Rolling Fox Tarp Shelter
I really like tarps. I know, that's sort of a random thing to say but it's true. They are one of the most useful items to have around. We keep at least one in each vehicle, and have about 6 of them in total. Why, do you ask? Well, allow me to explain.
Tarps serve 3 main functions. They keep you dry, keep you shaded, keep you comfy.
Let's look at the dry part. It's pretty self explanatory, a tarp can keep the rain off you. Fine thats easy. But it's hugely important. Even if you are using a tent with a rain cover, it's much better to have a tarp over it as extra protection or as extra dry space outside the tent. Those rain covers don't always work as well as you'd hope.
Shade is a big deal. Too much sun exposure can lead to blisters, dehydration, and sun poisoning (headache, pain.) Best to avoid that all that.
The comfy part is self explanatory in terms of the dry and shaded part but there is more to it: psychologically it's easier for most of us modern house dwellers to sleep in or under some sort of shelter, rather than be completely exposed to the outside. Also a shelter keeps bits of tree and bugs from falling into your snoring mouth at night.
But here is the thing: most of the lightweight, small, packable tarps out there are really pricey. Sure, you can get the brown and blue poly tarps from Home Depot for cheap, but you can't really shove them in a backpack with all your other gear. (We love those poly tarps BTW, but use them when we are car camping along with a popup.)
When I heard about the Rolling Fox tarp which gives you 11' by 9' of rainproof area for $36 I had to try it out to see how it lived up to our other packable tarps. So I got one and took it on a little excursion in the woods to give it a test run.
My first stop was this structural thing out behind an abandoned car dealership. Maybe it was an animal cage at one point, not really sure. But I figured if I was in a Bug Out sort of situation it might be a good location to spend a day or night.
Although there was already a roof on the structure, a little extra protection doesn't hurt so I set up the Rolling Fox.
Looking back at the way this is hung, I probably would have lowered the whole tarp, and dropped the one side if I was planning to spend the night. Since this was just a quick stop for me it didn't really matter. One nice thing I noticed during this setup was the reinforced ends of the tarp tie-off points on the corners. There was also a nice metal ring there to attach the included guy lines too. A nice touch since that will help greatly with the overall reliability of the Rolling Fox. I could also use that ring to tie off my truckers hitch knot (more on that later.)
I broke that camp down and headed deeper into the woods to try something a little more adventurous. I found a grouping of trees next to a big oak that was secluded and that would make a decent low-key camp. Even though the branches and trees weren't in the perfect positions, the Rolling Fox Tarp was easy to setup, thanks to the fact that it has 16 tie-off points to choose from.
There was a combination of pine needles and oak leaves which made the ground here nice and soft. Good enough to lay a sleeping bag directly on top of, or use a small pocket blanket like a Matador or something to lay my sleeping bag on top of incase some bugs decided to cuddle up with me.
The tarp comes with 4 nylon guy lines. At the end of each is one of these plastic friction tensioners. These are great to use with the provided stakes, assuming you have hard enough dirt to use them in. If you're in a sandy environment you might want to replace them with stakes designed for that. That loop you see on the top right side gets pulled out and you put that part around the stake. It's held in by a knot you cant see underneath. You then slide the tensioner up the rope towards the tarp to draw the guy line taught.
This system works reasonably well and is quick to setup, but I wasn't using ground stakes in my setup. Instead I used 2 of my favorite knots: the truckers hitch with a butterfly knot. If you setup tarps, tents, hang clotheslines, or any other setup where you want a nice tight line then these are must haves.
When I first got the tarp I thought that the sack it came in was too big - but then I remembered how bad of a packer I am and I was thankful for that extra space. Folding up the tarp as tight as it was from the factory after the fact is a royal PIA. It also gives you a little extra room for additional paracord. I suppose you could get a compression sack if you needed to tighten the whole thing up. The tarp and all the accessories weigh 2 lbs. The whole thing rolls down to 12" by 5.5".
I did not get to test the tarp at the time of this writing. But I'm sure it will hold up fine, based on the way this is designed and my experience with tarps like these. I'll update the article once I do.
In summary I have to say I really like this tarp. I would definitely consider this as an add-on to your BOB or INCH kits. It's also a good contender to live in a car kit as well since this is so handy to have around.