Mar 11, 2014 at 3:36 pm #1314302
@anotherdyementionLocale: NE Ohio
I'm considering using a tarp for backpacking but can't find anything on what to do if it's raining sideways (from wind) into the opening at the end. Obviously it'd be ideal to have the sides facing the wind but what about when it changes direction and it's blowing right in?Mar 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm #2081911
Does your tarp have center guy out points (along the ridge line)? If it does, you can find an overhanging branch/limb and tie your center guy points to it. This will support your tarp from above instead of from the sides like a traditional a-frame. Then all of your other guy out points can be staked directly into the ground giving you protection from all sides. You will end up with a sort of rectangular umbrella shape. Similar to a pyramid tent except the peak is tied to an object above instead of supported by a pole (and the end product is different because it's a rectangle/square). Leave one side high enough that you can slide yourself in it.
I wish I had some pictures of this to show you. Hopefully that wasn't too confusing.Mar 11, 2014 at 3:51 pm #2081914
Or you can set up an a-frame or lean to that is so low to the ground that you your bag is almost touching the tarp. At that low of an angle you would need 90 degree horizontal rain getting blown in at ground level.Mar 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm #2081916
@anotherdyementionLocale: NE Ohio
Thanks, I know what you mean by hanging it from above. And I guess I didn't think about just setting it up right above my sleeping bag. Seems pretty obvious now tht you mentioned that lol. Oh well. Thanks for the replies.Mar 11, 2014 at 5:01 pm #2081931
Tarps with a A frame Cat cut (like the MLD Grace Duo or the GG Q-Twinn) allow you to pitch the sides to the ground and then pitch the end fairly close to the ground you will basically have three sides of protection. With square shaped tarps you can go with the Half Pyramid pitch with also gives you three sides of protection.Mar 11, 2014 at 6:16 pm #2081947
@rwattsLocale: Western PA
We've used a tarp (currently a 10 x 14 silnylon) year round in PA/WV since the late 70's and only a few times faced rain that can defeat your ingenuity in the quest to stay protected (blowing and drifting snow is another matter entirely). Very rarely do we need to lower the windward edge of the tarp close to the ground but this is mainly a function of using such a big tarp for two people and a dog: I have a 5 x 9 tarp that is much less protective even for one person (and of course my dog). It's actually quite exciting siting bone dry watching the rain pouring down a few feet from your face. Take a bivy just in case (bourbon helps too).Mar 11, 2014 at 6:41 pm #2081951
@kat_pLocale: Pacific Coast
In heavy rain I would very comfy in my hammock and my winter tarp with doors :)Mar 11, 2014 at 6:43 pm #2081952
@geokiteLocale: Southern California
Your concern about blowing rain down the length of the tarp happened to me above tree line in the Sierras (Guitar Lake thunderstorm). While I was using a MLD Serenity shelter with a full nylon door, the design doesn't support the door very well (not tight enough to deflect the wind). Not a fun experience. After that I swore I would only use tarps with beaks. Sold that tarp, made a new one with beaks.
SteveMar 11, 2014 at 9:59 pm #2082004
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
MLD Trailstar.Mar 12, 2014 at 1:55 am #2082020
I try to avoid places where the wind hit's hard, especially when rain may hammer down. It's asking for trouble, even as far as a peaceful sleep free of flapping tarp material goes.
I look for a site well protected from wind, on a lee slope, and/or in a clearing in brush or thick trees, etc.Mar 12, 2014 at 3:32 am #2082024
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
I agree with Buck. Half of sucessfull tarp camping is selecting good ground. It really isn't any different than sleeping in the basic lean-to's found throughout the NE.
There is not much you can do after a tarp is set up to avoid major wind shifts. Near lakes and other large bodies of water, all you can do is avoid immediate beaches. Woods, brush stands, and other sheltered areas are best. Generally, in the northern latitiudes anyway, the winds come out of the west. In a ravine or valley it might be better to set the tarp up at right angles to the valley, though. Winds .will often flow up/down along the stream bed.
Use a somewhat larger tarp. In the western deserts, a 5'x7' tarp is often enough. In the east, that doesn't work very well. I use a 7×9 tarp and find it barely adequate in high summer. A 9×9 gives me more dry space for clothing or a partner. In shoulder seasons, a 10×10 is better due to the large number of rain storms. A 7×11 shaped tarp, with front beak & small 12" back opening, is good for solo camping. I have used this in some wild thunder storms, and stayed dry. I try to figure about a 45 degree angle from any edge left open to the weather.
Some storms will blow spray in anyway, but this is usually in the form of mist, or small droplets that almost float in the air. Not a lot you can do with that. The solution is a full coverage tent at a lot more weight. It is rare for heavy and violent wind storms to last more than 24 hours. Stuff may get damp from the mist, but rarely truly wet.Mar 12, 2014 at 8:02 am #2082059
you could carry a grizz beak (that doubles as a rain skirt)Mar 12, 2014 at 8:41 am #2082081
If you are using a large 8'x10' tarp, it usually isn't much of a problem, though the large size can be a disadvantage in strong winds. My current solo sized tarp does need a bit more care in rain since its shorter in length. My worry is more about the head end then the foot end since my tarp is much shorter at the foot end since its not a true rectangle as you don't need headroom on that end. Due to being a cat cut tarp, I only use an A-Frame type setup though I may have the wind side staked directly the the ground while the other side may be staked high up in the air.
If in wind, you normally stake the tarp lower to the ground (lower your trekking pole height or tie it lower to a tree and make the tarp wider but lower to the ground) so that it acts less like a sail. This also means you'll have less rain blown under since the opening at the ends is shorter. In really strong winds, this may mean you are crawling into/out of the tarp. As Buck stated, you normally look for a sheltered spot, if available where boulders, trees, brush, logs, will block off some of the wind. Staying dry in a tarp is mostly about campsite selection.
I normally use my treking poles at the ends and stake it to the ground, but if rain is threatening and a large tree is available, I'll often tie the head end to the large tree instead which blocks a large part of the opening. In the past, I've put my packcover on my pack and used it and my rain coat to block off some of the opening after the wind shifted. I know some hikers who like to carry umbrellas for sun and rain and they use those to help close off part of the end.
I've been tarp camping since 2006. I've only been bothered by wind blown rain inside the tarp a couple of times when I was forced to camp in less ideal campsites with strong winds. Worse case, you collapse it and rotate the tarp around and put it back up. I normally don't bother and only did so maybe twice since the wind direction was often changing. Only 1 time did I get really wet underneath my tarp and that was due to a really poor campsite selection that I will never repeat. I normally carry a water resistant bivy sack for such situations and because I normally cowboy camp if it isn't raining.
On the plus side, a tarp has less condensation issues than a tent which can keep you drier in some conditions. When I hiked the PCT through Washington in 2009, I seemed to stay drier with my tarp then many other thru-hikers in their single wall tents and tarp tents due to this issue.Mar 12, 2014 at 9:19 am #2082108
@gearmakerLocale: Northern California
Depending on the number and spacing of your side tie-outs, it may be possible to stake the corners in and under until they meet, essentially closing off the end. In the pictures below I use a zipper to then connect the sides of the end, but you can pitch it the same way without the zipper and get just a narrow slit at the end. If you do it at both ends, then you essentially have a floorless tent which can take horizontal rain from any direction.
Pitched as an A-frame
Ends folded in an under until they meet
Side view of ends folded in and under
Both ends closed offMar 12, 2014 at 10:23 am #2082133Mar 12, 2014 at 12:15 pm #2082171
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Tarps can be light, but you pay in exposure. I think they are viable for summer use in forested areas, but can't imagine a blow above treeline. Rain isn't so much the problem, but WIND will getcha. Vertically falling rain is just pitter patter on the roof.
It's all about site selection and pitching to suit the weather. As you noted, the stinker is having the weather change directions after you have pitched for the night. There's little choice but to live with it or get up and re-pitch, both making for a wet night. A bivy can help, but that adds to the cost and weight.
Shaped tarps with beaks and cantenary sides can improve wind and weather performance, but they are limited to basic a-frame pitches. If you get a big flat tarp, it can be pitched in many configurations to suit the weather and number of users.
That's why floorless tent designs are popular. They can give 360° protection for a few ounces more. They are limited to one configuration in most cases. The Borah Gear Borahgami is a notable exception.Mar 12, 2014 at 12:18 pm #2082173
This is one of my favs.
The key thing is pitching it very low to the ground, but using the center/top guy outs to give you more head room in the center of the tarp. Obviously being in a forest with lots of trees and branches to tie off to gives you more options.Mar 12, 2014 at 12:27 pm #2082176
@larry_swearingenLocale: NE Indiana
>>Obviously being in a forest with lots of trees and branches to tie off to gives you more options.<<
AND lots of guy line helps.
LarryMar 12, 2014 at 12:33 pm #2082179
Yep, in bad weather I carry generous amounts and lengths of guy lines and 10 + stakes for all of the stake out points. It's a chunk of weight to add on but worth it.
In good weather I carry maybe 6 stakes, 3 for each side, and two lines for ridelines. That's it. I mostly cowboy camp in fair weather and don't mind being limited to a simple a-frame pinned directly to the ground if it happens to rain.Mar 12, 2014 at 2:58 pm #2082226
There's a good discussion and some good advice in this articleMar 12, 2014 at 4:06 pm #2082241
If I were to tarp camp for more than a night (since overnights, you can plan for the weather) I would use an enclosed tarp like an MLD Duo-Mid.
It's still a "tarp" in terms of weight and everything, but it's a lot stronger against adverse weather because it's designed for it.
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