Tarp over tent, or better tent?

Discussion in 'Gear Talk' started by JohnAbercrombie, Aug 6, 2019.

  1. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    In the very entertaining 'Indian Arm' thread by Pawsplus, we started to get a bit off-topic talking about tent poles and tarps, so I'm starting a new thread here.

    Fire away! :)

    It also assumes that it won't get very windy.
    My preference:
    Buy a good tent that can pitch outer first and you won't be looking for trees and sticks (or carrying metal tarp poles in your kayak).
    Save the tarp setup for cooking/eating (at a distance from your tent).
    But I do see plenty of people putting tarps over tents. Adding up the cost (and weight and volume) of a good tarp setup and a 'mid-priced' tent gets you close to the 'exoskeleton' tent (Hilleberg, Fjallraven, Exped, etc..) price range.
    And, if you decide you don't like your Hilleberg after using it for a few years, you can sell it for 75% of what you paid for it, from what I see on eBay.

    You can even get a Hilleberg Allak knockoff (with lower-quality fabric and poles, more mesh, etc..- Naturehike Cloud Peak) for $250 CAD delivered.

    https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesal...t=Naturehike+cloud+peak+tent&switch_new_app=y
     
  2. AM

    AM Paddler

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    I don’t always put a tarp over my tent, but I often do in foul weather. Three reasons:

    1) a tarp allows me to keep the vestibule open for better ventilation and therefore a dryer tent.

    2) having a generous dry area as a porch makes it easier to shed wet clothes and boots.

    3) a tarp makes for a dryer rainfly, which is much nicer to pack than a soaking one.

    I prefer beefy polyester tarps to silnylon. My DD Hammocks 3x3m tarp is the one that I use the most, but I have few older (15+ years) MEC tarps that I use with family and groups.

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     
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  3. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Andrew-
    Good points; thanks.
    What size is your tent? Does the 3m x 3m give full coverage + bigger vestibule?
    How high do you pitch the tarp? i.e. can you actually pitch the tent easily under the tarp without walking around/over the tarp lines?
     
  4. designer

    designer Paddler

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    If it's not raining when you put the tent up, it is difficult to see the advantage of an "over tarp". But if it is raining, when you set up or take down, it's nice to "do the work" under the tarp and have it be the last thing you take down and pack it separately from the dry gear.

    I would not pitch the tarp in the traditional "A" style. It would be more of a flat panel suspended at an angle (for drainage). I carry two REI collapsible poles to raise one side - with guy lines to the ground. So I just need two other anchor points on the other side.

    There are solutions to a windy deployment - the tarps are stored in nylon sleeves (called snake skins) so you don't have to expose the whole tarp area to the wind at once. But wind is always a challenge. A battle sometimes not won.

    In full disclosure, I've been using a hammock for years (but always have a Plan B ground solution). So when talking about tents, I'm going pretty much from memory. I first saw the "tarp over tent" and a kayak camping symposium - a joint effort by Body, Boat, Blade and Shearwater on Orcas around 2003 - and one of my tent dwelling paddling buddies used the technique when we had rain a few adventures back.

    The ground cover, logs, trees, etc. all determine the setup. Because you are entering the tent in the traditional hands/knees style, there is no reason to try for a high suspension - but you could if the natural resources provide the necessary anchor points. Two of the corners are at the back of the tent and the two in front might go to the collapsible poles - very little to trip over.

    You might be imaging a full "tarp camping" setup where you have a ridge line, and tarp sides coming down like an inverted V with four or six side guy lines in close proximity. That is NOT how I would endeavor to rig the tarp over tent. Think of it more as a flat plane at an angle.

    As far as size/weight, my newest silnylon tarp (Warbonnet ThunderFly) cost about $90, is about 11 x 9 ft. weighs about 14 oz and packs to the size of a beer can. Not a problem for my kayak.
     
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  5. AM

    AM Paddler

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    John, I use a solo tent (either an MSR Hubba or an Elixir 1), so the 3x3 works well. Pitch height depends on the circumstance, but here’s a photo from a recent canoe trio with my daughter: 2 solo tents were pitched in steady rain under the tarp. There was enough space for a small area so we could stand and get out of wet clothes before entering our tents, plus we could hang a clothesline. I favour the diamond pattern, so tarp lines are not obstructive.

    I’ve always had good tents that don’t leak, so the tarp is gratuitous: I don’t really need it. That said, I always bring one because I like the option. With school groups I bring an MEC Supertarp (now discontinued, like so many great MEC products of yore - a rant for another thread), which has been useful. On our rainiest trip ever, up Indian Arm coincidentally, we pitched 2 tents at a time under it, then moved them out into position around camp.

    The Camp Jubilee groups mentioned in the other post only use tarps - no tents at all.

    So while they are not strictly necessary, I am a tarp guy and fully support BC tarp culture!

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     

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  6. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Zowie! What a great bunch of info, much of it new to me, on tarpage. I'll have to retire my Tarpman moniker or yield to one of these guys!

    I'll cast my lot with John's approach. For good cooking/campsite ethics, we site our tarp as a kitchen protector, often near any campfire site, and locate tents a ways off when possible. Like John, we often can assemble a two- or one-person tent under the tarp when the sky is gushing on arrival, and reverse this on exit. Truth to tell, we use the tent for sleeping or "naps," and spend most of our camp time near the kitchen. A tarp over our tent would not be useful for food prep, etc.

    Ignorant about new fandangle fabrics, I have been sticking to my Neanderthal 10 x 10 or 10 x 12 nylon tarps, all enhanced at pullout points with reinforcing, some with a central pullout for a skyhook (no center pole). I tried a Noah's tarp, but the aerodynamic profile mainly encouraged undertarp water passage. The rectangular tarps can be creatively pitched to shield the windward side from prevailing wet winds.

    We take an old Marmot monster along on big group trips, which has catenary cut enhancement along the ridgeline, independent poles near the ends, and can yard one side down against prevailing mists.

    Last difference for us is the use of substantial pullout cordage, typically 5 mm or better for saner pitching, easier knot untying (all taut line hitches; hate those specialized tauteners), and more kindness to tree limbs when we use them as anchors.
     
  7. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Certainly two 'plus' features of a high tarp..standing to change clothes and a clothesline.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2019
  8. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Tarps are a great DIY project if you can't find what you want in the marketplace. Adding a sewing machine to the power tool collection allows easy addition of extra pullouts and other mods to commercial tarps, too.
    I use Amsteel for ridgelines (and clotheslines) - it doesn't stretch (a.k.a. sag). The tarp can be slung under or over the ridgeline, and connected with prussik loops of 2mm Zing-It and mini- carabiners.

    But, I'll never go back to a tent that's 'inner first and sling the fly over', so, for me, the tarp over the tent will be a rare thing, I think.

    A pyramid tarp-tent is a real nice thing for cooking and eating if it is cold and really rainy and windy.
     
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  9. AM

    AM Paddler

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    397EBA4C-467B-4FD5-83A4-A77A132F26C1.jpeg I have a 10’x10’ pyramid tarp that I use with school groups. I think they are awesome as cooking and meeting shelters. The downside is that given their geometry, they are best pitched in snow or high off the ground to provide headroom for more than one or two people. I’ll post a photo (sorry, don’t know how to post inline).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 8, 2019
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  10. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    One useful feature of tarps in rainy weather is that usually you can collect rainwater from the runoff.

    A pyramid tarp can also be put up quickly in a spot where a normal tarp wouldn't work very easily. They are a bit cramped for headroom, except near the center.

    DSCN0351HarrimanCamp and Barry Glacier.JPG
     
  11. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Let see if this works. Here’s the old MEC Supertarp the morning after a terrible rainstorm. It sheltered our group of 10 and allowed us space to build all the tents. F269F375-6E7B-4C67-8351-02B4C42CB48A.jpeg
     
  12. AM

    AM Paddler

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    0127B283-34B2-4767-AC59-8CAD5D30CDB9.jpeg Here’s a couple of shots of pyramid tarps pitched for internal space. The first is pitched high with a paddle so that there is space on all sides. Note the tent inside. The second is in the snow, with benches, footwells, and a table:

    CC4D544A-EBEA-47CB-A9E2-BD984D8CAFB5.jpeg
     
  13. AM

    AM Paddler

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    FE0CBB24-2030-493F-ABC7-2F35DCF6D722.jpeg 54DA6F6C-8339-44AC-8043-0188EDA158B8.jpeg A5BBF67E-9CBF-4A98-BB88-8B0685559735.jpeg 74371E71-A0FE-409E-BA2B-5BBE2F08FF0A.jpeg 94DEE37F-0FED-4318-827D-49E511FBB75D.jpeg Sorry for the multiple posts: this platform does not work well on iOS. Here’s a couple of shots of MEC Guide’s tarps in action. One shot is from the Hesquiat area from a couple years back: a Guide’s tarp over two 2-man tents (MEC Gemini and Tarn 2): another shot was years ago in the BGI with my son. That was a rainy trip. The red Guide’s tarp is over our tent; the Scout’s tarp is over the fire.

    Also, and in random order, we have a: a Guide’s tarp pitched on a plane (a la Designer); a 3x3 pitched gazebo style with paddles only; and a Scout’s tarp used as a sail (try that with your Hilleberg, John ;-)

    Again, sorry for the confusing order, but I’m posting these from a phone while travelling. You can play “Where’s Waldo?” with the photos to find the various tarps. I have zillions of shots because, as I said, I like tarps!

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     
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  14. designer

    designer Paddler

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    Looks like you rafted four boats for that orange sail. Aside from not seeing where you were going :), did it work?
     
  15. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Yep, it worked. I have a picture of me lying on be back deck of my kayak and napping while under sail. My friends chatted and ate snacks while we watched the shores of Quatsino Inlet pass us by.
     
  16. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    It was good luck that you had those sticks handy, to use for masts!
    :)