Tarps – nothing fancy, just tarps

By on December 21, 2013

There really isn’t much exiting about tarps, but they are an integral part of most camping or hiking gear. The boys and I were recently to do an overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail in south central PA in December. The hike was actually canceled due to snow falling on what would have already been an icy trail. We had previously all been equipped with a tarp, but they have all been scavenged for other purpose around home, like cover hay or wood. They had also been a little smaller than what I would have wanted for a winter hike.
Appalachian Trail SignOur old tarps, that we had used last year, were each about 8′ x 10′. Thankfully last year the boys were in a shelter and I was able to use one of theirs as a second tarp to get me half decent coverage over my hammock. So finished size was a large consideration in selecting a tarp this time around. This time I actually setup the hammock and measured the distance between the hammock hangers with it hanging at a nice tautness. A finished tarp length of 15 feet would do the trick. And for winter hiking I wanted better coverage on the sides so wanted 10 or 12 feet so the sides would almost reach the ground depending on how high the ridge line was placed.

Tarps draped over a hammock in the woods.

Weight was a big unknown when ordering the tarps online. There was some information on weights listed with the items, but when you’re going to be packing it for a 20 mile hike you really want to know how heavy it is. I picked up four tarps to give the three of us some options, figuring the extra would always be useful to have around.

Description Finished Size  Weight  Price
Dry Top 12163 12-by-16-Foot 5-Mil Tarp, Blue  12′ x 16′  3 lbs 8 oz  $14.49
12′ X 16′ Heavy Duty Blue Multi-Purpose Waterproof Protective Tarp  11’6″ x 15’2″  3 lbs 4 oz  $17.38
Maxam 12 X 16 All Purpose Blue Tarp  11’4″ x 15’6″  2 lbs 8 oz  $17.02
Dry Top 310153 10-foot by 15-foot Full Finish Size Tarp 10-mm,White  10′ x 15′  4 lbs 9 oz  $19.99

Obviously the bottom tarp on the list, weighting in at over 4 pounds, was not selected by any of us to carry.  It is definitely a heavier duty tarp at 10 mm thick, while most of the other tarps are 6 mm thick.  All the tarps have grommets, and it is yet to be seen how well they hold up.

Quick tarp tip:  If the tarp tears, or a grommet comes out, put a small rock in the corner and bunch the tarp around it and tie the tie out string above it.  This will give a better hold than trying to tie to a bunched up piece of tarp.

As we’re getting geared up to do these various hikes and outdoor adventures, cost is definitely a factor.  When the equipment needs to be multiplied by 3 or 4 (depending if the wife goes along) it adds up fast.  I’m investigating some techniques to make a lighter weight tarp and will update everyone when I’ve completed it.

I’ll post an update on how the tarps do after their first hike.  

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