How to Make a Sun Shelter out of a Tarp

How to Make a Sun Shelter out of a Tarp
Getting out of the sun on a hot day can be important to conserving energy and water in the wilderness. A tarp can serve as a sun shelter in any of several configurations based on available materials and topographic constraints or opportunities.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderate

Preparations

Things You’ll Need:
  • A tarp (preferably waterproof and with grommet eyes) Anchor (or tent) pegs (and a hammer for driving them into the ground if possible) Rope (preferably waterproof and at least 100 feet in length) A knife or multipurpose utility tool with a sharp edge
  • A tarp (preferably waterproof and with grommet eyes)
  • Anchor (or tent) pegs (and a hammer for driving them into the ground if possible)
  • Rope (preferably waterproof and at least 100 feet in length)
  • A knife or multipurpose utility tool with a sharp edge
Step 1
Select a flat or gently sloping space that is well drained and dry over which the tarp will be placed. The space should also be adjacent to trees or rocks to which support ropes can be attached.
Step 2
Remove the tarp if it is stored, unfold it and lay it flat on the ground that it will cover. Uncoil the rope. Get the anchor pegs and knife.
Step 3
Determine how the sun shade will be erected and secured given the surrounding topographic features.

Erecting the Sun Shade

Step 1
Secure one end of the rope to a tree, overhead branch, rock or other feature at a point higher than the top of your head if possible, then pass it through the grommet eye (or through a hole cut in the tarp) on the middle of one of the tarp's edges and loop it through the same eye again. Then pass the rope under the tarp and repeat the looping action through the grommet eye or a hole cut on the opposite side of the tarp. Pull the rope taut and tie it to another topographic feature similar to the first at a similar height if possible. The tarp will now be folded in half and suspended in the air from the rope. Adjust the loops through the grommet eyes or holes to position the tarp over the specific area to be covered.
Step 2
Cut off a section of rope that will allow it to serve as a guyline from one of the corners of the tarp to an anchor peg. Tie the rope section to one of the corner grommet eyes or holes and extend it to the ground so the tarp and guyline are at roughly a 45-degree angle. Pound the anchor peg into the ground with the hammer (if available) or a rock so it is at a 90-degree angle to the guyline. Secure the guyline to it.
Step 3
Using the first guyline as a guide for length, cut three more sections of rope and repeat step 2 for the other three corners of the tarp. The result will provide shelter from the sun while being angled to shed rain or snow.
Step 4
Make any fine adjustments of tarp placement or rope lengths as needed.

Other configurations

Step 1
If the topography is constraining, other sun shade configurations may be necessary, such as anchoring the tarp to a rock ledge on one or more corners with rocks and tying off the other corners on available trees or branches.
Step 2
Peg all corners of the tarp to the ground if the tarp is extremely large or if the rope elevating the middle of the tarp cannot be anchored as high as desired. In this case, head room under the sun shade will be very limited.
Step 3
Peg two corners of the tarp to the ground and the other two to overhead or elevated objects to create a sun shade that slants in only one direction, which can be effective if protection from wind is needed.
Step 4
If there is nothing elevated to which rope can be attached, select at least three long and sturdy branches to serve as a framework for the shelter, lashing them together end to end and at right angles. Dig holes into which the free ends can be inserted or pile rocks around the base of the free ends to secure the frame to the ground. Drape the tarp over the horizontal branch, and peg the corners to the ground in the manner described above.

Tips & Warnings

 
Check the tarp for wear or tears, and repair as needed to prevent the tarp from ripping in a wind while erected. You can use a grommet installation kit to install grommet-reinforced eyes in your tarp if it doesn't already have them. Anchoring ropes to holes poked in a tarp runs the risk of their tearing the tarp or ripping loose in windy conditions.
 
Check the tarp for wear or tears, and repair as needed to prevent the tarp from ripping in a wind while erected.
 
You can use a grommet installation kit to install grommet-reinforced eyes in your tarp if it doesn't already have them. Anchoring ropes to holes poked in a tarp runs the risk of their tearing the tarp or ripping loose in windy conditions.

Article Written By Gary Olson

Gary Olson is a freelance writer, editor, photographer and designer with 34 years of experience. His work has appeared in such publications as Sailing, Northwest Living, 5280, The Arizona Republic, The Denver Post and many other newspapers and magazines. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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