Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pimp my Tarp

I've really taken a liking to the tarp and bivvy set-up recently. The weight saving is obviously attractive but I'm finding I really like the exposure. The simplicity of just gazing up at a star studded night sky, watching passing satellites and occasional meteors until drifting off to sleep is a truly magical experience. Of course this is all well and good if the sky is clear and the weather is calm and dry. Any suggestion of a dodgy forecast and I will take the tent or the trailstar. Anyway, in anticipation of some nice balmy summer nights I have been trying a few different tarp configurations in the back garden. Here they are :-

I have used the 2 'lean-to' configurations a few times now and they work well but with both set-ups there is a large area of unsupported silnylon which has a tendency to sag as it collects condensation. Using the 2 lifter points solves this problem and so the last time I camped out I looked for suitable sticks along the walk, but as is perhaps typical when hiking in the high fells, I didn't come across anything suitable. A fellow 'twitterer' had previously suggested taking 2 bamboo canes as they are light & fairly strong. So I recently spent an hour in the garden fiddling with my 3 favourite tarp configurations but with the addition of two 3 foot bamboo canes as lifters. These 3 short videos are the result and although I've yet to test these 'pimped up' tarp set-ups in the fells I reckon they should do the job nicely.

The tarp can be pitched in a whole variety of different ways to suit the conditions and using hiking poles, trees, sticks, boulders etc as anchor points for the guy lines. The 'A-Frame' set-up seems popular with many folk but that blocks my view of the sky and doesn't provide much wind protection from the side. As I do most of my camping in the high fells, it is wind resistance that is of most importance to me and the 3 configurations above provide adequate shelter, with the 'flying V' being the most sturdy.

The tarp is the 'solo tarp' from backpackinglight.co.uk It is 9 foot x 5 foot silnylon, weighs 278 grams and has lots of attachment loops around the perimeter (16 in total) plus the 2 lifter points.  

Here are a few videos of the bivvy (and tarp in 2 of them) set up in the Lake District mountains.


  1. Steve

    Just a tip. Never admit as you do at the start of this post that you like exposing yourself. It's not nice and it's not pretty.

    Tarps? Not for me.

    1. Ha Yes. Regarding what folk do in their spare time, Exhibitionism and Wild Camping must surely must be polar opposites!
      The tarp is great David. It's just like a trailstar with a bigger door :-)

  2. Very useful videos. Question: You precut your cord for holding up the hiking poles. What length are they?
    Thank you.

    1. Each line is about 2 meters but I use mini line locks so the length can effectively be altered anywhere between 1 and 2 meters.