The best setup / shape for using a tarp? (And something about walking sticks)

This week I bought an ultralight tarp. This was triggered by some special activations in the past and my upcoming SOTA holiday in HB9/GR. Because of some more windings on the coil I’m watching more about the weight of stuff bringing on summits. I found two interesting tarps from sea to summit, one 3 m x 3 m – 440 g and one 1.5 m x 2.6 m – 230 g. The price of the first was above my pain threshold and the second was tolerable. So I took the second. It would save also some weight.

The size may be ok for sitting with some equipment under the tarp or unpacking/ packing there. Yesterday I saw a thread from Andy G8CPZ using a tarp in a similar size. It looked fine.

I made some tests in a backyard.

V1: the short edge fixed on the ground and support by walking poles on the opposite edge

V2: the short edge fixed on the ground and support by walking poles in the middle of side edges

V3: like V1 but the long edge fixed on the ground (no picture)

The setup may depend on the place and the wind in case of rain.

I read about using the walking poles with the tip up and through an attachment point (strap). Which experience?

Which are your experience and suggestions for the best setup?

Thanks and 73, Ludwig


There is no single best setup.



But which setup in which circumstances? Are there some good tricks?

73, Ludwig

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The best tip is to know a variety of set-ups. This might help.


I usually use a tarp to shelter from wind or rain. I peg the back two corners, stick the sharp part of a walking pole through the centre front point and then peg the two front corners. Peg the centre back point and then add more pegs anywhere that’s still flapping in the wind. It’s quick and effective. I have the DD Superlight tarp S 2.8x1.5m 260g (excluding pegs).


I’ve watched this video before and about 13 of the 15 methods require you to have two mature trees at the right distance apart in just the spot where you intend to operate the radio. This rarely if ever occurs on summits I activate. He demo’s using a much larger tarp than I’m prepared to carry so his tarp is more flexible.

I agree with previous comments. The best configuration is the one that suits ground resources available at the summit and the weather of course.
On this activation on Saturday a convenient line of rocks (scar) provided a handy ‘back wall’ to the tarp giving more room inside. This open configuration is clearly for warm dry days. I would choose an inverted v front side for cold or rainy days with the other 3 sides pegged down.


Very effective temporary “tent” made from a 3x3 tarp and two walking poles. Cosy inside and keeps the worst of the weather off the KX2… :rofl:


Almost looks like my old Saunders Basepacker tent…


I have a two part tent. The exterior is essentially a tarp, more complex, but is held up by two hiking sticks. This commercial set up has the pointy end of the sticks pointing up through a fabric support designed to handle the sharp ends. It works well and is guyed to the ground with at least 4 stakes. I use it as a tarp, or attach the interior and use as a tent where necessary. Bottom line, they choose to go pointed end up.


As my walking poles are usually antenna supports I have an adjustable tarp pole Tarps and Bivy Bags - which seems to work well and isn’t too heavy. I also have attached an old dry sack to the tarp which it lives in to try and reduce the clutter in the bag. I still need more practice at different ways of pitching it, I tend to use the pole in the centre of one of the sides - an attempt at the “Holden Tent” but usually not as pretty as the examples on the web. 5 mins to put it up and about 3 to take it down but the exact arrangement depends on the wind and the ground. It has kept the KX2 dry many times. Paul ( PS no links to backpackinglight but they do have some interesting kit… )


Almost always use this method, either for activating or having a kip under at night. Might be worth packing a piece of breathable membrane used on roofing to sit / stretch out on. Nice and light and helps if the ground is damp.

Like Richard said, no perfect solution.

The worst bit about a tarp is packing it all up in the wind. The bags are tiny and if you’re not careful the rolled up tarp is twice the size of the bag :slight_smile:


I have impressed myself on a few occasions. The first was the when I practised setting up my new tent. Gingerly open the bag and unrolled and setup. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Took 3 attempts to get it back in the bag. I have the knowledge now. Similar tale with a bothy bag that is it’s own bag. Took several attempts despite carefully studying how it was packed as I unpacked it. This is without summit weather helping however!


That’s dead right. Tarps are splendidly portable and flexible short-term solutions, in manageable windspeeds, that can use many contrasting styles to suit different summits. I prefer the “tent” style to this earlier attempt, on GM/ES-051, utilising the XYL’s walking poles as well as my own. It was less than ideal, so much so that our collie preferred to lie outside in the rain than share it…! :grinning:


Indeed, in Scotland the main issue is the variable nature of the weather. You can set up for wind and driving sleet coming from one direction and the next moment it is coming from another direction! A tent style approach is usually best, but I am surprised how large a tarp is required for that - 3m x 3m. Then there’s the set up time and it is not always practical on uneven ground.

I usually take a 2.4m x 1.8m tarp, with the principle aim of protecting the rig (which stays inside the backpack and is also in a protective housing). Usually my back is exposed to the weather as I attempt plug the opening in the shelter. :joy:


Confession time Gerald - I usually only take it when my XYL is with me as we can share slightly more stuff in our two rucksacks. If I’m on my own with just the one, I usually get by with suitable outdoor clothing for me and a large poly-bag for the KX2… :rofl:


Memories of many a GM/SS hill sitting huddled over the backpack to protect the rig. My latest effort was reasonably effective against wind (and sun!), but I’d want to rig it differently when it was wet.


Most of the tarp photos posted above involve using walking poles for support. I don’t use walking poles [If God had intended us to …]. So I take an extending tarp pole for a (poor-weather) inverted v entrance. I use the antenna pole as well if I want a more open configuration for warm weather.

I was amused to see @MM7MWL Mike’s photo with antenna way in the distance [Unless that was a rival activation trying to steal his pile-up]. That would be a lot of exercise for band changing my quad-band linked dipole.


I thought what a lot of coax he must carry. But it will be an end-fed fed from the bottom sloping up to the mast.


Been using two walking poles for 30 years Andy, and they get more useful the older I get, esp coming downhill. As for the distance to the antenna, it’s all a cunning plan to keep my exercise levels up… :rofl:

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@MM0FMF It’s a homebrew W3EDP in an inverted-V. I don’t believe in carrying miles of co-ax either…., :rofl:

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