Lots of recent threads about big tarps, or people suggesting big tarps. It's not that I don't like big tarps, I very much do. However, I'm wondering if we aren't doing a disservice by suggesting them to the 'new kids'.
Let me make my case a bit. When I practice for just about anything, I stack the odds against myself. Example: Ever play on a Snooker table, then go to a standard Billiard table? Once you get accustomed to making shots into smaller pockets, the pockets on a Billiard table seem HUGE! Same is true for shooting. I don't use full-size targets, I use small ones. Point is, I 'train' myself on more difficult and challenging scenarios so that when push comes to shove, my skills are solid.
I didn't do it on purpose, but my first camping hammock was a HH and it came with that monster sized () waterproof napkin they include and have the audacity to call it a "rain fly". To up the ante a little, my hammock training ground was Florida where it hardly ever rains . I had what I had and couldn't afford a 'proper' tarp at that point, so I learned. When I thought I had it down, I learned some more. Then, I decided to get a Warbonnet ElDorado instead of a tarp. I did this because I was feeling pretty proficient with the sil napkin I had been using. Course, the ED was longer and the asymmetrical shape was different from the HH, for which the napkin was designed. More learning, tweaking, cursing, and more than one stubbed toe from kicking a tree. A couple of months and a couple dozen storms later, I bought a larger tarp. Some of it had to do with wanting an easier and quicker set-up, but mostly it was the beginning stages of my addiction to the hammock life. Still, with the new and larger tarp, life was soooooo easy.
Later I upsized to the first SuperFly prototype and remember thinking, "I could live in this thing". It was so big to me, but so incredibly versatile in how it could be used. Same is true for most of the really big tarps, which is why I like them so much. However, I'm not entirely sure I would be as competent, or as daring in some cases, as I am now without having gone through the learning process. By working my way up from difficult to easy, I gained a lot of self confidence and real experience. I like to think that gave me the skills I have needed to hang in some fairly hostile wind and rain environments. Not that it matters, most sane folks don't want to hang on the windward slope of a mountain with constant 60+ mph winds. Not even sure I want to do it again.
I know it's easier to go with a big tarp and I know we are all here, in part, to help those that follow us. However, there is something to be said for the learning curve. Remember how we used to all talk about that? Don't hear about it much anymore because our wonderful manufacturers have started making the hammock life easier for us AND we have resources like HF to tutor us along. But I wonder, are the skills still being learned well or are the shortcuts creating a false sense of ability?
The sil napkin served me well and continues to be in service in my gear lending activities. It kept me, my hammock, and my quilts dry through miserable storms. It even was made to work for a hammock it didn't 'fit'. Ask the SULers around here if a small tarp will work. Heck, I know both "food" and "SGT Rock" use ponchos for tarps! Just something that's been on my mind lately and I wanted to express it.