Introduction to Tarps
Next to tents, the tarp is the most important bit of shelter the canoeist carries. We've all been there, in the driving rain, at the end of a long day with the group now split between 3 or 4 damp orange kennels and the wretched cursing cook with stove hissing, the rain bouncing off his back and spitting in the cooking oil. All kit wet with no prospect of drying it and each tent floor getting more slippery with fine slurry by the minute. In the morning? More of the same please! So with this picture of gloom in our minds, let's recap, why the tarp? Well it's:
•A huge faffing area to sort out rations or to get out of wet clobber and into dry
•A drying room with kit draped over lines to drip and steam by the fire while toddies are slurped and tales of daring-do are told
•A briefing area
•A cookhouse with covered food prep area
•A spare tent
•A lunch time shelter to feed and warm a tired group
Mainly it's the social centre for the evening where we can chill out, chat and still enjoy the view without getting soaked. When rigged high we can stand up and stretch our legs. When clamped down it's a warm cosy haven reflecting the heat of the fire against sleet and
A tarp is compact, light and immensely versatile and there is no good reason to be without one.
I've used everything from ex-military hoochis/bashas and builders tarps to custom made shelter sheets and domes. If price is an issue, get down to B&Q and get a cheap one, they wear out quickly but basically you get what you pay for. Points to look for:
• PU proofed nylon pretty much as good as it gets
•Silicon proofing is good but heavy rain will spit through
•Avoid canvas, it's immensely heavy, gets wet stays wet and if you touch it, it will dribble through. In the dry you can get spark holes in nylon, with canvas it will smoulder away all night.
•Gofor webbing loops and plenty of them (look for bar-tacking and
gate-stitch), brass grommets will rip out, especially with builders tarps
I've tried vast tarps and titchy tarps and reckon1, for a solo/tandem little tarp, go for nothing less than 3m long and 2m wide. Big tarp for groups, the bigger the better up to about 5m max and the same wide. To me, the perfect sizes are: little tarp 3m x 2.4m, big tarp 4.5m x 3m
To rig a tarp quickly and effectively you will need:
•Long lines min length 15 m, at least 2. Your tracking lines are ideal
•Guy lines 4 m long, at least 6
•Short ties 60cm then doubled, at least 8
•Pegs, alloy, 20 cm long, at least 10. On sand and loose shingle rather than carry a
set of alternative 40cm pegs I tie on to and bury logs/ sticks/ boulders etc.
•Paddle or pole locating bags negate the need for knots when your
hands are cold, wet and as dextrous as pig's tits
WHERE TO PITCH
In the Scottish highlands flat ground is at a premium and finding any may well dictate the location. But here are some points to consider:
•A breeze of 3 mph will keep the midges grounded, a gale will turn your tarp into a hang glider
•If you can be choosy, avoid frost-hollows, moss, bogs, smooth bare earth that was mud and will be again!
•In the wilds avoid rigging it over a game trail! Enough said.
•Pitch away from the tents so folks can get some shut eye while the world-righting debate in the tarp continues. Actually, pitch the
tarp first and on the prime location - that's my motto!
•Now consider: access to water, nice view etc
A tarp can swiftly become a chaotic hellhole, so nominate a "Commandant", someone pugnacious, with an almost maniacal control fetish would be ideal and then let him/her dictate precisely what goes where. Here are some guidelines:
•If the tarp is rigged high, under trees let's say, the fire/stove needs to be on the side away from the wind to carry the smoke and
sparks away while keeping the rain out of the curry.
•If hunkered low the tarp front needs to be parallel to the wind, this carries the smoke across and away and avoids (tail to wind)
smoke eddying in, (facing wind) smoke and sparks blown straight in
TRUENORTH - Big Tarp
Tough and light, the Truenorth Little Tarp is a versatile 2 person shelter for outdoorsmen whether they are canoeists, fellsmen, sea kayakers or wilderness travellers. It provides a snug bolthole in foul weather or a refuge from the blazing sun. In larger groups it can be teamed up with the Big Tarp for additional space, to close off an extra side or even as a groundsheet in soggy conditions. The Little Tarp is also ideal as a swift group shelter for a lunch stop when the Big Tarp has been left in base camp. It is designed to be rigged across a canoe, from trees, maybe over a hammock, with trekking poles or canoe paddles using the guy lines and mesh pockets. l have given a few ideas in the sketched diagrams on how to rig the Little Tarp but other innovative ways will be suggested by your imagination. In use, task, terrain and weather will dictate the shape you choose. The Little Tarp can also be put to work in many other roles: perhaps as a spinnaker or gaff rig sail for an open canoe, as a kit store or when expertly folded as a watertight canoe pack to protect your equipment from rain and spray.
A Few Favourite Rigging Options The Little Tarp can be rigged in a multitude of ways symmetrical or asymmetrical it doesn't really matter. Here are my 5 favourites, but first the "key":
The Truenorth Big Tarp is the most versatile piece of equipment in the wilderness traveller's outfit and is considered by experienced outdoorsmen to be indispensable to any expedition. As a shelter it keeps off wind and rain and blazing sun. It is at once a cookhouse, drying room, kit-sorting area, and probably most importantly the social centre for the evening by the campfire. For a 4 to 8 man expedition the
Big Tarp is the perfect size. In stormy conditions it provides a safe refuge en route to warm up a chilled group of up to 12 adults or an uncountable number of kids. The Truenorth Big Tarp is incredibly light yet tough and reinforced where the material takes the strain. It is designed to be supported from trees, or rigged over trekking poles or canoe paddles using the guy lines and reinforced mesh pockets. In just how many configurations you can rig this paragon of shelters is only limited by your imagination. The sketched diagrams suggest a few of our favourites; in use, task, terrain and weather will dictate the shape you choose. One cunning configuration is to rig the Big Tarp on one pole or paddle and fold in the surplus as a bombproof shelter for 2 with fitted groundsheet. The Big Tarp can also be put to work in many other roles. With a crisp breeze at your back and rigged as a sail it provides a raft of boats with a free ride on long stretches of broad river or open water. On wet ground, sand or long wet grass it can be a dry flat floor to sort out kit, or, when expertly folded, a watertight cache or canoe pack to protect your equipment from rain dust and spray.
Click on either image (above or below)to enlarge.
Thank you to Jed at TrueNorth for writing this article,
and granting permission for its reuse.
This entire document was scanned using OCR Technology from a photocopy-sheet,
I apologise for any spelling mistakes, it literally was the machines fault :p