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It’s much easier to set a tarp up badly than it is to set one up well … which might explain why so many people aren’t actually that happy about spending the night under one. Lets be honest, (flat) tarps are fairly basic things. If you assume that they’re all pretty similar, then to a degree you’d be right but because there isn’t really that much to them, it’s the smallest of details that make the biggest difference … AlpKits Rig7 is a great example.

Don’t get me wrong, it won’t put itself up. If you don’t know what you’re doing then you’re going to be in for pretty unpleasant night in the not so great outdoors! Take a bit of time, add a little thinking and use the well thought out design details on the Rig7 and the outdoors will remain great for another night.

Okay, before we start on the road to silnylon folding nirvana, we need a few bits and pieces. As with any tarp, on it’s own your Rig7 is pretty limited but if we add pegs and lines it instantly becomes a potential shelter.


Don’t skimp on pegs. Tarps tend to see far greater peg loadings than tents. This is due mainly to the large flat panels most configurations create and the fact that your tarp doesn’t have any internal supporting structure. If these big flat surfaces are facing the wind, they will act like very convincing sails. Your tiny 1g ‘tooth pick pegs’ will be off before you can swear loudly … you’ll still be able to swear but not loudly because the tarp on your face will muffle anything you say. 

This doesn’t mean that you need to carry 16 pegs you could pin a marque down with but a selection of pegs really is a good idea. My ‘pick n mix’ recommendation would be – 10″ stakes x 2, 8″ pegs x 4 and 6″ pegs x 6. I prefer round section pegs but there’s no reason not to use V or Y section ones.                                                 It doesn’t take long to work out where the greatest forces are for any given pitch and also where the critical pegging points are … these are the ones that your tarp is actually relying on to stay upright. Use your biggest / most secure pegs at these points and use your lighter pegs for the less critical areas … see, just a little thinking.


Although your tarp has plenty of pegging points around the edge and dotted over the entire tarp in the case of the Rig7, without a selection of lines all your tarping is going to be carried out at a very low level! One of the benefits of using a tarp is the versatility it offers, carrying a set of lines that can be easily swapped between different points on the tarp, helps make the most of this versatility and keeps your pitching options wide open … and the extra guy points on the Rig7 aid this massively.

The simplest lines are fixed length, they don’t employ any type of tensioner and rely on you pulling them taught when you peg them out. I’d suggest that you make 8 lines for the Rig7 – 2m x 4 and 1m x 4, 2mm, 3mm nylon cord is ideal. Cut your line to length but add an extra 12cm to the length of each one. Now you need a loop in both ends of each line, any knot should suffice but a bowline is ideal, it’s easy to tie, won’t slip and can be untied if need be. When you need to attach a line, just thread one end (a) of the line through the tarp, then pass the other end (b) through the loop in end (a). Pull the line tight and that’s it, on and off in a couple of seconds.

Bowline … dead simple.

Line attachment.


While it’s true, poles aren’t actually required to set a tarp up, it’s also true to say that they’ll make a massive difference to what’s possible, even just a single pole opens up what you can do. If you really don’t want to use poles to help support your tarp, then your options are: trees, sticks, walls, fences or your bike. All these things will work but they all have drawbacks and limitations.

My personal preference is for a pair of poles 1m – 120cm, with a pointed tip at one end and a smooth dome at the other, this allows them to be used either way round. The domed end can be placed against the tarp without damaging the material, the pointed tip can be inserted into the holes in the Rig7 reinforcement points and it’ll also hold a line securely by simply wrapping the line round the tip 2 or 3 times.

Pointed tip, 3 turns and the line’s secure.

So, that’s everything we need taken care of. Obviously adding the pegs, lines and possibly poles has increased weight and cost over the base £50 and 500g of the Rig7 … but even with the extras accounted for, you’ve got a 2 person shelter that weighs less than 750g, cost under £80 and can be put up to best suit the conditions within minutes … I don’t think that’s bad.

We’ll be back next week to show some of the different pitching options and explain how to rig them up … how thoroughly exciting.

Part 2


  1. Mr Godfrey says:

    Nice guide!
    I could do with some double-ended lightweight poles like the ones you describe.
    Any tips on where to get them?

  2. Martin, poles as used in the post can be found here:

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