Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Tarps are Integral to Camping Enjoyment

Independence weekend camping setup

The lowly polyethylene tarp, not as popular as an Ez-up or as cool as a nylon parawing. But on a rainy weekend absolutely dry and makes rain nothing more than an afterthought. The plastic tarp is a perfect example of function over form. I used to think these were trashy but it's really all in the setup. I noticed most people using poly tarps sort of last minute buy them with no knowledge, plan, poles or sometimes even proper line. I own a nice wing and a nice rectangular silnylon tarp that I take backpacking and canoe camping, but I realized that nice nylon (and don't even think about silnylon) aren't really designed for the rigors of car camping or even paddle in and camp (vs paddle and portage) canoe camping.  Rigors? Being packed wet, sitting in the sun for days on end, and just generally no need for a light packable tarp unless you are using Smart car as your vehicle. 

Colvin in Dolly Sods Wilderness. It mostly rained overnight on us, but the gear pile was completely dry under the well setup silnylon tarp. We only had to spend about an hour under it over 3 days. 

You will miss out on your friends commenting how nice your MSR or even Kelty Noah's tarp is compared to the brown heavy duty polyethylene (every time I pull out the Noah's Parawing, people comment on it and it's all of $70 new), but unless they are paying you to replace it every year (depending how often your camp, and if you camp infrequently enough it doesn't matter save the money and buy a plastic tarp), just shell out $50 for 2 polys once every 5-10 years. In fact, you can buy enough polys, high strength/low stretch cord, and tarp poles to cover the biggest site in the world for less than the cost of one big backcountry tarp (before poles). 
Enjoying the fire from the cover of the tarp. In total we had 22x10ft of coverage. Including access to the fire. 

While I am a big fan of the ridge line for a lot of reasons, it's not the only setup. The big advantage of the ridge line is its like a cordalette/webolette in climbing, it gives you a master point to work off. With proper line you can hang clothes, lanterns and even multiple tarps stacked (shingled) across a site or multiple tarps separate. I highly recommend learning about climbing pulley systems. Sure you can buy some cam straps or some friction devices. But a 2:1 or 3:1 system or even a simple munter with MMO will get your ridgeline ultra tight. You can do all this with some quick links or the cheapest (real) caribiners you can find. No need for a ton of gear. You don't need pulleys or progress capture devices.