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  1. #1
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    Is bigger really better?

    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.
    Trust nobody!

  2. #2
    Senior Member angrysparrow's Avatar
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    I agree completely. I posted about this in another thread just a few weeks ago -

    Quote Originally Posted by angrysparrow View Post
    Hammockers have been camping comfortably (and dry) in the rain for a long time before the extremely large winter tarps with doors have been available. Staying dry, even with a modest tarp, is a matter of good site selection and proper tarp pitch.

    For site selection, pay attention to what's around you. Find natural wind breaks (lee side of hills or bluffs, behind thick underbrush stands or lines of trees, etc). Avoid the edge of open meadows or balds. And do your best to always set up perpendicular to the direction of the prevailing winds. This is very possible, if you pay attention.

    For proper pitch, it depends more on the specific tarp. But the biggest tip is to be sure that the ridge of your tarp is as low and tight to the ridgeline of your hammock as possible. That makes the most of coverage your tarp does provide.... And in really heavy storms, hang lower than you normally might, to keep the edges of the tarp low to cut wind as possible. Finally, secure the tarp as tightly as possible. A good taut pitch (along with well secured guylines) will flap less, and shed rain and wind more readily than one pitched in a more sloppy fashion.

    I've ridden out many severe storms under various small hexagonal tarps, and have been happy and dry while doing it. In fact, I greatly prefer a smaller tarp in most any weather condition due to the extra views, and ability to set up in tighter spaces. Only when I know I'll venture into deep winter conditions do I opt for doors.

    It's a very recent phenomena that so many folks are carrying oversized tarps that were designed for winter use. It bears worth remembering that those tarps are a luxury, not a necessity, if one takes the time to learn to pitch and use a smaller tarp to it's fullest.

    I think that it would be good for hammockers of all sorts to focus as much on the skills and techniques of using their gear as they do on the gear itself...

    My .02
    “I think that when the lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet. It dont move about from place to place and it dont change from time to time. You cant corrupt it any more than you can salt salt.” - Cormac McCarthy

  3. #3
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    I remember that post and it may be what got me going down this line of thinking.
    Trust nobody!

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Formerly 'TroutEhCuss'
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    I think it has to do with comfort level - security. When I started using tarps I felt naked and unprotected, but now I'm more comfortable with them and have started using a smaller tarp - maybe too small. If you don't have the best setup option, then a larger tarp helps out. I think there is a balance...specifically dependent on expected weather conditions.
    I like big hammocks - I cannot like.

  5. #5
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    A lot of newbie hammockers have a budget for gear and can only afford one tarp. If they want to do both cold weather and warm weather camping then it might be best to get the larger tarp first and then work towards a smaller tarp as their budget and their comfort level (per Trout's post) increase.

  6. #6
    HappyCamper's Avatar
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    I started out with a HH napkin. If that was the only tarp available, I probably would have gone back to ground. Sad but true. I've been hammock camping for a few years now and I still like my big tarps. Probably because there's always the threat of wind and rain whenever I go camping! I love their versatility. I usually camp with other people and I like the privacy for changing, etc. This was important for me when I was "the mom" camping with the boy scouts.

    I am a gear junkie because I like to try new things, but I don't like to keep it all. I try to find the most versatile equipment and get rid of the rest so it's more of a no brainer when I want to go out. Not a whole lot of decisions to be made. I just want to go and have confidence in my gear no matter what the weather.

    If I could only pick one, I'd go with a big tarp and that's why I recommend them.
    I intend to live forever, or die trying. -- Groucho Marx (1890 - 1977)

  7. #7
    Shewie's Avatar
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    I also started with a HH Expedition six years ago and soon learnt that wind driven rains could spoil an otherwise enjoyable trip. Not so much the fact that my hammock was getting wet but I didn't have an admin area for other tasks like cooking etc.
    I've got more tarps now than I know what to do with, but if I'm packing for a trip I try to decide which is the smallest I can get away with given the weather forecast and wind direction etc. The west coast of Scotland can get some real good storms coming in so I like to know I'm going to be dry and comfortable.
    Another factor these days is that most of my trips are canoe based so weight and bulk isn't really a problem. I'll often go for a big 4.5 x 3m nylon tarp or even a polycotton if there's a chance it could be pretty grim out there.
    I do have smaller tarps like an 8' x 6' MOD number and my Aus hootchie is also a favourite, but 90% of the time I probably grab my 12 x 12' DD. Now I've got the Oggee from Gargoyle I think that will become my favourite.

    So for me, bigger is not necessarily better but often it's more practical.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trout View Post
    I think it has to do with comfort level - security.
    I can get there, but again we don't learn to not be afraid of the dark by leaving the lights on.
    Quote Originally Posted by poker88 View Post
    A lot of newbie hammockers have a budget for gear and can only afford one tarp. If they want to do both cold weather and warm weather camping then it might be best to get the larger tarp first and then work towards a smaller tarp as their budget and their comfort level (per Trout's post) increase.
    That's kind of the point. There were hangers winter camping long before anybody thought to create a winter tarp. It forced you to learn how to use the landscape to your advantage. If you didn't, you suffered the consequences. With the large winter tarps out there today, the consequences are pretty mild by comparison and no real lesson is learned. I get the budget part, believe me. When I got into hammocks I was living paycheck to paycheck and trying to save-up for an 08 AT Thru attempt. In fact, for the budget sensitive a smaller tarp makes more sense. It is much less expensive to buy a small straight edge tarp, than it is to buy a large winter tarp with fancy edges, tie-outs, and doors.

    Again, I'm not knocking big tarps. At a minimum, I have 5 of them at home. I'm just saying the same thing angrysparrow said in his post that he quoted, big tarps are a luxury. New folks on a budget certainly don't need the biggest and baddest tarp out there. They need to learn and they need to enjoy. If a big tarp is required for enjoyment, that's fine. I just want to make sure they know that a big tarp isn't required to stay dry. It can be easily done with less tarp over them and more money in their pocket.
    Trust nobody!

  9. #9
    Member Goblin's Avatar
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    I'm just curious, what size are you referring to when you state 'large'. I'm trying to see where I fall into the mix. I have an 8'x10' that I think is the best of both worlds. In summer, even in the biggest rain storms, I have the corners folded in to make a hex style tarp and stay dry. Last winter, I folded them the opposite direction to make doors and was fine (note: no snow in southern Alabama).

    With that said, I do feel that I'm missing a lot by not having an over-sized napkin. There is no view of the beauty around you with a larger tarp. I've heard a number of folks say they don't have a problem in the rain with the smaller tarp as well. For me, getting out into the backwoods is all about knowing I'm in the backwoods. I can think of nothing better than to wake up in the morning within the confines of my gently swaying hammock to see the sun rise refract across the morning dew... Instead, I see the sagging dark green walls of my moderately sized tarp.
    “the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth" - Chief Seattle

  10. #10
    Senior Member Silverlion's Avatar
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    I'm with happycamper, When I bought my HH, I also bought the Hex Fly. Being in the Pacific NW, the Hex fly will be used the most as we get rain at the drop of a hat Fall through Spring. I'm not scared of getting wet, but why be uncomfortable while you're cooking changing? For the Summer, I'll run with the stock fly for ease of set up. I get your point though. It is better to learn the hard way in some cases. It keeps you prepared for the less than ideal situations.
    We must all learn to live together as brothers--or we will all perish together as fools. MLK

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