2010-03-27

An awesome find (backpacks).

So, this weekend Jess and I were going down to San Mateo to pick up some craft supplies that had failed to ship properly from a store down there. We weren't sure how large the box was, so we grabbed the bike trailer (carry freedom Y-frame) and attached it to Jess' bike (she currently has the hitch).

We're riding down to the caltrain station, and Jess sees a guy on a street corner with a small tag-sale. We stop to take a peak, and there's these two old packs hanging there. We both immediatly recognize the packs as old external Kelty frame packs!



Well, if you are into that kind of stuff, these packs are actually collectors items! We weren't so interested for that reason though. Jess loved her old external pack made in the early 90's (from k-mart, there's upcoming post about that I believe). Old external frames are completely different from new ones. The whole pack will generally weigh in under 3 pounds. The old Kelty packs in particular are extremely robust as well, due to a being made from welded aluminum.

The frame, backpack, straps etc. were all in basically prefect shape. A single missing pin (easilly replacable) was the only problem. The guy wanted $5.00 for the pair, we quickly accepted and attached them to the trailer.

Notice in the next photo the difference in the frames

See how the one on the right has a bar across the top, with 2 bars going up to it? That is the most common design. Also notice that the lumbar support on the right is padded. The packs aren't quite the same. They are both kelty though (labeled as such), and construction and materials are basically identical. The sack that came with the frame on the left had 2 compartments and extra dividers in the top, whereas sack that came on the frame on the right had a single compartment (excepting the side-pouches).

The way my shoulders are built, the pack on the left slams the back of my head. My mother has a slightly newer model of this pack actually, and it simply doesn't fit me. The pack on the right on the other hand fits wonderfully! Jess doesn't have problems with the pack on the left hitting her. My plan is to either make a new sack, or possibly just attach stuffsacks to the frame with rope. So I took the sack off my frame and mounted it on hers - the packs were in this state already when the photos were taken.

I had never seen a pack from this era unmodified (I'm convinced these are just that). Note the foam bits on the hip belt, they actually seem like they'd be quite comfortable. Also, the belt-clip weighs something like a quarter pound. I'll almost certainly replace some of the components, because I want to actually try using the pack and not just marvel at it as a collectors piece.

Jess hasn't decided yet whether to use hers. We'll have to experiment some. 

More photos of the packs here

2010-03-12

Archery in Golden Gate

I finally got around to checking out the archery range in golden gate park last night. We've been going up to a place near Lafayette (mentioned in previous posts).

Working from home I realized in the evening that I was done with work, and that, without the time to get from work to home, I had enough time to go out and do something while it was still light out!

Well, a little while later I managed to leave the house, heading for the north-westerly corner of golden-gate (rather far from the mission).  I had a bow attacked to my backpack, arrows sticking out the top, and some water in the backpack and on my bike.

Somehow every time I try and go to golden-gate I mess up, this time was worse than normal though, I ended up almost to the presidio (quite a ways north of golden-gate park). Well, after much wandering I eventually found the archery range as dark was setting. The range is simple, just a few targets lined up varying distances in a big field.

(Image from the above link)

A sign there describes the rules that basically amount to "shoot at the targets" - simple enough. There was an older man there as well, firing wooden arrows with a compound bow from maybe... iono, 40 yards? He was so-so, about as good as I am.

Well, we talked for a bit and I shot off maybe 6 flights or so. The hay-bales are kindof falling apart, and there are no targets on them now, so your arrow just disappears and you hear nothing. With dark falling I couldn't make out my arrows either - so it was an interesting experience just firing arrows off at nothing. Interestinly my first couple of shots were some of my best (nice tight little cluster near the center), dispite shooting at a new range, and not knowing the distance.

Anyway, I intend to try and go shooting there a couple of times a week or so. Daylight savings time is coming, so there should be enough time to actually DO this pretty soon. I'm excited :)

2010-03-04

Car Camping to Backpacking: How to make the jump

I've been reading about bicycle touring and really wanting a page that tells me what additional knowledge I need to have to bike tour assuming I already know how to backpack. Thus the inspiration for this post. This article is for people who enjoy car camping and day hiking, but aren't quite sure how to take the plunge to backpacking. The truth is it isn't that different. The two big differences are:
1. You have to carry everything
2. You don't have a car right there to bail to

This article is written towards someone doing a one night trip to a campground similar in amenities to the type they usually drive to. Also right now this is mostly a stub article. I plan to add links in it as I write more companion articles. Also it's written for summer in a temperate climate.

You have to carry everything

The main effect of this is that suddenly weight and volume matter. For a single overnight trip you don't have to go too crazy though. It can be done easily just by leaving the things you don't need behind instead of buying light expensive versions of all of them. By the way, trying to backpack without spending a lot on specialized gear is often called dirt bagging. If you want to spend the money, then go for it, but know that you really don't have to. Especially not for your first trip.

Besides weight and volume you're now traveling. That means it's useful to know how to find water as well as how to pee in the woods. It's also handy to have food that doesn't take all day to cook.

You don't have a car right there to bail to

This means you probably want to have some trust in your tent and know how to set it up, as well as having a bit of extra warm clothing in case you fall into a river or some such. As with day hiking it's useful to have some sort of blister kit. Mine is some duct tape, but you should bring whatever you're comfortable with.

Possible problem gear

So you have your car camping stuff in a heap, are looking at your backpack (which doesn't have to be anything more that a normal school backpack if you aren't bringing much) and thinking "Oh goodness, this'll never fit. And when it does I won't be able to lift it!". Have no fear. There are some easy fixes.

Stove

If you generally carry a large Colman-style stove consider carrying all no-cook food, or consider making/buying a soda can stove.

Tent

Some car camping tents are truly behemoths. If that's the sort of shelter you have consider trying a tarp instead. Even if you decide it isn't for you in the long run, it's a nice jerry-rigging skill to have.

Clothing

Cotton doesn't contribute to warmth when wet, so carrying a pile of sweatshirts works, but something that'll stay warm is better. Aside from warmth you really don't need much clothing. The fashion police are not waiting in the woods to arrest you if you wear the same clothing two days in a row. For a summer trip I'd tend to bring 1 pair of shorts, 1 shirt, 2 pairs of socks, a sweater, hat, and maybe a warm vest if I was feeling paranoid. Bring whatever you need to be happy, but anything more than that might make yah sad.

What's left?

Backpack, stove, shelter, clothing... Besides that I carry a mess set (pot, spork, and fire starter), water stuff(water treatment, 2-1 liter bottles), headlamp, whistle, map, rain coat, first aid(duct tape + ibuprofen), a pair of shoes, and often a tooth brush. And food. Lots of food. A knife, compass and emergency blanket are also nice to have, but not absolutely necessary. If there are other things you won't have fun without then go ahead and bring them, but you don't _need_ very much stuff.

Disclaimer: What you need obviously depends on the season and where you are. The article is targeted towards summer in friendly places like CA, PA, WA, and VA.

2010-03-03

Trip report: First time snowcaving

Jess and I decided to try snowcaving a little while ago. 
 
Snowcaving is the activity of digging a cave, in the snow, and sleeping in it. Snowcaves are most often used as a survival technique for mountaineering. The idea is simple. Snow is a very good insulator. So good in fact that a well built snow-cave will almost always end up right around freezing (32F, 0C), basically regardless of outside temps. This is because if it gets any warmer, the snow melts. So, if it's much colder than that outside building a snowcave can be a huge win, and a way to survive. 
 
It turns out to be a slightly complex process though, so it's not something you want to try for the first time when it *has* to work. So, Jess and I decided to take a trip up to Tahoe, and give it a try. Jess had talked to some people before about how to build a snowcave, and we both read a book she gave me a while back written by the Mountaineering club in Seattle (overly opinionated and single-thinking, but they do know what they are talking about). This was the bulk of our preparation. 
 
We were feeling pretty paranoid. We rented a large vehicle with 4wd that we could sleep in if required. We brought our 10F sleepingbags, and spare sleepingbags to leave in the car (my spare was 40F, but oh well). We also left a bit of spare clothing in the car (Jess left a complete down ski-suit). Additionally as backup we had a HAM radio that... umm... honestly I really should relearn how to use.
 
Warm gear I used: 
  10F FF sleepingbag 
  3/4" ultra-dense closed cell foam pad 
  3/4 length ultralight thermarest (older square model) 
  2 pair mountaineering smartwools 
  1 pair super-heavy REI brand wool socks 
  1 pair thinner smartwools 
  Winter weight underarmer running tights 
  pertex qantum pants 
  wool smartool t-shirt 
  wool smartwool midweight shirt 
  down vest 
  fake-poofy-stuff insulated parka 
  "waterproof"-breathable rainjacket (not quite waterproof, but close) 
  insulated gore-tex ski-gloves 
  smartwool glove liners 
  gators 
  oversized lightly insulated waterproof hiking boots 
 
Other gear we brought: 
  whisperlight whitegas stove (we brought alcohol as well, to test melting snow with) 
  collapsable aluminum avalanche shovel 
  70" black diamond ice-axe 
  microspikes 
  Snowshoes (rented) 
  Leki hiking poles with mud-baskets swapped for snow-baskets 
 
In other words, I threw everything warm I had into my backpack, and grabbed everything that looked useful for "snow". Jess basically did the same thing - but she owns more warm gear than I do :). 
 
Jess had been pushing hard that week on work, and to prepare for the trip. So, she was feeling sick from pure exhaustion. After much consideration we decied to do it anyway. So, we left for tahoe on friday, after getting quite tired and discovering where *not* to try and sleep in your car on the road we slept the rest of the night in a wallmart parking lot. She felt better the next day, though not fully recovered. 
Next day we drove up to kirkwood and rented the snowshoes. Jess picked up ski-boots as well, because she was worried about her newly waxed all-leather boots. We'd looked a bit before hand, but the lady there confirmed that avalanche danger was fairly low. We then backtracked to a sign that had said "8000 ft" that looked like it had about 6 feet of snow around it. There was a pulloff there and some trails leading off. Also, being at basically the top of the mountain, it seemed like a good place to start searching without worrying about avalanches. 
 
So, after quite a while of changing clothes and such, we tromped off into the woods. Not far in (thus giving us the ability to bail in an emergency) we saw a nice hill that looked promising. So, after staring at it for a bit we found a good spot to start digging. By this time we had maybe an hour until dark. 
 
So, here's a quick overview of how a snowcave works (please don't use this as a guide, go read a book by someone who knows this stuff). The question is, how do you keep heat in the snowcave? Well, heat rises right? Basically, you find a hill and you dig down and in. Once you have a tunnel a little ways in, you start digging upwards. The goal is to get a platform that is entirely above the entrance, so that heat will pool up in that space, and not leak out the entrance. If the snow is right, you can cut blocks of snow out to block off the top of the entrance, reducing the amount of digging that has to be done, and you can block the bottom part of with a backpack as sort of a "door". 
 
For obvious reasons you want the shelter to be as small as is comfortable, so there's less space to heat. You need airholes so you can breath, so you drill some in the roof so you get flow-through ventilation like groundhogs due - because the hole in the roof, and the unblocked bit of the door are at slightly different elevations the pressure differential will slowly push air through (not a ton, but enough). As a last and exciting constraint, you want to stay *dry* in what is, fundamentally... a whole lot of frozen water, which you are about to heat up. To do you this you smooth the roof as much as you can, so it drips down the walls rather than on you, and you make it large enough that you don't touch the sides and can dig a trench around you to collect the water and funnel it elsewhere. 
 
So, we set about digging this shelter. The digging went fine, we started by digging downwards, being worried that we might end up going through the roof. We also stuck 1-foot long sticks in the ceiling, if you hit these while digging, you stop digging upwards so you don't collapse the roof. We had one shovel, so we took turns. Whoever was shoveling had cold knees, but was otherwise warm, whoever wasn't was just cold. We only used the shovel for digging. We discovered that having a collapsable handle was very useful for digging in such a tight space. 
 
The digging process takes a LONG time, I think we were digging until near midnight. 2 shovels would speed it up, but not by twice. As it cooled off, and we got deeper into the hill it became obvious how much warmer it was in there. My pertex pants were completely soaked. Every time I went in they melted, when I came out they froze solid (note that this means my tights were just soaked). I was very paranoid about the roof depth, because I wanted to sleep that night. When we were finally nearing completion we attempted to punch a hole in the ceiling. We tried the poles, first. After a lot of fiddling we managed to get the entire length of a hiking pole in... without seeing it on the other side. It turned out that we had about a 5 foot thick ceiling! The snow where we'd dug is was MUCH deeper than needed. Well, I ended up going on the roof and shoveling down about 3 feet, then we used the handle of the ice-axe to actually poke the hole.  
 
About now Jess simply maxed out, she ran out of energy and was completely exhuasted. We were just about to do dinner and I'd grabbed some of my stuff and thrown it in the shelter, so she took a quick nap in my sleepingbag while I cooked up some dinner on the whitegas stove (after melting some snow to do so). 
 
To melt snow I used a trick a friend of ours explained to me. The trick with melting snow is to do a little at a time, water transfers heat wonderfully, snow doesn't... so melt the snow in water. If you have some water, prime the pot with it. Now, put some snow in it, so it's kinda slushy, but still nice and wet. Heat it up until it's not slushy anymore, add more snow, repeat until you get the amount you want, then heat that up. It should be noted that melting snow takes a LOT of energy, phase transitions are expensive (I'll probably write an article on this later). 
 
In any case, I made up some hot Jello first, which tasted amazing, then I made dinner and we ate up and crawled into bed. Digging in the awkward space had used an enormous amount of midriff muscle, along with strange shoulder muscles and the like. We were also quite wet, I especially was soaking wet. 
 
For the period of dinner, and getting in my sleepingbag had remained unpacked, and had gotten slightly damp. My tights were much wetter than a realized (given that my pertex pants were soaked this shouldn't be surprising, but I was exhausted, intelligence kinda goes out the window). So... I soaked my down sleepingbag. 
 
We slept okay. The walls and floor of the cave quickly turn to ice. Jess' pads didn't supply sufficient protection, so she bruised her hip during the night. She also couldn't feel her toes for most of the night. I have very good circulation, so despite a wet bag, I slept okay due to having a lot of upper-body insulation (the parka, and the wool shirt) as well as my hat. I also wore a dry pair of socks.  
 
Oddly, it was *still* good enough that Jess felt better the next morning than she had all week :P. We did it, and it worked. If I was expecting this to keep me safe I'd do a few things differently though.  
1) wear waterproof pants, that was by far my biggest problem 
2) bring a waterproof bivy-sack, this just makes it harder to screw yourself over, and gives you a good backup plan 
 
I'm amazed though, apparently it dropped to about 9F, that should've happened while we were asleep, but it probably got close to that while we were digging. I was soaking wet in my pants and tights, and was still okay (not great, but no permanent damage I can tell). That is really impressive for those tights! 
 
Jess had a full thick wool outfit, thick pants, thick shirt. As a result she didn't have problems with the damp and cold excepting for her feet. I had waterproof boots that were oversized (this is *really* important, it lets your toes flex), she had undersized ski-boots that didn't fit right (turns out she would've been better off in her leather bots - we know now). 
 
The next morning we spent quite a while dismantling the cave. The 5 to 6 foot thick roof wouldn't just collapse, we had to dig it out with the ax and shovel, which made for quite a project. 
 
We then went snowshoeing that day in the beautiful warm sun. The snowshoes were so-so (all plastic, so very loud, and they were too small, not enough flotation for off-trail). We had a great time running up and down hills, and wandering aimlessly across a lake a few miles. Then drove home. 
 
All in all a HUGE success! we came back with all our limbs and digits, no permanent damage, and learned a LOT, and we even had fun doing it. 
 
Note - please don't take what we do to imply it's safe. 1) Jess has SAR training, where you walk down rivers in below freezing weather for multiple days. 2) we've both slept at 15F or so before, and with worse gear 3) even still it seemed rather plausible that one of us would leave with frostbite and maybe missing digits on this trip.  
I encourage you to adventure, but please keep it within your limits (which may well be farther out than you expect). Push your limits one step at a time, and any time you do so intentionally make sure you have a fallback. Don't treat our blog like we know what we're doing, we don't, so don't believe us :P.

2010-03-01

Tarp howtos and tips (even for tenters)

I've talked about using a tarp before, hopefully now you're curious. I've attempted to write up how to use a tarp before as well here: http://www.smalladventures.net/backpacking/advice/tarping.html. Since I wrote that article though, Jess and I have both learned a lot more about how and when we like to use a tarp.

Even if you use a tent, and will never switch to a tarp, I urge you to read this article. The bottom of your tent is a tarp, if all else fails, you can use it that way. Alternatively an emergency blanket, or sack that's cut open, or a piece of plastic you find will work. Knowing and understanding these tricks is useful in all sorts of situations.

Equipment:
We use an 8x10 silnylon tarp with 6-8 aluminum 3-flanged stakes, 50 ft of trip-tease twine and varying groundcloths (generally a second similar tarp). Our stakes came with tiny strings on them, which we took off and tied into the grommets we use for staking instead. (easiest way is put the string through, line up both ends, tie an overhand knot in the end). We then stake through these small loops of string. We use hiking poles most often for tarp poles. The head-end is adjusted to around 3.5 feet, the foot end between 2 and 3.5 feet.

Basic pitch:
There are tons of ways to pitch a tarp, for some of the basics you can see the article that I linked above. It turns out though that Jess and I basically only use one pitch 90% of the time. Jess learned a second pitch in SAR training as well that I'll also talk about later

Pup Tent:
Use 2 poles. Hiking poles work well, I'll talk about using trees later. uncoil your cord and lay it out along the axis you want your tarp on (this will be parallel to the long axis of your body). Take your tarp and lay it's long axis down this same axis. Lay your poles at the two ends of this axis. Put the left (long) edge of the tarp where you want it and stake both corners down with the edge taught. Now put the pole tip in the center grommet on the short-side adjacent to the staked corner. Hold the pole up with the tarp taught between the stake and pole. Note now where the pole will end up in this configuration. You can put it back down now.

Tie an overhand knot in the end of the cord, and loop this over a second stake, put the stake in the ground around 4 feet from where the pole will be. Now go stand the pole back up with the tarp on it, guess an approximate length for the cord so it'll be taught from the second stake to the top tip of the pole, tie an overhand knot in the middle of the chord again, and loop over the tip of the pole (under or over the tarp, both may work).

Now, by pulling on the tarp opposite your first stake, across the pole, on the narrow side, you can probably keep it upright'ish. Slide down this edge until you reach the grommet on the other side, and stake that corner down. You now have an "A" frame, that wants to flop over. If you futz a bit, you can get it to stand for now though.

Now, go to the other end of the tarp. You have one stake in already, I'm guessing you can figure out what to do from here.

Once you're done, you'll notice that the tarp isn't taught in some places. This is because your initial layout wasn't actually square. You started with 2 stakes, then made it taught to the first pole, if you wrack your brain for a while you'll realize that this put one stake too far from the axis. To fix this just futz with all of your stakes till you get it square. I can't really explain this part, so you're on your own.

Now, pull out your groundcloth and spread it underneath the tarp. Make sure it doesn't stick out the edges, and is a good foot or more from both open ends. If any rain ends up ON the groundcloth it'll flow along it and get you wet. Not BTW, that we did this *after* the tarp was up. In the rain this is great, because the people side of the groundcloth stays dry, unlike the floor of most tents when pitched in rain.

Now that we have the basic pitch out of the way, lets talk about some of the interesting parts:

TIPS:


Knots:
I always use overhand knots for tarping. You tie a half-knot, but don't pull the end through, leaving a loop. This only works well if the end you put tension on is the end you didn't pull through, otherwise the loop won't cinch.

Tension:
How much tension should you use? In the pitch discussed above, about as much as you pull on it, the tarp can take. Jess and I pitched this in something like a 50mph wind and we're simply hauling on the ropes for everything we were worth. If you use silnylon as we do though, you'll find that it stretches or "relaxes" a bit after being pitched, and you'll need to readjust things. If it's raining, often you can fix the tension by just extending the front pole - thus staying dry.

Avoiding the Sides:
One of the biggest problems with tents and tarps is condensation. The underside if your tarp will end up wet, rain or no. In heavy rain it will end up so wet that rain hitting the top will cause it to mist out, so it almost feels like a light sprinkle IN the tarp. Tents do this too, though double-wall tents do it less.
The best thing you can do about this is to avoid touching the sides. If you sleep 2 people under the pup-tent pitch, you'll find this difficult. to make it easier add 2 more stakes pulling the long left and right edges out. You'll find this pulls down the ceiling a bit in the middle, but if you crawl in you'll find it much easier to avoid touching the sides especially in wind as the fabric will be much more taught.


Using Trees, or a Fragile Tarp:
If you use trees, be careful. If you tie the rope ends to the trees, and to the tarp, you will probably tear your tarp. The way I outlined above has the downforce of the other stakes being put directly on the pole. If you tie the tarp out to trees, then pull it down, you'll be fighting the tension on the top edge of the tarp. This means that tension has to be VERY high for a nice pitch. As you pull it downwards with the stakes you'll increase the tension astronomically (you have a huge mechanical advantage here), and your tarp will loose. Instead, you can do several things. One is to tie the rope to the two trees, then hang the tarp over it. To keep the water from running down the rope and under the tarp, and thus dripping on you, tie a piece of string to the rope right next to the edge of the tarp - this'll cause the water to drip off it and thus is called a "dripline". Another solution is to use a different pitch I'll talk about later.

Hills, Water, and Groundcloths:
You tend to want your head pointed uphill, it's just natural. This means the long axis of your tarp will almost always be along the fall line of the hill. This works out well for water runoff. Roll the eges of your groundcloth under slightly, this will give the edges a bit of "poof" and make sure trickles of water will end up under the groundcloth instead of on it. Put your pack(s) under the groundcloth at the top edge. The bulk of running water will come from this edge (as water runs downhill), so this will ensure it all goes under the groundcloth. This will, of course, soak your pack, but you're already used to dealing with that while hiking in rain :).


Pulled out or no Grommets:
What if you didn't follow my advice earlier, and your grommets pulled out of your tarp when you tied it to trees? Alternatively, what if you have no grommets (emergency blanket, drop cloth, whatever). Take a rock or other lumpy object. Set it against the tarp near where you want to attach it. Push and wrap the tarp down around the object. Tie your twine at the bottom, making a sack with the object in it. Try pulling on the twine. You should have a pretty solid connection. As for the poles, if you use hiking poles put the handle end up instead, pull the tarp down over the handle, and loop the rope over this.

Side-blown Rain or Strong Wind:
Depending you can either put your tarp sideways (great for wind with no rain), so the side of your tarp takes the wind. This is also good since high-wind often switches in the middle of the night, this can be due to the storm passing over you, or due to a daily differential, such as on a ridge near the ocean. Another option is to pitch the tail end of the tarp into the wind. If you can, lower your pole to as low as possible. If you stake directly to the ground, you'll get pools of water forming on the sides, ON your tarp. You have to keep the slant high-enough that even with sag the water doesn't pool. In my experience, with an 8x10 tarp this requires on the order of a 1-1.5 foot of pole. If you are alone, doing the same pitch but with the short axis in place of the long axis, and staking the back edge to the ground does work quite well due to the steeper angle you end up with (You'll want the front pole to be more like 4-feet for this pitch). You have less space in the tarp where you won't hit the ceiling though.


Mosquitoes:
So, a headnet will help, but you have a problem. Mosquitoes will bite through anything that's thin, penetrable, and close enough to your skin. This means they'll go straight through a thin t-shirt, glove liners, or mosquito netting against your face. When I was in bad mosquito country in hot-weather (so I couldn't be fully in my sleepingbag) I wore my raincoat with the hood up. My hood is fairly close-fitting, so with a head-net I could get the net to billow over my face, not leaving much exposed. The mosquitoes bit through my glove-liners, had I had windproof gloves though it would've been fine. Even as it was, it was only a problem on the worst nights. I never used bug spray for 1500 miles of the AT.

Materials and Money:
If you are on the cheap, you may not be able to spend $60 or so on a silnylon tarp. If this is the case, you may be able to score some old Tyvec from a construction site. This stuff, you'll find, is incredibly loud. To work around this problem, try washing it in the washing machine two or three times. This will soften it up considerably and get rid of most of the loud noises that keep you up at night.

Guessing Wrong:
If you use a tarp, you'll find yourself getting used to sleeping out, and start to wonder why you are even under a tarp many nights. The logical follow-on to this is to stop using a tarp if it doesn't look like it's going to rain. Well... what about when you guess wrong? It turns out that with a tarp the cost is much lower than with a tent. Simply stand up, pull your tarp out, and throw it over your stuff. Now... start pitching it. The whole time your pitching, your stuff will stay dry!

Group or Open Pitching:
If you want a bigger shelter and you have some friends with tarps, or if you just want a very open shelter, give this one a try. Take one corner of the tarp, and tie it to a tree around 5 feet off the ground, on the uphill side. Now, stake down the other 3 corners directly to the ground, so it's taught. If you have multiple, tarps, pitch another one similarly, but reflected, Now you have a huge shelter with one open side, partially protected by a tree-trunk. Note, also, that this pitch puts very little stress on the tarp.

Strangely, I've taken very few pictures of most of the tarp pitches. I'll post them here when I get some useful ones :)