I am always looking for faster, better ways of doing my camp setup.
In the past, I have used an OZtrail UltraRig 20′ x 24′ poly tarpaulin over my camp site. This has been fantastic for providing shade and shelter from rain, but the ridge pole is time consuming and awkward to put up — particularly for one person. But who says that you even need to use a ridge pole?
Most people set up tarps like the roof of a house. They like to have a high ridge in the middle, with sloping sides to allow the water to run off. (How to set up a tarp with a ridge.)
The alternative is to let gravity do its job – set three sides high and allow the middle of the tarp to sag. Then use one low guy rope on the fourth side to pull a valley into the tarp. This naturally gives a shape where water will not pool. In fact, it channels water to run off the tarp in one location — great if you are wanting to collect some rain water; not so good if the rain is being being dumped uphill from your camp site …
I have proven this concept with an Outdoor Connection Durarig 12′ x 16′ tarp and it works well. During some recent heavy rain the valley tarp shed water easily and did not pool water. I am not sure whether I will be able to pull the same shape into my 20′ x 24′ tarp. I suspect the valley setup will work best with long, thin, rectangular-shaped tarps, rather than large, square-shaped tarps because there is less unsupported area in the middle of the tarp.
I also have another theory about ridge versus valley tarp setups.
Anyone who has seen a ridge tarp on a windy day has seen it billow skywards, sometimes lifting the poles off the ground leading to the tarp collapsing. This is to be expected with a ridge in the tarp – it is an aerofoil creating lift! Much like a boat sail, or a plane wing.
But what would happen should you pull a valley into the tarp? – will it suck the tarp downwards on a windy day? In theory it should, much like the wing on a racing car creates down force. The valley tarp setup above seemed to perform okay in a small amount of wind. Has anyone tried this on a really windy day?
Update: I tried this on a recent camping trip when there was a 20 knot breeze blowing. As it turns out, a valley tarp does get sucked down to the ground rather than billowing into the air. Trouble is, it tends to get sucked down too much meaning that you end up with a deep valley in the tarp. But the problem really comes when you put a tent under it. The wind hits the tent and then the tarp still billows into the air. A good idea in theory; not so good in practice …