12' Tarp for the Sierra--Is this Overkill?

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powderhound
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12' Tarp for the Sierra--Is this Overkill?

Post by powderhound » Wed Jun 28, 2017 11:58 am

I'm looking to try tarp camping, and recently ordered a Winter 12 tarp kit from rip stop by the roll. I didn't realize how big this thing was until I laid out the fabric to mark it for cutting--the tarp will be just under 12 feet long, which seems pretty big to me. Then again, I've never used a tarp before and have no idea what I'm doing--is this a good size? Should I make it a bit smaller?

My biggest concern is having a hard time pitching it, and I'm not sure if the size would help or hurt in that department. I don't always use trekking poles, so trees/rocks will likely determine where I set it up. I'm also guessing I shouldn't be taking this to Guitar Lake or anywhere without trees unless I bring trekking poles? I also do backpacking in the rocky mountains a bit where they get more rain, but the main reason I opted for the winter tarp is that I've been snowed and rained on quite a few times in the Sierra.








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Re: 12' Tarp for the Sierra--Is this Overkill?

Post by Flamingo » Wed Jun 28, 2017 2:17 pm

Hi powderhound, that's awesome you're getting into tarp-camping, but I think 12 feet is way too big. I've constructed multiple DIY tarps over the years, and I thru-hiked both the PCT and CDT with tarps. My first tarp was 8'x10', which is approximately 8x7 footprint when pitched, and it's too big for one person. You can easily fit three people under an 8x10. If you're solo backpacking, a 6x8 flat tarp is typically fine.

Bigger tarps raise a few problems:
(1) Bigger tarps weigh more, obviously. It seems like the main reason to use a tarp is for the weight savings, so why carry a tarp that's too big?
(2) Bigger tarps pose a larger wind profile, and therefore you'll need to carry more stakes. My 8x10 tarp requires at least six stakes, but ideally eight. In contrast, my 6x8 tarp is fine with six stakes and can even work with just five.
(3) It can be challenging to find a spot to fit bigger tarps, especially if you're camping in thick woods or if it's the end of a long day and you don't have time to hunt for the perfect spot. My smaller 6x8 tarp is great and fits in bivy-sized camp spots.

> I'm also guessing I shouldn't be taking this to Guitar Lake or anywhere without trees unless I bring trekking poles?

Yes, bingo. I would advocate you bring trekking poles if you're tarp-camping. Even in the trees, there is no guarantee you'll find suitable trees + flat space for your tarp.

Anyway, tarp-camping can be fun in all seasons, even rough storms and snow, assuming you practice setting-up the tarp and get familiar with the tension and the knots. Good luck!

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Re: 12' Tarp for the Sierra--Is this Overkill?

Post by maverick » Wed Jun 28, 2017 2:51 pm

I agree with that being way to big, if set up improperly, it would make a fine kit :), but would recommend starting off with an 8 x 10, at least until you have learn the nuances of tarping, and then proceed to smaller coverage tarps.
Yes, you can use these tarps in alpine settings, but only after you have some experience under your belt with different configurations and quick set ups times.

Used to carry a an 8 x 10 tarp, but it was not the easiest to set up and then progressed on to a pancho/tarp set up, which saved weight, with my rain gear and shelter being one piece of gear, but it was to small for all my gear, especially when carrying over 10 grand worth of camera equipment, so I have moved on to using a tarptent.
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Re: 12' Tarp for the Sierra--Is this Overkill?

Post by rlown » Wed Jun 28, 2017 5:38 pm

P9290054.jpg
Trinity lake trip (Ward Lake) 2009 worked out nicely in the lil' snow storm. I'd recommend a tarp tent at least. We were gear heavy and this is what we do most of the time.
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Re: 12' Tarp for the Sierra--Is this Overkill?

Post by Tom_H » Wed Jun 28, 2017 9:26 pm

For decades I used only a tarp-no tent. In the old days they weighed several pounds, but were still lighter than tents. The Sierra is a good place for tarps in summer as it's warmer and gets less rain than places like the Rockies, though other measures are necessary if you're in mosquito territory and season. There are now places where you can get an 8'x10' (suggested size) SilNylon tarp that weighs only about 5 oz. Today's stronger paracord also allows lighter weight smaller diameter line. You should study up on the many ways to pitch a tarp based on differing weather conditions. Also learn to tie sliding adjustable modified tautline hitches on the line. (Loop your cord around a branch or rock and make this hitch on the same line. Rather than tucking in the running end, make a loop and tuck in the loop at the end. This makes it easy to pop out when breaking camp. You can pinch the hitch and slide it to adjust tension-give or take up slack quickly and easily-then let go.) The tarp should be seam sealed and use either grommets or correctly sewn-in loops. It should be professionally made. This is not a DIY project for amateurs.

You are right about rain in the Rockies. I packed a lot in Uncompaghre CO. We got rain almost every afternoon. We (I was a guide) only used tarps there and the tarps were perfectly adequate for summer conditions. Other seasons are a different story in the Rockies.

Adjustable hiking poles perform double-duty as support poles quite well, but they are not necessary. With practice, pitching a tarp becomes an advanced art and is usually not very problematic.

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Re: 12' Tarp for the Sierra--Is this Overkill?

Post by powderhound » Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:20 am

So the tarp I had planned on making looks like this. It's designed to work as an A-frame/Rain Fly with door flaps on either end, and I now realize it's designed just as much for a sleeping pad as it is for a hammock (I don't hammock camp anymore, I learned my lesson). Should I just down size it, or should I change the shape and make it a simple rectangle for versatility? Will the door flaps get in the way if I don't do an A-frame pitch?
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Re: 12' Tarp for the Sierra--Is this Overkill?

Post by rlown » Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:28 am

nice. what about skeeter protection? Any mesh and zippers in the design, or is this a post-skeeter season tarp? The number of potential stakes is a little high for my liking.

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Re: 12' Tarp for the Sierra--Is this Overkill?

Post by powderhound » Thu Jun 29, 2017 1:09 pm

There isn't anything to keep the bugs out in this design. I'm not quite sure how to add that without sewing a floor to it honestly. I might just stick with my tent during bug season, or bring a headnet.

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Re: 12' Tarp for the Sierra--Is this Overkill?

Post by Flamingo » Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:47 pm

@powderhound - You don't need a floor to keep out mosquitos. Rather, you simply need a net "skirt" sewn around the bottom edge of the tarp, and triangular net flaps over the entries. For examples, see this basic silnylon tarp I built in 2004: https://flic.kr/p/a4dQET and https://flic.kr/p/6Awz8K . To save weight, I don't add zippers to the netting doors; instead I used small velcro patches and a six-inch overlap between the two door pieces (see my photos linked above). I borrowed this basic design from the original TarpTent manufactured by Henry Shires. In my experience, even with some exposure around the bottom of my tarp, mosquitos don't come inside. It seems like they first fly several inches above the ground and then seek out their targets.
Last edited by Flamingo on Fri Jun 30, 2017 11:20 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: 12' Tarp for the Sierra--Is this Overkill?

Post by rlown » Thu Jun 29, 2017 7:07 pm

:thumbsup:

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