If you do not have a screen house, you should hang a tarp over your dining area. If you plan to “wing it” without one, you are asking for trouble, especially with the constant rainfall we have been receiving in southern Ontario this spring. Having a poorly sheltered dining area is probably one of the biggest reasons why camping trips end early. Consider hanging a tarp over your tent as well. Most tents will eventually leak with heavy rain, and the tarp provides the first layer of defence by deflecting most of the rain away from the tent. Having a drenched tent and sleeping gear is another reason why camping trips end early. A few years ago, we were on a nine-day car camping trip in Algonquin Provincial Park, when it rained almost every day. The inside of our tent was dry, with only a little dampness on the bottom of the air mattresses (we forgot to pack a ground sheet to keep the moisture away from the air mattresses). If the tarp is hung properly over the tent and overhangs the tent by at least two to three feet on all sides, itwill keep most of the rain away from the tent. The tarp also protects the tent by reducing the amount of falling branches, sap, and other debris that hits the tent. In all our years of hanging tarps over our tents, we have never been drenched inside the tent during heavy rainfall. This photo demonstrates how you can hang a tarp using surrounding trees.
How to Hang Tarps
Unravel the tarp and spread it out and centre it between the trees that you will hang it from. Tarps have grommets (hoops/holes) along the sides of the tarp to facilitate hanging the tarps with ropes. When hanging and fastening your tarps to ropes, you should feed your ropes through these grommets to help keep the tarp tight and reduce it from fluttering in the wind or collecting rainwater.
Four Trees: If you have four trees to hang your tarp from, tie one end of the rope to one tree, as high as you can. Then feed this rope along one side of the tarp through the grommets. Once the rope has been fed through all grommets on one side of the tarp, tie the other end of the rope to a second tree, again, as high as you can and about the same height as the first tree. At this point, you should have one side of the tarp hung between two trees. Now feed a second rope through the grommets on the opposite side of the tarp. Find two more trees to fasten this side of the tarp to.
- Ensure that the tarp is higher on one side than the other to allow for proper water drainage.
- Ensure that there are no dips on top of the tarp where water can pool. The tarp needs to be reasonably tight, so that all water drains off. If too much water accumulates on top, it will rip the tarp loose from the ropes. This has happened to me on a few occasions.
- Once the tarp is hung, you can adjust the corner ropes to get the proper height and tension. Ensure that the tarp is high enough to avoid contact with your head and any flames from your stove.
- If the tarp flutters too much, then tie off some of the grommets on the sides of the tarp to other trees or to stakes in the ground. This also takes some stress off the corners of the tarp and provides better rigging for high winds and rain.
Two Trees: If there are only two trees to work with, feed the rope through the grommets (hoops/holes) on one side of the tarp. Tie one end of the rope to one tree, as high as you can. Tie the other end of the rope to the other tree, again, as high as you can and level with the first tree. At this point, two corners (or one side) of the tarp should be hanging between two trees. The other two corners of the tarp can be staked to the ground with ropes and tent stakes, if there are no other trees available. This will create a “lean-to”-style shelter.
More Points: Rainwater will drain off the lower end of your tarp, so ensure that it is not pooling under your tent or in your dining area. To allow for better ventilation when hanging a tarp over a tent or screen house, hang the tarp high enough so that it doesn’t make contact with the tent or screen house. Over the course of your camping trip, the ropes can slip down the side of the tree trunks due to winds. This will lower your tarp. To prevent the ropes from sliding down the side of the trees, tie the rope just above a tree branch whenever possible.
No Trees: If trees are not available on your campsite, the alternative approach is to drape the tarp over the tent and stake it down, as depicted in this photo.