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Tarp Question


May 17, 2006
I recently bought a decent tarp, but it came with nothing to string it up. I suppose this is how it is when you buy a quality tarp. What kind of line/rope should I use?
I pick up 50 metre spools of a line that MEC calls "shoelace" (it's about $15 per spool). It works great. Just cut it into lengths as you need it. Nice thing about this line is that it doesn't stretch and it packs up fairly small. And it's really strong.

I also cut pieces of the shoelace line about 3 or 4 feet and tie it onto the grommets of the tarp with about a 4 inch loop at the other end. This makes it much, much easier to set up than trying to thread a line through a small grommet each time.

One of these days I'll get around to posting an explanation of how I set my tarps up.

Right on! I'm going camping over on raccoon island tomorrow night, and this is what I will do with my tarp. Thanks Dan.
The shoelace line is about 1/8th inch thick and is usually light blue (although I've seen it in dark blue and in black). I've seen line called "shoelace" at other outdoor stores but it's rather stiff and doesn't hold a knot well. The MEC stuff is quite pliable and holds a knot really well. It's found in the climbing section.

Ditto on 1/8" shoelace from MEC.

I use somehow different approach than Dan. 10' pieces are permanently attached to the tarp's corners - eight of them in total in Silwing tarp. They do not have any loops nor knots on them, as they would tangle up during unfolding the tarp from its sack. The ones on ridge line extension have different colours, so I instantly know which corner goes first, then second.

During setup I use almost exclusively truckers hitch for the lines. It is so easy to make adjustment in tension, and when finished, easy to undo all the knots. For packing I always stuff the lines bundled up, not coiled.

Actually, before setting up the tarp, 3/16" cloth line goes first between two trees. Tarp goes on the top of it. Cloth line sags under the weight of stuff that hangs on it, so the tarp does not chafe on it.
I'm the oddball here, I guess. I prefer heavier lines for tie-downs: stretch less, never fail in heavy wind, and much easier to tie when hands are cold. I have a scraggle of lengths, from 20 ft down to 2 ft, with the shorter lengths made of the lighter line others favor.

Oh, yeah, the heavier stuff is easier to see in the dark, also.

One advantage of the long, heavy lines is you can use them as a ridge-line, avoiding the dreaded center-pole.

I'm a nut about tarps. Own 5 or 6. My paddling buddies call me Tarp-man. Could be worse, I guess.
Dave it's not often that I differ with you but in this instance I do. The shoestring line from MEC doesn't stretch, and has never failed me -- even in huge blows. Never had a problem tying knots with it either -- I'll post my method here in the next while -- it's quick, holds well, and is extremely quick to take down. I've also had no problem using the shoelace as a ridge line.

And the best part is that the shoelace line packs down a lot smaller than larger rope.

Dan, the smaller line can fail from abrasion in my clumsy, sloppy hands, but I probably would prefer quarter inch in any case. I doooo really like the smaller stuff for short runs.
I'll do up a post on tarp tying Dave. We'll have you converted to the shoelace yet!

Maybe we'll have to start up a new church to compete with the Trangia and Hennessy sects?!?

i am right there with Dave..i like a thicker line that will be easier to handle....
my only definite requirement is reflective.....
i use 3mm perlon from the clmbing department...but want the reflective threads in it or else i walk into it....
i have:
EMS Hyperwing (caternary cut 5 sided thing)
Dana Designs Hat-Tarp (hexagonal silnylon that also folds inhalf and makes a bivy sack
Cheap little Rectangular ripstop one

I always take a half dozed 6-8 inch bungee cords along and hook them through the corner loops (or grommets) of my silicone guide tarp. Then I tie the rope, string or whatever line you have to the limbs, logs, rocks or whatever you have to attach to. Loop the tarp end of the string around the bungee hook and pull until it's tight. Use a couple of half hitches to secure. The bungees allow you to add tension to the setup that allows for a taut tarp and high winds are less likely to rip out the grommets or loops.
My way is to use long narrow webbing with a buckle for attaching to trees, and have loops in the line every foot or so, mostly because I can't tie knots worth a damn,especially if I'd need to untie them :) Works pretty good.
rider said:
My way is to use long narrow webbing with a buckle for attaching to trees, and have loops in the line every foot or so, mostly because I can't tie knots worth a damn,especially if I'd need to untie them :) Works pretty good.

Next year, during spring WCP campout, I'll run a seminar on basic knots. You can start signing in now, as spaces are limited. Seriously!
Thief's 3 mm Perlon is killer, especially in reflective mode.

I'm in Greg's camp on knots: only need a few for tarps: two half hitches for attaching lines to grommets; tautline hitch for adjustable attachments to pullout anchors; sheet bend for joining lines; bowling at times for anchors.

Knots work so much better in line of a certain diameter. The "parachute cord" stuff I use for short runs to a limb or similar is a nominal eighth inch in diameter and is good for those placements, but for the main anchors I like quarter inch, for sure.

Webbing done the rider way makes a lot of sense; knots in webbing are nasty to untie.
greg0rn said:
Next year, during spring WCP campout, I'll run a seminar on basic knots. You can start signing in now, as spaces are limited. Seriously!

I'll be first to sign up. Moderator; Please date stamp and verify this post. :lol:
on my latest trip, i used a ridgeline for the first time. i used Prussic loops (c/w tiny carabiners) to tension the tarp ridge. i use bowlines to add length to lines, and a truckers hitch to tie off and tension. all lines are 1/8" (nominal) para-chord in OD green.

Sometimes we hang tarps too close to sparks on windy nights and the annoyance of the drip in the one spot you sit to eat breakfast in the morning can be fixed temporarily with Duct tape. I always keep a few feet of it rolled around the end of a pen or pencil and it has been used a number of times. It also works for rodent bites on the fly of your tent.
My solutions

I can't tie for beans either! I use these to secure the canoe for and aft on the Xterra, but they would work pulling a tarp tight.


My tarp with possibility to collecting rain water.
It helps a lot this year in sea sailing in area without fresh water sources.