Rain Tarps

A properly erected rain tarp can make all the difference in the world if you are stuck camping during rainy weather. If you have a tarp, you can sit, cook or relax in relative comfort in the foulest of weather. If you don't, you're going to be spending a lot of time in your tent.

We carry a lightweight 10' x 12' tarp. It is made of ripstop nylon and has brass grommets around the perimeter. Although it was expensive as compared to the woven "tarps" available, it packs down to a very compact bundle and weighs next to nothing. If we are travelling with a larger group, we will occasionally carry two of these.

The most common method of erecting a rain tarp is either "lean-to" style, sloping front to back; or a peaked "tent" style as shown in the photo above.

There is no magic formula for putting up a tarp. Nature doesn't always cooperate by putting four perfectly located trees at the corners where we require them. This means that we sometimes have to be creative about putting up the tarp. That fourth corner may have to be tied to a tree 50 ft. away, or to a small bush, or to an exposed tree root. Believe me, if it means getting out of a driving rain, you'll come up with some sort of system to get the tarp overhead.

To erect a tarp "lean-to" style, orient the tarp so that the low end is towards the prevailing weather (usually west or northwest). The high end is tied to a rope stretched from tree to tree. The low end is anchored at or close to the ground to help deflect the wind. It is important to stretch the tarp as tight as a drum. If it is not tight, we will have the pleasure of listening to it flap in the breeze all night. I have been on more than one trip where I heard someone get up in the middle of the night with a flashlight to fasten down that flapping corner so that they could sleep.  A good idea is to make loops of elastic or bungee cord for the tarp grommets so that ropes automatically stay taut.

This type of arrangement can sometimes require a lot of rope. Make sure you don't skimp on the quantity of rope you bring along.