Tarp over tent, or better tent?

YYJ Paddler

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Joined
Jan 11, 2021
Messages
17
Location
Victoria, BC
Hi

I am buying a tarp for kayaking (and some backpacking) that would be either for going over my tent or over the cooking/eating area, depending on the situation. I picked up an MEC Scout tarp (3.9m x 2.9m) because I was there and it was in stock and I'd been looking without luck!

Now I am wondering if I should consider something else instead. Perhaps an Aquaquest Guide, Safari or Survivor in a smaller 10x10. I do like that they are from a Vancouver Island company as well.

Any thoughts on these sizes or brands?

Thanks.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Dec 7, 2011
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Victoria, BC
Within reason, 'bigger is better' for tarps IMO. Bigger tarps give more possibilities for pulling the sides down to/toward the ground when the weather deteriorates, or even to provide sun shade.
For backpacking, smaller and lighter will be better. Unless you are using the tarp instead of a tent, why not leave the tarp at home? That's the most lightweight option. :)

For larger tarps (lots of ideas at the hammocking forums), caternary edges reduce wrinkling and wind noises.

Aquaquest:
Aquaquest.JPG

MSR:
MSR tarp.JPG


Tarps can be fun DIY projects if you can operate a sewing machine, though not a lot of cost savings will be found unless you can find good fabric at reasonable prices.
https://diygearsupply.com/diy-guides/tarps/
 

SalishSeaNior

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Nov 15, 2020
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39
Location
Okanagan Valley, Canada
I have a Hennessey Hex Rainfly that I routinely use over my old North Face tent whenever there is rain in the forecast. My wife and I took it on our late September Bowron Lakes Circuit trip last year. The weather was wet for five of the seven days. It made a huge difference keeping the tent relatively dry for sleeping and packing. Other paddlers on the circuit came to ask about it on several occasions, as their much newer high end tents were soaked after being repeatedly packed up wet, while ours was still only damp. It is super light and packs up small.

I also sometimes pitch the tent without the fly and with the tarp over top in hot weather to keep cooler and reduce condensation. I find it to be a very useful accessory to even a good tent.
 

cougarmeat

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Sep 17, 2012
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810
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Bend OR USA
I was introduced to Tarp over tent (and fly) at a kayak camping seminar held on Orcas in 2003 - a joint venture between Body, Boat, and Blade and Shearwater. Prior to that, my “tent experience" was mostly on mountain peaks - where you were only spending a few hours sleep before a summit attempt and usually reaching the parking lot for the drive home later in the day. Snow was more probably than rain.

So I asked, “Why are you using a tarp when your tent already has a rainfly. The more experienced kayakers pointed out that in the rain, under the tarp, they can pack everything up dry and then stash the wet tarp last, separately from the dry gear. they pointed out that with the tarp “awning” they could easily cook outside their tent and enter/exit without immediately encountering the wet stuff.

Time passes. On a Washington Kayak Club trip from Anacortes to Doe Island (with current assist, only about 2.5 hrs with time to play in “rapids” near Strawberry Island), one of the members used a hammock. Prior to that, I only thought of hammocks as something people had in their backyard with a metal stand. So I was introduced to hammock camping (see cougarmeat at www.hammockforums.net) and that is all about the Tarp + hammock. Putting the tarp up first, you can do everything else (hang the hammock, etc.) out of the rain.

One item many hammock campers use with a tarp is called a snake skin. It’s a long nylon - these days mesh material is more favored - tube that sheaths the tarp. When suspended between two supports, it looks like a … snake. It offers two benefits. 1) These hammock tarps are often 11 - 13 ft long and around 10 ft wide. That’s a lot of material and trying to wrangle that “sail” in a stiff breeze is stuff for America’s funniest home videos. With the skin, you can pull it back to expose one set of guyline tie-outs, set those, then expose more tarp and go to the next set of tie-outs. Much more control. The second advantage is, if you want more visiability, but if it did rain you don’t want to start from scratch putting up the tarp, you'd have the tarp suspended between two trees but contained so it doesn’t block your view. If you feel raindrops, pull the skin back and set the guylines.

When it’s time to pack up, you undo the guylines and rolling up the sides of the tarp a bit, you pull the sheath, the skin, back over the length of the tarp. Wet things are kept separate from dry things. If the tarp is wet and the skin is (waterproof) nylon, you’d want the inside of the skin to be dry - as with any gear - before packing it away at the end of a trip. So mesh material is now more in favor as it dries faster/easier.
 
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AlphaEcho

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Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
146
Location
Quadra Island, BC
My friends know my routine for camp set-up and breakdown now. First thing goes up is the tarp. Last thing the comes down is the tarp. The main reasons are those already outlined above. Whether rain, wind, or blazing sun, having a tarp up protects your gear on set-up and breakdown.

(Sidebar: My youngest daughter used to get cold quickly on our day-trip adventures. I started tarping because I wanted her to have somewhere to get out of the wind/cold. The rest of the kids loved it too, and it became a thing we did. Whether out hiking or on a public beach, we set up our tarp to stake out our area for privacy and shelter. Our friends learned to look for our tarp when they came out to the park or beach.)

IMG_1071.jpg

FYI -- I have 2 of the MEC Guide Sil-tarps, and 2 of the MEC Scout Sil-tarps. This is one of them on a camp-out 2 weekends ago.

Personally I enjoy the challenge of surveying a site to see how to situate the tarp to give best advantage for wind, tent, and trees/bushes/etc. to support that.

During my tarp internship, I fiddled with using bungies, rope, twine, etc. Skip all that. Paracord is light, strong, holds knots well, and unties well too. You can even get fancy paracord with reflective threads woven into the sheath. This is mandatory if you hang around with fussy folk who insist that your guy lines be visible to avoid getting clotheslined walking through camp. Otherwise you have to tie on hanks of survey tape to accommodate these Mister Magoo types.

I recommend buying 60' of 550 paracord and cutting it into 5' and 10' lengths so you have enough for your ridgeline and corners. Burn/melt the ends you cut to ensure the sheath and core bond together into a tidy tip. I keep my tarp cordage in a mesh bag so they dry out between trips.

The secrets to a taut pitch is: (a) Learn how to set the angle of your lines from the corners so the stress is equalized along both the long axis and the short axis of the tarp. You can tell you're not set at 45 degrees on all corners because there's "luffing" in the panel. (b) Learn the running knots like the Trucker's Hitch or the Taut-line (aka Clothesline) Hitch. These let you pull the line tight and readjust as you get the corners tweaked. Or you just buy a tarp cut to a fancy catenary curve because it's just sexy easy like that.

For the record - I just SMH at the people who put a ridge-line up thinking that will hold the middle of the tarp up. Sails on ships are secured at the corners. Do it right and you don't need a ridge-line.

I recommend you accumulate an assortment of stakes. My go to these days is the large MSR Tornado stake. They're not cheap, but they are sturdy, hold in all kinds of ground, and are harder to lose than smaller stakes. I've had the same 8 stakes for many years now; something that can't be said for any of the smaller stake types I have. If you're in soft sand, forget stakes and learn how to set a dead-man.

MSR & Amazon also sell poles to use with tarps. Depending on the type of camping trip, I use my trekking poles and bring 2x MSR med poles so I can hold all 4 corners up if I want. Or you can look for sticks on the beach. Whatever.
 
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mick_allen

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May 15, 2005
Messages
3,331
So SYH at me, heh heh:

- I am not the greatest good tarp location locator: I've often 'had to' set up a ridge line between two very very distant trees or tie-offs. By using a ridgeline to maximize line tension and minimize line droop, that excess stress is kept off the tarp material plus those two tarp attachment points. It also allows slightly more tarp orientations - the ridge does not have to be central or aligned. Accepting the ridge, means accepting more locations - at least for me.

- also 5 and 10 foot paracord lengths, but many with tied end loops so varied long lengths can be quickly put together or taken apart without requiring the dexterity of knotting. And have way way more than total 60'. the extra has been good for all manner of lines, guidewires, other tarps ridges and guidewires, emergencies.

- and basically use one single knot that I learned from Dan Milsip: a single hitch slip knot - quick as hell, simple as hell, and amazing in how it holds, and one pull and is completely untied. An amazing knot. amazing. [but I'm probably a simple guy easily amazed]
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Dec 7, 2011
Messages
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Victoria, BC
I usually put up a ridgeline and then attach the long axis of the tarp under the ridgeline. This avoids chafing the tarp fabric on the ridgeline. Prussik loops on the ridgeline make good adjustable attachment points for the tarp.

For ridgeline, Amsteel is great - doesn't stretch. If you have a long enough piece (or as above, pieces joined together) you can attach it to trees (or rock anchors) that are quite far apart and it can be tensioned enough to get rid of most of the sag.

Nylon paracord- I don't like it because it stretches so much when wet. Polyester is more expensive, but I prefer it. Some lightweight enthusiasts use Zing-It for guylines.
 

AlphaEcho

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Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
146
Location
Quadra Island, BC
I usually put up a ridgeline and then attach the long axis of the tarp under the ridgeline. This avoids chafing the tarp fabric on the ridgeline. Prussik loops on the ridgeline make good adjustable attachment points for the tarp.
Photos sir. That sounds like an intriguing set-up. I'm of a mind to try it myself sometime.
 

mick_allen

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May 15, 2005
Messages
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an advantage to ridge under is lots of length to hang stuff, less material stress from inner poling [or central ties - maybe], but admittedly chafing probably is an issue over time.
 

AM

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Jan 30, 2006
Messages
924
Location
Vancouver
An advantage of using a ridgeline under the tarp is that taking the tarp down on a wet, sandy beach is easier, as you can loosen the corners and let it hang to drip above the sand, thus reducing the likelihood of packing it away all wet and sandy.

The disadvantages of ridgelines (either over or under) are: a) slightly slower setup; and b) it is a little finicky to maintain tension when using prussiks (vs using a trucker’s hitch on an end line).

Pick your poison. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Cheers,
Andrew
 

Mowog73

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Joined
Apr 27, 2021
Messages
36
Location
SW Ontario
I've had a Serratus Guide tarp for umpteen years now and I find it to be a good size, probably very similar in size to the present MEC Scout tarp.

For rope, I use ~5mm accessory static cord (bought at MEC at the same time as the tarp), 10-15' lengths tied to the corners of the tarp, which get folded back up with the tarp, so that the cord is always there, as well as extra cord as others have mentioned, can't ever have too much.
 
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JohnAbercrombie

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Dec 7, 2011
Messages
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Victoria, BC
I found hammockforums.net to be a 'mind-expanding experience' when I first spent time reading there. :)

There's a lot of creative and experimenatal thinking going on in the hammock enthusiast community. If you want to learn of LOTS of ways of rigging tarps, head on over there. A search of 'cord for guylines' turns up several hundred discussions.

"Masons twine' from HD or the hardware store is used for guylines by some.
An often-recommended supplier of reflective guyline is https://lawsonequipment.com/
SgtKnots is also a good supplier of all kinds of cordage (including Spectra for kayak line skegs).
For Zing-It (slippery but very light and strong), look for arborist supply places.

as well as extra cord as others have mentioned, can't ever have too much.
:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup::D:D
 

YYJ Paddler

Paddler
Joined
Jan 11, 2021
Messages
17
Location
Victoria, BC
Hi

I am buying a tarp for kayaking (and some backpacking) that would be either for going over my tent or over the cooking/eating area, depending on the situation. I picked up an MEC Scout tarp (3.9m x 2.9m) because I was there and it was in stock and I'd been looking without luck!

Now I am wondering if I should consider something else instead. Perhaps an Aquaquest Guide, Safari or Survivor in a smaller 10x10. I do like that they are from a Vancouver Island company as well.

Any thoughts on these sizes or brands?

Thanks.
Hi

Thanks for the advice. I ended up deciding to stick with the MEC Scout. I'm heading to the Deer Group in a couple of weeks and will get to try it out. There is SO much info in this thread and the related links on options for set up! I'm going to look in to getting a couple of collapsible poles to go with it.

I'll try to get a couple of photos if it works out.
 

cougarmeat

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Sep 17, 2012
Messages
810
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Bend OR USA
Couple of things about tarps … Few hammock campers use paracord. It’s just too stretch and heavy when wet. Mostly we use AmSteel (7/64th size) and learn to make a variety of woven products, loops, dogbones, “soft” carabiners, adjustable lines (called whoopie slings), etc. But for tarp rigging, the ridgeline cord is usually 1.75 or 2.2mm cord (sometimes called LashIt) of the same woven design.

One simple setup is to have a small hook on one end and that line end goes around the tree and hooks to itself. Bonus points for coming off the side of tree instead of from the middle - it puts less strain on the hook. The other end goes around the other tree and hooks on itself by wrapping on some hardware device like a Figure-9 and slides to the desired location and locks. So at this point you have a tight clothes line. The tarp is hung under the line to adjustable prusik loops.

Anywhere in this system sliding knots can be replaced with lightweight hardware. For example, a product called Nama Claws slides on 1.75m line can locks with tension. They would hold the tarp ridgeline taut on the support line.

The usual “rule” is, in non-winter, the line goes over the tarp. 1) it reduces chaffing on a critical (waterproof) seam. 2) it prevents rain from running down the line under the tarp. In winter, where there is less wind and no rain, the line is run under the tarp to provide extra support in case of snowfall. That said, if you run the line under the tarp and hang something on it, it will be pulled down and not rub on the ridgeline. But you’ll still want a “water break” - traditionally a tied piece of cotton shoestring - to divert the water so it doesn’t run down that line under the tarp.

Some people put a short length of bungee cord - often backed up by a slightly longer fixed cord to limit the stretch - on the corners to 1) keep the edges taut, 2) give the tarps some ability to deflect so it can spill some wind and spring back.

Though it seems “the right thing to do” to orient the tarp broadside to the wind/weather, that usually result in the tarp being blown against whatever is under it and presents the largest surface area to the push force. If you can orient parallel to the wind, you present the smaller surface area to the weather and you have the support trees for addition blockage.

Many tarps, especially those chosen for winter and more extreme weather, have extra material on the ends so one or both of those ends can be closed too.

Many tarps had a pull loop on the side panel (called a panel pull) and that can be staked out or a small pole put over the ridgeline and attached to the panel pulls (one on each side, opposite each other) lifting out and up. So if you imagine the basic tarp as and upside down V, these pulls near the middle of the sides, pull out to give more interior space.

And many use an pole or two on the edge of the tarp they’d consider “the front” to lift it up like an awning (called porch mode).

But don’t get me started … I could give an 45 minute seminar :) Silnylon, Silpoly, DCF, snakeskins, continuous ridge lines/split ridge lines, dogbones, soft shackles, EVO loops, toggles, wasps, loop aliens, etc.
 
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