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New to tarp camping

I am 100% new to tarp camping and going to give it a serious effort this year as in not taking a tent. Have my SUV for backup if need be. I got this wingman for free. It's 9.5 by 12 feet.

I know the deep cat cut isn't going to allow for many options pitch wise, but will this keep me dry? I figure I can possibly stake down one end really low and make more of a shelter out of it. Just curious if I should spring the cash and buy a normal backpacking tarp or will this suffice. I'm hesitant as I've never tarp camped before. any tips and advice on this wingman style tarp would be greatly appreciated. 

I will be sleeping on a therma rest closed sell foam pad with a self inflating mec brand camper deluxe sleeping pad 5.4 r value and a -10 poly bag. I'm not worried about staying warm just dry I live in british columbia and rain can come quickly. 

Windy rain is probably your biggest issue. With 12' of ridgeline I'm guessing your feet won't stick out, but that cat cut leaves an opening for the wind to blow water at you. Does this tarp have a tie out or two along the side? Mine have a single tab in the middle I can use if I'm expecting weather that keeps the edge lower, but it still has a gap.

Make sure your groundcloth is as small as possible. If it sticks out far it will collect water and bring it to you. I'd say try stuff out at home to be safe  but it sounds like you may be camping next to your car? That is a great way to test without too much risk. Sometimes there is beer too :) Good luck on testing this out. I'd say try it and see how it works for you. You can always get another tarp later, or maybe three or four!

that was my thoughts to I could pitch it pretty low and would have a lot of coverage. no extra tie outs on the sides but throw a rock in there I could jimmy up and extra one if need be. started my research on these after I found this. still thinking I might pick up a 10x10  or a 8x10 with more tie outs. if there wasnt 2 feet of snow here I'd be practicing setting it up but gotta wait lol. 

You have a -10 bag and you won't try out the tarp because of a little snow?;)

Back in the day, scouts sometimes used tube tents - a tarp shaped like a tube with open ends.  They were about the same length as your tarp, and wide enough for a solo occupant.  If the wind was blowing good, it was impossible to close off the ends from rain without effectively shortening the length, placing head and feet close to anything that gets past one's improvised closure methodology.  My few attempts at tube tent camping, later as an adult, reconfirmed tube tents make for a so-so solution to rain.  Those I know utilizing tarps similar to yours also complain about difficulties in rain.  

Equally important: what are you doing to protect yourself from the bugs?  Many add a bug net liner to their tarp, and end up with a system that fends off bugs well, and is OK managing rain, but the set up ends up weighing as much as many solo tents that offers better protection against both rain and bugs.  I happen to use a pyramid tarp.  I swear by it for all four seasons.  It seals out all rain effectively, when the edges are drawn close to the ground.  I use a personal bug net that has a small dome over my head and a skirt that covers my bag.  It weighs about 1/4 of tent liner nets  others use.  Most of time I sleep under the net only, and set up the tarp only when rain or snow is an issue.

Ultimately site selection and tarp pitching skills will play a large part in how effective your tarp is as a shelter.  I found tarp pitching to be perhaps the one camp skill where practice yields the most improvement in results.   Talk to folks with similar tarps and practice, practice, practice.  At first you'll be confounded - how could such simple shelter be difficult to pitch?  But with practice you'll iron out the details and find tarps erect fairly quick, once you know what you are doing.


haha didnt say I wouldnt try it's currently -18 here just waiting till were back near zero lol before I do my maiden voyage. still on the fence wether or not I should pick up a square or rectangle or just give this guy a go first

Give it a go in a safe environment.

Ed-what size is your pyramid tarp?

always air on the side of caution especially winter camping. I amnever to far out. spent a few winters camping now did 16 nights total last year. but never ventured outside a tent. 

Camping in the snow with just a tarp and groundcloth sounds painful to me. Snow will get everywhere. Hard enough keeping it out of a tent. You can use the same bug shelter you'd use for three season to at least keep some of the snow off your bed. I keep the Fronkey net on my hammock for winter camping for that reason. It is worth the effort getting in and out to keep the spindrift out of my bed.

For bug shelter under a tarp I'd suggest looking at larger options than a head net. Whether you get a full shelter with floor or just a larger net you can hang from the tarp and/or trekking poles, you'll end up with more defensible space. That allows you to sleep outside of your quilt/bag in hot weather without being exposed to the bugs.

try it in the backyard. 

we used tube tents for a decade.  They cost $5.

Old Guide said:

Ed-what size is your pyramid tarp?

Hyperlite Mountain Gear - Ultramid 2.  5'4" tall, 6'11" X 8'11"at the base perimeter. 

It lives like a large 2P tent; palatial as a solo.  I use my walking staff as the mast.  I'll give it a write up when I feel I have something to write.  The one concession of pyramids is the wet entry - the sloped opening allows rain to fall on exposed tent contents.  I happen to carry a parasol, and affording dry tent entry is but one of many functions my umbrella serves.

BTW: pyramids are my favorite portable shelter for snow camping.  The interior can be dug into the snow, providing lots more head room.  Set the tarp perimeter low to the snow, and pile on snow to cover the tent/snow interface.  This will seal most drafts, but decreased air circulation leads to another problem: frost inside the tent.  Alas, sometimes it is a battle between spin drift working its way inside the shelter, and hoarfrost raining from the tent walls of a completely locked down tent.


Thanks Ed.

Carry a few extra hanks of 1/8" braided nylon line. Practice a few basic knots [square, taut line. figure-8, and fisherman's] until you can tie and UNtie them easily in the dark.

You’re ready for a hammock, my friend. You already have the tarp, now just hang it low over a hammock. No worries about rain, no wet ground, and no worries about searching for a flat spot for a tent or bivy sack, either.

Mine is a mosquito-proof Clark Jungle hammock with their Vertex tarp. Sorry to say they’re no longer in business, but are under new ownership and may be back soon. Look online for used Clark or other hammocks.

I’ve never been wet while in my Clark hammock, and once endured an uninterrupted three days and nights of pouring rains in the Big South Fork backwoods. In such moments, a large tarp above you is a lifesaver.

For winter weather, you can accessorize the hammock with an underquilt, especially if you’re car-camping (extra bulk). With the proper sleeping mat and bag, though, I’ve never needed one.

As always, no matter what you’re sleeping in, keep a keen eye out for widow-makers and wash up well before touching anything related to sack-time, yourself included, to avoid these fellows:


Slam it on the ground. 

January 26, 2021
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