Tips & Tricks: Tarp Guyline Attachment Options

by Paul Kirtley

Frontier Bushcraft clients pitching tarps in mixed woodland

Students on a Frontier Bushcraft course pitching their tarps for an overnight bivvy. Photo: Paul Kirtley

Those of us who are fans of tarps already know they are a versatile and protective shelter. A tarp made of a modern lightweight material takes up little space in your pack yet creates a relatively large covered area for little weight.
MEC Scout Siltarp pitched in boreal forest of northern Sweden

A lightweight silicone nylon tarp pitched by the author while on a hiking trip in Lappland, northern Sweden. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

What's more you can have a fire under a tarp if you pitch it right. You can walk in and out of the sides and you don't even need to take your boots off to do so. For all its plus points, though, a tarp is dependent on there being something to attach it to. Carrying or creating pegs is the obvious solution. But there are other options open to you too. I look for these opportunities first, before setting out to make any tarp pegs. Not only do the methods below save time and effort when pitching your tarp, they also mean you don't need to cut green material for pegs unnecessarily.

Attaching Tarp Guylines To Upright Trees

We automatically attach the main ridgeline to trees. Why not look for other trees to attach your guylines to as well? To avoid a saggy tarp and achieve a nice taught surface, you need to judge the angles correctly.
Tarps on a bushcraft course

Look for opportunities to attach your tarp guylines to a nearby trees. Make sure you achieve the correct angles though. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Tarp guyline around a tree

Closer view of guyline tied off around a tree. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Horizontal Tarp Attachment Options

Don't just look for horizontal trees, there are many other angles that can be helpful. In fact, they can be more useful in terms of getting the guyline at just the right angle relative to the corner of your tarp, so that you achieve a nice taught surface which sheds water.
Something to tie your tarp off to

A more unlikely tarp guyline attachment point. It's worth bearing in mind horizontal options as well as vertical. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Guyline of tarp attached to dead tree

This old piece of sweet chestnut was still attached the ground solidly enough to tension the guyline. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Tarp attached to log

As long as a log is heavy enough not to move when you tension the line, this is a great option. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

Similarly, in areas which are more rocky, you can also make use of rocks in a similar way.

Look Even Lower For Somewhere To Attach Your Tarp Guyline

The keen eyed will spot surface roots amongst the leaf litter. Silver birch trees often provide particularly good examples. Don't go digging and uncovering roots but if there is a natural gap underneath that you can slip the guyline through, why not make use of it as an attachment point?
Tarp guyline attached to a root

Tarp guyline attached to a surface root. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

How To Tension Your Tarp Guyline

The adjustable guyline hitch is very useful for quickly attaching a tarp guyline by looping it around a fixed point and then creating a friction hitch which is also quick-release. If you don't know how to tie this knot or need a refresh, have a watch of the video below... The combination of being able to tie the adjustible guyline hitch quickly and having a keen eye for the available attachments points, will have your tarp pitched in extra fast time. Let us know if the above tips were useful? Also, let us know if you've used attachment points you've other than just plain old pegs.
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Paul Kirtley is owner and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog as well as for various publications including Bushcraft and Survival Skills Magazine.

 

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason

Thanks Paul,
Another great video, I have set my own tarp up exactly as Frontier showed me. It is extreamly efficient to deploy and re-pack. These “bite size” videos are great reminders for my rusty memory.

Reply

Julian Cresswell

Thanks Paul,

Simple and very useful.

I use a similar knot called a Farrimond hitch apparently named after its creator, an actor from the BBC series The Archers!

Julian

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danny

great blog and vid paul,big thanks for taking the time to do it.its came at the right time for me as I have to practice my tarp knots 🙂

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Peter Nex

Great Video Paul, very easy to see there, I use it on all my set ups as I find it the best in any situation and allows for use in high winds and driving rain conditions excellently holds and adjusts. I often use surround tress and branches to tie off on my tarp and stuff mainly through ease and slight laziness rather than saving on pegs though 🙂 If nature provides it I’ll use it 🙂

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Paul Kirtley

Hi Tinky Pete, good to hear from you. Glad you are on the same page with this 🙂

All the best,

Paul

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Kevin

Thanks for sharing Paul.Great videos !

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Paul Kirtley

My pleasure Kevin 🙂

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Neil Rhodes

ohh thanks thats a gem. Im doing it all wrong, figure 8 slip knot and just tie it off 🙁 now ill look the pro next time im out with the lads on a micro adventure!

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Paul Kirtley

Hi Neil,

Glad you like it! I’m sure you’ll find it useful – both for a faster, slicker camp set-up and take-down as well as impressing your mates 😉

Have fun.

Paul

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James Gohl

Hi Paul,

Here’s another trick. To secure your tarp to the ridge line, simply make a loop in the ridge line and poke it through the tarp’s center grommet, then use a stick through the loop to secure it.

Jim

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James Backhouse

Hi Paul,

An extremely helpful video indeed as always!

James.

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Paul Kirtley

Thank you James.

Warm regards,

Paul

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Paul Kirtley

Thanks James. Glad you found this one useful too.

As always, best,

Paul

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Rody Klop

Use a second line under the tarp, so you can hang (important) things. Like towell to dry, headlamp, etc. No mess on the ground and still easy to reach. Make sure you pay attention to the guylines, so nothing snaps (tarp attachment point, your leg or the string.)

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Paul Kirtley

Hey Rody,

I manage to get everything I need on one line but, yeah, for the sake of an extra length of cord in your pack, why not? You gotta make it work for you 🙂

All the best,

Paul

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bill jackson

Useful article. Nice suggestions on knots and on effective angles. Most people have problems with the latter.
Previous articles have stressed the need to collect sufficient dry fuel before starting your fire. In rain, the wood will get wet as you collect it. So you need a dry place to put it. If you’re having an unexpected night out and night is approaching, there may not be enough time to both build a small shelter and collect enough fuel. Even a very small tarp will eliminate that problem.

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Paul Kirtley

Hi Bill,

It’s good to hear from you. Thanks for your comments.

You are absolutely right about the value of a tarp in your day pack – something I’ve written about over on my personal blog.

Warm regards,

Paul

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Lillian Schaeffer

This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that a tarp is a lightweight way to create a form of cover. My fiance is really into camping, and I’ve found that I have an interest in the outdoors as well, though not as much experience. We want to go on a backpacking trip, so I’ll definitely talk to him about using tarps for cover instead of a tent so we can keep our packs lighter. Thanks for the great post!

Reply

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