How to Make a Homemade Backpacking Tarp

How to Make a Homemade Backpacking Tarp
Using a lightweight backpacking tarp to replace a tent enhances a backpacking trip by saving weight, increasing living space, and reducing trapped moisture, which increases warmth. Even if the tent comes along for the trip, a lightweight tarp can serve as a gathering place or a kitchen to shelter hikers from wind and rain. To experience the advantages of a lightweight tarp, make a homemade backpacking tarp out of polyethylene.
 

Instructions

Difficulty: Easy

How to Make a Homemade Backpacking Tarp

Things You’ll Need:
  • Scissors
  • 4-millimeter polyethylene plastic
  • Kelty Triptease line or other lightweight cord
  • Matches or a lighter
 
Step 1
Cut a 10-foot by 10-foot square out of a sheet of 4 millimeter polyethylene plastic. The size of the square can be varied based on the number of people on the trip. A ten-foot square can comfortably shelter up to four people. For two people, an 8-foot by 10-foot rectangle works and saves weight. For more than four people, use two tarps. A 5-foot by 8-foot tarp works well for a kitchen tarp.
Step 2
Cut four 6-foot pieces of Kelty Triptease line and, using a sheet bend knot, tie each line to the corners of your square. Burn the ends of the cut line to help prevent fraying.
Step 3
Cut a piece of cord for for the tarp ridge line. The ridge line is based on the length of the tarp; it should be 16 feet longer than the length. If you cut a 10-foot square tarp, the ridge line should be 26 feet.

How to Set Up Your Tarp

Step 1
Tie the ridge line between two trees at least 14 feet apart. The ground between the trees should be somewhat level and slightly raised above the surrounding ground, so rain can't pool in any depressions. The lower the ridge line is tied the more weatherproof the tarp will be. If few trees are available, use sticks: wrap the ridge line around the stick and then run the excess line to a stake.
Step 2
Evenly drape the length of the tarp over the ridge line.
Step 3
Stake each corner out. Secure the corner lines to the stakes using a taut-line hitch. For windy or rainy conditions, stake the sides lower to the ground. On calmer nights, let the sides rise higher off the ground.
 

Tips & Warnings

 
Use a square of polyethylene plastic as a ground cloth. Substitute Tyvek house wrap for the poly. Although more expensive, Tyvek is stronger and lighter. Ask around construction sites to buy scrap pieces of Tyvek cheaply.
 
Use a square of polyethylene plastic as a ground cloth.
 
Substitute Tyvek house wrap for the poly. Although more expensive, Tyvek is stronger and lighter. Ask around construction sites to buy scrap pieces of Tyvek cheaply.
 
Try the tarp on a short trip to learn how to use it, before going a long trip. This may save you a hard learning experience.

 

Article Written By Bryan Hansel

Bryan Hansel is a freelance photographer and kayaking guide who began writing in 1993. His outdoors articles appear on various websites. Hansel holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and religion from the University of Iowa.

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