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The amaizing Tarp

Posted: April 1, 2014 by Jeff Fabiszewski in blog, Gear Reviews, ten essentials, Tents
Tags: , ,

Shelter is one of the ten essentials that every outdoor enthusiast should have.  And a tarp is an easy multi use item for a day hiker, backpacker, trail runner, day paddler, or person who is camping overnight with their kayak.  Tarps are small, light weight, and there is no limit to the number of ways of how to use a tarp;  the only limit is a person’s imagination.

– Jeff

Shelter:  Some tarps are made of ultra light weight breathable rip-stop nylon with 19 guy-out points and compact down to the size of a soda-can.  Where as, some tarps are non breathable  less compact plastic with metal grommets for rope to tie into, both work, I have even used  mylar emergency blanket and Visqueen (often misspelled visquine) plastic sheet.  Visqueen is a brand of polyethylene plastic sheeting commonly used as a floor and furniture covering when a person paints the interior of their home, as a shelter.  The tarp allows for a variety of setup styles.  The A-frame sleeping shelter is a quick solution for rain protection.  The Lean-to configuration is a simple wind block for sleeping next to or as a kitchen location. And the bivy looks like a wrapped burrito.

tarp and espresso

Lean to configuration, with stakes as anchor points, kayak paddles as poles. Excellent morning wind break while enjoying fresh espresso.  Granted if the wind shifts, or rain comes from a new direction, adjustments will need to be made.

No poles, not a problem: I use kayak paddles as poles for my tarp.

tarp 2a

Tying down with or without stakes:  Sometimes the combination of soft sand and strong wind makes staking down a tarp an unpleasant experience.  When this happens, I use my kayak as the tarp’s anchoring point when I encounter soft sand and strong win.

tarp 3a

Lean to configuration, with kayaks as anchor points, kayak paddles as poles. There is a tarp under the bivy bags.

Keeping a tent dry:  A simple trick to setting up a tent in the rain is to first setup a tarp head high.  Then under the tarp you have the comfort of assembling the tent, and then moving it into the rain to where you want it.  This technique works best if you are setting up a freestanding tent.

integral designs siltarp mountain hardwear tent

I used bowline knots and taught line hitches to attach the corners of the Integral Designs Siltarp to three trees and two stakes. The paddle is the highest point with a rope staked to the ground. The lowest corner is staked to the ground.

The below closeup shows two bowline knots tied to one corner of the tarp.  The red reflective cord is tied at a 90′ angle to a tree with a taught line hitch.  The white cord wraps once around the throat of the paddle and is tied at a 90′ angle to a stake with a taught line hitch.

knotsBowline Knot:  Make a small overhand loop in the standing part of a rope. Bring the rope end up through the loop, around behind the standing part, and back down into the loop. Tighten by pulling the standing part away from the loop.

Taut Line Hitch: Pass the working end around the anchor object. Bring it back alongside of the standing part and make a half-hitch around the standing part. Continue with another wrap inside the loop, effectively making a round turn around the standing part. Complete with a half-hitch outside the loop, made in the same direction as the first two wraps, as for a clove hitch. Dress by snugging the hitch firmly around the standing part. Work any slack out of the knot, then slide the hitch to adjust the tension on the line and adjust as necessary.

tarp 1a

Modified A-frame tarp shelter. This style provides good rain protection, and wind protection from the back. Reflective heat from the fire in front is an added bonus when the back is lowered to the ground.

Ideal Mylar shelter:  Use two mylar blankets.  Make a modified lean to with one mylar sheet.  I find having one corner raised with three corners staked down works well.  Then take a small portion of the second mylar sheet and make a two foot reflector semi circle wall.  Between the lean to and the semi circle place a small fire.  Use the rest of the second sheet on the ground in the lean to or wrap it around you.

Shelter without tying downs:  In an emergency a tarp could make the difference between surviving and dieing.  make an emergency bivy sack to protect a person from exposure or hypothermia to keep in body heat.  A first responder possibly would use this to transport an injured person out of the wilderness on a stretcher to give added protection to rain or falling snow.  The key to making this easy shelter is placement.  Lay the tarp 90′ to the wind, and have the opening of your sleeping bag downwind. Fold the tarp over the bag at an angle and giving yourself at least 6 inches of clearance to move around under the tarp.

Hypo Wrap NOLS WFR

Use a Hypo Wrap to Treat Hypothermia also known as a “themal burrito”. This picture uses a Visqueen tarp


bothy bag style shelter

bothy bag style Kisu Shelter, using a Visqueen tarp and four of your closest friends. In actual practice all edges would be held down on the ground to prevent cold air, and wind driven rain entering into the shelter.

Other uses for the tarp:

  • catching rainwater with a tarp:  funnel rain water into a container.  Make a rain trap also known as a water pit.  Dig a large circular pit, line it with a tarp (weighted by large stones). Rainwater is clean and safe to drink, but it will go stagnant in just a few days.  Make a solar still.
  • Floatatin. You could build a raft with a tarp.
  • Tow a car out of the mud.
  • Wrap a cargo bag on the roof of your car.
  • Make a rain poncho.
  • Craft a hammock
  • Make a horse-shoe pack (improvise back pack)  to hall food or gear


Finding your way in the dark Lecture

Posted: March 24, 2014 by Jeff Fabiszewski in blog, Lecture Series

Last Thursday night I was unable to navigate my way through the dark to teach with Sean at Osprey Bay Outdoors for our annual third Thursday of the month kayak camping lecture.   During the lecture Sean spoke on the topics of night time navigating.

Sean Osprey Bay Lecture March 2014

As luck would have it, I joined Sean Saturday night for the campout.  We paddled from Madeira bridge to Travestine Island.   During the low tide we encountered a sea anemone. Sean enjoyed his solo stove and I relaxed with a beer in hand. In the morning we enjoyed our espresso, broke camp, and paddled back to the mainland.

sea anemone

sea anemone

eno twilights

tarp at night with the ENO twilights camp lights

Sean and fire

Solo Stove



– Jeff

Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 3

Posted: March 12, 2014 by Jeff Fabiszewski in blog, Gear Reviews, Tents
Tags: ,

One of my oldest pieces of gear is my 1997 Mountain Hardwear Skylight” tent. I love that tent, it has been my best companion on epic backpacking, and kayaking adventures; my five-year-old son loves the headroom and pockets. My only gripe about the “Skylight” it only has one door. Surprisingly it also still looks new, so it was difficult to convince my wife that I needed to upgrade it.

1997 Mountain Hardwear “Skylight” tent

1997 Mountain Hardwear “Skylight” tent

Luckily, I upgraded my tent in 2011 with the purchase of the “Skyledge 3”. It is seven ounces lighter and does fit three people (two adults, and a five year old). Over the past three years I have found that the tent offers plenty of ventilation during humid Florida rain, excellent headroom, pockets, and extra space due to the two large vestibules.  This free standing tent design is easy to set up by myself on sleeping platforms, sand, on hard terrain, and during a rain storm.  During the hot buggy Florida nights the mesh kept the breeze moving and the  ripstop canopy did shed a light drizzle one night.

I discovered during some strong winds on unprotected spoil island that this tent held its shape.  Mountain Hardwear uses Atlas UL poles reinforced by Evolution Tension Arches to provide outstanding strength in stormy conditions. And the super-light details like molded grommet tabs, fly hook attachments and 1/4″ webbing further reduce weight yet maintain strength in strong winds.

With strong winds comes strong rain.  Rain some times moves sideways.  With many tents, no mater how low the fly is puled down water finds a way into the tent.  This is not the case in the Skyledge.  This tent has a tubbed floor that kept rain, pooling water, and blowing sand out during a heavy storm.

It is easy to see why this tent has become my new favorite companion.  In time, I suspect that the 58 inch by 88 in floor will become small as my son grows. With past success of the “Skylight” the “Skyledge 3” should easily survive fifteen to twenty years of adventures. More than likely when it is time for my son to move out of the “Sky Ledge 3” he will happily travel with my old “Skylight”.

tarp 1a

My last thought is if a person wants one tent that will survive sand, saltwater, rock, high winds, heavy rains, mud, and et cetera then they should buy a Mountain Hardwear tent.

– Jeff

Fire warmth plus a whole lot more Lecture

Posted: February 25, 2014 by Jeff Fabiszewski in blog, Lecture Series

Fire Lecture

Last Thursday Sean and I took on Fire “warmth plus a whole lot more”.  During the night discussion at Osprey Bay Outdoors we deviled into the beauty, mystery, necessity, and ease behind this primal skill. Our guests were amazed by the simple solutions and useful materials and techniques.   The hype behind making fire went up in smoke.  And the guests discovered things they never thought of.  – Jeff

fire materialsFire cat can