How to Build a Shelter with a Tarp

While hiking in the outdoors away from civilization, one of the cheapest and lightest shelters you can make is a lean-to. You can make a temporary one--like the one in this article--with a tarp, or a more permanent one with trees and vegetation. Either way, it will shelter you from the wind and rain in mild climates.
How to Build a Shelter with a Tarp


Difficulty: Moderate

How to Build a Shelter in the Wild

Things You’ll Need:
  • Hatchet
  • 10-by-12-foot plastic tarp
  • Small rope 1/4 inch in diameter
Step 1
Choose a campsite that is level with two trees about 12 feet apart. Find a small tree that is straight and 3 to 4 inches in diameter, and cut a log out of it about 12 to 14 feet long. Better yet, find one lying on the ground so you don't have to cut a green tree.
Step 2
Cut a notch in both standing trees as high as you can safely reach to set in the log or "ridge pole." It doesn't have to be deep--just a notch to keep the log from falling once you tie it in place around the standing tree.
Step 3
Find or cut a temporary brace with a "Y" or fork in its end to help if you are alone, and place the "ridge pole" in the two notches so it is horizontal to the ground and about 6 feet off the ground. Brace it there with the "Y" stick you cut, and tie the rope around the standing tree and ridge pole in a crisscross pattern. Secure it with your favorite knot, and cut off the remainder. Repeat this step on the other tree.
Step 4
Pull the long end of the tarp over the ridge pole, and let it hang for now. Go down to where the other end hits the ground and pull it back so there is an angle or pitch. This will be your roof. Tie some rope through the eyelet holes in the tarp on the two corners and two along the ground, and secure to a homemade stake, standing vegetation or even a rock.
Step 5
Tie rope in the corner and center eyelets, like you did in Step 4, on the tarp's other end (the one hanging off the ridge pole). This time, pull the rope out away from the ridge pole for several feet and secure it to the ground the same way you did with the tarp's other end. Pull tightly to keep the roof taut.

Tips & Warnings

Tie the two corner ropes coming off of the top out to the sides a little. This will help keep the tarp tight.
Tie some kind of ribbon, cut material or even vines about eye level on the ropes coming off of the top. This will keep you from running into it while gathering wood and doing other activities.

Article Written By Dennis Seabright

Denny Seabright has been writing for since Nov. of 2008 with most articles being in the "How to" category. Graduating from James Wood High school in 1976 and going straight into the work force left little room for formal education but writing has always been dear to his heart.

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