More Mussing about Tarps …


Two tarps on the Pembrokshire Coastal Path

My post about expensive kit bought an interesting email about tarps. The correspondent was interested is trying tarps and was confused by my comments that, firstly, I still enjoyed my tarps more then anything but, secondly, my comment that I enjoyed it on the one day a year it was possible (or something like that)!

I should point out, at this point, that a lot of my gear posts are slightly tongue in cheek and are , often, written for my own pleasure — this is one of the guilty pleasures of blog writing that few don’t often own up to! But, back to tarps.

There is nothing quite like a tarp. You are open to the elements. You can feel the  gentle breeze on your cheeks, you can gaze out at wonderful views and study the stars on a clear night after dark. A tarp gives you protection to basic elements, protection from the rain and from a heavy frost; this is why I generally prefer using tarp to cramming myself into a bivy bag. I’ve never really felt that comfortable in a  properly waterproof bivy. On the other hand I often use my Mountain Laurel Designs lightweight bivy as my soul protection and groundsheet when I’m under a tarp; thesis very breathable but only water resistant. So, why the comment about using them on the one night possible a year?

Tarps are something of a luxury in this country — now, of course, a lot of people use them regularly and that’s fine. What I don’t like is having to cram myself into ext a protective stuff to be comfortable under a tarp. On a wonderfully warm and still night there is nothing like a tarp, but — and maybe this is just bad luck — I seldom fin nights like this.

My main bugbear is when cold drafts flow through the tarp; I just find these uncomfortable. The answer to this is to peg the sides of the tarp to the ground. My current tarp is a catenary cut shelter which is great to put up but less flexible than a ‘flat’ or ‘straight’ tarp. Simple tarps are more flexible but are often more messy in windy weather and, to be honest, getting up in the middle of the night to read just the tarp is a pain.

The picture above gives a feel for the best and the worst of these conditions. The setting was wonderful, the evening fine and clear and the next morning invigorating. But there was an annoying strong and chilly wind. My tarp is the one that has been pitched side-on to the wind to give me protection. I raised the opposite side higher to offer a view. The other tarp is one of Bob’s; this is open at the front but closed and protected at the back.

So, why I prefer a night under my tarp to anything else I often simply go for another shelter. I can always pitch my Duomid with the doors tied open.  I should really be living in a warmer climate!

I’m not alone in these frustrations. These reasons are probably why the Mountain Laurel Trailstar is so (rightfully) popular.

The Trailstar in a ingeniously designed tarp, its sleek design allowing a perfect, bombproof pitch with the back and the sides fixed firmly to the ground and the entrance lowered or even closed up completely. In warmer and more perfect weather the Trailstar can be raised up high to give you the feel of a more conventional tarp.

In the UK the Trailstar is probably the ideal tarp to use. If you are interested in tarps and fancy using them for more than a handful of days a year then the Trailstar is where I would start.

What does the team think?


Squeezing a tarp into a tiny flat space

Solo Tarp

The flexibility of a simple tarp

Lakeland Wildcamp

Sadly, idyllic nights like this are few and far between!


  1. The weight of something like the MLD Grace is appealing but the vagaries of the Scottish, even in the middle of summer put me off, it maybe OK for one or two nights when there’s a reliable forecast.
    I’ll leave the flat tarps to the Bushcraft brigade, too much messing about.
    After nearly 100 nights under the Trailstar in all weathers (sun, rain, wind and snow) I wouldn’t use anything else (maybe the Little Star?)

  2. chris yapp says:

    sorry lovely things they might be but a bit to open to the elements for my liking .

  3. Andy can you look at products like the canopy tents and liar these look like great products but not too expensive,they also do cuben. cant seem to find many reviews from uk users.

  4. Terry Griffiths says:

    The MLD Cricket ticks the boxes of compactness, connectedness with my surroundings & shelter, for me Andy

    • Terry – I think the point about the PCT and the Hexamid was, well, the weather of the PCT.

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