Backpacking where frozen ground makes pounding in tent stakes tough, a small hammer or hatchet is useful. If one is in an area of excess wood, campfires, wood tent stakes and poles might be part of the trip. Then a hatchet can be good to have.
Marble makes a small hatchet which weighs 13 ounces and I found for $17 plus shipping. Small enough it fits in my back pocket. It does a good job at pounding stakes, and is useful for light wood gathering. I like it for tapping away fire starting pitch chunks from the “cat face” of a pine tree, quickly limbing off the small dead pencil size “magic sticks” at the base of trees, making shavings and getting at dry wood in a dead stump. It is smaller than the usual hatchets, so won’t be up to larger tasks like felling anything more than a sapling. You won’t be splitting rounds with this, but for wood gettin’ I find it better than a pocket knife and sometimes better than a saw. I made a small leather sheath that leaves one side open for driving stakes and weighs 1/2 ounce. It came sharp enough for most tasks but if you like to whittle, it needs a bit of work with a stone to be shaving sharp. The wood appears to have a light varnish, but if you like could be sanded and tung oiled.
- 4 to 12 stakes (4 minimum with trees for ridgeline tie outs, more stakes needed if windy, snow load or using poles for support)
- 2 trees, trekking poles, or tarp poles (use of at least one tree is easier to set up for one person, if using poles two people holding poles on each end really speeds things up)
- 6 cords @ 3′ on corners and middle sides of fabric panel
- 2 cords @ 6′ on ridge line (having some extra cord is useful for trees spread farther apart, and needed for tarps large enough for more than one person)
First attach the Ridgeline tie out to a tree or pole at a height that allows the netting to sit 4″ on the ground.
I like to use a releasable tautline hitch.
If using a pole for the ridgeline, tie a clove hitch around the top of the pole and then run the line down to a stake on the ground. Adjustable trekking poles make height adjustments easier.
Have someone hold the pole upright and go attach the other ridge line to a pole or tree.
Stake out the four corners at a height that maintains about 4″ of netting laying on the ground.
Adjust cord length using the tautline hitches and by moving stakes so that the tarp is stretched snug with minimum wrinkles. In a wind, you want the tarp to hum, not flap.
If needed, tie out center side points and four corner points on netting. Shepherds crook type stakes work well for the netting. The netting should be snug but not tight along the sides of the tarp (gentle on the netting) and loose on the pleated ends so one can crawl under the netting easily without having to remove a stake.
Zipper opens on top and down one side so heavy item can be slid into the side then zipped up.
Side shoulder strap.
In the San Juans in Colorado.
grommet held while hem tore at stitch line. Unreinforced 1″ web tie out with top of stitching past hem stitch held.
A simple coiling method to keep cord untangled until you need them. I learned this at Outward Bound. Firm Cord works best. I like to use 2mm cord on the most used tie outs and carry a bit of 1mm cord for long reaches to distant anchors.
Starting at the bitter end, coil around hand leaving a foot or two between the hand and tarp attachment point.
Wrap the remaining cord tightly around the first coil and then pass a loop, close to the tarp attach point, through one end of the now figure eight shape of the coil.
Loop this over the other end of the figure eight and pull. Reverse process when you need to use the cord to tie up your tarp/tent.
“Amazing quality, Dave! This was my first ever pitch of a pyramid tarp and it took me only a couple of minutes. Looking forward to using this for multi day backcountry skiing, backpacking, river running, mountain biking, etc. Thank you, Scott”
On many Outward Bound courses, toilet paper was left at home and local natural items substituted to cut down on backcountry environmental impact. In some desert environs, where the most popular substitutes of snow or vegetation weren’t available, toilet paper was carried and then burned or carried out. It should be obvious (but unfortunately not to all) that burning toilet paper is a great hazard in forest fire conditions, so carrying it out was then prefered.
In some damper times and places, burning works well. Here is what I like to bring (in addition to using snow and other substitutes). Weighs 23 grams and is enough for 2 weeks.
Tiny cuben fiber stuffsack lined with thin plastic for water tightness.
14 half sheets of paper towel (more durable than tp and burns readily)
7 feet of jute cord
I cut a 6″ section of the jute cord and fuzz it up and use it to catch a spark from a mish metal flint which then catches the paper towel and with care will burn the whole thing to ash.
Counter Balance Food Hang
How to hang food using the counter balance with retrieval cord method.
Pick appropriate tree and branch. In bad bear areas a proper tree may dictate where you camp. As you near timber line there may not be tall enough trees, so you must plan ahead. The limb should be about 20+ feet from the ground. Higher is better as bears are less likely to jump off a limb onto the bags if they know they will take a long fall. The bags should hang about 10′ out from the tree. Where the rope goes over the limb, the diameter of the limb should be about the size of your wrist or smaller. Larger and they can climb out the limb, smaller and they can break or chew through the limb. Some bears can get any food hang too. Check with local authorities about food storage methods. Food hangs work best with wild bears that have some fear of humans.
Camping with groups, we had to hang as much as 200 lbs of food each evening. It can take several hours, and several trees, to do it right for that much food. A bear resistant canister may be a safer and easier choice for some folks.
Hear are some custom food hang bags by Oware. Ultralight silnylon and noseeum net made for BackpackingLight.com, and heavy Cordura ones made for various Outdoor Schools.
Note the bright orange throw sacks for holding a rock when setting up, and the cord when not in use. Orange is easier to find if you have a bad throw.
The heavy bags use a reflective loop on the bottom (for a retrieval cord) that can be quickly seen at night with a flashlight when checking for suspicious bear like sounds.
Grateful to a customer who sent these photos of a FlatTarp set up at several campsites.