If you like tarp camping or want to get a substantially lighter weight shelter without paying through the nose, I recommend you consider getting a straight cut square or rectangular silnylon tarp. They’re far less expensive than you might realize and provide you with a lot more versatility than so-called shaped tarps that can only be pitched one way.
Call me old school, but I also like learning different pitch shapes and picking the one that best suits my shelter needs, available campsite and weather conditions each night that I’m out on a trip. I think it’s an excellent skill to develop and I relish hanging on to the old ways before they’re lost in the sea of catenary cuts, beaks, vestibules, line-locs, and velcro.
Last year, I succumbed to temptation and bought another 10′ x 10′ silnylon square tarp from Outdoor Equipment Supplier which makes very high quality camping and hammock tarps. I ordered a straight cut model with side panel tie-outs on the outside and a pair of hang loops on the interior ridgeline for hanging lighting, bug netting or a nest. The total price was only $129, which I consider to be an exceptional value, particularly since the built quality is absolutely top drawer. Seam sealing is even included for free, making the entire tarp “break-in process” turnkey.
All of the corners on OES tarps are reinforced, front and back, and come with nylon loops and plastic tie loops on each tie-out. They’re really built to last and the D-Rings set you up nicely to use Andrew Skurka’s McCarthy Hitch or the Trucker’s Hitch if you want a knot that’s simple to untie in the morning, but provides a very taught guyline.
As you can see, the edges of the tarp are also sealed with sewn on hem. While this undoubtedly adds some extra weight to the tarp, my guess is that it also increases the tarp’s ability to withstand high winds without tearing between the tie-outs.
The side panel ties-outs are similarly triple reinforced for durability and also seam sealed out of the box. I added them on my tarp because they improve interior livability on certain shapes,when the fabric weight of the silnylon and it’s large spread, causes the fabric to collapse a bit on the occupant. You can see this in the lean-to pitch below, where I use a stick to pull the panel tie-outs away from the normal 45 degree angle of the rear wall, creating a little more interior space.
The panel pull-outs are also useful on a simple A-frame pitch, again to create more interior headroom and resistance to wind deformation.
If there’s one thing I don’t like about this tarp it’s the position of the tie-outs. Although it’s a 10′ x 10′ square tarp, there are 4 tie-outs on two sides (opposite from each other) and 3 tie-outs on the others. That wasn’t what I was expecting when I ordered the tarp – probably my bad for not checking with OES before they sewed it. Pure symmetry is important to me because there are a few esoteric pitches that I like to set-up that require the 4 sides be mirror images of each other. But that’s my personal esoteric preference, despite that one nit, the tarp is still extremely versatile, as you can see by all of the other pitches I can make using it. In fact, this is just scratching the surface.
Weight-wise, the OES 10′ x 10′ silylon straight cut tarp weighs in at 21.4 ounces seam sealed, or a few ounces over 1 pound. That’s pretty good for a tarp that can easily fit 2 people and up to 4 if they’re scouts and you use something like the dining fly pitch or a Whelan variant. For $129, this is a good deal and a LOT of tarp for your money.
Disclaimer: Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) bought this product with his own funds.