another tarp-related thread

Part of the “Leave no trace” ethic, if I understand, is to avoid visual “polution” too. In other words, your camp site should blend in. In the other thread, people mention a number of tarps that stand out: multi-colored, Kelly green, yellow, blue plastic. Does anyone have any feelings about this issue?

Taken to it’s logical conclusion
leave no VISUAL trace would require all of your equipment to be camo. Oh wait, we are talking about Swedge (:D)

Some people are radically inclined to blend in to nature. An example would be someone who paddles a canoe made from birchbark, wearing clothing made of all-natural and harvested materials. Reference First Nations. Dan and findy if that is your thing.

I personally like brightly colored tarps for their cheeriness on dreary days. My tents are more subdued. I have a yellow/white kayak and a gren canoe. I don’t hunt, but I have some blaze-orange clothing for safety reasons.

But I do not throw my orange peels into the woods.

Count me in the “colorful” camp.


If you’ve ever paddled in an area that gets a lot of backcountry traffic, you’ll begin to appreciate just how obnoxiously colored gear ruins the visual aestheic.

The Kelty Noah’s Tarp series come in a muted grey color; you can certainly find plenty in colors such as moss, light green, or navy blue.

I’d stay away from the big, bright blue, plastic tarps anyhow…they don’t pack very small, don’t hold up well, and ultimately will end up as another piece of plastic in some landfill some day.

Tarp color
We usually go for the subdued colors, especially with the gear we make for ourselves.

Speaking of bright tents, does anyone remember the neon monstrosities that Kelty put out in the early-mid 80’s?! God those things were painful to look at.


When we camp LNT

– Last Updated: Jan-20-07 11:13 AM EST –

The islands on the Maine Island Trail, most of them anyway, are leave no trace. Based on personal experience, I'd choose a tent with a rain cover of a brighter color than ours is.

The main reason (not to pun but) is fog. Dense, heavy, wet can't-see-more-than-8-ft fog. We've had this happen a couple of times now even in our relatively limited camping. Paddle out on a clear blue-sky morning, set up camp, then take off to hop around to some more islands before dinner. About 3:30PM we see the first tendrils of fog a couple of miles out, head back to camp and by 4PM we can only see each other clearly if we stay within 6 ft.
So we spot the campsite and/or landing point upb closer by looking for things like bright yellow dry bags hanging over a tree limb near shore. But a brighter rain cover would make things even easier, and would also be more effective at alerting incoming paddlers as to whether a site has already been occupied. MITA islands operate without reservations, first come first served.

Leave no trace
could be interpreted to mean: not leaving my carcass around for the vultures because the rescue plane couldn’t spot my forest-green tarp. I prefer muted colors as well, and I suppose if I am in an easily accessible, camper-rich environment, drab would be my preference. But in the middle of nowhere a couple days hike from the nearest convenience store I’d prefer to have something colorful around if the unexpected injury incapacitates my sorry a$$.


OD or Forest Green on the tarp
and a yellow flashing led light on in camp any time I leave it…my boat is bright yellow, so on the water or when I’m in camp, I’m visible…the led works 24 hours on two AAA batteries, so I can be gone all day, return at evening or twilight and still find camp (GPS would help here too folks!)

A tarp can cover the boats if it’s that big a deal…

I also use a VS17 panel as a ground cloth for my gear, (Does double duty for rescue if needed).

balancing 3 considerations?
trying to preserve everyones “wilderness” experience (blending in)

a tent with a cheerful color for when you’re stuck inside it for days at a time in dreary conditions (and start feeling like smacking that “good buddy” you just had to invite along)

loud colors for aiding in a rescue scenario (“the best laid plans…”)

Leave No Trace
Principles of Leave No Trace

* Plan Ahead and Prepare

* Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

* Dispose of Waste Properly

* Leave What You Find

* Minimize Campfire Impacts

* Respect Wildlife

* Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Not on the Leave No Trace’s website. Bright Yellow is nice in a full blown white-out. For summer, I like muted grays or greens.

in my brochure
under 7) “Be Considerate of Other Visitors”, I have three bullet marks, the first of which reads

• Respect Other Visitors: Keep the noise level down. Travel in small groups. Use bright gear and apparel only when on the water.

I have no strong feelings either way. Certainly I would object if someone played really loud music. Have always liked the Cooke “patchwork” tarps, and was just curious what others thought 'cause I’m sure they stand out.

How close to other camp sites?
I suppose color of tarp could be more of an issue, or less if you figure the area is already visually cluttered anyway, when camp sites are nestled closely together. When campsites are more infrequently distributed, for example the private islands we prefer in Maine often have just three sites at most with at least one being halfway around the island from any other, you’d be hard-pressed to bother anyone else via loud radios or an ugly tarp. Maybe boaters coming by would notice, but not fellow campers. And if the boater was a rescue boat, you may want to bother them.

There is an added visibility wrinkle with kayak camping in places like Maine, and probably up in the Maritimes too. The tides are high enough that by the time the boat is pulled well above the high tide line, it may not always be easily visible from the water. And in some cases the landing point has to be halfway around the island from the site because of inaccessible rocky shorelines.