By: Blonde Two

Last year I completed 50 nights of outdoor sleeping, a fair few of which were wild camping experiences (even more of them were on Dartmoor). One of the things I really enjoyed doing more of was sleeping in my bivvy bag and being a bit more exposed to the night air. Last week Blonde One and I fancied a girls night out and took our swimming gear and bivvy bags up to Dartmoor for a river swim and overnight camp. The weather forecast wasn’t brilliant so we also borrowed a tarp from Mr B2 and had an interesting time testing out our tarpology skills.

Lightweight camping tarps

We chose a flattish spot away from the river, mainly because rain can make rivers rise quickly but also because the sound of running water isn’t always useful in the middle of the night. I say ‘flattish’ because the area we chose had a definite downhill feel to it. We opted for feet downhill rather than rolling on top of each other. The lightweight tarp (from DD hammocks) was a big one that Mr B2 usually pitches between two trees when he is hammocking, it has a ridge line with two prusik loops to hold it out, four guy ropes and some additional peg loops. I had taken some spare paracord (bright pink turned out to be a great colour for middle of the night avoidance) and my set of Alpkit titanium pegs (these have proved invaluable for all kinds of camping). We also had two pairs of walking poles.

Tarps with ridge lines

It is easy enough to rig a ridge line when you have a convenient pair of trees but less simple when your only tree-type items are walking poles. After a bit of pondering, we turned my walking poles upside down and inserted the points through eyelets at each end of the tarp ridge line. Then we created loops in guy line to slip over the same eyelets and pegged the ridge out. Pegging out the sides to create an a-frame was relatively simple although we did make a few adjustments on the windward side as the tarp was looking a bit saggy. Our final flourish was to add B1’s walking poles to give the ridge a bit more support.

Make the most of Dartmoor’s good weather

We pitched the tarp before tea, partly because the sky was starting to darken (and not just from approaching nightfall) but also because, if our shelter was going to fall down, we wanted it to do it in daylight. Despite the wind getting up and a lot of flapping (the tarp not us), by the time we had finished tea everything seemed, if not sturdy then at least upright and, as the first drops of rain fell, we crawled inside and wriggled into our bivvy bags.

Pitching a larger tarp

The great thing about a larger tarp was the space it provided for our extras. Our rucksacks fitted in neatly at our feet and our boots, stove and water bottles tucked alongside us. The downside of a larger tarp of course is the amount of flapping ability it retains once pitched. That said, we had flapping and rain all night but the only thing that disturbed sleep was the slope. There must be some kind of cohesion equation involved but B1 spent most of the night clawing her way back up the hill and I slipped down far enough to kick my rucksack out into the rain. The good news is that the tarp was still standing and we were both dry in the morning: all of which was rather wild camping tarptastic!