they don't, sometimes it takes a real nasty experience to get it through their heads, god knows I needed several!

But back to the Thread Topic, I think tarps are a great option for beginners, used with a little caution and some basic skills, they work great and can provide plenty of good cover.   As for Bugs, well I hate bugs, the only thing is to use some decent bug spray or something to help keep them away.  Good thing out here the flies are almost totally gone when it rains and the blood suckers are much reduced.  I also think the issues with heavy snow and storms at high elevations is or should be a mute point.  "Beginners" should not be out in either of these situations.  Get some experience and work up you skills.  Heading into the mountains in the off seasons with little or no experience is just asking for that whole "Natural Selection" thing again. 

Just my thoughts, Wolfman

PS:  My new tent, the Golight Shangri-La 3 is really just a fancy tarp. :D

10:20 a.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Tipi Walter said:

I've written long screeds against tarps in my trail journals over the years and have seen several "operators" bailing into tents when conditions turned south.  I spent the winter of '82 and the winter of '86 in a tarp in the mountains of North Carolina and gotta say, never again.

**  Let's not even talk about the bugs---noseeums, black flies, gnats, mosquitoes.

**  Ground Water---this is a big one in the Southeast.  I call it the Lake Effect.  In a deluge, two things happen, ground sheeting and lake effect.  No campsite will stay dry in a butt heavy rain deluge.  Ground sheeting is the mvt of a half inch of rainwater moving downslope and into your tarp.  A good bathtub tent floor will not leak and will lift the floor like a water bed in such a rain. You'll stay dry.  A tarp ground sheet will invariably get swamped since all edges must be elevated several inches, i.e. like in a sewn-in floor.

The Lake Effect occurs when the water settles onto your campsite for 10 or 20 or 30 minutes during and after a deluge.  Water bed time.  A good tent floor will keep it out.  A tarp?  Get ready for squatting and placing everything you own on top of your boots or sleeping pad, and prepare to stuff your sleeping bag while you're at it.  Stay in squat mode until runoff stops.  I haven't even mentioned the water splatter than bounces sideways and under a tarp.

**  High Winds---Let's set up at 5,500 feet during a windstorm or blizzard and see what happens.  First, you'll have tremendous snow spindrift---it's happened to me and to my tarpist friends.  What is spindrift?  When you wake up in the morning after an all-night blizzard with 50mph winds and are covered by 10 inches of snow---WHILE STILL INSIDE YOUR TARP.  Not good.  And then there's the bugaboo of high wind.  Tremendous winds.  Butt cold winds.  Tarp vs Tent?  Always a tent.

AND TIPI FLEXED................

I have camped with a tarp and it is a fun thing to do in dry, bug free weather.  For wet or snowy weather, I would rather be in a tent.  Tarps are great for having a dry cooking/eating area as well.

11:21 a.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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I really appreciate this follow-up post and the dialogue that has followed.  I fully agree with Tom D's comment that for the most part, tarps are best suited for people with a little more experience, and Tipi's elaboration of some of the challenges inherent with using tarps.

that said, i think beginners can work their way into this with good guidance. 

first and foremost, it is best for beginners to start out with tarps in fair weather.  that's unpredictable, of course, so it would mean bringing both a tent and a tarp, and making a decision in the evening.

second, and just as important, you need to have someone involved who knows what they are doing - who checks the tarp setups in advance and who is on-site to advise about putting it up.

third, and this is a personal bias of mine, i think tarps work best in combination with a hammock.  why? it keeps you off the ground if it rains, and i think it's easier to rig a tarp to provide good coverage in bad weather in combination with a hammock.

fourth, as EtdBob observes, beginners shouldn't use a tarp where they are exposed to high winds.  i wouldn't recommend that any beginner use a tarp above treeline for sleeping.   even if the weather looks clear, too much risk that something happens overnight for my taste. 

fifth, make sure the beginning tarp user brings bug netting and has some sense of how to use it, unless you're in an area where biting nasties aren't a concern. 

 

 

2:52 p.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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One of the problems that can arise with beginners is that they fail to check the weather. I was at Palm Springs two years ago in February up at Mt. San Jacinto SP. I knew both the short and the long range forecast. Got them from NOAA before heading out. I only spent one night and didn't bother to put up a tent at all. Just slept in my Bibler Winter Bivy and bag in a shallow trench to block any wind-there was none.

Contrast that with Yosemite the year before-I expected snow and got it. I was in my five pole, double vestibule winter tent and as comfortable as possible. Could I have survived with a tarp? Sure, but I'm not interested in just survival. I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone or even myself. I'm not making a tv show, I'm out to enjoy myself and sleeping in comfort with my gear nice and dry is a big part of that.

Going out without a combination of proper gear for the location and weather and the skills to use it is a prelude to a bad experience. Someone comes back with one of those great "survival stories" that usually proves little except that the person telling the story was unprepared in the first place or the victim of bad luck-usually the former.

2:56 p.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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EtdBob Dais:

I also don’t want an inexperienced person to wander out with an untried tent and steadfast reassurance from a pile of experts on the internet that guaranteed ‘em that a tent will protect them from whatever mother nature had to offer, be it bears or bad weather.     

I am fairly certain that is pretty much the opposite of what anyone above was saying. A measured word of caution concerning tarps does not equate to "guaranteeing" a tent is capable of protection from all of nature's risks. There are endless discussions to be found that entreat a graduated process for gaining experience for the beginner.

All that said, My first ever camping trip was done under a tarp, and I have used a tarp many times- including as part of my system while in the Tetons last fall. By far, my experience has taught me that using a tarp is FAR more difficult to learn and manage effectively than most tents. There is much more attention to detail and interest required to learn all its uses, maximize its effectiveness, protect it from wind, know and compensate for its limits, etc.

To effectively and comfortably use a tarp in a wide variety of conditions, it has to be part of a system, all the components of which the user must know they need and learned how to utilize. This requires a level of experience and attention to detail that the vast majority of beginners simply do not possess. 

The advice offered from most of the established trailspace members will be to use due caution, know your gear and system, its limitations, and start simple.

Using a tarp is great for beginners, but only if they have an experienced person to learn from directly. The fact is that the majority of beginners who come here for advice do so precisely because they do not have someone to learn from. The large portion of their fist posts read:

"Hi! I went hiking when I was kid, and love the woods, but haven't hiked in years and never been backpacking. I am planning a trip up into the High Sierra this April, and need to know what gear I should buy. Any advice you can give me? Thanks!"

Sending that person off by theirself with a tarp, because "its the best way to start out" isn't the wisest or most responsible guidance we can give. So the various words of advice above are not meant to negate your excellent introduction to tarps, but to make sure we give the best and well-rounded range of advice. 

3:52 p.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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This conversation gets me to thinking of a couple camping examples I found on the interweb about a girl with a tarp, a guy with a TarpTent, and a guy with a double wall tent---all having their own difficulties.  The first concerns Solo Girl on the PCT---

SOLOGIRL'S PCT HIKE OF 2009
      This wonderful journal I found on Postholer.com and consists of 63 entries from her backpacking journal and here are some interesting information and quotes so far gleaned on the first day of my journey. Her best entry seems to be #38 on June 3, 2009 when she was confronted with cold and bad conditions in the Sierras.

THE FOLLY OF A 19LB PACK?
    Read it and weep(or gloat?). First off, her gear:
** Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack 18oz.
** Mt Laurel Designs Soul bivy sac 8.3oz.
** Integral Design Siltarp 5x8 7oz.
** Nunatak Catabatic SL sleeping bag, rated 20F, 800 fill, no zipper but has hood(no down fill on the bottom of the bag), 14.1oz.
** Thermarest 3/4 Ridgerest.
BIG THREE WEIGHT: 3.5lbs.

SOLOGIRL'S CLOTHING AT BEGINNING
** skirt
** arm warmers
** Nike Skylon shoes, mesh
** long johns midweight merino
** Smartwool socks(Adreneline light micro)
** Patagonia tank top
** Smartwool longsleeve shirt micro weight crew merino
** North Face light jacket windshirt
** Icebreaker merino wool liner glooves
** Moonstone down sweater
** Dirty Girl gaiters.

FIRST DAY RELEVANT QUOTES
** "I was FREEZING last night and this morning." Uh oh.

** DAY 2: "I was pretty tired last night and I'm having a rough time sleeping because my Ridgerest Thermarest doesn't give me much cushion." (She slept in a heated bathroom that night).

** DAY 3 THE WIND: "We had 3 options: (1) Walk all night in the wind(camping wasn't an option because we wouldn't be warm in the wind) . . ."

** DAY 36 GEAR UPGRADE FOR THE SIERRAS: REI convertible nylon pants--rainpants--rain jacket.

DAY 38 AND THE SPOT 911
    "This is the day I labeled "snow storm" but I like to refer to it in my mind as the "Day 38--The Day I Thought I was Going to Die, Hit 911 and Made a Complete Ass of Myself", and here's a short outline of what happened:

** woke at 9,100 feet at 43F.
** at this time she had down pants, NeoAir pad.
** snow flurries at 7:30am, low 50s to high 40sF.
** 11:30am flurries are more consistent.
** hid under a rock for cover and took a 45 minute nap.

HER HIKING DILEMMA EXPOUNDED
    "The dilemma is knowing when the rain/snow is transitory enough to walk through and when it's severe enough to hunker down, make camp and stay warm. If a hiker "walks through" a rain that they think is going to stop after 1/2 hour then they can just keep on walking and eventually dry out. But if it's going to last longer, then the hiker is wet and cold by the time they make camp and that's not a good situation. Sometimes it's hard to know if something is going to blow over and when something is here to stay. I started hiking again after my nap and it was still hailing and snowing." SOLOGIRL

THE DAY CONTINUES
** 2pm, a significant drop in temperature from 47F to 32F with heavy wet snow. "I guess it became apparent that I should make camp and get warm when I started jogging to keep warm--and I wasn't keeping warm."

** "By 2:30 I was freezing."
** She had to try to get to Corral Trail Meadow and set up camp.
** "I knew that as soon as I stop hiking I should get out of my wet clothes or I'll get super chilled, but here's my question: If I get out of my wet clothes and put on my dry clothes, then how do I keep my dry clothes dry as I take the time to make camp?" SOLOGIRL. The UNCLE FUNGUS answer: Get to camp wet and cold, throw off the pack and set up the shelter first thing and leave your wet clothes on. The most important thing is to have a shelter up where you can go to change. You'll be shivering like a hoplite facing the mongol hordes but get that shelter up fast and then worry about putting on the dry stuff.

** laid out tyvek ground cloth and tarp on top.
** frozen hands could not set up her tarp and it kept collapsing.
** threw stuff under her flat tarp and crawled in to lay down and change into dry clothing.
** tries to cook but her lighter is wet and won't strike, at this point she hit the HELP button on her SPOT handheld locator system.
** gave up and crawled under her tarp and pulled out her sleeping bag and bivy sack. At this point she's wearing her wet wool long johns, down pants, windshirt, longsleeves wool shirt, down jacket, wool hat, rain jacket, last pair of dry socks, and wet gloves.
** she removes her wet clothing and wet hiking pants and wet socks and crawls into her sleeping bag and "freeze my ass off! Oh who am I kidding, this is so NOT GOOD. I'm scared sh**less. I mean really REALLY scared."

THE PANIC BUTTON
    She panics and thinks she's going to die so she hits the 911 button on the SPOT: "I'm going to die and they're going to find a body under a tarp under a layer of snow. I'm laying under a tarp that keeps collapsing, the snow is melting on the tarp, which is getting my bivy wet and my sleeping bag is already damp because I had to pull it out under a wet tarp and I had to crawl into it damp myself. I was wet all around, FREEZING, shivering with useless hands and no fire . . . I HIT 911." SOLOGIRL

** turns off her SPOT at 6pm: "I was done calling for help."
** she took a couple of Tylenol and tossed and turned until morning.
** she woke to 20F and clear skies and packed up and headed out in a foot of snow.
** she hit the OK button on her SPOT.
** family and sheriff notified.
** "I'm an idiot and my poor decisions put my family and the Inyo Sheriff's Department thru a lot of grief in the last 24 hours."

    And so ends my trail journal description of SoloGirl's epic on the PCT. I could write pages on her mishap and I probably will later in the trip, but right now my hand's tired and it's time to sit back and listen to the music of the nearby creek. Moral to the story: NEVER EVER CARRY A SPOT!!  Editor's Note:  NEVER CARRY A TARP!!?

(Her journal can be found at

http://postholer.com/journal/viewJournal.php?sid=94d9ee874cd61b0b8305fb2b33256af6&entry_id=8688

3:58 p.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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And then there's the TarpTent Travails of Ryan Sommers---

THE TARPTENT TRAVAILS OF RYAN SOMMERS
     Traditional backpackers will love this story of a boy and his dog of a tent, as posted in a trip report on BackpackingLight.com entitled "A Night To Remember" from July 18, 2010.  Here are the pertinent points---

**  Ryan decides to take his Tarptent Moment tent for a weekend trip to Wild River State Park in Minnesota.
**  His quote:  "I knew there were supposed to be storms; I wanted to test the tent out in the elements anyway."
**  He was given the campsite called Meadow Vista but his instinct told him to avoid it and find something in trees with more protection.  This wholly points out my advice to carry the tool for a job that can work in a wide variety of situations, and not something so specialized or flimsy that dictates where you have to set up or retricts the freedom of a trip.  Let's continue.

**  He reaches the vista and sets up in an open meadow.
**  The storm begins with light rain and a breeze.
**  Suddenly " . . . the breeze picked up to tent shaking gusts, I was bracing the pole with my hands as the wind pounded the broadside of the tent."  The rain wallops the tent and he says, "I was getting hit with so much water that I decided I'd pack my sleeping bag and a few other items in the garbage bag . . . ."

     " . . . I was slowly getting wet inside the tent."

     There are only two stakes holding up the Moment and one of them popped out of the ground.  Should he have covered them with rocks?  

**  He said he should of "restaked the tent at the first sign the wind was coming from the worst possible angle."  This is strange since a tent is usually staked "properly" from the get go no matter what, and only rocks placed on top if the storm gets really crazy.
**  After the collapse the tent's bathtub floor fills with water and everything inside becomes drenched except for a few protected items like his bag and cell phone and socks.
**  He stands outside in his rain jacket and boxers and decides to drag his tent down to a better spot.
**  "When I picked the tent up, everything inside, water, camera (Canon 5D MkII) etc, congregated in a nice puddle in the middle."

**  He bails and says " . . . I'd pack it in and spend the night in my bed."  
**  At the SP's trail center he finds a man and his two sons.  "He looked like he'd seen a ghost and said their tent was ripped to shreds by the wind."
**  Here's the real kicker:  "Despite the tent falling down, I'm happy so far with the Moment . . . ."  Say what??  What about in the beginning when the rain came thru the fly and got you wet, before the stake pulled lose?  Is this a tent quality you admire?  He does say "The misting was a little worrisome . . . "
**  He ends the report by asking " . . . how can you restake a non-freestanding tent in a hurry without dumping water on the contents?"  My answer---use decent Easton propeg nail type stakes, put rocks on each, go to sleep.  

     His report ends and an expert ULer posts and ends with a comment:   "Get decent tent stakes."  Ryan Sommers comes back on to reply and says crazy left field stuff about pack covers and trash bags, keeping things in his pockets during stream crossings(?), pack liners, his LL Bean rain suit, pack towels, bandana, his OR sombrero(?), and yet no mention is made of his leaking tent.  I find this hard to understand.  So ends my rant.  

His report is here---

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=35070

4:07 p.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Finally, there's this account of Golden Bear---

GOLDEN BEAR
     There's a blog on Whiteblaze.net started by Golden Bear and it is partly titled "I Nominate Myself for Bonehead of the Year." (July 6, 2011).  First he asserts, "I have camped and hiked for decades", and yet in the next sentence he says "For my first attempt at true backpacking I chose a trip of about 45 miles of walking over four days . . . "  Of course, possibly clouded by the ultralight hysteria he says, "I'm aware that minimum weight and size (?) are key to success . . . ."  The trip becomes a travail "featuring the worst night of my life."  Read on.

DELAYED HIKING
     On Day 1 he has to backpack 12.3 miles but instead of getting an early start he tarries around camp with a bunch of time killing activities.  He even says, "I now wonder if I was just trying to avoid what I had come for: hiking with a backpack."  He finally sets off at 10:45.  He then complains about "too much size and weight in my pack."  He can't make his planned designated campsite by dark so he decides to set up camp right on the trail itself.  Here's where it gets very interesting and his actions strange.

**  He sets up his doublewall tent but leaves the rain fly off and "somewhere nearby".  In other words, he can't find it in the pitch dark as a thunderstorm hits.  Why?  
**  Because he didn't bring a flashlight!  He writes, " . . . I don't carry a flashlight (save weight, never needed one TIL NOW!)."  Save weight?  Crazy.  And when he says he never needed one before, it makes me wonder about his first comment of having "camped and hiked for decades."  He tried lighting matches in the dark but of course this failed and he couldn't find his tent fly.  

**  " . . .  I finally decided that I should just take my lumps and endure the rain".  This I find totally incomprehensible.  What?  And get totally soaked?  Find that fly!!  I would've been on my hands and knees like a big spider searching for that rainfly.  Instead he says "I was in a thick forest under an insect shield in a sleeping bag, and I had a water resistant wind breaker---so I figured some rain could be endured."  This is lunacy.  He talks as if all of these points are good things and will keep him safe from a downpour.  Being in an exposed sleeping bag but having a wind breaker?  Very strange.

LET US CONTINUE
     By morning everything he had was soaked.  "If the temperature had been much lower . . .  or if it was still raining or windy, I would have been in MAJOR danger of hypothermia . . . ."  Ya think?  The best line of the trip?  "I wrung out my sleeping bag."  End of story.  It turned out his tent fly was "just a couple feet away".  Miss Nature was merciful and threw him a bone and the rest of his trip went well.  He ends by saying, " . . . if I can survive this stupidity, I can get thru any mistake."  I'm not so sure.  Try a two week trip in January and see what happens.

His report can be found here---

http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/entry.php?583-Based-on-my-choices-from-a-week-ago-I-nominate-myself-for-quot-Bonehead-of-the-Year-quot

My point in all this is to show that no matter what shelter is used, a tarp or a tarptent or a double walled tent---crap can happen and things can go south in a hurry.

4:23 p.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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My personal take on it is this. For 3 season use tarps are fine. When you start utilizing gear outside of the parameters it was initially designed for you are asking for it.

I will continue to use my 3 season tent for 3 season use and my 4 season tent for 4 season use.

Plain and simply put it works and I am not a big fan of spin drift sandwiches. ;)

5:22 p.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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why does everyone seem to think this is a black or white question. sometimes I use a tarp, sometimes I use my tent. sometimes I sleep in a hammock sometimes I sleep on my pad. it's called planning.

5:30 p.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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btapple said:

why does everyone seem to think this is a black or white question. sometimes I use a tarp, sometimes I use my tent. sometimes I sleep in a hammock sometimes I sleep on my pad. it's called planning.

 For short "snippet" weekend trips this is a good policy and generally weather conditions can be forecasted and planned for accordingly.  ULers like to call this "the right tool for the job". 

Problem is, on longer trips conditions can change drastically and what was a single good tool for a single job becomes useless when the job changes.  Like going up to the roof with a hammer and finding you also need a screwdriver.  So, it's multi-tools for different jobs, etc.

Often a backpacking trip can go from calm and warm to 15F in a whiteout blizzard or worse, a high elevation thunderstorm in July with 60mph gusts and horizontal rain.  A tool must be carried which can perform in both situations---maybe not in "all" conditions but close to it.  Before I head out, my planning is this:  I think of the best but plan for the worst.

6:16 p.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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The horror stories say it all, as far as I'm concerned.

All I can conclude is that

(a) people aren't as smart as they think they are (surprise!)

(b) tarps are for masochists who like being miserable

(c) in every case, a tent provides more complete and more reliable shelter than a tarp

8:08 p.m. on March 28, 2012 (EDT)
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No, it isn't a black and white question, no one is suggesting that and no, no one is guaranteeing that a tent will save someone under all conditions-sometimes only an igloo or snow cave will do that.

I used to teach scuba diving. I could put a newbie in the exact same gear I was wearing, but there were plenty of things I could and would do in that gear that I would never recommend them to do until they had a lot of experience and sometimes, not even then. I've seen certified divers who learned in the Bahamas or someplace like that freaked out by a slight wind chop while on a boat dive. The panicky Solo Girl kind of reminds me of that.

My point being that things that wouldn't bother an experienced hiker may freak out someone else completely, gear or no gear. I'm not going to pretend nothing would ever bother me, but I think I have enough sense to avoid most of the things that would and that is something that newbies might not think about.

8:19 a.m. on March 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Here's a tarp and tent basecamp combo I used in the Wheeler Wilderness in NM last year.  Cooked and ate under the tarp, slept in the tent, worked great!  Rained on and off all 4 days.  Dodging thunderstorms when hiking above treeline is a pain.

DSCF0592.jpg

Here's a tarp and bivy setup I used on an overnight trip.  
48850753.jpg

The bivy was an Outdoor Research with Pertex Shield.  Sent it back because I did not like the hoop.  I now have an Integral Designs Micro Bivy in eVent.  Much better.  Funny thing about the tarp; I woke in the middle of the night and tensioned the guy lines.  Noticed condensation under the tarp despite the more than adequate ventilation and a 15mph wind.  Tarps are fun but for a pound more (weight of the bivy and tarp plus stakes/line) I can carry this and be much more secure:


Hilleberg3.jpg


12:12 a.m. on April 12, 2012 (EDT)
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peter1955 said:

The horror stories say it all, as far as I'm concerned.

All I can conclude is that

(a) people aren't as smart as they think they are (surprise!)

(b) tarps are for masochists who like being miserable

(c) in every case, a tent provides more complete and more reliable shelter than a tarp

Factual response:

a) true

b) bull plop

c) bull plop

In reality, which is superior is a matter of personal preference combined with experience. 

That said, there is one reason above all that most people favor tents: money.

Tents will *always* be more profitable than tarps, and therefore most people will be "trained" to prefer them, regardless of what little things like "reality" tell us.

Reality, however, tells us that tents are basically shaped tarps with customized poles, nothing more.

Superior protection compared to a tarp? Well, it's the same fabric... so good luck with that one.

Most of the pioneers who faced far worse conditions than most of us didn't have tents, and they survived, so anyone claiming that a tent offers superior protection compared to a tarp is entirely full of it.

That doesn't mean that anyone using a tent is a loser, and that only "real backpackers" use tarps, what it means is that most people don't try tarps because of misinformation, and don't have any clue as to whether or not they'd actually prefer tarps to tents.

I've seen some tents that are a pain in the patootie to pitch. I've also seen (and pitched) tents that are shockingly easy to pitch.

I've also put up -- and slept under -- tarps that only took a few minutes to pitch. My winter shelter is a shaped tarp + a groundsheet (tarp). Odds are, unless you're shelling out for  Hilleberg or Exped, you're not getting any better weather protection than I have with my Twin Sisters, which is even easier to pitch than a Hilleberg -- and that's actually quite an accomplishment; Hillebert tents are amazingly easy to put up... but put one in the hands of a moron, and they'll find a way to screw it up... for example, getting a free-standing version, and not bothering to stake it down, because it's freestanding!

So no, there's no rational, factual reason to believe that a tent inherently offers better protection than a tarp. In reality, tents offer higher profits to their manufacturers, and they offer an illusion of fool-proofness. 

Some people have tried both and prefer tents. Some have tried both and prefer tarps. Both are respectable opinions, and there's a sizable intersection between those two groups, who prefer tarps when the weather's nice and tents when it's not. That's equally respectable. 

For a beginner, if they're going to try a tarp, I'd suggest a shaped tape like a pyramid (e.g. the one that Erin and Hig McKittrick used on their trek from Seattle to the Aleutian islands... and they didn't even carry stakes) or Trailstar. (Seriously, if you can't pitch a Trailstar, your education probably came from fox and you believe that global warming is up for debate.)

But all ranting aside, don't let the misinformation sway you from trying out a tarp. My 2-person bug net only weighs 8 ounces, and I can team it up with a 20-oz tarp. The bug net has a bathtub floor, and the total combination costs around $300 at full price. Without the bug net, the tarp can sleep 3 pretty easily (including gear). 

Bottom line? Tarps work as well as tents, and they can work fine in all conditions, but like everything in real life, there are tradeoffs. They're not for everyone, but most people who "prefer" tents only prefer tents because they've been told to, not because they've tried both. Not everyone who tries tarps prefers tarps to tents, but at least those folks are honest about it. Pretty much everyone else is either full of it, or looking to make money. Frequently both.

11:41 a.m. on April 12, 2012 (EDT)
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Interesting thread. Funny how a lot of opinion plus a bit of data becomes "fact."

There are thousands of backpackers using tarps under many different circumstances. There are not thousands of horror stories. No matter how horrific the story (and believe me, I appreciate 'em -- makes mighty good reading) it is still only one data point. Two stories, two data points. Ten stories -- you get the idea -- we are still not anywhere near the level of statistical significance yet.

There is nothing so idiot-proof that they can't make a better idiot to screw it up. If that's the argument against tarps, then it's the argument against backpacking or flying or starting a business or falling in love or any one of hundreds of worthy, risky adventures.

Let's call a prejudice a prejudice. Some of those prejudices are hard won by bitter experience and are worth sharing as cautionary tales, but they are prejudices just the same. Me, I'm prejudiced against relying on a hand-made Pepsi can alcohol stove for any trip of over a week, but I know there are gazillions of folks out there doing just that and it is working well enough for them. It's still my prejudice, which is mine and I own it and it belongs to me and what it is too (any Monty Python fans in the audience?), and I intend to feed it and cuddle it and raise it up into a fine, strapping bias someday. LOL.

I like tents most of the time. What I used to use a tarp for, I now use a TarpTent. Still remarkably light, easy to set up, plus there is a bathtub floor and bug screen. (Contrail model, fyi.) Open up the "beak" and I've got all the view I could want. Wind or rain comes up, close the beak.

The rest of the time, tents. Haven't used a tarp in years.

That being said, I've used tarps in the past and had some great trips. I remember one night on an island in Middle Saranac Lake when the lightning crashed and the rain sluiced down, and a pal and I stayed snug and dry under a good-sized tarp, and enjoyed the show in a way we could not have inside a tent. We had it set up like an Adirondack shelter -- off-center ridgeline, I guess you'd say, so most of the tarp sloped down toward our feet, we had plenty of headroom where we needed it most, and then the overhang stretched out a little ways in front of us kept the rain off quite well. In case of a wind change, it would have taken only minor adjustment to pretty much close off the front or sides. Used that tarp extensively for several years until it somehow got lost. Dang it. 

10:41 a.m. on April 13, 2012 (EDT)
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There are more newbies going out with tents that they haven't tried to pitch than doing the same with tarps. Hence I'd theorize that you'll actually find MORE horror stories about tent camping than about tarp camping, and most cases they'll be due to user error (which might include using a tent in conditions it was not made for).

That's not an argument against tents, that's an argument against using a shelter without bothering get a clue about it first, whether it's a tarp or a tent.

11:36 a.m. on April 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Tamerlin said:

There are more newbies going out with tents that they haven't tried to pitch than doing the same with tarps.

...

That's not an argument against tents, that's an argument against using a shelter without bothering get a clue about it first, whether it's a tarp or a tent.

Unless some poor devil is following the suggestions here, I'd think that fewer newbies go out with a tarp than with a tent. At least tents come with instructions(:-p), and I've never seen someone with a tent fail to get it up!

But of course you're right - relying on something that you need for shelter, without knowing how to use it, is just plain dumb.

10:38 p.m. on April 13, 2012 (EDT)
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from Tipi Walter about the Tarptent Moment :

He was given the campsite called Meadow Vista but his instinct told him to avoid it and find something in trees with more protection.  This wholly points out my advice to carry the tool for a job that can work in a wide variety of situations, and not something so specialized or flimsy that dictates where you have to set up or retricts the freedom of a trip. 

 Whilst I agree that a tarp and even a Tarptent (maybe apart from the Scarp..) are not the best tool to try out first in the bush (IE : learn how to use them before you need to...) I definitelly not agree with the "so specialised or flimsy" comment, and that is from experience not by hearsay. For example look at this video and you will see why beign able to select the right location does make a difference but it can be a few yards... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31PNJTJwdGg&list=UU0PuLUKvG7Fxxex5BMVK4vw&index=14&feature=plcp

(other campers about a mile down river from us got flooded that first night...)

Winds ? Well if you just use the two 6" pegs it comes with you can expect one to pop out in high winds. How about using guylines and longer/beafier stakes ? Or as in this pic , rocks...


tarptree.jpg

Do you think I just set it up on snow with 2x Easton pegs ?


Mt-Sterling---Moment.jpg

 

So , yes I do agree that some knowledge is needed but if using guylines and the correct stake is outside that, I would politelly suggest to stick to car camping.

 Franco

11:23 p.m. on April 13, 2012 (EDT)
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You are doing fine Franco.  Just don't mention using a Pyramid in winds.

3:06 a.m. on April 14, 2012 (EDT)
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I have used both tents and tarps and like a good tarp rig in forest cover,when the bugs are not a problem. I prefer siltarps and an eVent bivy and enjoy the wake up at dawn more than in a tent.

However, for all conditions and longer stints, a good light tent is a far superior shelter and if above timberline, the tent is the only  choice, IMO.

A Hilleberg Soulo or Integral Designs MKI-XL, set up as much out of the prevailing wind as possible, perhaps with a rock wall to break wind velocity and both staked to the ground and tied to solid points, such as old logs, strong shrubs or rockfilled stuff sacks with more rocks piled on them, will protect you from really ugly weather as no tarp shelter can and may save your azz from being froze harder than Hades.

So, for beginners, I think a tent is the best option and there are so many decent backpacking tents available plus the very few used ones not immediately snapped up by our own "Apeman", that obtaining one is not difficult.

6:44 p.m. on April 14, 2012 (EDT)
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I think the point of this thread has been lost. The title, which was more catchy, is taken too literally. If it was " tarps are useful and here are some tips to better use them" there would be less than half of this controversy. Even when I take a tent I ALSO take a tarp. The majority of veterans stress cooking away from the tent. To do this in the rain it's nice to have a tarp. Plus there are several other uses and applications for tarps if you have one with you. If one were to be utilizing a tarp as part of their kit for the first time, aka beginners, then the information from Bob is useful. This wasn't about tarp vs tent so much as what can a tarp do for you. I agree that tents generally are better suited for primary shelter, but having a tarp and knowing how to use it will not hurt anyone!

11:52 a.m. on April 19, 2012 (EDT)
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peter1955 said:

The horror stories say it all, as far as I'm concerned.

All I can conclude is that

(a) people aren't as smart as they think they are (surprise!)

(b) tarps are for masochists who like being miserable

(c) in every case, a tent provides more complete and more reliable shelter than a tarp

 +1 mostly

2:02 a.m. on May 19, 2012 (EDT)
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Interesting thread for sure. I having been using tarps forever including winter. In the seventies and eighties when I worked for Outward Bound we did not even issue tents. All instructors and dudes were expected to use tarps. My current 8' X 5' silicone tarp weighs only 8 ounces and is perfect for a summer solo trip. If I am expecting bad weather or in winter I pack my 8' X 10' siltarp which weighs just a pound.

Tarping is an art and takes time to learn. At Outward Bound we would spend an entire afternoon teaching clients knots and considerations in terms of wind direction, etc. Typically, the dudes didn't pay any attention and on the first stormy night they would all get soaking wet and spend a miserable cold night in the rain. In the morning when they saw the instructors had a pleasant and dry evening they would learn how to set-up the tarp. Once I had a course in the Three Sisters Wilderness in Oregon and it didn't rain once during the 28-day course. Those kids never learned how to set-up their tarp. That's experiential learning for you!

Tarps are superior in every way and if you are committed to ultra-light packing you cannot pack a tent and be ultra-light. It's like there is no point in cutting off the handle of your toothbrush if you are going to carry a 3-6 pound tent. One of the best features of tarps is no condensation which means a nice dry sleeping bag in the morning even in rainy, humid weather.

Regarding bugs. in buggy conditions I carry a piece of mosquito netting sewn together like a half sleeping bag. I place this netting over my head and pull it down to about my waist and tighten with an installed cord and toggle like a mega-stuff sack. This netting weighs about a quarter pound. I can also use this netting during the daytime if I stop for lunch in a buggy area I can sit comfortably inside my mosquito stuff sack and eat lunch or read while the bugs swarm around me.

I use tarps in the winter also unless I am camping above tree line. I don't mind camping above tree line with a tarp in summer as I can use shrubs, ice axe, or trekking poles to erect it. I have skied around Crater Lake six times in the March/April time period and I always use tarps on this route at 7000'

10:34 p.m. on June 22, 2012 (EDT)
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Tarps are superior in every way and if you are committed to ultra-light packing you cannot pack a tent and be ultra-light. It's like there is no point in cutting off the handle of your toothbrush if you are going to carry a 3-6 pound tent.

 

Sure you can go ultralight with a tent. Just pack a 1 to 2 lb model (of which there are several on the market).

Both tarps and tents have their place, which is why both are popular with experienced hikers. I do think inexperienced hikers who can't/won't join a local club and don't have any more experienced friends to go out with are probably a bit safer with a tent, though, until they learn the basics about site selection and weather patterns. Unfortunately, though you can't fix stupid, so some people are going to have a disastrous experience no matter what they go out into the woods with.

4:39 p.m. on June 29, 2012 (EDT)
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I have spent several very nice evenings in front of a fire backed up with an other's tarp. I've even spent some time helping a few get their tarp up and secured, once in a rain with hard wind.  It was nice to hide under it albeit a bit noisy. I really do like a tarp when it works for everybody.

I usually carry a tent (Stephenson's 2R) and only under rare conditions do I use a tarp - usually someone elses I have helped with.  I prefer to sleep out on a ground cloth when I can. In most cases I could have fooled with setting up a tarp and enjoyed absolute pleasure of the freedom of it. DEET is a good companion when exposed and works fine for me.  I prefer the 3 minute set up drill of my tent, however.

There has been a half dozen occasions where I have had a FULL tent when I have come across a failed tarp system.  They might not have perished, but in one extreme case they thought it a lot more comfortable jammed 5 in a 2 person tent waiting out the blow.  I thought it would be more comfortable outside in rain pants, warm base layers and a parka and gloves with a soft seat up against a tree.  I've spent many a night like that when I've left shelter behind.  A tarp would have been more comfortable but would have made it more complex than I needed.

To each his own.  There are many opportunities for good choices to be made in this life.  And good is all relative to the chooser.

5:27 p.m. on June 29, 2012 (EDT)
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I prefer a hammock with insect netting built in and a tarp over.  Thats my setup. It works everywhere there are trees , i dont need flat ground and i use many of the methods described in this thread. I do agree that one should know how to do the set-ups described in case of an emergency even if you prefer a tent.

6:35 p.m. on June 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Eppo said: 

 One of the best features of tarps is no condensation which means a nice dry sleeping bag in the morning even in rainy, humid weather.

Actually, this is not true.  I have personall seen condensation on the underside of tarps, and on the objects under it, multiple times. 

As far as tarps being "superior in every way," that is just silly, if that was the case, then your admittance that a tent being needed for winter above treeline is inherently contradictory. A tarp cannot protect an occupant from sifting wind. A quality winter tent can almost completely eliminate the wind shifting horizontal precipitation in even a truly fierce storm. Not so of a tarp. That does not equate to universal superiority. 

7:14 p.m. on July 26, 2012 (EDT)
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EBob,

Great job.  You brought some other talented tarp users out of the woodwork to share their experiences.  I really like two aspects of tarps besides light weight and versatility.  The ability to see out and the ability to sit by a fire.  That changes everything in the colder, darker days late and early in the year.

11:00 p.m. on July 27, 2012 (EDT)
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I agree with Mozee, I carry a tarp and a tent. I set up my tarp immediately, then make the decision decide about the tent. I live in nh so I camp in a little snow every now and then. I can be comfortable in my tent or my tarp and hammock in almost any weather. Someone should invent a tent/hammock combination. Sometimes I would prefer a tent but know I get a better nights sleep in my hammock, so I use a tarp. All this talk about inexperienced people getting in trouble camping during the wintet or in extreme conditions should not use a tarp. The prob here isnt the tarp its when or where they are camping. Beginners should take short trips closer to help than more experienced hikers. It isnt that they need diff gear they need to take diff hikes. Without the basic common sense needed to set a tarp or pitch a tent properly you can expect trouble on lots of levels. Some mention of a fire not being permitted struck me as odd, if they are in danger of hypothermia, a ticket for a fire would be well worth it. Plus lead help to your campsite. This must be a big deal to lors of people, but the issue should be where it is safe to hike and camp not what to take. Knowing what to look for, such as widow makers,dead standing trees and prevailing winds are much more important than what you shelter under. Just my opinion, not tryin to get anybody goin!!!

11:13 p.m. on July 27, 2012 (EDT)
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One thing I didnt mention, with a tarp pitched lean to style and a space blanket hanging at the back I can raise the temp under the tarp an amazing amount. You could never do this with a tent. Just another use for a tarp, where a tent wont work. I had to do this late last fall on mt mndk. It is a no fire zone but my friends young daughter broke the ice on a deep puddle. She got both her feet soaked(over her boots) and refused to walk because she was cold. She was eight at the time, too big to carry but too young to listen. In about an hr she was warmed and somewhat dry. The rangers showed up and did not give us a ticket for the fire.

7:46 p.m. on September 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Maybe time to update this post with new pictures?

These are from a recent trip with my wife and two nephews.

One nice thing about tarp shelters is they are so light. This fancy Spinn Twinn tarp makes a fine shelter for my wife and I, yet only weighs about 17.5 ounces for the tarp, lines, stakes and ground cloth.

Not a four season shelter but just fine for three season camping, and so light, the hike was a joy. We're not quite down to true ultralight baseloads, but we're darn close to it.  


image.jpg

 

The nephews also got a tarp, the very same camo Harbor Freight tarp I stated this thread with.  I kept teling them to find a spot and set up a shelter, but they were to busy playing along the shore of the lake. As darkness fell they simply started their own camp fire right on the beach and lay on top of the tarp!

I wanted to tell them to pick a sheltered spot and go set up a shelter - I was sure it would rain before dawn - But my wife insisted I let them learn the hard way. They have been on enough trips and should knowe better by now.    


image.jpg

I did indeed rain close to dawn. The kids didn't even bother to pull the tarp over them, and simply slept right through it. Heh, these kids will sleep through anything!    

2:37 a.m. on November 6, 2012 (EST)
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As a noob trying to put together a pack for survival/emergency use, I've gotten interested in bushcrafting. My setup needs to be versatile, rugged, and moderately inexpensive.  I'm shooting for a base camp type tarp setup. After long deliberation I've decided on several things.  

-Big tarp 10x10 or 10x12.  Probably blue poly.  ($15)  2lbs

-Bug bivy for warm weather use only.  ($50-100)  1 lb

-3 piece military sleep system, which includes gortex bivy and 2 sleeping bags. Super versatile and will keep you warm AND fully dry in any realistic weather. Worth the weight.  (<$120 for a good one)  6-10lbs depending on which pieces you pack.

-Small poly tarp for ground sheet. ($5) 1lb

-Sleeping mat. ($15) 1lb

A tent with a small fly and tiny vestibule doesnt give you the feeling and security of a base camp. Its cluttered, cramped, and uncomfortable. It forces you to act gingerly with your surroundings. That alone can cause fatique and stress.  And frankly I feel the same of small tarp type setups. A large tarp is an absolute no brainer for me. This facilitates a very close fire. And it gives you the room to move around, stretch, work, etc, during rain.  A tent alone is nice, I'm not anti-tent, but I am very pro-tarp, EVEN if you have a tent.  Just think, you can get rained out a whole trip and still have fun with bushcrafting projects while under a large tarp with your fire very close.

Sounds like a lot of stuff? Well, the bug bivy would only get packed in hot weather and would replace 1 or 2 pieces of the sleep system.  Also, I will NOT be carrying poles or stakes.  14lbs is the max cold weather weight.   8-11lbs lightest warm weather. I just can't imagine a more versatile setup.  What are your thoughts guys?  

12:44 p.m. on November 6, 2012 (EST)
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Sounds OK to me – The tarp I used in the beginning of this thread was an inexpensive poly tarp, of about “8 x 10 feet” ( really the finished size is closer to 9-1/2 feet by 7’ 4” ).

I think this is about the smallest size I’d want for solo use unless it’s a shaped tarp like the Spinn Twinn I posted a photo of above. I find a simple rectangular or square tarp more versatile than something with a catenary cut like the Spinn twinn, but the Twinn is very light and very good at what it was designed for.

If I may make some recommendations though, I think the weight of your system sounds awfull heavy.

I think you can find some bug bivys that will be somewhat lighter than a pound. I simply use a big piece of bug netting, and set it up as a mosquito bar with a few sticks, or simply drape it over my head and chest as I lay down, or best of all pop open an umbrella and set that up by my head and drape the netting over it and my head /chest.

It’s cheap, light and versatile. I could probably even use it as a net to catch fish!

Coghlan’s sells a sheet of this stuff 48” x 72” for about 15 bucks. It weighs about two ounces.  

With the coin you saved from not buying the bug bivy, get online buy a lightweight tarp. Campmore has an 8’ x 10’ silnylon tarp for 90 bucks.

This thing weighs 13 ounces, throw in some aluminum stakes and cord and your shelter weight is up to about a pound. You can also find tarps like this on Amazon for less than 100 bucks.

I do recommend you carry stakes. Simple aluminum "shepherds hook" stakes are about 1/2 ounce each. Campmore sells a six pack of such stakes from Coghlan's for 3 bucks.

Why bother carrying stakes? Because they make setting up camp so very much faster, with much less destruction to the plants around you!

Instead of fumbling around in the rain looking for sticks to cut for stakes and making cord loops to tie them to the tarp grommets ( wooden stakes don't fit tarp grommets ) you just tie a line to a tree or two ( depending upon the pitch your using ) and stake the tarp out. Done! Trust me, carrying stakes is well worth the extra 3 ounces.     

Groundsheet – I often use one of those “all weather sportsmans blankets,” which is a heavy duty “space “ blanket for a ground sheet. They are heavy at 13 ounces, but they are versatile, work well and last long. It’s what I’m using in the post I began this thread with.  Cost is 13 bucks at campmore.

A foam sleeping pad is less than a pound. I use the blue Wal-mart pads for all but winter trips. For comparison sake Campmore sells a 3/8 inch pad for 12 bucks that weighs 8 ounces. 

So now we’re up to about 133 bucks and about two and a half pounds of weight ( hmmm, left out the cost of the para cord or string and shipping, so actual cost would be a tad more ).

Still, not bad.

I'm afraid I don't care for the military "sleep system." It may work ( but I'd not buy a used one! No saying how long the thing has been compressed and how much loft it's lost ) but they are heavy and very bulky!

I can't imagine how big a backpack you'd need to carry one of these. 

I own a few bags but my favorite by far is a Kelty "light year" 20 degree down bag. It weighs less than 3 pounds and compacts amazingly small.  

I can use this all year round. In the summer I keep it fully open or even just lay on top of it, and in really cold weather I'll wear a down parka and long johns to bed inside it!

I am a cold sleeper though, and I don't know how cold it gets where you live and you'll have to pick a bag accordingly, but I'd recomend a top quality down or synthetic comercial bag that is a little warmer than you'll think you'll be needing.    

Such a sleeping bag will costs 130 at Campmor right now, and I reckon is worth it.

Your estimated cost was about 255 bucks and I know the complete military sleep system alone weighs some11 pounds.

Perhaps you intended to leave out the bivy sack or something? I think your total weight would be more like 15 pounds for everything.

Then you need a hatchet for cutting stakes, and a huge backpack to put it all in...

An Alice military backpack weighs about seven pounds, bringing the total up to 22 pounds?

My version runs a little more at about 263 but weighs an honest five pounds or a tad more.

And it would easily fit in an ultralight backpack such as the Gossamer gear G4 ( only about a pound and 125 bucks ).

That brings us up to six pounds.

But by all means buy a poly tarp and have fun with it. The shelter kit I started this post with weighs about 2-1/2 pounds and works fine.

It will let you have fun and let you learn if a tarp shelter is for you at a very modest cost, and down the road you can think about going with something both sturdier and lighter ( and more expensive ).

Just work at keeping the weight on your shoulders to something reasonable!      

5:06 p.m. on November 6, 2012 (EST)
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Awesome useful info, ty!  I know it all does seem a bit heavy. I was thinking the storage/loft issue too about the used MSS, I'll have to really consider that. For not too much more I can get a new one. I'm sure I'll mix it up while learning.  I do believe I'll also have a nice tarp too eventually. But I'd like to start with one I won't mind destroying while learning. I'm also interested in experimenting with survival setups using the tarp as a tent with a full tub floor, and various other tarp destroying exercises. :D  Definitely interested in your ground cloth idea.  One like that sounds like a good idea.  My pack idea was indeed a medium alice with the sleep system up high, not inside. The lightweight packs would surely get destroyed by me. I do not like having to be too careful with things. 

No tent stakes!  Don't mess with my Ray Mears bushcraft fantasies!  Lol.

I'm firmly against down, I realize the penalties and am willing to pay them.

Your umbrella idea gave me a good laugh!  Lol, interesting.

1:16 p.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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I'm a novice. I have done virtually no camping. I like tarps.

That said... Death is extremely easy. Every newbie should read Cody Lundin's book "98.6". The wild outdoors kills the unprepared.

Death is extremely easy

7:01 p.m. on November 20, 2012 (EST)
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I like a poly tarp for my leanto setup. I have a nice silnylon tarp bit I like to set up right on top of my fire and dont wanna burn my nice tarp. Thats my fav thing abput making a leanto, im not worried about any expensive gear. Cody lundin is a great survivalist, think how good he would be if he didnt handicap himself with bare feet. Would some shoes really kill him, if he will wear three pairs of wool socks in the snow, how much diffetent would some boots be? I think thats his gimmick, the guy with no shoes, dumbass move if you ask me.

12:07 a.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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Very interesting discussion.  I would like to point out that the wild outdoors often kills the prepared also.  People that go out in the warm season or places like California in all seasons may be in for some surprises if they venture to places like Alaska.  The closest I have come to freezing to death was in a tent on August 31 in the Coast Range of British Columbia.

2:01 a.m. on December 31, 2012 (EST)
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This is both the strangest and the most enlightening conversation that I have read on the subject. essentially, I agree with EtdBob. The outdoors is always about learning, and sometimes the lessons are harsh. I have no problems using a tent, they're great, but heavier than a tarp. I have no problems using a tarp, they're lighter than a tent but have some compromises. I've learnt more about the outdoors using a tarp than I have using a tent. There is never a cure for inexperience, other than experience. Tarps really help with that learning process. A hiker (not a word I'm really familiar with) really needs to understand the conditions they are going into. In New Zealand, trampers (great word) regularly die because they got that bit wrong. To paraphrase a Nordic saying, 'there's no such thing as bad conditions, only inappropriate gear selection". I use tarps down to -2 celcius (28 degrees) with no worries, tarp things - I have a Golite SL3  - more often, and tents...um I forget. What tarps teach, and I think that was the point being made, is that it is up to the individual (not the marketers) to learn what is needed and how to use it. I don't remember Etdbob suggesting that a tarp is the best choice for an alpine or arctic expedition, merely that it was a very good shelter for a wide range of conditions. Actually, he did kinda mention below the treeline didn't he? Reading the weather forecast helps too. I love tarps, but choose the occassion. EtdBob is correct, it helps you learn to identify the occassion...solo attempts on Everest are not it.

7:22 a.m. on December 31, 2012 (EST)
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Bounderby said:

...solo attempts on Everest are not it.

 And rainstorms at 5,300 in an open bald of the Cherokee NF.  Ask Patman here on Trailspace if he wanted to be in his tarp during that storm.  He was there with me in his Big Agnes tent so I'd be interested in his reply as he uses a tarp for 3 seasons.

4:24 p.m. on December 31, 2012 (EST)
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Tipi,

LOL, no way would I have wanted to be under a flat tarp in that mess. Even if it survived the wind shear, I would have been soaked along with all of my gear. I also have a shaped tarp (called a “Canopy Tent” from Bearpaw Wilderness Designs) and it would not have been any fun either with winds and rain like that.

I really do enjoy tarping but only in the right places and conditions. Open balds in the Southern Apps are not the right places in my experience!

9:36 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Tarps seem to be very attractive set up, but how do you deal with animal potentially biting one on the face, while tent provides more of a psychological barrier for an animal? Where I camped, a black bear ripped up someone's face, he slept away from camp on the ground cloth, and coyote bit sleeping person on the face there before too.

7:56 a.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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Where.are you camping? Ive never heard of a bear and a coyote attacking people in the same camp, and both bite the person on the face. Really, lets see some facts or a link or something. I dont buy it.

4:15 p.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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I think that we can all agree that being prepared means more than what gear you take with you. One can survive with a tarp without issue (the first set of pics in this thread that had the campfire looked quite cozy, I almost fell asleep at my computer just looking at it) in most all situations if they have the mental capacity to know what to do if the entire scenario changes in a hurry. As a scoutmaster I take it as an extreme responsibility to teach all of my large group how to survive if they didn't have a tarp or a tent. Of course I teach them the different ways to set up tarps and the knots they will need, and how to set up a tent and what rating they need for different situations, as well as what gear they should have for the higher altitudes, but being prepared is alot more than that. Being prepared means that you have to think "on the fly" and know how a bad situation could possibly get worst and how to survive that situation. Noobs need to know how to think about prepairing, not to have us say that this is what you need and thats it.

 

All being said I normally take a smaller tarp and a tent backpacking and sometimes I will leave the tent alone, but it is nice to have.

12:53 p.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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I got to agree with the tarp shelter. You can never go wrong with it. Sooo, much lighter than even the high end ultra lite tents on the market. And far, far less damage to the wallet. The only time I do bring a tent is if my wife wants to come along on the hikes. I don't know what it is about the whole tarp vs tent thing... to me it's just more simple, rustic, and always seems to put you a little closer to the wild. It does take a bit of knowledge though. You gotta have at least 5 useable knots under your belt. Different set ups always call for different needs. And you gotta have your pitch right in case of a rain, or a heavy morning dew. I've also done a good many lean-to debri shelters just to test the skills out. In a pinch I know I could make do, but I still would much rather have a good tarp.

The main thing to look for when going way of the old school tarp shelter, is buying a good tarp. Yeah, you can grab one of those loud crunchy tarps for 5 or 10 bucks... and if your lucky you might get one use out of it. My experience... they are trash. Throw another $20 along with your cash and pick up a better quality tarp. Most will not be much more than 3 pounds. Go for at the least an 8'x10'. I prefer a 10'x12', (more room for your gear to be stowed with you) but to each his own. Find one with good quality grommets, a heavy duty polyethylene, and one that is weather treated (most are done by UV treatment). If you take care of it, it will last you a while. And once you get your knots under your belt, you can prep it before hand to speed up the time it takes you to post up. Anyway, thats just my take on an often over looked style of backpacking.

BE COOL.

 

 

10:53 a.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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I think there is some very blinkered vision going on in some of the posts above : some people just refuse to see what is going on in the real world. I walked the John Muir Trail in 2011 and 2012, and followed that in 2012 with the High Sierra Trail and some day hiking making 350 miles and 60000 feet ascent for that trip.

I would not have been able to do that carrying a 5.5 lbs tent and, presumably, a 4 lb sack to carry it all in = 9.5 lbs just for those two items. I used a Zpacks Hexamid shaped tarp = 6 ozs (plus pegs), with a Hexanet inner = 7 ozs, carried in a Golite Miniposa sack, 15ozs. Total weight of shelter plus pack = 1lb 12ozs. ( btw show me a 1 lb tent, as mentioned above!). Sorry, but my photos won't copy with the iPad.

The tarp easily handled a huge night time thunder storm at 10000 ft with rain sleet and hail. The inner has a cuben fibre ground sheet with 3" walls sewn on to the netting, so no flooding or rain spatter coming in, and I didn't even get out of my (down) quilt.

I agree that this particular tarp might not be the best selection for 60 mph winds, but then I think many tents would fail too in such extremes. At least in extemis I can just pull the centre pole and gather the material around me - damp but survivable. If weather like that is expected, then find some tree or rock protection. One shelter I know that would stand up to extreme weather is, however, another tarp, the MLD Trailstar, pitched low at 90 cms. The Trailstar in sil nylon is quite cheap too.

11:17 a.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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I think a lot of the negative tarp comments are helpful to new campers. We all know that with the right experience and the right tarp, you will be fine in most conditions. The problem is that someone with no experience will go to walmart, buy a tarp and think he can go anywhere he wants and be fine. Its much easier, for a beginner to pitch a simple tent. He isnt trying to rack up miles, hes not an experienced hiker. Im with you on the weight issue, I usually carry a hammock and tarp, then im good in the air or on the ground, but I carry a tent when I know the weather is gonna be challenging. A lot of these guys guide hikes now or have in the past, they have a better idea how newbies take advice than most people, def more than me. They also have a pretty good idea what it takes to be comfortable in extreme weather, so they know what works for them. Im warmer in my tarp during the winter, but I know how to rig it with a clear plastic front to trap heat. Most people would be more comfortable in a tent, or burn their gear up tryin to get warm. Its all opinions, but all can be helpful to someone.

1:49 p.m. on February 7, 2013 (EST)
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Nice Post, EtdBob. I have used both tents and tarps. As a kid of maybe 10 I would regularly camp out with a tarp. It was canvas in thoughs days. No sleeping bag or mat, just a fire kept burning most of the night. No one ever showed us kids how to do things, we just did it and learned from our mistakes. Pitching a tarp in the woods seemed fairly intuitive; one end up, one end down. I camped out in all types of weather both summer and winter. Some of the best, most memorable times were spent outdoors under a tarp watching the world around me. It wasn't until I got a "real" job that I discovered tents and was able to buy one for myself. but, I still use a tarp a fair bit.

I was married recently and for our honeymoon my wife and I went on a ten day canoe trip. For shelter we just took a tarp. One evening it snowed hard, I could hear it sliding off the tarp onto the ground, but we were warm and snug under our canoe/tarp combination. We would not have missed it for the world. And, yes, seven years later we are still married and still camping together.

Which would I prefer, a tarp or a tent? It doesn't really matter to me just so long as I am able to get out there, which is what camping and hiking are supposed to be all about.

1:30 p.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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'I would not have been able to do that carrying a 5.5 lbs tent and, presumably, a 4 lb sack to carry it all in = 9.5 lbs just for those two items.'

If that's what your tent and its bag weighs, you should probably look at buying a backpacking tent. Mine weighs 2.2 kg, all in, and that's far from the lightest tent on the market. 

How about this, "The Laser Ultra 1 is a one-person double-wall tent with a manufacturer specified trail weight of 17.5 ounces (496 g)"? And that's a nice cozy double wall. 

5:45 p.m. on February 11, 2013 (EST)
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I think he meant a four pound backpack, only because he refrences a golite pack right after. I may be wrong but thats how I read it, that would be a tank of a tent at 9.5 lbs.

11:53 p.m. on February 21, 2013 (EST)
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I use a footbrint by Big Agnes, peeeeerrrfect

6:58 p.m. on February 22, 2013 (EST)
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Time for some more tarp fun! 

The words ultralight and inexpensive are not often used in the same sentence. There are exceptions of course, usually for homemade gear, but modern off the shelf ultralight backpacking gear tends to be quite pricy.

This is certainly true of tarps. Cuben fiber tarps weighing under a pound exist, but are generally quite expensive. Silnylon tarps run about a pound or so, but will cost close to 100 dollars. A feller might make their own silnylon tarp to try and save some coin, but even the material is expensive. 1.9 ounce coated nylon is one of the better choices, especially if you make your own tarp. The material is inexpensive, easy to work with and the finished tarp is among the most durable.

I’m not sure it is a whole lot lighter than a woven poly tarp though. Other options include 3 or 4 mil polyethylene, Tyvek, and those aluminized “space blankets”.

But 4 mil polyethylene isn’t very light nor does it usually last very long, and while Tyvek is about the same weight as silnylon and cheap, it is bulky, crinkly, and may or may not be sufficiently water proof, depending upon the specific material and who you talk to, and mylar space blankets are never bigger than 5’ x 7’ and don’t last very long either.  

What is a feller on a tight budget and wanting the lightest of shelters to do?

Well, these days we have a new material that is readily available, very light, inexpensive, easily worked, yet surprisingly durable and makes a pretty decent shelter from the elements that weighs under a pound, and is 100% waterproof!  


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 That’s right, window insulating film! This material is a heat shrinkable cross linked polyolefin. It has significantly higher tensile strength than Tyvek and both the aluminized mylar and polyethylene “space blankets”, and is many times stronger than polyethylene of similar thickness. It isn’t as strong as silnylon or cuben fiber, but it is ten or twenty times less expensive than those materials.

Backpackers call this stuff “Polycryo” because the first company to sell the material to backpackers for use as a ground cloth calls it that. It seems to be a word they made up out of whole cloth, but the name has stuck. As a ground cloth this material is as light as mylar space blankets, yet is significantly more durable and puncture resistant, and is fast becoming an ultralight “standard”. Naturally, it wasn’t to long before someone tried to make a tarp out of it!

Constructing such a tarp is pretty easy. The “patio door” sized kits are generally about 84 inches wide and 110 inches long, and is a pretty good size for an A frame shelter. These kits also generally come with quite a bit of very good double sided tape which we need to hem the tarp, and you’ll need tape and washers to construct the tire outs and cord for the ridge line.  

Everything you need ( except the  washers )   

 
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To make a shelter out of this stuff, start by laying it out and using the included double sided tape to hem the whole perimeter of the plastic sheet. This thin plastic material can be hard to see clearly and difficult to work with. It helps to have someone hold the film in place or to tape it down to the floor. Stick down the tape, peel the backing off and fold it over. The sheet itself weighs four ounces and this step will add ½ ounce.

This material is as thin as .6 mil from some sources and runs to as much as 1.4 mil. The thicker sheets need not be hemmed, but I think it is a good iead for the stuff under 1 mil.


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Next  we need to add some tie-outs so we can set the thing up. We will need ten tie outs, one in each corner, two in the middle of each of the long sides, and two in the center to hold the ridge line in place. This is where the washers come in. Tape tie outs by themselves can be ripped by the cord, but adding a washer of about penny size or better distributes the load sufficiently. I have used steel washers but nylon is probably about the best. On this tarp I used a pack of large plastic faucet washers.

There are many types of tape that can be used, from expensive sail repair tape ( the best choice ) to duct tape ( the worst choice ). Gorrilla tape is a popular and durable choice. Here I’m using up the last of a roll of “canoe repair tape”, similar to duct tape but with better adhesive and a little lighter. I use six inches of tape per tie out, so that is five feet of tape per tarp.

Cut the tape and fold it in half sticky side out to find the center, and place the washer there. Then stick the tape to the tarp with the washer past the edge, and fold the tape over. We don’t want the tie out hole to penetrate the tarp itself. Place the corner tie outs in line with the point of the corner because we want these lines to pull the tarp out and also out along the ridge line.


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Now for the tie out or grommet holes to hold the tarp in place on the ridge line. In this case we do place the washer on the tarp itself and the hole goes through the tarp. Plce one in the center of each of the short sides, and run your ridge cord through them   


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This tarp is nine feet long and I like to be able to tie off to handy trees, so I used 29 feet of Atwood 3/32 tactical cord with a four strand core and 275 pound rating. It is strong, light and 100 feet costs about eight bucks, so it is a good choice for an inexpensive yet light shelter. I find it does stretch more than I’d like though.    

Note that it is wise to always use a ridge line with this material, unlike other tarps which can be hung by simply tying off to a side or corner grommet. With this material we want the ridge line itself to bear the weight of the tarp, and not put all the load on one of our tie out points. The ridge line tie outs are to simply hold the tarp in place on the line. 

The last thing to do is add eight tie out lines. I tie a loop in the end of my cord, measure out 20 inches, cut the line, and tie it to a tie-out with a bowline knot, and heat seal the ends of the line. This provides about an 18 inch tie out line which is about right.  

The finished tarp weighs 7.2 ounces, less than half a pound! Not bad for a nine by seven foot tarp and cord set! 


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So what do you do with it? Well, it is intended to be set up in the traditional A pitch. Since it offers good coverage and is nine feet long, little if any rain would blow in to get at you when sleeping.

The amzingly light weight and compact nature of this tarp makes it a perfect match for taking it along with you as an emergency shelter when you really don't think you will be staying out overnight.

It would be a fun project for scouts who could then get to sleep out under the tarps they made themselves!  

And despite its very low weight and flimsy appearance, it is stury enough for use as a regular backpacking shelter and will last quite some time. This material is used for ground cloths under tents and is reported to last much longer in such use than aluminized space blankets of equal weight. This film is surprisingly tough stuff.   

Last weekend I constructed a similar yet larger tarp.

In this one I used steel washers and a Dennnis brand outdoor window kit of 1.2 mil thickness.

This kit was 62 inches by 210 inches, so I cut it in half lengthwise and connected the halves with a seam of two runs of the double sided tape to make a tarp 10 feet long by 8.75 feet wide. The seam runs across the tarp perpendicular to the ridge line.  Because of the thicker material I did not hem it, and I used the same 3/32 Atwood cord.

To see how sturdy it is I set it up outside and my wife helped by throwing snow balls at me and the tarp while I was at it. I can report that the thin material deflects snowballs just fine.  This week we’ve had about six inches of snow and the material has held up perfectly.


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This tarp and cord set weighs 12.5 ounces! Not bad for a 10 foot by 8-3/4 foot tarp, eh?

I'll be using this to shelter myself and my nephews on our next trip, and I'll offer to carry the tarp ( usually a heavy burden )  if they carry the food!

The thicker 1.2 or 1.4 mil material is quite sturdy and I imagine if it was hemmed as well it would produce a particularly long lasting shelter, good for many years of use.

The tarp under a heavy snow load -


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The ridge line stretches and sags, but knock off the snow and the tarp snaps back up. My wife didn’t trust the tape tie outs, but they are probably stronger than the tarp material itself and the load is well distributed. I’ll probably leave this tarp in place the rest of the winter to see how it holds up!

2:08 p.m. on February 27, 2013 (EST)
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As is the case with all the posts I've read- you folks are full of great info. Ty for each post. Great post etdBob! Since all precautions have been already iterated, I'm going to risk sharing a pro tarp story.

A couple years ago, a friend (and very experienced outdoors person) and I used a clear shower curtain liner on a week long trip. One side already had grommets! She taught me how. It was a fair weather trip. It was wonderful! Traveling down the coast we set up in different spots each night. The learning was fun. The outdoors closer than ever (besides sleeping out). Sheltered from dew and sea mist- easy set up and take down. Since then, I have not enjoyed being completely tented as much. Note- just an expression of my experience. Not trying to get anyone killed.

Peace

2:13 p.m. on February 27, 2013 (EST)
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Window film tarp = Awesome!

3:19 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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EtdBob,

 

Super light tarps don't need 2x4  tent stakes ya know! I thought i was gonna die laughing..

I know i know you used what you had on hand. Free can be good.

The grommets seemed labor intensive to me as well. You could have used pebbles tied to places the grommets went instead.

You do have access to pebbles right?

Over all I really like this whole year old thread, and I am not so sure 'Training' applies to one of man's earliest shelters really.

If it does, then it just proves man is far removed from whence he came.

Post 2. Let the yelling begin..

(OT) I can't find FAQ and I have run plumb out of being able to pm people after 1, and a reply.

I wanted to ask shenora1116 where he came by his camo tarp?

4:25 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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Heh, I sure as heck don't have access to pebbles this time of year!

Those 2x4 stakes are close to three feet long - Gives ya an idea of how deep the snow is. The snow load on the tarp got to be very, very heavy, and any lesser stakes would simply have pulled out. I drove them deep into compacted snow and stomped all around them to compact the snow on top too. Of course, I shoveled out the area under and around the tarp a bit so I could work there without my snow shoes on. 

Indeed, you can see the tip of my snowshoe in the bottom photo.

To find any pebbles I'd have to dig deep and pry them from the frozen earth...

But of course a feller could normally use a clump of earth, a pebble, or simply twist up a knot of plastic and tie it off with a sheet bend. This works fine for the four corner ties but not so well for the center tie outs along the sides because it bunches the plastic. Those center-side tie outs are not always needed of course, but are great in high winds.

I reckon the main reason to go through the work of having proper tie outs is to streamline the setting-up routine, so one does not have to hunt pebbles, stakes and what-not at the end of a long day, possibly in the rain and/or darkness. They certainly don't add much weight.  

One reason I like a tarp is because they are so easy and fast to set up, giving the backpacker a place to quickly get out of the rain or wind, and having tie outs in place before hand only helps make it even easier. 

Heh, to some setting up tarp shelters is very easy and straight forward and you wouldn't think it a big deal. I started this thread to give folks unfamilar with using tarps as shelter some basic introduction to refer to, and had hoped others could add tips and tricks as well. Instead it turned into a year long argument about why a feller should not use a tarp for shelter! Very dissapointing really.  

   

 

6:11 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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I carry four ping pong balls, rather beer pong balls. They are the heavier grade ping pong balls marketed for beer pong, in the convenience stores. I put one behind the tarp, then double an elastic hair tie around it. I hook my guyout to one loop of the hair tie, that gives me a slight tensioning action, then pulls off the ball before it damages my tarp. I have done this for 30 yrs, an old timer showed it to me on a beach surf fishing in the wind. I have used this tech in 50 mph winds with no prob. The roundness of the ball doesnt even leave a mark on my tarp. The balls weigh nothing and come in a little tube to protect them. Lodge pole, garden state job lots sells a pretty nice camo tarp herr in nh. Peterborough is the closest one for you, that I know of, all their tarps are dirt cheap.

8:25 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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Hotdogman there is a Job Lots in Ossipee NH but i think it is RI not NJ, but i could be wrong. They have common woven blue and green tarps that are very low quality.

EtdBob, I am mainly joking and so i hope you can read into between the lines. I really liked the experiment and would say I was more than surprised the materials have lasted in the weather for so long as it has.

I come from a long line of cheap skates! In fact my now deceased Father In Law was no stranger to that effect himself and would place 3 x 7 index cards on a sunny window shelf to bleach the ink for reuse.

As to tarps: I have used these as a wind wall in AMC shelters just below Tuckermans ravine in hellish winds and serious cold, made of a modern material. I have used these in the same way on Lac du St Sacrement in NY. You call it Lake George, made of linen Irish canvass for 18th century battle reenactments in October. That places can get a tad wooley in that season, definitely ice in the bucket weather.

These were not my first times to use tarps of course. ALL Tentage comes from Tarps and all tarps come from hides.

If this picture shows, (doesn't) this lodge is made of 2 real tarps and 2 old tee pee liners. History has it as a Hunter's lodge for both Eastern and Western native peoples. It's mine and i made it. I am not about to pack it with out a iron pony though, or several other guy's wives :D

Not too sure what rules are here, and am hoping to not break many...

My pms are seemingly limited and i can not find out or figure out why to 1 pm and 1 reply.

I see I may not upload pics from photobucket. I tend to store pics there off my system for being handy. Oh well. 

8:50 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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Lodge Pole,

Post a few more times and you will become "vetted", which will allow pictures and more pms. Welcome to Trailspace. Good to have new folks with background and experience to share.

9:04 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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This is a perfect example of a thread that needs pages.

9:26 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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Bill S said:

Lodge Pole,

Post a few more times and you will become "vetted", which will allow pictures and more pms. Welcome to Trailspace. Good to have new folks with background and experience to share.

 Well Bill I did fill out my profile, but am stumped with no FAQ on rules and behavior expected, and fear being a damned yankee is gonna do harm.

 First of all I have already crossed up with a mod, since i read the thread and one mod isn't very happy about tarps. Then I know how to spell yanquies 1,001 different ways.

Add to that maybe 40 dead winter trips on the Presidentials for plain fun except send my little bro to the 4 winds (see profile) , which makes me completely certifiable according to people who claim they 'KNOW', and the fact since there is no emoshuns, no body :D can tell if i am serious or joking.

Why at this point i can't even prove the Presidentials exist here because i can't put up a link to google to show it on a map!

And last LOL , why I have a post count of around 6! and the counter still claims I am a 0.......

Now i gotta ask is this a punishment for the fact i am a damned yunkezz?

HA Ha Ha 

I see now i must be a post whore..... (winking)

10:34 p.m. on February 28, 2013 (EST)
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Sure thing Lodge Pole....

I scored it from DirtCheap. Mossy Oak pattern, UV and weather resistant, reinforced rust resistant grummets. Double fold with triple stiching around the trim, 8x10 heavy duty poly @just under 3lbs. And driving a flatbed for a living, you learn to roll those things pretty damn well. I can actually fit it in an 12can coke box. I think I might have paid about $12 for it after shipping. That was 2 years ago. And I'm still using it. Came with 2 5''x5'' patches that I've yet to use.

11:24 a.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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shenora1116 said:

Sure thing Lodge Pole....

I scored it from DirtCheap. Mossy Oak pattern, UV and weather resistant, reinforced rust resistant grummets. Double fold with triple stiching around the trim, 8x10 heavy duty poly @just under 3lbs. And driving a flatbed for a living, you learn to roll those things pretty damn well. I can actually fit it in an 12can coke box. I think I might have paid about $12 for it after shipping. That was 2 years ago. And I'm still using it. Came with 2 5''x5'' patches that I've yet to use.

 OOh you tripped over that question huh? I was hoping you might..

 That is real handy info for me anyway. I have a thing for tarps but I prefer them to be squares.. No big deal. I can buy one around 12 feet on the short end and trim it and sew it back myself.

12 x 12 works best for me. I need to get some pics moved around which i have on my photobucket, but can't seem to get back and i have no idea what cd or stick or other lap top etc the originals are on. I had no idea I couldn't 'save' back from photobucket and or i would ever run across a site i can't link or image too.

According to Bill S it may be a matter of post count, but I have no way to confirm that, before i get permissions to post a pic or a link I don't upload from this system.

So many systems such a short stick.. A Joke, as i am not getting along well being 61 years young yet... maybe next year when I get back to 33.... I am dead sure that since the Fountain of Youth wasn't discovered in Fla that it MUST be in NH!  Right? :D

11:45 a.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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shenora,

I have another tall tail :D Not so sure i should tell it here on this thread, so I made this 2nd posting in case the mods want to make it vanish.

But your' being a driver will understand best. It came to me to tell it when you made mention of getting the tarp into a coke box size case.

A long time ago i got my back crushed on the job.. A lot of bad things happened to me for that, and a point came where i ended up living in a tee pee for 3 full years. 2 winters in Md, the last had that storm of the century.

The last year in the Ossipee Range here in NH, and i was at least back home.

A driver friend of mine gave me a tarp I called Killer Whale. It was a bright white and shiny black rip stop made to cover a tractor trailer, and sewn into a giant box only open on side.

I got news a bad storm was coming, and where the tee pee was I had 5 feet of snow on the ground as it was. The story I heard was wild winds would be coming to as well as more snow.

 It did get wooley too but the location was well sheltered under the mountain and while i got snow I could only hear the Banshee Winds Screaming.

I had a chevy k-10 4x4 with a cap, and that tarp was factory folded back there. I wanted to open that tarp for the first time and didn't understand really just how big it was.

In a one lane wide dirt rd I began to open it, and found there was no way this much space was going to work, so I tried to fold it back, but could not since air entered and it was pretty cold in the teens, and that stuff got stiff.

I stuffed it as i could back in the truck bed. On the last push the air welled up and pushed me back out and I fell off the tailgate to plop on the ground. :D

 I made my way to a camp parking lot that was closed but had been plowed a few times so the snow there was only 3 feet deep or so.

There, I was able to slit the stitching in the box ends and with a board, nail, long bit of string mark and cut a 18 foot tall, 36 ft wide, 1/2 circle which is the size that tee -pee was.

The whole point of this tail is getting pushed physically out of my own truck bed by a tarp filled partly with air.. At the time I was nervous knowing the storm was coming, and it wasn't very funny to me then, but looking back, it is now.

 

 

2:00 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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Did someone say Tipi? That must have been a heck of a tarp you were messing with LP!  I bet it made a very durable tipi.

They certainly are easy to make out of a tarp, lots of fun, and can be surprisingly decent shelters.

Since this is an instructional thread for beginners I reckon I’ll show how I go about making a simple Tipi from a tarp.

Lay out a big tarp –


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In the center of one edge hammer a stake and tie a line to it. This line is used to mark out the circular bottom hem by tying a marker to it, and while yer at it draw a sharp W up at the top.

This gets cut out and the center V gets folded over and glued down to form a tie point for the top suspension line.  


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Mark out the big semicircle and draw out some smoke flaps in the unused corners. Yes, those are the silliest looking smoke flaps I drew out there you’ll probably ever see.


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Cut everything out, and using contact cement glue and fold over the bottom circular hem with a cord in the seam.

Layout and glue the smoke flaps to the top of the tipi opening. It helps to have a good picture of a tipi to see what this is supposed to look like!

You’ll need grommets or pockets for pole tips on the top of the smoke flaps for the poles that hold them up, and grommets or tie-outs on the bottom of them for cords.

Cut slits in the hem when the glue dries and tie stake down loops.

Select and trim poles. They need to be a few feet longer than the tipi.


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Set up the tripod and tie yer lifting pole to the top suspension line.  This pole is used to raise the tipi cover into place. Then ya sorta wrap it around the tripod, tie it closed and stake it down. You can see the stake down loops on the bottom hem in this photo. Don't be surprised if it takes a while to sort it all out the first time, and it's probably best to learn with a smaller tipi. This tipi is just a ten footer, just big enough to sleep two or three people with a small fire.


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Warming up in a partially erected tipi


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Quite comfortable in there. I’ve lived for weeks in a tipi and know someone that spent a Canadian winter in one.


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Well anyway, that’s one way to go about it!   

Edited to add - Oh yeah, LP and my experiences aside, it is indeed possible to layout and make a tipi without snow and ice on the ground... Or so I hear...

2:59 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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Your pics bring back some memories of the 21 years I lived in such tarp-covered tipis---from 1980 to 2001.  My mantra was---"With a bow saw and some cordage and tarps, a man can build and live in a tipi."  A woodstove helps and is MUCH better than an open fire.


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Like yours, my tipi had a set of poles in a 17 foot diameter circle with debarked poplar poles and locust poles.  Then wrapped with numerous tarps.  This is my buddy Johnny Be up for a visit.  The old steel salvaged filing cabinets could be locked with a chain for valuables when I was gone to town.


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Of course you can't live in a tipi without a woodstove as an open fire just ain't the same.  This set up got me thru the Blizzard of '93 and all else.  There was no smoke hole on top---I capped it off with tarps and cut the hourglass effect down and ran the stovepipe out a double sized door.


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My old dog had his special sleeping spot.


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Maggie liked to visit.  My older stove is cooking rice.  Behind the dog is part of my door---an old chestnut trunk cut to fit.  Inside the tipi I had a "liner" of blue tarps.


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The outside of the lodge was covered in canvas tarps held down from high winds with painted, debarked poles.  My security came in the form of numerous rows of cut and split wood.

3:30 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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I was wondering about the name Tipi Walter! That is a heck of allot of fire wood you got stacked up there!

Great photos!

I completley agree about the wood stove. The tipi I lived in for a short while up in the colorado rockies when I was 15 had a wood stove and beds! It was very comfortable indeed.

My freind who spent a Canadian winter living in tipis with a pile of extended family did not have stoves. Everyone cut firewood all the time to stay alive! Even the young children had little saws to lend a hand. She told me that it takes about a cord of wood a week in real cold weather to heat a tipi with an open fire, and they went into the winter with no wood stacked...

But an open fire is fun, if dangerous. I made that tipi above in a single day in time for a Christmas gathering of family. I had eight kids all squished in there around the fire toasting marshmallows with me. I was in the seat of honor opposite the door which was a mistake because I couldn't run away -   

These kids had never once before in their lives toasted marshmallows over an fire ( can you imagine that? ). In a very short time each one had a flaming marshmallow on the end of a stick and was waving it around franticly trying to extinguish it, and the flames and molten marshmallow went everywhere! I almost drew a knife and cut my way out the back to escape!

   

   

4:07 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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Damn, EtdBob, you about worked to tucker me out today !

I need help getting pics on to this site. Will my photobucket account ever work on here?

Anyway my tee pee was canvass and had been set up since Sept of that year and every other year we lived in it. because a wild storm was coming in either January or Feb, of that year I wanted to cover the cover, and of course there was a inner liner and even a ozan.

Somewhat less snow would have made the job less of a chore but I wasn't about to plow a whole parking lot just to do a minor chore, and back then $ were real hard to come by.

I wasn't worried about smoke flaps, since the canvass cover had them. I was worried about icing high winds and more snow.

The Killer Whale Hide made the canvass slippery and harder once it was laced on in the typical fashion, using 20 penny nails because i had them, instead of sticks, which would have taken longer.

A friend came in morning to warn me and there is only so much working light at that time of year.

Next time you go to making a tee pee try cutting as big a 1/2 circle as you can. to see what i mean try it with a note book paper first.

..................................................................................................................

Tipi Walter, I too had a wood stove in my lodges. But I also had open fire and so the cracked and broken wood stove also acted as a reflector and was partly in the fire pit. With any luck at all it held coals for in morning.

For stove pipe i just used 2 section about 4 feet, which put the top just over my head standing. Smoke from both the open fire and the stove went out in the typical and historical way thru the flaps.

We still took the lodge down over the 3 years Sept to Sept to Sept till it ended to attend primitive events, where once i was accused of painting the lodge poles glossy black :D I just laughed hard at that accuser and told him it wasn't paint.. Looked like a great black lacquer job too!

Where was that as i was in the blizzard in MD in 93? That later as i was told was the Storm of the Century.

The lodge was well sheltered there too, but the road into the place was 4 feet deep.

Am I to understand you lived that way for 21 years straight? WOW..

And yeah i cut wood all the time too. 2 years in Md.. the first Sept to Sept was at a camp ground and i became Mr Fix It,  which paid the rent for the spot and got me fire wood not always so dry. That year the tee pee was a 14 footer and tight for 2.

The 2nd year the tipi was sold for a bigger one at 18 feet, and the location changed in Sept but i was still cutting wood for the camp ground almost every day and doing assorted labors and working as a care taker.

A point came where for personal reasons i had to return to my NH and so i did, and in that Sept year 3 began and as you would know starting a camp new in Sept in a colder place means taking a lot of dead and down and some living white ash which will burn off the stump.

I guess i could have spent the rest of my days doing that but i wouldn't have really wanted to. 21 years seems harsh.

 Since I need help getting any pics up, and can't for the moment, when I mention primitive events you guys could search Buck Skinners, nmlra rendezvous, which will help understand parts of my back ground and maybe check the images.

At my time it was a tipi pretty much or nothing at all. It wasn't just for fun.

On Edit: I found where you were.....  Watauga County I was just a bit north in Md next to the AT trail in the Gapland area off South Mt. Did the same storm.

5:44 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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Okay it's March in Newfoundland, I'm a bit bored, and I've got one of those gigantic boat-covering tarps. You fellows are giving me ideas...

7:27 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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Lodge Pole---

I couldn't drive to my lodge and instead cut a one mile trail from where I parked and switchbacked up to the top of a 3,500 foot ridge with an elevation gain of about 800-1,000 feet---which meant I had to haul everything up that blasted mountain, including the butt heavy woodstove.  I rolled it like a domino.  My old backpack stayed in action.


The only harsh thing about being in a tipi for 21 years---it was permanent in a rural setting but I wanted to be in more of a wilderness setting, and so in order to do so legally I chucked the permanent lodge for the movable Tent-As-Tipi and traded in the woodstove for a WM Puma goose down sleeping bag.  Sitting in a tent in the winter w/o a woodstove is crappy but the geese help, and I now have a giant wilderness area to roam.


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How to survive in the winter?  Several ways---

**  Put chicken wire around the perimeter of the tipi and fill it with dead leaves for insulation.  This chore occurs every October after the leaves fall.  Get your raking chops ready.

**  Cap off the top of the tipi with several layers of canvas---and of course cutting off the trad hourglass effect of the standard tipi. My tipi poles were 14 feet long before setting up, making for a 17-18 foot diameter lodge.

**  THEN make a double front door and run the stovepipe out horizontally and raise it vertically outside.  Voila.  No wind flaps, no ever water leaks or blown in snow.  The pipe is held in place with fence wire.

The above pic shows Johnny Be checking out the new canvas tarps I carried up to refurbish the cover.  The poles are mandatory for wind protection.  I remember carrying all that canvas up in one trip and it kicked my sac.


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Here's part of the one mile trail up to the tipi.  I routed it to go under this old giant oak.


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This is a neverending but exhilarating job with tipi living---Cutting and splitting wood.  How many maul handles did I go thru?  Dozens.


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My first woodstove was a piece O crap from a dumpster which I reconfigured extensively using 8 inch stovepipe for the sides and copious stove cement.  It always smoked.  Then I got my fancy Atlanta Works box stove!


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The blizzard of '93 shut down the mountains of North Carolina and we went back to 10,000BC for a week.  Just the way I like it.  The roads closed, the jets stopped.  Thank God for that.


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A random mystical dog would hike the ridge trails and would occasionally stick his head in and say hello and then be on his way.  I never did get his name but I knew he was Holy.


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Here's the view from my ridgetop Tipi.  School's in session at Ridgetop University.  The far mountain is Rich Mt and Howard's Knob, with Boone, NC on the other side.  Watauga River is in the valley below.


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No tipi is complete without the necessary sweatlodge frame, as shown. 


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One thing about being in a tipi on a mountain ridge---Wind.  I went thru many many flags.  This one is the Oklahoma state flag---my home state.  You always face the door of your lodge to the east because in NC the worst winter winds come from the west, as above.


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Finally, Little Mitten comes up for a visit to check out the old lodge.  Old hiking sticks (yellow one) became woodpile holders.

7:54 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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Tipi Walter, i spent a good part of the afternoon checking you out by way of info you have in your profile. Most impressive. You live other peoples dreams.

I noted a good bit of your preps too. One thing i don't understand is the red and yellow painted sticks you have now mentioned 2 times. 

 My tipi's were able to be moved on a whim.... If course i had a truck to do that. Also only the first winter was i able to park close, and by the last move it was a fair haul but no mile to carry in anything.
lodge-2.jpg

If you look close there is smoke coming out the flaps on this tipi and this is where later in the winter i covered this tipi with the rip stop Killer Whale Hide.. The wooden light color box was for foods as was the darker metal box behind it. Another box not in the picture was a old VW engine crate added pink 2" foam to as insulation. A point came where we added boiling water into old 1 gallon milk jugs to prevent foods from freezing.

By the foliage this is before Oct 12th of the year and it is in the Ossipee's a ancient NH volcano, a Ringdike. (topo map and zip code 03886)

I only have this 1 photo of the tipi in this location. Dollars were hard to come by and still are somewhat. This was a means of survival not a dream.

Later i may move a few other photos of a 55 gallon barrel stove I had there. I have another now for boiling off maple sugar.

And since this is the tarps thread this lodge is what i use now and is 2 tarps and 2 tipi liners.
Lodge1.jpg

I doubt i would want to winter in this ever, but in 3 seasons it can't be beat. You can have a open fire anywhere in the center line, and it can be closed up pretty well and or totally opened, like all 4 sides.

Ground stakes only hold the canvass open and out, and none are needed to hold it up.

 

The pole sets are as follow:

(2) tripods in the typical way.

A ridge pole across

(2) 1 pole added to each tripod

(2) 1 lift pole for each end canvass

(6) stakes

Rope

(3) smoke flap poles

(6) short poles to prevent the canvass from sagging inwards

It takes a couple hours to assemble it and or take it down, but for a 3 days weekend primitive event it's a lot of fun.

of course this isn't to be backpackable with out horses.

7:57 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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Islandess said:

Okay it's March in Newfoundland, I'm a bit bored, and I've got one of those gigantic boat-covering tarps. You fellows are giving me ideas...

 Aye lassie, so did you.... A bit later in Spring in my neck of the wood there will be used heat shrink boat covers free for the taking.  :-)

Do take care with FIRE.... plastics and fire can make for a bad hair day.

8:30 p.m. on March 1, 2013 (EST)
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I knew the northern plains Indians would join 2 large tipis together to form council lodges and some of their single lodges were as great as 30 feet in diameter.  Huge.


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One of the best tipi makers in North America is Darry Wood out of western NC.  Here is one of his lodges at a powwow gathering in Union Grove, NC.


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Eustace Conway is an old tipi hand and here I am standing in one of his tipis on his land at Turtle Island Preserve in NC.  Check out my homemade hudson bay blanket "capote".


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In the "backyard" of my tipi and on the same ridge was this "hobby" tipi put up by some friends on a little mountain called Love Knob.  In the far right distance you can see Snake Mt and Tater Mt, two high points in Watauga County.  I had a nice trail which connected my lodge to their lodge and we'd meet sometimes.  An early 1990's windstorm ate it.


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Here's my buddy Johnny Be's tipi in Celo, NC and I think it's an old Nomadics which he painted.  He lived in this for several years.


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This is NOT my picture but one taken by Darry Wood so he gets all the credit.  It shows what a real interior of a lodge is supposed to look like as Darry is an expert on Indian regalia and especially Cherokee regalia and also an expert on plains Indian tipis.  The painted liner is very nice and it inspired me to make my own painted parfleche containers, etc.  I still prefer a woodstove.

10:13 a.m. on March 2, 2013 (EST)
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Eustice Conway is on the tv show mountain men. I know tv isnt big hete on ts, but that is a great show. It follows several men who live off the land, from north carolina to alaska.

1:03 p.m. on March 2, 2013 (EST)
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2:51 p.m. on March 2, 2013 (EST)
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Checked out the links. It seems the State has it in for Mr Conway. I don't recall ever hearing of him. I am certain both he and the state have a point to make.

The ways of modern man can be somewhat different to the buck Skinner type, and then so can modern man, with odd ways of dealing with basics in life.

We are living in uncertain times, and I personally don't see any end soon or perhaps even in what's left of my time to ponder and wander Earth.

I can't say I haven't felt that sting either, but being new here, I don't want to get out of hand or be thought of as anything other than what I am. That would be older, slower, and no longer 10 feet tall or bullet proof anymore :-)

But I might be able to allude it was once a delight to see 2 gamies hand cuffed to each other with a tree in the middle for a time of 3 days. I don't know how long they stayed there, as i was the one to leave in the 3 days.

They were given a very dull file food and water though.

The trouble was over paying enormous amounts of tax payers cash to a Native for real eagle feathers, and the fact that the gamies could not arrest the native, but did attempt to arrest a man who only was asked to make change.

There is just some things no one should do in a camp full of Skinners..

My personal involvement was strictly limited to a big grin any time I happened to look upon the said gamies.

 

Lodges.... I can't say as i truely recall the brand name, but it may have been Nomadic's. I recall a tree being a part of the logo.

Locally we have the "tentsmiths" in Conway NH, and i am familiar with those folks in person, and they did make the tan color tarps for me by order and request some time back now and I am very happy with the materials and quality of their workmanship. (see that hunter's lodge in my pics above)

I can only recall that lodge's dates by the poles sets, as these poles are 3 years old now and the first set were 17 when they became useless.

I tend to prefer Balsum Fir due to the lighter weight, and the very straight way they grow. I have permission to access trees like this, and when I can't have that type i will settle for white spruce in a similar size.

In my life I have never bought a single pole, but i have given plenty away, when in a camp setting someone broke what ever they had, and needed a replacement.

I appear to be pretty fussy about poles and boat masts too.

The largest tipi I have ever seen so far was in Swatara Pa (sp)

That one I believe was 36 feet tall, and was transported on a normal size school bus converted to a camper. There was a crane to assist lifting the lift pole and the canvass cover on the bis too.

I came pretty close to riding my horse of the time right into that lodge as a joke but thought better of it before i did. I will admit to doing almost anything if it will get a person to laugh out loud.

I suspect many here haven't had the easiest of life styles and know most clowns have suffered some. Or maybe had choices taken that shouldn't have been, and so may not reveal pain from basic living with modern man and so have become jokers and clowns, and maybe i resemble something like that.

I haven't been accused of a dull moment yet. On the other hand the other day on here someone ventured to indicate I was 'smart' ! That did make me laugh out loud too! I ain't no angel, that's my wife's job.

 

I may still have paper pictures somewhere i can scan... I used to have some inside lodge(s) pics from the days before Columbine, when I brought living history to schools, camps, library's, town historical society's and etc...... My favorites were the old age and nursing homes because you could mock them all out and every one laughed no matter how bad the jokes were ...

One could bellow at old blue hair ladies with hearing aids that were almost useless, and they would sit there, cock their heads and look up in my face with a pleasant smile and asked if i were their relatives.

3:02 p.m. on March 2, 2013 (EST)
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Thing was, I most often looked like this at these times! 
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EtdBob, I am sorry i missed your question on tarp size.

The tractor trailer tarp was apx 50 or 60 feet long, and once the box ends were slit open and then cut off it may have been 50 or 60 feet long by about 24 feet wide.

The 2 end pieces cut off were about 12 x 10 each if i recall well. Think of it like cutting a bottom of a shoe box open at first, to lay it out flat, then get rid of the both ends that won't get the full width.

Besides make a full (18 x 36) 1/2 circle there was a lot more to use and at one point or another it was all used.

10:07 p.m. on March 5, 2013 (EST)
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I did buy a 12 x 12 kelty tarp, but of course it hasn't arrived. This was directly because of this thread.

 I plan to use it with my wife camping and combined with a 3 season kelty tent i bought years ago. I have forgotten the name of the tent, but it is smaller 2 persons with 2 poles going into dead ends inside sleeves. No hooks to get tangled up after dark.

A part of the idea is more out door space than a tent I can't cook in, for on rainy days and NH gets a lot of rainy days unless it's snowin'.

I wouldn't dare light a stove in a modern tent, and I like hot food. But if I hang this up in rain high enough it will shelter that 12x12 area enough to light a stove under it, and shelter us enough to be out of the tent itself.

In black Fly season here it is nearly impossible to enjoy yourself in the woods with out getting a bad case of chomp.

Only way around that is a fire and IMO fire and poly are not a good mix ever.

 

This won't be my last modern tarp, as i plan to have another in camo, but i am not sure which one. I am not very fond of the woven type tarps for the weave and for the noise...

 

I'ld like to try that silk silicon treated super cloth but they are so pricey......

And last pretty much I am only into square tarps, things no less than 10x 10, and 12 x 12 suits me well since squares made for a good diamond shelter a favored set of mine.

9:47 a.m. on March 6, 2013 (EST)
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LODGEPOLE---You have a good trail name when discussing tipi poles.  Did you know that the Lakota uses a 28 pole tipi when using the lodge for ceremony?  I remember a story of White Buffalo Woman who brought the pipe and so the tribe prepared for her visit with a 28 pole tipi.  Why 28?  Four (sacred number) times Seven (sacred number).

The tipi I built was "permanent" and I used 42 poles in the thing to windstand hard ridgetop winds.  In fact, 20 of the poles were locust, which grow very straight when young and can be peeled like pine, with a drawknife. (The rest were pine and poplar).  These babies are strong and the locals use locust for fence posts and some old timers even adze them for floor planking.  It's hard to even hammer a nail thru them.  So, they make excellent tipi poles that will never rot or break.  Which comes in handy as the pole ends sit in the dirt for 15 or 20 years.

**  Modern society definitely makes tricksters out of some of us.
  But Miss Nature is the biggest trickster of all.


THE WITU


A discussion of tarps isn't complete without the mention of the witu or wigwam lodge.  I lived in a 14 foot diameter Witu from 2003 to 2005 and covered it with several large pieces of buckskin colored canvas.  It is made just like a sweatlodge by putting a pin in the center of the ground and getting a 14 foot cord to make a circle around the post and making all the sapling holes.

Then you hammer in a big strong stake to make all the sapling holes and drop each sapling in its hole and bend and tie and Voila!  You've got the frame.  These kind of wattle-whatever frames are very strong and can withstand snow load and wind.


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Here's the tarp-covered Witu in action on Chickasaw Creek in TN.  Check out the stovepipe coming out which connected to a small woodstove. 


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The door of the Witu is held up with a stick.


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After the Witu disintegrated and the black widows started swarming, I decided to go with a 12x12 Cabelas tent with a zipped up inner tent as protection from East TN lowland bugs.  Woke up in the Witu once with a scorpion on my pillow.  Anyway, while not nearly as fun or warm as a wood heated tipi, this set up works well if you use a propane Mr Buddy in-tent heater, made esp for interior use. You can see the gas tank.  Just something to consider.

11:24 a.m. on March 7, 2013 (EST)
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Tipi Walter, I did not know about the 28 poles lodge, but while we have no natural grown locust so fas as i know we have growing locust here. I just don't know how it got here.

We have a saying that locust fence posts will out last granite by 10 years.

I got into a mess of honey and black locusts when I was in Md. None of that was what i would call straight though. I had some problems with one, the other, maybe both burning it in a open camp fire inside a tipi.

In a open fire a section of wood say 20 inches long split to say be a triangle with on loose reason as a end profile, would burn in a well behaved manner and come to a point where the log appeared to have measured itself somehow slots of open air space

As best i can do on line |^^^^^^^^^^^^^| At that point things got ugly and the pointy hunks would start to pop off and zing out of the fire pit blue white hot and land where ever after bouncing off the rain liner.....

Since these chunks were still blue white hot is was something of a problem to handle one in bare hands. LOL.

Saw a like thing here in a wood stove 'insert' thing in a modern house. I don't know anything about wood stove inserts other than they look nice and have glass doors. That glass must be pretty good stuff, because i saw this same thing happen in one and wondered if the glass could stand the gaff.

I have a buddy who made a low lodge just like that, but his was made to be portable so as it could moved to events. We called it The Wasp Nest. And it had 'French Doors' made of 2 wide boards of salty pond drift wood.

That guys camp name was 'Old Woman' LOL He is still alive, but no longer attends camps, since he can no longer stand his own bitchin'

Whatcha' gonna' do?

....................................................................................................................

HUH WHAT? Black Widows?  I didn't know there were any of these in Tn. I do know there is scorpions and that nasty little SOB the Brown Recluse.

So far I have not been tangled up with any scorps other than once in FLA one made my neighbor ladies stand on their couch and scream bloody murder and did i ever look the fool showing up with a Govt .45 to get a scorpion. North Miami things ya know?

I took that scorp and put it in a gold fish bowl with a big spider on fish tank gravel and a rock and they went round and round...

In Md a streamlet got high and ran it's banks where then the water threatened my tipi. I took to cutting a big dead and down willow in the stream with my saw, and in no time i had the streamlet running free and clear again (snow melt of that Perfect Storm)

However i was in water over my boot, to mid thigh. I just wish I got my shirt tails wet, as my wife brought me dry things and i changed right there brookside. New jeans new socks different boots.

Unknown to me i tucked in a brown recluse and it bit my right though on the outside 8 times. I will save the details other than it was a very ugly situation for many months. Months had gone by when it was time to go to Voo, and there at Voo the brain tan legging for that leg was eaten too. It became filled with a fluid and basically fell apart.... I have a whole other outlook now on spiders, but i still don't kill them just because.

When I was in southern Cal I was taught about the BW, and in no time i was the best widder hunter those folks ever saw. They kill the BW on sight out there. That's there call... I never killed one myself, I just hunted them to report. One lady went about nutso when i saw on just crawling on her living room ceiling.. Mid day.... I had told her husband and he was coming with a spunge and a newspaper already and she was just following, but freaked since the BW was not in an acceptable place so far as she was concerned. ;-)

12:19 p.m. on March 7, 2013 (EST)
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A nice discussion.  I have not lived in tipis for more than about a week at a time, but I am a real fan and have been amazed at the affect they have on people.  I have been throwing winter tent parties for 35 years with wall tents, Baker tents and a "leanpi" set up as a wind block near the cooking fire.  For years we had buffalo roasts and had them for Thanksgiving.

Once I found an 18 foot tipi everything changed.  People got all misty eyed and spiritual watching the moon rise from the East thru the smokehole.  They reveled in the warmth of a tipi with a properly set liner.  They liked the firelight bouncing off the white canvas walls, people spitting tequila in the flames.  Sometimes we have squeezed close to 30 people in one singing loud songs.  I usually have an outside fire also.

A few years ago we had some serious snow, and it took snowshoes to get to the horse and mule corrals.  Two weeks later we had a tent party in the tipi.  The high was 28 degrees with 20 inches of snow on the ground and freezing fog.  The night was surreal and people still love to talk about that party 10 years later.  My uncle lived in a tipi on Orcas Island, WA for a summer.

 

5:30 p.m. on March 7, 2013 (EST)
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The tipi design has evolved over the millenium from a crude tripod of sticks with a few animals hides held down by a circle of rocks to the Art of the Canvas Tipi as we know it today. 

In all the years I lived in my ridgetop tipi, I never got tired of popping out on the ridge trail and seeing the tipi in the distance.  In fact, it always made me feel happy.

Tipis were designed to be covered in snow.  Most of us live in houses now but they are nothing like a simple 16 or 18 foot tipi.  My buddy Garland Humble Bear followed the powwow trail with his Tipis.  It's a way of living outdoors that gets into a person's blood.

10:33 p.m. on March 7, 2013 (EST)
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I no longer own a tipi, but i will again one day. It might not be a store bought this time but that's ok.

You know more about that Tipi Walter than I do. 21 + years is a long long time.

 

This summer i will be about some mc camping. I have a big fat Kawi Nomad and it can pull a trailer. Mostly these camps will be back in the woods a bit to be legal for camp fire, and i will try to have fire in only places that did have fire before or which i know several.

With modern gear all fires will need to be far from tentage. I know all to well what happens with modern materials and fire.

 

To get back on topic a little today the kelty 12x 12 tarp I ordered showed up. The reality is REI made it get here yesterday but i was unable to pick it up at the PO. A plug for REI.. I don't work for them or anyone else....

The new tarp is not 'Cool Gray' but is a burnished bronze. I have a Vortex II tent and was expecting the cool gray. This new to me color is fine though, as it will blend as well as gray or better..

It came with 4 lines. 2 of the lines are longer than the other 2 by far. I have not un-coiled these lines and may never.

Also there were 6 alloy stakes, and a carry case made of the same material, with nice zippers, but i would have chosen a stuff sack over this case.

This tarp will have several chores.. It will be a Diamond shelter for us, and for gear. A wind break a changing shelter of sorts for bike use.

i do not do pedal bikes just motorcycle bikes but i use the word bike for motorcycles. I will wear this tarp out for sure....

It won't go to primitive events, and it won't see any fires with in 20 feet and then it will be up wind.

By next winter i want my wife to team up and take me winta' campin' :-) I hope by then to have a 3-4 season convertible tent, as i don't really need a winter only 4th season tent. We each have gortex bivey sacks now.

10:58 p.m. on March 10, 2013 (EDT)
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I hope in the next 2 weeks to be able to write a credible report for the 12 x 12 kelty tarp I recently bought.

Today I set it up as a Diamond Set a favorite way for me to camp in a tarp, or store gear.

I got pics loaded here a moment ago, and wanted to post a few to see how they look.
DSC08407web.jpg

This morning i made these red 'Snow Stakes' as i have no idea what to call them. The snow here is way to deep to use dirt stakes. The red material is heavy duty nylon from 1 old gaiter cut to be 4 pieces. A new life for old junk. The cord is 550 cord mil spec.


DSC08419web.jpg

I wanted to explain this picture as it is as many colors as i could get inside the tarp with the sun behind me. This is because light can ruin the feel of a tent particularly when the tent is blue.

The light is fairly neutral, as we all know what blue jeans, red gaiters, and cheaper olive drab closed cell foam look like.


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This is a high paid Hollywood super model, I can't afford for her to take off all her cloths in winter. ;-)

She has plenty of head room to flip her hair huh? :-)


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She is about 5' 7" and here standing for scale.

This isn't my real report but it indicates i am pleased so long as this is as good as my Kelty Vortex II has been.

What caught me by surprise is I thought this cool gray was the same as the votex ii. It isn't.

11:47 a.m. on April 16, 2013 (EDT)
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So if you get one of these tarps plus bug nets (it seems like all the cottage gear brands have this option) is  that as good as a tent for weather and bug protection? how about ease of use?

4:39 p.m. on April 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Uh, maybe yes and then again, maybe no.

Heh, how that for an answer? For three season use I'd say a tarp is fine, especially down below the tree line and certainly for easy beginner trips, and experienced users can make use of tarps anywhere. Of course, this statement can ( and has been ) debated.

I find a simple tarp to be the easiest thing on the planet to set up, especially the diamond pitch where one corner of the tarp is tied off to a tree. Nothing is simpler or faster to pitch. But you can't use a bug tent under it very easily.

I find some of the fancy shaped tarps like the old Gossamer Gear Spinn Twinn a pain in the butt to set up, and I can pitch my tents faster and easier.  

One thing is certain, tarps are generally much lighter and much cheaper than tents, and this is good news for all who mush shell out hard earned coin to buy and then carry their shelter on their backs.

Some folk just like tents. Some folk just like tarps. Some folks ( like me ) like and use both.

Bottom line, best advice I got for ya, is go and get an inexpensive tarp or make one of window film, and give it a try in your backyard or a near by park. Try several of the pitches in this thread, see which ones you like.  It may be just the thing for you.

 

4:49 p.m. on April 16, 2013 (EDT)
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seraphicd, It isn't for me in nylon, and in bug season, but it might be for someone else. For me it is a place to stand, move around cook under if it is set higher than I have here on a stove that burns non wood fuel.

1 spark and the Kelty tarp has a hole. IMO this tarp costs too much to be holed for a meal.

I don't like getting pinned down in a small back pack tent, where all i can do is sit if it's raining.

You are thinking of 'tarp tents' which have these other options.

This kelty is set in what is called the diamond set, and for that the tarp should be dead square not the current cut it is which is typical these days.

IMO open flame any nylon is a big sin, and even an enclosed candle is a risk of at least wrecking the gear, of not worse.

Canvass is another whole game, not that they can't be burned down.

Ease of use to me can be as simple at 1 pole, some line and 5 stakes made of sticks you find in the woods, or rocks. or you can get complicated.

There are a lot of ways to set up a square tarp and more for a rectangle.

Read this thread and you will find all sorts of conflicting info.

I saw a canvass tarp set as a diamond be the last tent standing after a tornado knocked down everything else except 2 tipis at the South Eastern Voo in Bledso St Pk in Tn Spring 2006. That was set real low and the owner set it lower yet just before the Hell broke loose.

After that a lot of people had no choice but to go home at their lodge poles were more like tooth picks and the canvass was torn.

1:22 a.m. on May 15, 2013 (EDT)
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This may be a tongue-in-cheek reply, but a cautionary tale to be told, nonetheless. Every camper starts out with their first trip someplace, and from that trip onward, they begin a never-ending learning process.

Now, what kind of story time would it be without a good horror story?

One October, my girlfriend and I went on our first car camping trip together to the Frontier Wilderness Campground in Egg Harbor, WI. For those of you unfamiliar, that would be part of the Door Peninsula and Door County. For those of you still unfamiliar?

Hold out your left hand, palm facing downward.

Door County = your left thumb, outstretched.

(See? Didn't even need to Google it!)

Late October is daunting enough of a time to camp in the region, what with the chill of the season, and how it's heightened by the winds coming off of Green Bay.

Highs were forecasted in the lower 50's. The lows in the low 40's.

The cold we expected and we dressed accordingly for.

And then the rain came.

And for two whole days, it hung out like the last guest at your house party you just can't get to leave.

Locals called it the worst weather Sister Bay saw in 30+ years of their fall festival. The annual parade was cancelled, and those either brave or crazy enough ducked from one building/tent into the next to enjoy it as best they could.

Well, our Coleman Montana 4 Tent wasn't much a match. 

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Tarps, though? Tarps saved the day. Well, days. Plural.

Since the canopy of the tent was mesh, I had to hang and tie-off line to get a tarp up over tent, then pitch it without the rain turning the bathtub floor into a literal bathtub. 

Once I finished pitching our tent, the same tarp became our dining fly.

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Trying to make something of a compromise between sufficient headroom and long enough side walls, this was the improvised design and solution.

We'd enough covered space on the low end to sit in a couple folding chairs and eat, while we'd room to stand on the higher side to do our prep and cooking. 

For the first afternoon through the first night, this got us by fine.

The next morning we woke up to what seemed like the kind of condensation that only exists in campers' nightmares. Like something out of a cartoon, it dripped straight onto our faces...and all over our sleeping bags and gear.

The rain was fell so steadily and so consistently hard that it permeated straight through the rainfly, weighing it down atop the mesh canopy, and eventually coming right down atop us.

Luckily - if nothing else - I brought my trusty, multi-use tarp.

For some perspective:

A Coleman Montana 4? Retailed for around $100.

A hardware store tarp? Costs no more than $20.

The lesson we learned? Priceless.

Unsheathed my SAK, used the picnic table as a makeshift stepladder (don't worry, LNT'ers...picked it up and carried it over), and promptly cut down the dining fly.

Guess where it was being placed next?

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Without so much as a second thought, I shook off the rainwater, flung it over the tent, and staked it down right through the grommet holes. There were a few mumbled expletives in there, but y'all don't need the full transcript.

It left just enough room near the bottom to still allow adequate ventilation while keeping most the rain (even the kind blowing sideways) out of our tent.

This setup lasted up another two days, and the rest of our trip.

Who knew I could've just set up a tarp to begin with, instead of buying the expensive, Coleman stand for it?

Once we were able to keep dry, we managed to enjoy the rest our trip.

The rain fell hard another whole day and night.

The wind grew so strong, that as we were getting ready to go to sleep the second night, we heard an entire tree snap and fall a couple hundred yards behind us.

Being the only tent campers up at the campground at the time, our efforts drew a lot of attention, but garnered up some respect points, extra firewood, and a borrowed space heater (run just long enough to dry the interior out - we didn't take it to bed with us!) from our new friends.

So...

...what's the first thing I do now, when I set up camp?

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Lesson. Learned.

The above picture was taken from a trip last month.

Nary a day in my life will you ever hear me disrespect the tarp!

Coleman tents, on the other hand...@#$%.

Well, all wasn't lost for the company. Coleman's two-burner hadn't forgotten how to scare up a good corned beef hash breakfast.

Because no day with CBH is a bad day.

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5:06 p.m. on August 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi guys,

I'd just like to open by saying that I have used this site, and the various contributions on it, several times in planning my camping trips. It is very useful and I really appreciate the advice given.

I do have a few questions on tarps but before I can ask them I need to do some explaining.

I currently own a large and heavy (15,5kg) Campmaster Camp Dome 600. This tent is 6m(l) x 3m (w) x 2m (h). I picked it up for a very low price and it has served me faithfully in both mid-winter and mid-summer. I live in South Africa and I mainly go camping in game reserves. 

I haven't had any problems with regards to heavy rain once the tent is up. However, it takes my friends and I around 20 minutes to pitch. This has been a problem most times! 

In Summer the tent fabric becomes incredibly hot or the typical SA thunderstorm hits, leaving us wet and dejected. 

The questions I would like to ask are:

Are there methods to pitch a tarp at around 2.5m above the ground so that we could pitch the tent underneath? What types of knots are needed etc.

And thinking about it now, would the tarp decrease the heat inside the tent? I've known it to hit 45 degrees Celcius at my favorite reserve.

I would love to have a gazebo but my camping trips are on an extremely tight budget,  due to university fees. Is there some way to rig up a tarp to provide gazebo-like effects and to ensure that the wind doesn't destroy it? 

Finally, what types of materials should the tarps be made of? Taking into account the above.

Thanks in advance for your help,

Rich

11:14 a.m. on August 11, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm not an expert in the use of tarps, but in  the circumstances you're talking about, anything that would keep the sun off the tent will help keep it cool.

In fact, that's one of the best ways of protecting your tent from sun or from rain if you're car-camping where I live. The sun hits the tarp, which provides a cool zone between it and the tent, keeping the tent at the same temperature as ambient rather than letting it heat up. And just a bit of an angle on the tarp will let water drain off and protect the tent from getting wet if it rains.

Most people just buy one of those cheap blue plastic tarps and some 1/4" nylon rope to hang it from. 

3:05 p.m. on August 12, 2013 (EDT)
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Howdy Rich!

Using a tarp to supplement a tent in extreme weather conditions is quite common. I often do so myself on canoe trips where I know I will  be dealing with heavy and frequent rain, and when traveling by canoe the extra weight isn't an issue. 

Late last October my wife and I went on a weekend canoe trip in Idaho. It rained all day long, and rained and snowed all that night.

We had a sturdy double wall tent on that trip but appreciated the extra protection afforded by a tarp strung up over it as well. 

These photos give some idea of how we rigged the tarp that night. The tarp was angled because a strong prevailing wind was blowing from the behind the tent. 


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It was nice to have a little sheltered space and to pack up an almost entirely dry tent the next day.

But as to how to pitch - Typically I string a ridge line between two trees. 1/4 inch cord is good, and I use a bowline knot on one end and a cargo hitch on the other to get the line good and taunt.

The ridge line it typically centered over the tent. Drape the tarp over the line and secure the for corners to handy trees. I often use cargo hitches on the corner lines as well and pull the tarp quite taunt.    

Sometimes when I pitch the tarp like this it looks like it is stretched out flat, and that's OK. Heavy rains will cause the sides to droop and spill accumulated water. Sometimes I save the accumulated water for drinking!  

Sometimes it's best to angle the tarp as show above because of high winds and wind driven snow/sleet/rain. 

 Another way is to simply use four corner lines to stretch out a tarp over a tent as shown by HornRimmedHiker above -

 


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It is probably wise to slant the tarp as show above when using this method. Without a ridge line it will not hold much accumulated rain without serious sagging so it needs to be slopped to shed any rain.

Of course, you need handy trees - Lots of cord and maybe a few extra stakes as well. Without handy trees it is more difficult but could still be done by carrying tall poles to support the ridge line and plenty of stakes and line to stake out the sides and poles.

As to the type of tarps, that kinds depends upon what you can afford. polyurethane coated nylon is what most tents are made of and the stuff makes great tarps as well. It is not to expensive and quite durable.

Silicone impregnated nylon or Silnylon is very popular because it is quite light weight, but it is kida expensive and although strong enough, it isn't as stout as polyurethane coated nylon ( I tore a nice hole in a silnylon tarptent last Friday night wen I tripped over a guy line! ).

There are exotic materials out there like cuben cloth that is amazingly light - and amazingly expensive - I have no experience with that stuff.

Polycryo is surprisingly light, cheap and strong, and I show some tarps I've made out of it above - But it is clear so would make a useless sun awning!

Lastly, we have woven polyethylene tarps. These are quite ubiquitous here in the states, and are very inexpensive and sturdy enough. They seem to range from light duty 4oz. material to 6 oz. material in the heavy duty versions. The light duty is strong enough if used with a little care. The tarp I started this thread with is such a light duty woven "poly" tarp.

You can google "Bowline knot" and "cargo hitch knot" if unfamiliar with them.               

 


    

3:16 p.m. on August 12, 2013 (EDT)
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I realized I had another picture where I used a "tarp" for just sun protection -


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This was a week long outdoor music festival that my wife took several nephews and a niece to. They used two double wall Tmberline tents but appreciated the canopy for protection from the sun. When a nylon tent is left set up all day long in the sun it gets quite hot indeed!

The canopy shown was from Harbor Freight and was quite inexpensive. Not particularly sturdy or durable, but it worked well enough for this trip. 

Heh, it's always interesting to see how the humble Tarp gets called upon to help out its rich cousin Mr. Tent when it turns out that Mr. Tent can't deal with the sun or rain after all! 

Rich, If you become comfortable enough and skilled in the use of a tarp you may find yourself leaving the tent at home and taking just the tarp and perhaps some mosquito netting for shelter!  

6:37 p.m. on August 12, 2013 (EDT)
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I've posted this video elsewhere. This was a backyard test, but I've used this set up on multiple occasions in colder weather. It takes a lot more effort to set this up, but I've stayed dry in heavier snow & rain than this.

Someone mentioned being enclosed from animals. I recall one night where I had a vivid dream of a raccoon sniffing at me in my hammock. Thing is, I'm not entirely sure it was a dream. Can't be sure.

1:28 a.m. on August 13, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks very much for the advice guys! 

I'm looking forward to trying it out, hopefully soon!

Just got to buy the gear and practice getting it up properly :)

10:40 a.m. on August 13, 2013 (EDT)
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A beginners

i joined this forum recently and i don't know how to use it so please help me here to increase my knowledge

10:54 a.m. on August 13, 2013 (EDT)
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DSC_0116.jpg

This is the tent i was referring to. Might need a BIG tarp!

1:28 p.m. on August 13, 2013 (EDT)
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Tarp vs. Tent. Wow Bob's posting generated a lot of discussion. When I started back packing in the early 1960's, tents were quite heavy, any poles were not shock corded, and tarps were what I used in summers here in the Cascades. They required a ground sheet and if the bugs were bad a piece of netting over the mouth of the mummy bag worked ok. Pitching was an issue...finding the right trees, rigging a ridgeline while it poured wasn't much fun, and nearly impossible on occasion. Puddles both on the tarp and underneath were common. Which is why I find it interesting when Bob references tarps vs. tents and says, "Tents are much harder to set up than tarps." I think that tarps have their usefullness, but easier to set up than the shock corded, color coded tents today? Certainly, while climbing I spent many nights in various bivies and cagoules and they are simple to, "set up", but they are not comfortable.

Tarps take practice and the ability to be creative. Pitch your tent in a low spot and it is easy to move, if a free standing one. A tarp is a different matter.

IMHO tarps can be very useful for cooking under in poor weather, storing gear, etc. I always take a tarp on my northern trips as a group area. But to send out a newbie with a tarp might just be that person's last trip into the outdoors. If the weather goes south, they are likely to be uncomfortable, and that is reason enough to not recommend them for a beginner. You want to entice beginners with how wonderful the outdoors is and how comfortable it can be, instead of sitting them down under a cheap poorly rigged tarp and a dime store sleeping bag, handing them a can of sardines and saying, "Now isn't this fun?"

2:31 p.m. on August 13, 2013 (EDT)
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Yeah, this thread sure has run on awhile, hasn't it?

Erich, I think a tarp can indeed be easier and faster to set up than a tent, and offer better protection to boot, at least under certain circumstances. If I may ask, how were you setting up your tarp for shelter back in the day that gave you so much trouble?

But I'm not trying to argue with anyone. The sole reason I started this thread was to give a few tips on the use of tarps to beginners - Maybe they would have helped you out a bit when you were starting out back then?  

And I do feel that every outdoors-person should have at least a passing familiarity with proper tarp usage because well, you never know.

Consider one of my favorite pitches. It is so simple I can have it set up in 60 seconds, faster than I can pitch any tent - 

 


P7130055.jpg
    

Just tie one cormer of your tarp to a tree, pull it out and stake down the opposite corner. Then stake down the other two corners. Done! 

Sgt Rock writes about this pitch on his web site as well, and if I may steal his photos to further illustrate the idea -


MVA-027F.JPG


SA72002b%20017.jpg


SA72002b%20018.jpg

Very weather worthy shelter that is easy to set up. Start by tying a corner to a tree. Then pull out the opposite (diagonally) corner to the wind and stake it down. Then stake down the other two loose corners. Climb in and use your pack or a trekking pole if you want more head room. If you don't have a tree, then you will need another stake and a trekking pole for the entrance

http://hikinghq.net/gear/tarp.html

So at least I'm not the only crazy feller out there! :)

1:37 a.m. on August 14, 2013 (EDT)
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Bob, to answer your question, often I was in the alpine. In once instance, on a climb on the north side of Rainier, I was near Observation Rock. Only a few small alpine firs and very little level ground. The rain came from two directions that night. In those days there were no trekking poles. Other instances were lower down, but still in areas were there were lots of huckleberry and mountain ash, and trees with little open space around them. In nearly all the photos in this post, the site is quite open with little or no brush and the trees spaced widely apart. There are also level and even established sites. In these situations a tarp can be faster than a tent. You are in NE Washington so you have more open conifer forests. A tarp, by it's very nature, requires a bit more room than a small tent. Why? Because you don't want the edge near your sleeping bag. My Bibler Impotent was 3.5 feet by 6 feet and I could pitch in a spot that was just that and two of us would wake up dry, even if the snow or rain blew from all directions that night.

Yes, a tarp can work in many situations, but it is no more perfect than any one tent design is for a given need. I used a Whillans Box once and for it's purpose, was a good tent. But it didn't work for all situations.

10:58 a.m. on August 14, 2013 (EDT)
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The application Rich was talking about was keeping the heat from building up in his tent while camped out on a South African game reserve. Hardly the Adirondacks! Snow is unlikely to be a problem, and I would suspect rain would be rare but torrential.

Does anyone know whether groupings of trees suitable for hanging a tarp are commonly available at those locations? If not, all the methods proposed for setting up tarps are theoretical at best. I picture the terrain as desert-like (that may be incorrect in some game preserves), which makes the gazebo Rick mentions as one possibility. Kind of like camping in the alpine. Any other suggestions  for rigging a tarp in open country?

12:57 p.m. on August 14, 2013 (EDT)
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The tent Rich has is huge! It may be possible for him to rig a ridgeline from two handy trees - If not, I see no easy solution. 

Perhaps if he drives something like a van or a pickup truck with a ladder rack on top it may be tall enough to support one side of a sun shade.

Commercial canopy's are available, and I have made use of them as shown in my car camping photo above, but they tend to be flimsy and cost allot more than a basic tarp -

 

Something like this would seem to be ideal for Rich -  

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/3-4person-tarp-tent/764834508.html

Not terribly expensive but ships from Zhejiang, China, so I'm not sure if he can get it sent to him.

Or perhaps this -

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/3-3m-waterproof-silver-coated-UV-tarp-tent-gazebo-sun-shade-tent-shelter/902380290.html

Or just a locally procured tarp and poles set up as shown in that link.

light metallic electrical conduit ( EMT here in the states ) could be used for the support poles.

Note that it would take some practice to be able to set it up efficiently and would need to be very well staked down though. 

 

 

     

1:57 p.m. on August 14, 2013 (EDT)
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Perhaps if he drives something like a van or a pickup truck with a ladder rack on top it may be tall enough to support one side of a sun shade.

I wish I had one for my trips! Would be much better in the bush than my hatchback. However, not very practical for my uses in the city. The car in the photo is the family car. Was amazed that it coped on the trip!

I've attached a few shots from the campsite. The terrain varies at each camping area and unfortunately there are many trees with really big thorns! (5cm plus)
DSC_0047.jpg

DSC_0048.jpg


The application Rich was talking about was keeping the heat from building up in his tent while camped out on a South African game reserve. Hardly the Adirondacks! Snow is unlikely to be a problem, and I would suspect rain would be rare but torrential.

The above picture shows the results of the storm, some 8 hours after it hit. The sites were flooded but the tent let in not one drop :). Also, the majority of the water was absorbed by the ground as it was the first storm of the season. 

Rainfall in the summer is high. There are light storms at least every two days. These may only last 20 minutes but you would be astonished how much water it can dump on you.

With regards to tarps locally, I spent some time today at one of the outdoor stores and they stocked Polyethylene tarps. I'm not sure about the strength and other properties of the material but it would appear to be the only one available here.

The sizes ranged from 1mx2m to 4mx8m and the prices seemed pretty reasonable as well.

I looked at those links, I might be able to get something custom-made at one of the many caravan stores. 

Once again, thanks to everyone for their advice.

11:43 a.m. on August 24, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi Rich, I seem to be the late comer here. bad back makes me mean ya know...

Polyethylene tarps are woven and noisy, but are not considered to be long lasting, so the price is right. I would suggest to buy 1 or 2 to just play with.

I live in NH USA where we get rain like you have  26 mm deep in 20 minutes or more, but we have a lot more trees at least from what i see in your pictures.

Weight isn't any issue since you don't back pack a tent that size around in the first place.

Lots of guys on here tie knots, and so do I but I would bet we tie the same knots and call them different names.

I use what is called a truckers hitch on google

Due to the way this site works and my poor pc skills please just search that term. I use that to tighten lines for a wide variety of uses, even tying bags of food in the back of the pick up truck.

The next most used knot I use, according to google is called 'tent knot hitch'. 

This replaces metal bits and wooden blocks that do the same thing, which is allow you to tighten or loosen lines tied to trees, poles or stakes.

Way up there in this thread is my hunter's lodge which is nothing more than 2 Tentsmith tarps and 2 tipis liners. Since I set that up the same way more or less each time it has dedicated lines.

When this lodge is opened up, and in that picture it is on just one side, I use 1 pole (wooden stick) and about 3 meters of line at one corner.

I pull a loop to go over the pole in the center of the line and use the tent knot hitch's at the ends. One end pulls out straight away from the lodge and the other pulls off to the side, preventing the canvass from sagging in too much. The flag is straight out on some one else camp in that shot, so the wind was up that day at the Auto Road for Mt Washington NH USA.

July 23, 2014
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