/ March 18, 2016
A Woman With a Tarp
Words & photos by Ashley Hill
Embracing the Ultralight Flat Tarp
I remember it vividly, the moment I saw her, a solo female hiker named Mountain Spice. She was sheltered beneath a flat tarp at a mosquito infested lake on the PCT. I thought to myself, “Wow… I want to be like her one day. A woman with a tarp. She’s extreme. She’s bad ass. She’s doing it like one should.” How romantic, only using a small square piece of material for protection from the wilderness.
Now, I rarely sleep in a shelter, even when it rains. There’s nothing I love more than closing my eyes under the shooting stars, when you’re alone in the open… Vulnerable… Cowboy camping… Like a fresh little baby drinking it’s first breath of air. I know, it is more than necessary to have something to protect yourself from the elements. My little hypothermia scare taught me that. Even if I camp in a sleeping bag on the dirt, I’ve always carried my tent, just in case.
For my Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) trip, I decided to be “that women with a tarp.” Now, this hike is not comparable to the Pacific Crest Trail. I skirt a constant latitude similar to that of the Nordic climate, (at least it is in my mind): rain falls daily, if only for an hour or two, mosquitoes swarm in the millions, creek and river fords are a common occurrence, and I’m always on watch for the wild animals. Perhaps a tarp isn’t the ideal gear choice, but I don’t care, I want to be her, and after making it 400 plus miles, I think I can say that I am.
I’m using a 10 ounce 8.6′ x 8.6′ cuben fiber tarp for my shelter, crafted by my friends at Hyperlite Mountain Gear… and by golly, I love it. It takes time and experience to learn how to set up this kind of ultralight system, but once you’ve got it down, you’re gold. Tents might be easier to rig and protect you better from the bugs and rain, but when you wake up and start hiking, everyone is on the exact same page… The only difference is that I’m lighter and I’m cooler… I’m that bad ass women with a tarp.