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It’s fair to say that this might be one of the most boring things you could ever write about but it also might be worth taking at least a little notice … you’ll be thankful if the night arrives when your tarp’s the only thing separating you from a winter storm. I’m a great fan of carrying a separate tarp pole, obviously there’s a weight penalty but a pole really does open up a lot more options when you’re trying to rig up some cover.
There’s plenty of options out there, some are better suited to certain set-ups than others but here’s three to give you an idea. They’re all quite different (if three aluminium poles can really be that different) and I imagine between them they’d cover most situations or preferences.

From the bottom up – MSR extending pole – Ultralight Outdoor gear – Highlander telescopic. The poles in the picture above will all hold your tarp up, besides having to decide how high you want it held and how much are you willing to pay for the privilege, you’ll also have to consider how best to pack your new pole. The MSR and Highlander are both pretty chunky and in reality may have to be fastened to your bikes top tube if you don’t have some kind of rack. The Ultralight pole is much easier to stow and will just about slip inside a 13l dry bag without much fuss.

Did you have a think about how high you wanted your tarp? As you can see there’s quite a difference in lengths between the three (the MSR isn’t fully extended in the picture) … if you want to rig your tarp so it’s high enough to sit up under, then you’ll have to ignore the Highlander, at 88cm fully extended it’s probably just slightly too short for the vast majority … it’s even too short for me! Now, it’s quite possible that the MSR has the opposite problem and might actually be a little too long for most. Where it does come in to its own though is when set up under a pyramid type shelter or rigging a 3m into a ‘flying V’ or similar. The Ultralight pole is more of a compromise and will just about be workable with whatever set-up you have in mind. All three are more than strong enough to withstand some serious weather and I’d be happy to trust any of them whatever the conditions.

MSR – 280g – Extended length 130cm to 154cm – Packed length 47.5cm – £24.98

Ultralight – 117g – Extended length 123cm – Packed length 35cm – £31.00 (other lengths available)

Highlander – 152g – Extended length 50cm to 88cm – Packed length 50cm – £8.00

So as you can see there’s quite a few noticeable differences between the three … all you need to do is decide where you’re willing to compromise to keep that storm at bay.

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