Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tents Vs. Tarps

So for the past four years there has been a brewing battle going on between me and my wife.

TENT..... NO TARP.....

There was very little common ground when it was just us, before the family. Duck hunting we would tarp it, and hiking we would tent it. Since Maddy there is no compromise.

I grew up sleeping on the ground under tarps it what I love to do. Some of my best memories were getting a canvas tarp from my Dad for my 16th birthday. Laying it down on the ground laying my sleeping pad and sleeping bag on it and the folding it over like a sleeping taco, if you will.  And if it snowed on you the experience was even better. I have so many great stories with this one tarp alone.

Here is a perfect example of why I like the tarp so much.  It was spring break senior year of college. One of my best friends Jason and I set off for a fishing trip to Banks Lake in Central Washington. The first night we chose the south end of the lake.   Jason being a tent person set his tent up, I brought my tarp but decided since he was going to set the tent up anyway I will just sleep in there.  That night a hurricane blew in, at about four o'clock in the morning. The tent was blowing it's self inside out and as Jason was up in his underwear trying to fix the tent, I could feel the rain hitting me in the face. So like any good friend I zipped up my mummy bag all the way and tried to hibernate through the weather. An hour later when the tent literally started to break apart we both got up and broke camp. On a good note we had the best breakfast ever at some small cafe on the high way. Later that day we found another spot to camp and I leveled a spot out in the dirt laid the tarp down put our sleeping stuff inside and folded it over. Since I put the fold of the tarp pointing into the wind, the wind blew right over us, and since I folded the bottom corners in under the upper corners the rain didn't bother us either. So this is a classic story of when the tarps came in handy.

Post child, as you can see little Maddy peaking from the tent at 9 months
For those of you who are thinking that it is colder under the tarp than in a tent, the tarp that is folded  over you acts like another blanked there for keeping you warmer.

Now back to me and my wife, like I said before before the family we would sleep under the tarp in duck camp. We would be in a double sized cot with the tarp in the air over us or just layed on top of us. Since we were off the ground in a cott we didnt need it under us.

The tent my wife has is a two person hiking tent. 5 months after our daughter Maddy arrived we went on a camping-moon, it's a camping honeymoon. Trying to fit me at 6'1 and my wife and a baby in this tent was a disaster unless your the person who can sleep in one position all night long, which is a super power I have not mastered yet.

Now there are of course a few down sides to sleeping on the ground with a tarp. Being little fury friends that go squeak in the night. I have had a few mice crawl on me the worst one running across my neck. This mouse crawling thing has only happened to me twice in all the years I have been sleeping under a tarp on the ground. But I had one visitor one night on the ground that was not so cuddly.

I was camping on the Yakima fly fishing. Again my friend Jason was there along with some other friends. Jason set his tent like always and the other two campers joined him in the tent. But of course me as a "Tarper". (Yes I just made up that word and I take full credit for it.) I set up my sleeping area outside under this large ponderosa pine tree. At about 5 am just as it was getting light outside a scratching sounds woke me up. I looked all around and didn't see anything. As I tried to go back to sleep I heard it again. As I opened my eyes coming right down out of that tree right for my face was a huge porcupine 15 feet and closing. Needless to say I spent the remaining sleeping time in the front seat of my jeep.

Now with a two almost three year old, we have an agreement when at duck camp and other camping locations Mom and Maddy sleep in the tent and I sleep under the tarp.  If possible we usually setup right next to each other.

Notice the two sleeping bags and tarp laid over (Pre Child)

With the possibility of our family expanding in the future my wife wants a bigger tent to fit all of us. I just don't know if I can ever be a tent guy. I have tarper blood, my solution is when the next kids born send the older one outside with me so the new generation of tarper will be introduced to the greatness of tarping, where you can see the stars and not be all couped up in a tent.


  1. Have you considered a canvas baker tent? It might be the best of both worlds.

  2. Peter,
    The canvas tents are better than the nylon tents for sure, But I like having a breeze and not being walled in. My wife likes the idea of a tent being 100% zipped up protecting from insects, mice and snakes. So i understand what you are saying, but i guess it is the best and worst of oth worlds.