Stay dry camping.
This is the best rain tarp design I have found in my years of camping.
Step 1: Tarp Design
The main concept of this tarp design is to have a tight support rope under the tarp between opposite corners. The tarp needs to be attached to the center support rope but it should not be pulling on the tarp when the center support rope is pulled tight. This is done by tying a 1 foot loops in the rope where the tarp corners will be. The loops are tied through the corner grommets and adjusted for tension. The center support rope should be tied tight at 10 - 12 feet above the ground to give you plenty of head room. The other two hanging corners can then be tied with ropes and pulled out. The corner ropes should be lower than the center rope and tied with little tension.
Step 2: Advantages
- Minimum setup requires only 3 ropes and a tarp
- Drains water at only 2 points
- Does not collect pools of water
- Keeps the tarp high
- Area can be free of poles and trip hazards if trees are available
- Uses commonly available rectangular plastic tarps
- Works with large tarps
Step 3: Poles
I have no trees. I have only one tree. Poles!!!!!!!
The same design works with poles.
Good poles can be made from 3/4" EMT Conduit. Five foot long poles fit in my van but require some joining hardware. The joining hardware consists of two 5/8" bolts welded together at the head. An additional 5/8" bolt and 3/8" bolt welded together at the head is used for the top of the pole. The 3/8" bolt is small enough to fit though the tarp grommets. A little duct tape can be used to make the 5/8" bolt a snug fit inside the 3/4" EMT pole.
Step 4: Tips
Bigger is not always better. Constraints from trees and other objects may require a smaller tarp. Bring a couple tarps to give you some choices in these situations.
When supporting a big tarp use a larger center rope to support the tarp.
I sometimes leave the ropes attached to the tarp. This saves me from having to adjust the center rope tension under the tarp next setup. If it's a pole setup it will be the same every time. If its a tree setup it might work.
When using poles, tie all of the ropes first and leave some slack, then put the poles up and adjust the ropes.
A rectangular tarp will orient itself differently depending on which two corners you choose to use on the center rope. Lay the tarp on the ground in the two positions so you can see what the optimum position will be before setting it up (Plan).
Step 5: Hanging the Center Rope
To get the center rope 10 - 12 feet in the tree I usually throw a stick with a rope attached over a branch then tie the rope around the trunk at 4 feet above the ground. When I don't have branches I lasso the rope around the tree and use the handle of my paddle to inch it up. It's helpful to have a second person to keep a little tension on the rope so it doesn't slide back down while moving it up the tree. A paddle with a T handle can be used as a hook to pull the lasso when the rope needs to come down.