Tarpaulins have been used to create shelter for many years and have evolved into that bushcraft essential that we know as the tarp comparatively recently.
Tarps UK Origins
Here in the U.K. the British armed forces have used the poncho as a rudimentry shelter sheet for many years. The trick is to pull the hood cord tight, wrap it around the hood and use this as a central suspension point. The military poncho will have eyelets spaced evenly around its rectangular perimeter to be used as suspension or attachment points. Until recently military ponchos were made of a comparatively heavy rubberised material. The tarp's origins in the UK are essentialy military. There has been a take up of military kit by outdoors enthusiasts at the same time as the military sources some of its kit from civilian suppliers.
The Development of Tarps
Mainly for cost reasons the military have sourced non military specific equipment from manufacturers of civilian orientated kit. Tarps UK wide have become more popular with the civvie camper or bushcraft enthusiast. This is due to the attractions of sleeping in a hammock under the stars by way of a contrast to the everyday hustle and bustle become more apparent. The effect of the MOD's purchasing policy has been that the materials used in the manufacture of tarps have become lighter. Entirely man made materials such as polyester and nylon have replaced rubberised cotton or poly cotton. With few exceptions the civilian and military versions of the tarp are basically the same design and made from similar materials to the same specifications.
The tarps UK wide popularity stems from its built in versatility as a shelter. The design has evolved over the years from the dual purpose poncho to the multi use piece of kit that we see today.
Rigging Your Tarp
When considering how to rig your tarp the first concern is to consider what you want it to protect and fro which elements. Protection from the sun on a still summers day requires the tarp to cast the deepest shadow over the widest area. The light materials used can allow some sunlight through the tarp. Two tarps suspended one above the other or one tarp folded in half, effectively giving two layers solves this problem. Rigging tarps uk wide in a windy location will always be a problem, the method used will be dependant on the locality and suspension points available. The key to sucess is to keep the tarp as taut as possible with the cunning use of knots or, much easier, bungees. If the tarp is a quality item from the DD Hammocks range it will have nineteen suupension points arranged with one in each corner, three intermediate ones along each edge and three along the middle running from edge to edge. Back to the wind is important and with the layout of suspension points described it is easy to give the tarp a curved profile to minimise wind resistance.
Tarps UK key points
The tarp needs to be built from modern, light, waterproof materials and have enough suspension points for maximum flexibility. A size of 3m X 3m is ideal. The use of a tarp as a lightweight sleeping solution when teamed with a hammock is unbeatable.
Shown to the right is a picture of a tarp deployed over a bivvi which provides a simple shelter with minimal pack weight and minimal expense. With some thought about your route so you do not have to camp in an exposed location and with careful deployment the combination of a tarp and bivvi can result in a really great night's sleep.