View Full Version : Site Selection for Tarping

02-22-2005, 09:00 AM
To all of you tarpers out there. I was experimenting with my paratarp the other day, and I had a question about setup that needs to answers.

While up the mountain, I originally set the tarp up in late afternoon. Thermals were obviously moving up the hill. It seems like the prevailing wind was blowing up and to the right of the maountain face.

Knowing that the thermals are going to switch and move downhill at night, is it best to set up the tarp to address nighttime thermals to keep that wind off you while sleeping??

02-22-2005, 10:39 AM

I don't usually use my tarp to protect me from wind. In fact, I donít even set it up if it's not going to precipitate. I use the landscape to protect myself from the wind.

You can usually find pockets that have denser trees, this is a good indication of where there is less wind. Also, you will find that certain types of trees offer more protection because some trees are more brittle than others. If a stand of brittle trees exists, it tells you that wind has not been a factor.

For example, in the North East, I like to look for White Pines. If I find a stand that includes young trees, I'm good to go. Hemlocks are good too.

Watch were the deer bed during storms, they tend to do the same thing.

If you want to camp in the open, I would suggest a tipi or a tent.

One more thing, if the weather does pick up and you get a draft even in your protected spot, which happens, just adjust your tarp. I like to use a taught line hitch on my lines. In a pinch I can loosen the line and lay a log or a rock on the line to drop a corner or two to the ground. Or simply retie a corner to something closer to the ground.

What's nice about the Paratarp is you can drop three sides to the ground if need be. Not true with a regular square tarp.

At any rate, yes, getting out of the wind is key to enjoying tarping.

02-22-2005, 11:35 AM
I also use terrain features to find the best wind breaks... I agree with most of KSnakes ideas... alot of the areas I haunt also have large rocks that provide excellent wind breaks.

And just for arguements sake, you CAN drop 3 sides on a square tarp. http://www.golite.com/team/athletes/coup/ct_pics/pages/24.htm

02-22-2005, 12:19 PM

I've got tents and a 6-man. But I want to use the tarp for fast and light scouting for spring/summer, especially solo.

Good info, thanks for the response. I have yet to do any tarp camping but am greatly interested in the benefits of it.
I'm still too much of a sissy to not put it up and hope it doesn't rain....But then again, the first time I heard of a floorless tipi I wondered how one keeps safe from all the nasty critters out there.

Taking it to the next level I suppose.

02-22-2005, 01:00 PM
Sgathak, nice pics, no neighbors. I'm scratching my head trying to set my paratrap up like your pic. Yours, appears the opening is wider then the depth in contrast with Patricks WEB site. Is that a different mfg? If not did you just add a support strap to lash on to the rear treking pole? Thanks, Mike.

02-22-2005, 01:07 PM

Understood, you can get used to tarping at whatever speed works best for you. I was just using the no-tarp example to help explain the importance of location with respect to wind. If you find a good spot, you usually wont have to worry about the thermals. And like Sgathak suggested, rocks and logs are useful too.

If you are going to practice with it, try this. Set it up off the ground with a 360 degree view. Then pretend a storm comes from one direction and figure out how to adjust it to meet the conditions. Then imagine the storm shifts 180 degrees and re-adjust to those conditions. I have had friends try this exercise their first time out with a tarp and it's very enlightening.

Just an FYI since you brought it up though. If you use a synthetic bag, you would be surprised what it can handle. Snow is easy, and light rain is doable for a short period of time. Your heat will evaporate the moisture faster than it can sink in. Although waking up to something cold falling on your face is annoying. Anyway, you will love tarping once you get used to it.


I can't see from that pic how the third wall works. But would be interested in learning how it's done. I used to use an 8x10 tarp and sometimes had to use brush or a rain jacket to close up the third side. Did you bunch up a section in the middle of the tarp and tie off to it?

02-22-2005, 01:13 PM
Thats not my pic, its actually a pic of a poncho rigged as a tarp. That pic is of GoLites poncho and rigged by GoLits founder on a thru hike of the Colorado trail.

I recently met with Patrick about making a similar item. Completely different cut, but a poncho that also makes a good shelter. He suggested I try to make and sell it myself... so Im in research stage on what needs done to make this happen.

02-22-2005, 01:16 PM
how to rig....

you stake out the back edge and the side. make sure your front edge has good slack to raise it up. Use sticks or poles to hold up the front edge, and runa line to the ground to hold it tight, like in the pic.

for the backside, he has tied his line to the hood of the poncho, up to a pole, and back down to the ground.

02-22-2005, 01:29 PM

Gotcha! Thanks!

02-22-2005, 01:33 PM
Your welcome

Heres another pic from the same set. This one shows a similar set, up, but the head edge is raised.

It should help explain how things are tied together.


02-22-2005, 01:42 PM

I've got a Wi***'s bag, I am currently ducking to avoid any incoming......So I am not overly worried about precip.

That is a good suggestion about setting it up and learning how to orient it if storms are coming in. I will do that. Thanks for the great info.

This message board is truly invaluable. If only the board was there when I stuck the paper clip in an electrical outlet when I was a kid.......Actually, in foresight, it will hopefully preventing me from doing anything bad to myself since I've recently started reloading.

Let me ask you this, what do you think about the paraponcho, and have u used it? I am thinking about pickinh one up to close in my para tarp to use with the small stove.

02-22-2005, 03:54 PM
Hi Shawn, I dont have a paraponcho or a stove, so I can't speak to those.

02-22-2005, 04:52 PM
I have a cheap equinox silnylon poncho, and used it as a vestibule with a standard flat tarp. Just from that perspective, it will make a much more weatherproof shelter.

02-22-2005, 07:55 PM
Another 3 sided/walled shelter from an 8x10 tarp is the diamond set up, which to me is one of the easiest and storm proof set ups. Tie one corner up to sapling or you can cut a pole (tree is easier). Take the far corner on the diagonal towards the windward and stake to the ground. Then stake your other two corners down.Clear as mud? Sorry no pic.

02-22-2005, 08:16 PM
Chris, that is my prefered rigging, but is technically a 2 sided shelter. It is however very weather resistant and offers alot of floor space.

02-22-2005, 08:57 PM
Just one small word to the wise if you're using a poncho as described above...be sure the hood portion is properly tied off to prevent water from funneling in during inclement weather.
We used to carry an extra poncho with us on bivouacs so we could snap them together and it would make for a pretty comfortable (relatively speaking) hooch even in the foulest of weather.
Extra 550 cord comes in handy when poncho sheltering to facilitate your creativity at avoiding nasty weather.

02-22-2005, 10:27 PM

Yeah, technically 2 sides. I guess I was counting the ridge line as the roof. Anyhow I agree with an 8x10 tarp very roomy.

02-23-2005, 12:56 AM
Heres some pics of the "flying diamond" like Chris mentioned. This poncho is cut to 6' x7' and still offers plenty of protection from the elements

(note - I rigged this quickly, after 0130... this isnt as well rigged as it could be... )



02-23-2005, 01:04 PM
That's how I set up my 8x10 tarp, then use the poncho to close the third side.

02-23-2005, 05:36 PM

I tend to set up my ParaTarp sideways to the thermals. As you probably know by now, the thing is as windproof as just about any tent so you can pitch it anywhere. Sideways to the wind keeps it from bothering you if you place yourself well into the tarp. OK?

02-24-2005, 12:54 PM
As always, Thanks for the enlightenment. Do you normally pitch the tarp in an A-frame setup, I like the pic using it as a rain/wind shelter

I wonder if you realize how much of an influence you have had on people's lives Mr. Smith. The information and products on this board have added another dimension to my life and those around me.

Plus, your info and equip helped me put elk meat in the freezer for the first time.

Just wanted to give thanks

02-24-2005, 01:09 PM
Whoa! I didn't expect to hear such kind words from you, Shawn. I'm honored to say the least. And humbly thank you. Remember always that I benefit from this gear, these techniques, myself. I do dearly love God's wonderful Creation, and hanker to ramble it all my days.

How about that elk! You're just getting started I hope, and will make the backcountry homey the rest of your days.

Yes, I use the A-frame pitch exclusively now. I designed the ParaTarp from the beginning to capitalize on the shape I first found excellent when developing the ParaTipi.

02-24-2005, 04:23 PM
Patrick, or anyone else that has used the paratarp. How would you recommend setting it up if you are not using poles? Or do you always use poles? Without poles, those two points in the middle with the reinforced patches sag and can collect the wet stuff. I have been experimenting, but still looking for the perfect solution. Still used to the ol' 8x10 I guess where this wasnt an issue. Haven't tried it yet but next time I'm thinking of running a line the length of, and above the tarp, and tieing those two points straight up to it. I'm sure that would work. Thoughts?

02-24-2005, 04:55 PM
This sounds like it we be a great discussion to revisit at the ECR...Will a paratarp be present Patrick?

02-24-2005, 05:02 PM

Yes, always "poles"--either Kifaru versions, Treking Poles (most often) or local limbs. No problem.

02-24-2005, 07:10 PM
Thanks Patrick.

Ken, planning on being there. Have paratarp, will travel.

02-24-2005, 08:49 PM
Why would using poles make a difference in the pitch of the tarp? It seems like a pole "pushing" the tarp up from inside would be no different than a guy line "pulling" the tarp up from above.

I am seriously looking at the tarp vs. the paratipi, and I hate poles in the middle of things. Am I missing something?

Woods Walker
02-24-2005, 09:04 PM
One positive to poles is that you are not a slave to trees. You can set up any place you like. Some times finding the right combo of flat non-rocky ground and trees can be a pain. That is the case in my neck of the woods. Also it is much harder to enclose a tarp with out a pole. I have tried and found I needed two tarps, 40 feet of line and about 45 minutes of messing around. But then again maybe I am just bad at it.

02-24-2005, 10:00 PM

A rigid "push" from inside is infinitly more stable than a line "lift" from above. In a good wind the top side cordage set-up will gyrate like a go-go dancer, whilst the sturdy pole rig will ride it out like a rock. Plus all the excellent location points Woods Walker alludes to. The right patch of ground with just the right tree branch above it is simply NEVER there. Ever. At least for me.

02-25-2005, 08:15 AM
In my neck of the woods, the northeast, I never have an issue finding good trees to work with. In fact, sometimes the problem is too many trees and bushes.

Things are different in other places tho. Out west there is lots of open space where poles would make more sense.

But with plenty of trees to work with, I can set up the tarp with lines just as fast as using poles (faster if I have to find sticks to use). And it's plenty sturdy. Never had an issue there.

And personally I like the 360 degree view in the morning. (I've taken deer from my sleeping bag.) So if I used sticks, I would need them about 4-5 feet long to get it up high enough. So that's another positive for using trees.

Using trees does take some practice tho. You have to think about which trees will work the best for where you want to sleep etc. So that's definitely a plus for poles which are a lot more straight forward!

As for trekking poles, I donít use them. And even if I did, I wouldn't want to drop the tarp to the ground every time I wanted to use the trekkers.

I suppose I could find sticks to use when I get there, but sometimes I arrive at night and finding good sticks isn't as easy as you might think. If you're in a hemlock forest for example. Or when there is snow on the ground.

So I'm working on a good way to use lines. An 8x10 was simple. But the paratarp presented a little twist to my usual method. I'll report back after I try my ridge line above the tarp idea.

02-25-2005, 08:33 AM
I guess when you think about it, a pole "push" from inside would be more stable than a guy line attached to a tree limb. In a heavy wind, the tree, and the limb the line is tied to are subject to movement; whereas the pole is not. Follwing that logic, if a tarp were pitched in a way that it had two lines, each attached to a tree, then the 'wiggle room' would double. I can also see that if two limbs moved in two different directions, the tarp itself could be stressed, or stakes loosened, etc. Something to think about. Thank you Patrick. I learned something here.

02-22-2006, 10:51 PM
Great topic Shawn,

When camping above timberline sometimes I longingly look at the treeline below and think: "Wouldn't it make more sense to be down there?" Not! I like to wrap up in the tarp pinning the ends down under my pad. I keep a few rocks around to anchor it along with my pack when I get up in the night when nature calls keeping well aware of the wind direction that. With this simple setup I can re-align myself easily when the winds shift. I tie a grommet or two to my pack incase things want to take off. Before I had a gortex bag I used a REI Cyclops bag cover and the tarp to keep dry. On clear cold nights the tarp wrap keeps things a bit warmer as a wind break. I agree with Ksnake about using the land to provide some shelter. I'll have to do some rigging when I get around to using a paraponcho with a stove though - good advice here.

02-25-2006, 07:51 AM

Welcome. This thread was a good one; thanks for bringing it back up top. I should take a moment to mention why I personally pitch my A-frame configured Tarps "high" rather than "Low, or flat". The reason is so that I can sit up for fixing dinner, or just watching the sun go down, the rain drops fall, etc. Lying on my side/back/stomach for 14 hours is simply not going to happen anymore!