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5/14/2018 10:03 am  #1

Keeping Tarps Taut

What type of cord do you use to hang your tarps? We always seem to have problems with cordage stretching out over time. We'll go to bed with a nice tarp with taut lines and by the morning its sagging and droopy.

We just got some polyester paracord as that's not supposed to stretch like other paracord.

Anyone else have this problem?


5/14/2018 10:39 am  #2

Re: Keeping Tarps Taut

I have just used whatever the cord was that came with the tarp - but I do modify it just a little.  I remember reading somebody's post about eyelets ripping out of tarps if there was no give.  So what I've done is remove all the cord, then tie a small loop of elastic shoelace onto the eyelet, and then tie the cord to the elastic loop.  (That shoelace stuff won't last forever, I'll have to keep an eye on it.)   I can draw them pretty tight, but it provides just a little give.  I know this doesn't quite answer your question though.

One thing that might be happening is if you are going around a tree with a tarp line, it may not be stretching so much as spinning a little bit on the tree as it seeks its' "center" position.

Still doesn't answer your question of course - but I'm sure somebody here has an answer for you!


5/14/2018 11:05 am  #3

Re: Keeping Tarps Taut

I've tried paracord but found its too stretchy (even when its not supposed to be) so I used static cord instead (This stuff here, 3mm static cord) and it has zero stretch. I also use 4mm static cord for a bear hang.

Another big thing is - do you use a ridgeline? If not I suggest giving one a go - makes a huge difference.


5/14/2018 11:15 am  #4

Re: Keeping Tarps Taut

I camp with tarp and bug bivy only, love this set-up.

CCS tarps are awesome. Zpacks has tarps made of crazy new UL  fabric with no stretch... but too expensive for now. Any silnylon tarp will stretch in the rain - the ridgeline, however, should not stretch.

Amsteel is great stuff for a ridge line. I use 7/64". Something ridiculous like 1500lb strength, very light and does not stretch. A bit slippery, but great for ridge.

Ridge goes through the loops on the tarp, does not actually attach to the tarp. Siberian hitch on one side, trucker's hitch on the other.

Utility cord for all else. 2mm works well, 3 mm is too thick. Prussik knots on the end loops either side to keep the tarp taut. I carry 6 guy lines and 4 stakes.

Hoop from wintertrekking.com has a good video and discussion:

Amsteel cord:

Utility cord (scroll down) from Ray Jardine (I really like diy, this guy is the father of ultralight). Ray also has a book about tarps, it's pretty good.

Just in car now driving back from Ottawa, can post some pics with tarp set-up later...


Last edited by Marko_Mrko (5/14/2018 11:18 am)


5/14/2018 11:55 am  #5

Re: Keeping Tarps Taut

We have had good luck with braided masonry cord for the corners as well as throwing a line over a branch for the peak (eliminating need for a branch/middle pole and giving more room under the tarp)


5/14/2018 12:10 pm  #6

Re: Keeping Tarps Taut

Prusiks are key to keeping the ridgeline tight. Tautline hitch for the guy lines at corners.

Biners at the ends, that allows me to pitch the tarp lower.

One side has the last two loops on biners - that allows an even lower pitch:

Low and tight for storms. Awareness of wind direction is pretty important...



Last edited by Marko_Mrko (5/14/2018 12:11 pm)


5/14/2018 1:53 pm  #7

Re: Keeping Tarps Taut

As long as you use static cord and proper knots it's not a big deal - just adjust taughtline knots on your guy lines in the morning. Wet tarp (dew, rain or snow) will eventually sag, it's physics. Thicker guy lines will snag less than thinner ones, other things being even.


5/15/2018 11:43 am  #8

Re: Keeping Tarps Taut

We use a ridgeline and appropriate prussik knots and sometimes do the centre to pull it into a pyramid. The big issue has been the cordage we've tried. We really like reflective cord (ya know, to avoid clotheslining yourself at night) but even things that say they aren't supposed to stretch end up stretched.

Sounds like some good suggestions here for different types of cord to try; we'll check it out. Thanks!

     Thread Starter

5/15/2018 1:46 pm  #9

Re: Keeping Tarps Taut

If you are looking for HIGH VISIBILITY cord you should consider this:
Dynaglide has 1000 lbs breading strength and the yellow variety is super visible at night with a flashlight, plus it’s a fraction of the cost of the specialty reflective cord. I like using this for bear hangs so its easy to locate at night. The downside is that its so thin that it is hard to undo knots.


5/20/2018 5:27 pm  #10

Re: Keeping Tarps Taut

Another vote for Dynaglide and its big brother Amsteel. 

If your tarp is made of sil-nylon, it will sag a bit as it gets damp or or wet. I just got a sil-poly tarp, and it didn't sag on me at all. 


5/22/2018 11:07 am  #11

Re: Keeping Tarps Taut

Tarp update! 

We pitched our tarp this past weekend with the polyester paracord as the ridgeline and our old paracord as the corner lines. The ridgeline did not stretch or shift at all in the heavy rain on Sat night while we were constantly tightening the corner lines. Looks like we'll be replacing our whole cord set up with new poly paracord. 

     Thread Starter

5/22/2018 3:11 pm  #12

Re: Keeping Tarps Taut

I believe that nylon is stronger than polyester.   Weight is extremely important if my wife at the age of 63 and myself at the age of 60 are going to be able to continue to single pass portage.  We use a MEC Scout tarp which is a silicone coated nylon tarp and lengths of the thinnest nylon static line (2mm?) I could get at MEC tied to the center and corners of the tarp.  Both the tarp and cords stretch after I have set it up but I'd rather spend a few minutes tightening the cords now and then than having to carry a heavier, bulkier tarp.


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