Tarps on the Playa

This is a series of emails discussing shade on the playa and the effects of the winds of 2000. Please visit the links listed in these emails, particularly the references to destruction. Be careful when you set up your shade. We have seen crushed hoods from falling shade.

The quoted emails have been used with permission. URLs are live, but email addresses have been removed in a vain attempt to thwart harvesting by spambots.

The start of it all

Wally Glenn wrote:

 I am looking for tarps to cover my conduit shade structure. Does
 anyone have any recommendations of a Web site they have dealt with? I
 think I figured out the direction I am going to go, but as always, I
 would like to solicit some opinions before I make a final decision.

 Have a lovely day

 Wally Glenn
 Humanity's Colorful Mascot

and here are the responses:

Ask Juke about this one.  I can't remember the name of the place, but
they sell Korean made tarps that are silver gray colored and they seem
to be quite sturdy as these things go. The place also sells shade kits
and several connector pieces that work with conduit.

Also found this one that has quite a few options -


Try this out. Higgins Enterprises @ 1-888-825-1952.  Their web site is
I've been buying very heavy duty WHITE canopy tarps and shade cloth from
them and their prices are very competitive.  They also have the silver
canopy tarps.  Stay away from the blue ones as they are the lowest grade and
their edge ropes pull out the first big gust.
Hope it helps


I need at least 4 10x20's for my 2 20x20' structures. I am thinking
of ordering from tarpsonline.com because I can get 6 of the silvers
for $130.00 with shipping, but their return policy sucks.  They also
have some silver/black tarps for the same price I want to check out.
They have grommets every 18", so they seem like they could do the job
rather well.

I was looking for higgins, but I had problems re-finding it. Thanks,
that is just the info I needed.

The other thing I am mulling over is whether or not to go for a
20x20' tarp. If I do that, I have a much bigger wind sail, but I also
have a better place to be relaxing in the rain. I usually run ropes
over the top to keep it from flapping. This is usually what leads to
tarps ripping apart.

The last dream tarp idea is to go to Thor Tarp
(http://www.thortarp.com/commerc.htm). They make those heavy tarps
truckers use when they transport loads on a low boy. They will stand
up to the wind, but they will also be very expensive.

I have thought about creating a wild and fun metal emt structure for
my camp. Something with a steeple, multiple roofs, a high arch and
who knows what else. I am leaning away from this idea because the
last thing I want to do is spend several days assembling my shade
structure! One really great aspect of my current structure is that
with 4 people I can have it up in 20 minutes or less. That leaves my
four camp mates time and a shady place to drink frosty beverages and
watch the other people in our camp assemble their dome structures
which take an hour or more each.


I picked up a 20X20 ft white tarp for $40 and the 10X20 was $20.  Higgins
can also get end tarps with a valance that might address you gable problem.
They also do custom sizes for custom applications.
Use the gable style with center poles as they eliminate the down flex at the
center that the winds cause.  Last year we went with the gable (12 ft high)
and 10 ft side poles and no center poles.  I've since cut the side poles to
8ft because of the center flexing and am going to use 10 X 10 ft shade
clothe on the sides but pulled out at the base to have a slope that
hopefully will take the prevailing wind over the top of the structure rather
than a vertical "sail" that will catch the full pressure of the wind.  We're
going to do a test during our July 4th trip to the playa.  That way, if we
need to make changes we can before the main event.  We are using the 1 inch
conduit connectors and we drill a hole for the locking bolts.
Last year our white covers were a lot cooler than the silver variety were.
You'd think that the silver would reflect heat rather than absorb it.
Best of luck.

Great news.

Here is another idea for you. Take a tarp and stake it to the ground
on the wind side. Attach that to the connectors on the side of the
structure. This will create a wind dam and help relieve pressure and
lift the wind up and over the structure.
/|  | -- an example.

You can use guy wires coming off the structure to rebar stakes to
help support the tarp.

Let us all know what results you find on your trip to the Playa.


In 5 years of using the 20x20 low-peak awnings, the only times I have had
ANY wind-related problems was when the anchor poles were not properly

In 1997 I started to undo the awning when I was leaving, and then decided to
leave the "kitchen" intact and Eric offered to take it home with him.
Unfortunately I had already unsecured 4 of the 6 anchor poles from the
fenceposts I used to anchor them with.  The next day a windstorm picked it
up and played havoc with the awning.

Then in '99 I had setup the 2 awnings that I had brought, then realized I
had placed them wrong.  I then moved them but never got a around to
re-securing some of the poles on one of the awnings.  Was woken up in the
middle of the night by a friend yelling that one of the awnings was trying
to fly off, and was only kept from doing so by it's attachment to the other

For the kitchen I have used 2 of the 20x20 low-peak awnings, secured to the
ground with 6' heavy-duty metal fenceposts at each pole.  Along the outside
'short walls' we secured heavy-duty shade cloth.  The shade cloth served 2
functions.  1 - Shade in the mornings & afternoons when the sun was below
the roofline. 2 - allowed enough wind through to keep the walls from
becoming an aerodynamic sail.

I have been in the kitchen during some nasty windstorms with estimated
windspeed above 50 mph and had no problems (oh, and I haven't yet drilled
holes through the connectors - just tightened the wing nuts hand-tight). Had
tables overturned and other crap flying all over the place, but the awnings
held great.

For my kitchen awning pics see:

-Chef Juke

>At 2:25 PM -0700 4/3/01, Pakadragon wrote:
>Thanks Wally, I'll be sure to give you all a report.  Your idea on staking
>out the sides is exactly what we have in mind.  Another trick I learned last
>year was to drive 1/2" rebar about a foot into the playa and then slip the
>up right poles over them to prevent the poles from moving.  If there is a
>foot or more inside the conduit then the tie downs and the bar will help
>keep it all on the ground.

When I set up my structure, I hammer 1/2" x 24"  rebar into the
ground right next to the leg of my structure. Then I use pipe clamps
to tighten the leg to the rebar and add a rebar cap for safety and
wrap the hose clamps with tape if necessary. The rebar is hammered in
at different angles on each leg.

>This is a very useful thread and I can imagine some of the newer citizens
>are paying close attention.

Yes it is!

The next idea is to build a conduit shower.

I have the water delivery system worked out, now I just need to build
something fun. I am using heated water through a water fire
extinguisher. It delivers 80 psi of water pressure.


I don't know if we have discussed this before, but here is some of my
accumulated knowledge on Shade structures.

First off, I highly recommend the Conduit + connectors + silver tarp type of
shade awnings.

For the Playa, I reccommend the low-peak (the roof is "flatter", less of a
height differential between the sides & top) models. When properly placed
(and anchored) these deal with wind better than the high-peak models.

See http://www.chefjuke.com/burnman/awning.html for some diagrams...(note,
the prices are out of date...this was first posted in '99)

Now, again, I suggest seeing what local places sell these types of awnings,
since they often have the tarps and connectors both in the kits and
individual pieces at lower cost than some of the online places (again, due
to shipping costs).

You also want to be careful if you are getting tarps from places that are
not making them specifically for particularly sized awnings.  For example,
if you have an awning frame that is exactly 20' x 20', and you get a tarp
that is exactly 20'x 20' then the tarp will be too large for the frame.  The
frames are designed to have a tarp that is slightly smaller so that the tarp
is kept under tension from the bungee connectors.  This keeps the tarp from
having slack and folds that the wind can catch and start that annoying
flapping which eventually leads to tearing.

Another tip for using conduit awnings is to get a few lengths of inexpensive
pvc gutters which you can bungee to the sides of the awning (under the edge
of the tarp) to run any rainwater away from the sides of the awning (which
can cause nice mudpuddles at the sides of your shade area).

I have yet to find a more easily dealt-with type of shade structure in temrs
of weight, portability & ease of use.


>>...drive 1/2" rebar about a foot into the playa and
>>then slip the up right poles over them to prevent the
>>poles from moving.  If there is a foot or more inside
>>the conduit then the tie downs and the bar will help
>>keep it all on the ground.

If you're using 1" conduit, concrete form stakes (3/4" x 36"-48" would slip
inside easily.  They're at the lumber yard next to the rebar.

>When I set up my structure, I hammer 1/2" x 24"  rebar
>into the ground right next to the leg of my structure.
>Then I use pipe clamps to tighten the leg to the rebar
>and add a rebar cap for safety and wrap the hose clamps
>with tape if necessary. The rebar is hammered in at
>different angles on each leg.

For the bigger tents we raise for the event, we often pound a steel
tee-stake fencepost next to the poles, and strap with stiff wire (tie wire
or fence wire).  For a very large structure such as Wally's, I would
seriously consider this.  And guyed at all exterior poles. I always, always 
recommend guy lines for everything, unless they are very obviously 
unnecessary.  People have been sending me pictures of Xara and other things 
that imploded last year that make Hiroshima look like a Playa Chicken 


To test the need for guy lines, push and pull on the roof of the awning
with all your strength.

No, harder.

Again. Yank. Push. Yank. [Whew. Pant.]

Did you bend a pole?  Pull one out of the ground?  Did the whole thing move
a hell of a lot more than you're comfortable with?  Did the tarps flex and
flap around?

Then add guy lines.  You'll be happier in the long run.

And pound your guy line stakes below the ground surface so no one gets a 
gash in the foot.

Sometimes you don't need guy lines... sometimes you don't need water, or
sunscreen, or beer, either.

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