Rigging a tarp

Not the most interesting subject, I know, but it has been a while since I went anywhere, and someone had asked me. Also – over the years I’ve tried many different things, and finally have settled on this as being the best way, FOR ME.

Sure, if you hike, you probably have your own way of doing things, and that’s great. The nice thing about hiking in a group is that it’s easy to find new and better ways to do things. People also make suggestions and sometimes comments that make you rethink stuff.

Take the infamous “twin falls” hike up Clawhammer Mountain in the Pisgah forest in NC, for example. We still laugh at it sometimes.

The Clawhammer Mountain loop was an 18 mile or so overnight trip and and back on Clawhammer Mountain. There wasn’t a whole lot to see or do, and it was easy to get to. So when arrived at the halfway point around 3pm, it was a long time until dark. So, we decided to look for Twin Falls, which according to the map was pretty close by. We could hear it eventually, but we were coming at it from above, and never could get to it. Finally, confused and defeated, we headed back to camp to lounge around until dusk.

Now, any place that we aren’t sure where it is, or something that doesn’t work out quite right, is “over by Twin Falls”.

On that trip, though, I was tying up my big tarp for the first time. My little tarp (the stock diamond-shaped Hennessy Rain Fly) clips to the hammock suspension/ridge line and its done. But the big tarp requires it’s own suspension system. I put a length of parachute cord between the loops and put a carabineer on one end. It was a simple matter to loop one end around the tree, clip the carabineer into place, and then run the other end around a tree and tie knots.

Mike, who is gruff and humorous to the point where you’re not quite sure if he’s being funny or insulting you, commented I must have majored in knots in college. He was right, tying the prussic knots around the tree was a chore (pulling all the spare line through the loops) and took a lot of time. By the time I got the tarp up, one of my other hiking partners was laying in his tent. Hammocks were supposed to be faster, damn it!

So my first improvement was to make a series of tree straps and hooks, which looked like this:



Yeah, I know, the angle is all wrong. I just clipped it to the tree and held one end with my left hand. I wanted you to see the buckle and the hook at the same time. In use, the buckle goes around the back side of the tree from the tarp, and the hook sticks straight out away from the tree. You can learn more, here –


They worked pretty well for eliminating the knots at either end of the tarp ridge line. I had an opportunity to use them on our marathon hike in July, and they functioned quite well. The biggest problem was I was on sloped ground, and I had to get the tree strap past some dead branches up over my head and pull it tight onto the trunk.

But now I had to deal with the tarp lines themselves. There’s a great site for learning to tie knots, and you only need to know a few. The Prusik knot slides back and forth easily, and stays where you put it. The double fisherman’s knot (or the Fisherman’s Bend) is great for joining ropes into a loop, especially ropes you do NOT want coming apart. Anyway, the site is called “AnimatedKnots” – just google it. I used the Fisherman’s Bend for making loops, and then used the loops to make prussic knots.

Now my tarp is permanently on its ridge line, and all I have to do is

1. Put up tree straps.

2. Loop the ridge line through the hooks twice. No knots, no pulling rope through. Just loop.

3. Pull the bag off the tarp from where it’s now hanging in mid air.

4. Slide the loops out until the top of the tarp is taught.

That’s it. I haven’t timed it yet. The nice thing is, the whole system fits in one bag, so it it gets wet, It can all go together outside the rest of my stuff, or even clip to the outside of my pack.

I have a video of the basic parts, here:


My other recent concern is – my pack is too big. I’ve pared myself down to essentials and I’ve been able to get smaller stuff and learn what to pack and how to back right over the last two years. My pack is really too big and too heavy. It’s 75 liters, and over 6 pounds empty.

Not that it’s really a problem, it rides okay but I do start to feel the weight after several miles or up long climbs. I’ve pretty much exhausted every other opportunity to lighten my load.

Now here’s the thing – I Hammock Camp, which isn’t always ultralight or ultrasmall friendly. I know people who’s whole backpacking world fits in a 45L pack for a 4 day trip. I just can’t jam my stuff in a pack that size. But 60 liters would do me well. My stuff is just bulky. The quilts, for example – I have a down top quilt and under quilt for my hammock, each about the same size in their sack as a down sleeping bag. Sure, they keep me alive down to 0 degrees, but they are a tad bulky. I use a large rainfly too, the Hex fly from Hennessy is twice the size of the stock polygon tarp, and of course packs twice as big, too.

So, my old Deuter Pack fit me quite well when I purchased it, and it still looks pretty good. Eventually I’ll need to change it, though, and I’m really liking the looks of these:


The gregory name is pretty respected, and the product sounds pretty good. I might have to try one on next time I’m in an REI store. Of course, there are two rings worth mentioning:

1. The pack is costly. $300 of a pack after taxes is way up there. Sure, its a little smaller and a LOT lighter (2 and a half pounds!) but my current pack is working fine, at the point.

2. Someone on a Facebook hiking group said, “If you like it, stick with it”.


I guess the other way you can say this is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – so maybe I’ll wait a while. After all, I just found out today it’s going to cost me around $300 to get my wisdom teeth removed, so that has to come first. The pack can wait, my headaches have to go!






Author: theosus1

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