Tarps add greatly to group dynamics My tent is only used for sleeping in, basically because it’s smaller than a dog house. So when it rains out I depend on a good tarp to shelter me. I started off with one of those big blue nylon-reinforced plastic tarps.

It actually worked quite well, but was a real pain to carry. The material was extremely stiff and bulky. And the cheap corner grommets had a tendency to snap in heavy winds. Eventually I upgraded to a light weight, polyurethane coated, rip-stop polyester tarp (you can get them in the even lighter nylon material). I love it. As soon as it rains, I erect the 10′ x 12′ (2.9m x 3.9m) tarp, build a small fire under it, and sit, relax and cook up a pot of tea or hot soup. There’s nothing like it.

There’s no specific trick to putting up a tarp. It’s just that some campsites have a better arrangement of trees than others. The perfect scenario is a tree for each of the four corners. More than likely, however, you’ll have to unpack an extra length of rope and extend one or two corners to a nearby exposed root or alder bush.

The most common shape the tarp should be placed in is a “lean-to” style. This consists of having two ends placed up high, preferably attached to a rope strung between two trees, and the other two placed low to the ground, towards the prevailing winds. Make sure it’s snug or the tarp will flop around in the wind and irritate you to no end throughout the night. I’ve attached small bungee cords on each corner grommet to help keep the ropes tight. A center pole also helps keep the tarp taunt. However, rather than searching all over for a tree limb to place in the center of the tarp, purchase a paddle strap. This neat device was designed by Thomas Benian of Outdoor Solutions and works by lashing two paddles tightly together to act as a solid center pole.

Trucker’s Hitch: This is the ultimate combination of a knot and pulley system. It’s a great way to rig rain tarps and tent guy ropes or just tighten up a cloths line. The best use, however, is to cinch down your canoe or kayak on top of your vehicle. First, tie off the rope onto the roof rack on one side of the load. Then, about three quarters along, twist the rope to form a loop and bring the loose end of the rope through the loop to form a second loop. Take note that the higher up you make the loop, the more powerful the hitch will be. Now, pass the rope around the other side of the roof rack and bring it back through the loop. Pull and hold down the grip by finishing off with a half hitch.

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