View Full Version : Some more beginner tarp questions

04-27-2016, 15:23
My wife and I currently have a nice Tarptent Stratospire 2, but I love the idea of getting really skilled with an ultralight tarp, and Im looking forward to putting some time into learning. I am considering a 10x10 square flat tarp since it offers the most flexibility in terms of pitching, and should hopefully be big enough for me and my wife should we use it on our 2017 PCT thru-hike. However, Ive heard that the learning curve is intense.

So, a few questions:

How long did it take you to get comfortable with using a tarp? Any general tips for a beginner, other than learning all the useful knots?
Im guessing you only use a few pitches regularly: other than the basic A-frame, what are your favorite setups?
If Im solo hiking, would a 10x10 tarp be too big to be practical?
How would you set up your tarp in worst-case weather (heavy rain, volatile wind directions)?

Thanks for your help!

04-27-2016, 17:05
If your wife and you are going NOBO planning to finish before the flurries start flying in abundance IMO that tarp on that trail is close to an ideal situation to earn your tarp chops.

Learning a few knots useful for tarping, like the taut line hitch for guyouts, is just good practical outdoor knowledge to have. Learned it yrs ago from a patient Scout Leader in the Boy Scouts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jkN3K5G8eE You can add more loops, usually only one more needed, that increase the grabbing/holding power of the knot.

A frame and Lean to configs are a good starting pt. On the PCT it might not always be needed that you have overhead tarp coverage. The lean to config where one side is left open with the tarp providing a wind blown sand wind break is fine. Gives ya good dark desert night time sky viewing in the Mojave.

One can micro weenie tarp coverage size for various situations(I've done it) but the 10 x 10 is a good versatile size for 1p or 2 p especially for avg height Newbie tarpers. Consider this size tarp might be used on other trails with different less favorable weather patterns than the generally experienced fair weather PCT for typical NOBOs finishing again before the inclement weather settles in up north. Nice to have the extra coverage in these other situations. One other advantage might be recognized in that a wider width non gram weenie sized tarp allows for higher ridge line height pitches in the A frame config. appreciated by those who like head room, taller people(me), those who think habitually crawling on all fours to enter/exit a low pitched tarp can suck, and those sharing a tarp in A frame config.

Tarp ignorance and possible hatred of tarps will likely ensue here on WB.

04-27-2016, 17:38
I have a big tarp for my hammock, but I've practiced various setups for times when I might want to sleep in a nice meadow or anyplace without trees. I found that I can make a very serviceable shelter by just staking out the corners, getting under the tarp, and raising the roof with poles (the pointy end goes in the ground, the soft, round handle goes up!). It's as simple or complex as you want to make it. Just go out back and practice.

04-27-2016, 18:28
No just love for tarps. ;0) . Tarps are just neanderthal tents.

04-27-2016, 18:31
One afternoon in the back yard or a local park practicing and playing with different pitches followed by a few short overnight trips and then maybe another afternoon to refine some pitching ideas you develop, and you'll be plenty confident to have all kinds of fun with your tarp(s).

10 x 10 or 8 x 10 are both big enough for two-person comfort.

Most people tend toward getting in the habit of pitching a favorite pitch the vast majority of the time and not changing up pitches all that much.

With and 8x10 tarp or 10x10 tarp, my favorite pitch is what I think many people call the flying diamond: tie one corner to (or near to) a tree at about head level, stake out the opposite corner to the ground, then stake out the remaining two corners as appropriate. Takes about 60 seconds to pitch, uses only three stakes and a short guy line, and your done. In open areas without too much wind, I use an a-frame. With wind, I use an a-frame staked to the ground. If I'm not expecting too much weather and I want protection from the wind and a nice view, I use a lean-to or modified lean-to for more open visibility but still a wind blow on the windward side.

The most protected pitch for nasty weather would be the pyramid. Definitely worth playing with and practicing.

Have fun.

04-27-2016, 20:42
First trip, take both your new tarp to practice with and your old shelter as backup. Tarp is light enough to take both.

I mostly use A-frame and variations, such as lean to. If might use some form of diamond pitch if I only want to tieout the 4 corners. For storm conditions, terrain probably matters more than the pitch, but A-frame is what I go with, possibly adding some barrier to the open end(s) using stuff I carry or natural material on site.

04-27-2016, 21:33
If the wife is along, make sure you have the bug situation handled too. Trust me on this. :-)

04-27-2016, 22:38
Some excellent advice, thanks all. I've had my eye on the Sea to Summit Escapist tarp, which has some good bug netting options including a simple UL mesh, but I'm still twitchy about how a tarp would fare in super-buggy conditions.

There's also the privacy-for-couples issue, but I'm hoping something like the flying diamond would work if positioned carefully.

Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk

04-28-2016, 09:13
Tarps do nothing for bugs. In super buggy conditions, you'll want to figure out a solution that is compatible with your tarp, anything from a headnet to a net tent to chemicals and suffering.

Privacy with a tarp has a lot to do with how your orient your tarp to where others might be and if you pitch your tarp where others might be. Also, if you are inside your bags, you can change your cloths or do whatever discretely in relative privacy, even if the tarp is not perfect privacy.

And, although you probably don't always want to pitch your tarp that way, there a several ways to provide complete enclosure with a tarp, you just loose some of the other beauty of tarping if you pitch it that way all the time.

Have fun. Be an exhibitionist. ;-)

04-29-2016, 00:01

04-29-2016, 08:18
Shaped tarps offer more protection for less weight.
At higher expense

Awful lot like a tent

Only reason to go flat tarps is cost imo. And fun of fiddling with them.

04-29-2016, 11:37
Only reason to go flat tarps is cost imo. And fun of fiddling with them.

A flat tarp is more versatile IMO.

Dave C. sums it up nicely. (http://bit.ly/1SUT0Tp) (EDIT: Auto censor did not like the naughty word in the URL. :) Added a bit.ly link instead)

I also think this is a quick tarp reference page...


04-29-2016, 17:04
. . . this is a quick tarp reference page... http://hikinghq.net/gear/tarp.html
The best I've seen. Covers all the basic pitches that you would likely want to use in the real world without overwhelming you with an infinite number of theoretical pitches. If I were to teach a tarping class, it would likely be going into your back yard and practicing these exactly pitches and talking about the pros and cons of each.

04-29-2016, 17:16
The best I've seen. Covers all the basic pitches that you would likely want to use in the real world without overwhelming you with an infinite number of theoretical pitches. If I were to teach a tarping class, it would likely be going into your back yard and practicing these exactly pitches and talking about the pros and cons of each.

No way. Talk to my two nieces, 7 and 9 yrs old. They'll show you how to string up a bed sheet into a tarp fun house. :D

We can learn a lot from kids like not being so complex about things and just going with the flow having fun learning along the way.

04-30-2016, 09:03
I like this setup for rainy weather: https://youtu.be/yMAtpWQdVbY

Snet frm my phone. Spelling errrs may occur.

04-30-2016, 09:16
And this one shows a few more setups: https://youtu.be/9SGFUXpzPGQ

Snet frm my phone. Spelling errrs may occur.

middle to middle
04-30-2016, 15:32
One warning. I went to another type of event and people arrived through the night and parked in paved lot. One girl just threw tarp over her bag flat as no wind, it sleeted and froze solid and as it happened it sealed her tarp to the asphalt she died of asphyxiation. A word to wise.

06-05-2016, 18:48
The Diamond pitch has to be the easiest pitch, referred to as the Flying Diamond on the hikinghq website.

My favorite easy pitch is the side-entry Monk's Tarp seen at MLD. I suggest finding the right tarp dimensions for this pitch, for you, in length and in width.

I like the Asym Tarp I picked up on sale from Oware: I like to stake down one side and use the hiking poles to pitch one corner up off the ground and pitch one corner high. Again, use plastic sheeting like 3 mil painters drop cloth and tape and string to find the tarp dimensions that will work for you.

After that exercize, I think you can pitch any tarp.

Here are examples of pitching a tarp: http://www.ultralightbackpackingonline.com/shelter1b.html

06-06-2016, 09:00
I ended up going with the Sea to Summit Escapist 10' x 10' flat tarp, which seemed like a good entry-level choice. It has eight guy points around the edges of the tarp with line locs and guy lines included. I was able to set up my first taut A-frame in about ten minutes in our local park, and there's plenty of room for me and my wife. Very excited to try it on our first real trip.

This tarp doesn't have any mid-panel guy-out points, which I'm thinking might be a disadvantage: they seem very useful when wind or rain is causing the tarp walls to bow. It doesn't seem to difficult to sew or glue new guy-out patches so we might try that.

06-06-2016, 09:18
I missed the 2-person tarp aspect.

In North Cascades, under, up and over works well: you do not want to keep moisture in. Enjoy the view. Rain. Snow, if you do not finish before snow.

Dutchware online has tarp pull-out add-ons, that should not damage your tarp.

06-06-2016, 09:26
Thanks for the Dutchware Online recommendation - the clip-on pull-outs (http://www.dutchwaregear.com/clip-on-tarp-pull-outs.html) might be perfect, as long as they don't cause any long-term wear on the sil nylon.

I've seen some demos of the flying diamond, and it looks like a great way of rigging a quick shelter for breaks. Honestly I have had a really easy time with my test pitches so far, although I imagine that the real challenge is selecting a site carefully so that you don't get drowned or bitten to death during the night. Looking forward to learning all of that soon.