For over-nighters, I used to exclusively use a small 2 man tent since they are pretty lightweight and easy to setup. More recently, I have ventured into the world of using just a tarp to shed some weight and allow a bit more versatility and flexibility to how I construct my shelter while out in the woods. Typically, I simply run a ridge line between a couple trees either level across or on a pitch to configure the tarp in either an A-Frame or Arrowhead configuration but a week ago ran into a situation where I was staying in an area where my shelter needed to be constructed without the use of any trees. Living in the North East, I guess I never thought I would be in a situation where I did not have any trees to use for the structure of my tarp configuration but here I was in the dark without any trees to secure a ridge line to. Since I hadn’t properly prepared myself and tried any tarp configurations with did not rely on the use of trees for assistance, I had to figure something out new and fast. After trying a few different configurations and a little trial and error, I was able to come up with a nice little tent setup using a hiking pole (which I had just purchased, thankfully) as my center support. As you can see in the photo on the right, I staked the tarp at the center seam, folded one half under as a ground cloth and then staked the remaining corners and pitched the middle with my hiking pole. This worked quite well but I was a little chilly with a large opening and no fire to keep me warm.
Having the ground covering was a nice to have, but I sacrificed a good deal of space and ability to close off the opening as a result. For the second night, I reconfigured the tarp without having any portion folded under for ground cover since I really didn’t need it due to having my bivvy on hand and rain wasn’t in the forecast anyway. The end result was something similar to what you will see in the video below, but no where near as pretty. It worked very well, I was able to fully enclose my “tent” to lock in my body heat, and even tested using a penny alcohol stove as a shelter heater which worked fantastic I must say.
This weekend I will be out in the woods testing the configuration in the video below as I have learned that having a tarp is great for that versatility and flexibility, but if you are not prepared with the knowledge and hands on experience to put it to use in the various configurations, it will not do you any good. The same goes for everything we do in life, having the knowledge of how to do something can only get you so far, actually put that knowledge to use is the only way to permanently store that knowledge in your brain for actual use. I am sure many of those reading this spend hours researching, reading, and watching videos on how to do this, that or the other thing, but rarely get out to actually try out whatever it may be and learn first hand. Everything looks easy when you read about it or watch a video on how it’s done, and it is easy most of the time, but only after you have done it yourself several times. So with that, I encourage you to no only continue learning new skills through research, reading and watching of videos, but get out regularly and try it for yourself, learn what works, what doesn’t work and all the various challenges of each new skill you may learn.
The tarp I have been using for awhile now (and love thus far), is the Snugpak All Weather Shelter
which I purchased off Amazon for around $60. Worth every penny! The tarp is a 10×10 made of rip-stop nylon with taped seams, corner grommets, and 4 webbing straps sewn into each side. Great tarp, great price. I will put together a thorough review after I get more use out of it.