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Tarpology 101

Tarpology 101

I'm sure a few of you have had the unpleasant experience of standing under the edge of a tarp in the rain and having it suddenly empty a bucketful of water down your neck.  Don't get caught like this again.  A properly erected tarp can mean the difference between a night from hell and a fabulous camping experience.  

There are a lot of fancy ways to set up tarps as tent-like shelters in themselves, but here we're just focusing on the basics.  In other words: how to set up a tarp so it doesn't become a water collection trap.

Make a ridgeline.  The simplest ridgeline is a rope tied between two trees.  Make sure it is taut, and high enough that you'll be able to stand or sit comfortably underneath the tarp.  When your tarp is draped over the line with the corners tied down, there is nowhere for water to pool.

tarp with ridgeline

You can also create a false ridgeline by tying two points of the tarp tightly between two trees, like in the picture below.  (Notice how sometimes you need to peg out a corner line when there is a lack of trees.  Note: if you use your vehicle as a tie down point, DON'T FORGET to untie the line before you drive away!)

tarp false ridgeline

 Add height in the middle.  Another way to prevent pooling is to pull the middle up by tying it to an overhead branch, or by propping a pole under the centre of the tarp.  If your pole is pointy or rough, put a shoe or clothing item over the end so it doesn't rip the tarp.

tarp with middle suspended

Have a flow plan.  Water weighs down the tarp so it tends to pool if there is slack fabric.  No matter which way you set up your tarp - and we've seen some pretty fancy get-ups - always keep in mind where the water is going to go when it rains buckets.

 flow plan for tarp

Of course, if you erect a fantastic tarp in the first place, chances are it won't rain :)

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