How to Make a Tent with a Tarp

How to Make a Tent with a TarpCamping with a tarp is a practical way to enjoy the natural coolness of a fall night. But if you are camping where there is a substantial insect population, especially mosquitoes, this might not be a good way to go. Sleeping under a tarp can also be done in winter provided the camper has an adequate sleeping bag and a good supply of firewood.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Tarp with a Rope Ridgeline

Things You’ll Need:
  • Plastic tarp with grommets, 8 x 10 feet square or larger
  • 12 tent pegs
  • 60 feet of rope or parachute cord
  • Knife
Step 1
Determine the direction of the prevailing winds. In many places prevailing winds are generally from the west, but look at the vegetation to see if the growth pattern of the trees and shrubs indicates a strong prevailing wind direction that differs from the norm. This is particularly important if you are camped on a large lake or in the mountains, where local topography can influence the direction of a prevailing wind.
Step 2
Find a site on level ground with good drainage and some nearby trees, where you can run a rope ridgeline. Make sure there are no large roots or rocks in the tarp area that will interfere with your sleep.
Step 3
String a piece of parachute cord between two trees four to five feet off the ground, and make the rope as tight as possible. This will be your shelter's peak. String the rope line perpendicular to the prevailing winds.
Step 4
Drape the tarp over the rope ridgeline so that the long side of the tarp is at a right angle to the rope. Make sure two of the grommets line up with the rope.

It is also possible to place the tarp underneath the ridgeline and then tie the tarp to the ridgeline with two very short pieces of rope. This could be of an advantage in a downpour, when contact between the rope and the plastic might cause wet spots to form on the underside of the tarp.
Step 5
Pull the tarp tight to the side with two pieces of rope that are inserted in the grommet holes at the ridgeline. Once your ridgeline is in place, make sure the tarp does not bunch together. The best way to do this is by pulling each side taught with rope that runs in the same direction as the ridgeline.
Step 6
Attach one side of the tarp to the ground with rope and tent pegs. Each grommet hole should have a piece of rope tied through it, then the rope needs to be pulled tight and attached to a tent peg, which in turn is placed securely in the ground. Repeat on the other side of the tarp. Typically, the tarp's sides are anywhere from one to three feet off the ground.

Tips & Warnings

A tarp works great in conjunction with a canoe to make a night shelter.
In tropical areas, a tarp can work well in combination with a hammock and mosquito netting.
Know your knots, especially half hitches, taut-line and clove hitch.

Article Written By Henri Bauholz

Henri Bauholz is a professional writer covering a variety of topics, including hiking, camping, foreign travel and nature. He has written travel articles for several online publications and his travels have taken him all over the world, from Mexico to Latin America and across the Atlantic to Europe.

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