Many folks get away with a simple tarp for their shelter, which works out just fine, most of the time. We have all heard horror stories of torrential rains, or windy nights making your tarp less effective, but spiders, anyone?
I have never been a fan of tarp tenting. Oh, sure, a tarp is extremely light weight, and yes, I pay for the weight of my tent with every step, but the old saying that you get what you pay for holds true. Let me tell you a brief story…
This last fall a friend of mine and I decided to get the boat out, throw our camping and fishing gear in it, and head out to Morgan-Monroe Reservoir here in Bloomington Indiana. We brought along his young son, plenty of gas for the boat motor, and some ridiculously high expectations of eating fresh fish over an open fire.
As things can sometimes go, events conspired to keep us running behind and we got out onto the lake with about an hour until dusk. Mind you, ‘dusk’ on a big open lake surface is pretty much ‘dark’ to us normal folk. We had our campsite picked out about 2 miles from the launch, but as we approached the peak of Peninsula Trail we discovered that all of the suitable sites along the peninsula were booked, and did I mention it was getting dark? We had maybe five minutes of light left before we would be navigating with flashlights!
Ok, so we soldiered on, rounded the peninsula and started looking along the lake shore for a decent camp site. We motored into this shore just as full dark arrived (this picture was taken the next day, on our fishing trip).
Setting up camp in the dark is always interesting, but I leave my Snugpak Scorpion tent partially assembled, so it was really just laying out the poles and stakes. Camp was up, we ate a nice dinner (of dehydrated camp food, mind you) and went off to bed.
First order of business the next morning was getting the camp site squared away (Ok, ok… that was the second order of business. Coffee first, of course!). It was here, this first morning after crawling out of bed, that I started to notice that our site was infested with spiders! Mostly wolf spiders and grass spiders which are both pretty harmless, but I wasn’t exactly doing an inventory. The problem was the underbrush and the time of year. There were dead leaves everywhere, and they were just thick with spiders.
Anywhere you looked, there was a spider or three. In fact, I went down to the shore line and was hanging out near that log you see in the picture above. I had batteries laid out charging in the sun and as I stood there, spiders were webbing in to the top of the log and attaching themselves to my solar gear. I had never seen anything like it, and it must have happened a good half dozen times in the few minutes that I was there getting my gear laid out.
We scraped the leaves away from a wide ring around the fire and managed to have a good time, despite the spiders, but I could not help but think just how glad I was that I had brought a tent! Wolf spiders are maybe ‘mostly harmless’, but I sure didn’t want them crawling all over me while I slept.l So the next time you decide to go out into the woods with just your tarp for shelter, maybe that extra few pounds in your pack for a decent tent might not be such a bad idea…
Is there a moral to this story? Sure. The name of the game is preparedness, so while a tarp is super light weight, is it really helping you be prepared? Is it the right tool for the job?