Great Alternative to a Tent

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Great Alternative to a Tent

Post by wannabemountainman on Tue 28 Aug 2012, 13:22

Hang ‘Em High: Tips for Getting Organised Under Your Tarp

by Paul Kirtley

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of waking up under a tarp on a fresh morning with the sun shining through the trees. You are immediately connected with the landscape around you. You can see the birds and animals, you can smell the dew. None of the hemmed-in stuffiness of a tent.

View from under a tarp with sun and a little mist

There's nothing quite like waking up in cool morning air under a tarp. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Compared to a tarp, a tent also seems to provide a little more margin for sloppiness. You can leave things lying around on the groundsheet and they won’t go far or get wet. Under a tarp you need to be more organised.

There are a few tricks you can use to keep organised while under a tarp. One of them is using a hanging line. This is a line of cord that is normally tied off to the same trees as the tarp and runs under the apex of the tarp.

You can then use this line to hang up equipment so that it is off the ground or in easy reach. It is also valuable to be able to air off your sleeping bag by hanging it under your tarp – you can wander away from your bivvy without worrying that your sleeping bag might get a soaking from a rain shower.

Various bags attached to the hanging line

You can use the draw-cord or a fastex-style clip to attach bags to the hanging line. Photo: Ben Gray.

Obviously, if a bag has one, you can use a fastening clip to close over the line and suspend it. You could also use small key-ring type karabiners. Neither of these, however, will hold the item at a particular point of the hanging line and the karabiners add to your kit. I’m all for solutions that use what you’ve got rather than forcing you to bring more stuff.

For attaching items to the hanging line – and holding them at a particular point – there are a few knots that are useful. Applying these knots all boil down to being able to tie a cow hitch, also commonly known as a larks foot, larks head or girth hitch.

It’s simple to tie and easy to remember.

If you aren’t familiar with this hitch, then here is a great animation to show you how.

The knots below are variations on this theme.

Attaching a Draw-Cord Bag (with quick-release)

Tying a cow hitch with the doubled line of a draw-cord

First start to tie a cow hitch with the doubled-line of the draw-cord. Photo: Ben Gray.

Conituing to tie the cow-hitch with doubled-cord effectively forms a Prusik.

Continuing to tie the cow-hitch with doubled-cord effectively forms a Prusik. Photo: Ben Gray.

Pulling a bight through the cow hitch rather than the live end

Pull a bight through the hitch in order to create a quick-release pull. Photo: Ben Gray.

Pulling the cow hitch tight

Pulling the hitch tight means it will grip the hanging line and stay wherever you leave it, without sliding down to the lowest point. Photo: Ben Gray.

Attaching Continuous Loops Using a Cow Hitch

The above form of the cow hitch requires access to a free end of cord. You can also form a cow hitch with a continuous loop of cord.

forming a cow hitch with a continuous loop of cordage

A cow hitch in a continuous loop. Drawing: Matthew Gates.

The most obvious application of this under your tarp is to hang your headtorch above your head when you go to sleep.

Head torch attached to hanging line by a looped cow hitch.

Using a looped cow hitch you can hang your head-torch within easy reach. Photo: Ben Gray.

Practical Organisation

I keep my tarp at the top of my pack. It comes out first when I set up camp. This provides a dry, covered area. When you set up your tarp, set up the hanging line, and as you further unpack your rucksack, you can add items to it.

Keep a length of cord for your hanging line in a stuff-sac with your tarp. Alternatively keep it in the same place as your head-torch in your pack (I keep mine in the pocket inside the lid of my pack). In the morning this line and my head-torch, which is suspended on it, are pretty much the last things that go in my pack before the tarp.

A hanging line allows you to suspend items off the ground and stay organised.

A hanging line allows you to suspend items off the ground and stay organised. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

The precision and detail of this may seem a little over the top. It’s very rare, however, that I misplace any item of kit. If you work on the basis of only taking the bare minimum of equipment, then everything you take is essential. Losing any of it, therefore, will at least make your life a lot less comfortable and, at worst, make it less viable.

There should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. This extends to being organised under your tarp.

Please leave a comment to let us know what you think of this or to share other favourite tips for staying organised in camp.

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