How To Make A Tent Out Of A Tarp

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Jay Elliott

Chief Camping Officer

How To Make A Tent Out Of A Tarp

Is it possible to create a tent using only a tarp?

Creating a tent using a tarp is possible. Nowadays, it is essential to always bring a tarp with you when camping. Even though it’s commonly used for shade and underlays for tents, tarps can also be set up as tents. 

In an instance where your tent gets damaged or lacks some of the equipment needed to be fully set up during your camping trips, a tarp is an excellent alternative. They are lightweight, convenient, and budget-friendly. 

It is applicable in any situation, especially survival situations. However, to convert a tarp into a tent, you will need additional equipment such as ropes, pegs, and two poles or trees to tie your rope. 

What are the materials needed for creating a tent out of a tarp?

There are various methods of converting a tarp into a tent. However, the materials needed will never vary in all forms, designs, and methods in converting a tarp into a tent. 

These include a tarp, rope, stakes/pegs, hammer, and pole. The materials are easy to find and may vary in price depending on their quality. 


You can’t make a tent out of a tarp without, of course, a tarp. However, in choosing a tarp, you must consider the shape of the tent you plan to set up as well as your height. 

These factors will ensure that the dimensions of the tent you are setting up are convenient for your usage.


A rope is important in setting up the tarp as this will serve as its foundation to transform your tarp into what tent you intend it to be shaped into. 

The rope is usually tied onto a pair of trees or poles. The price of the rope varies depending on its thickness and length.


A tent peg is a spike with a hook on one side that is pounded to the ground to securely hold a rope steadily on land. If you have no access to stakes/pegs, you may choose to improvise using wood by sharpening one of its ends so it can be easily pounded on the ground. 

The material used in making stakes/pegs ranges from wood, metal, and plastic which vary in terms of durability. 


A hammer or mallet is optional equipment in making tarps into a tent. However, it is easier to pound the stakes on the ground if you have one. An alternative to use when you don’t happen to have a hammer is to look for a medium-sized stone around you.

Pole – you can use a tree branch

The primary purpose of poles or trees is to hold the rope steadily in place to hang your tarp. Make sure that they are firmly planted on the ground and that your rope is securely tied onto them to ensure that your tarp tent withstands strong winds and harsh weather conditions.

How to make a tent out of a tarp?

There are a variety of options to choose from when building a tent using a tarp. These options vary depending on the shape and formation of the tarp and are modified depending on weather conditions. 

Tents that are built using a tarp are easy to assemble with the use of ropes, stakes, mallets, and poles. It is highly advisable to plan the type of tarp tent you will be building ahead of time to ensure that you packed the right materials needed to fully set up your desired tent. 

Dimensions and quantity usually depend on the number of people staying inside the tent as well as their height and size.

A-frame design

The A-frame design is the most common tarp tent you can assemble. As the name implies, it is a tent shaped like the letter A. The things you will be needing to fully set up this type of tent includes the following:

  • A large tarp that can accommodate the number of people staying as well as their sizes. 
  • A pair of trees/poles that are distant from one another, which would provide enough space for campers to move comfortably.
  • 5 pieces of rope, 1 (ridgeline) that will be tied in between the trees/poles, and the other 4 (guylines) will be tied to each edge of the tarp and onto the four stakes that are pounded on the ground.
  • 4 pieces of stakes/pegs 

To set up an A-frame tarp tent, locate a pair of trees (or use poles) that are distant from one another, then tie the longest rope you have onto both trees (ridgeline). It is essential to tie the rope firmly and tightly because this is where the tarp will be placed. 

Place the tarp on the rope you previously installed, and make sure that you lay it evenly, dividing the tarp into two parts. Then tie the other four ropes onto every edge of the tarp (guylines), ensuring that they are securely tied. 

Pound the four stakes on the ground to ensure that the four guyline ropes can reach each stake. Spread the tarp by tying the rope on every edge of the tarp onto the hook of every stake you have installed. It is essential to have an underlay material to place on the ground because the A-frame design only provides you a roof and no protection from the ground.  

Wind-shed model

The wind-shed model is a type of tarp tent design that offers protection from windy climates. It also has a wide opening for you to view the beauty of nature. The wind-shed model requires the following things:

  • A square-shaped tarp that can accommodate the number of people staying as well as their sizes.
  • A pair of poles
  • 3 ropes that serve as guylines
  • 6 pieces of stakes/pegs 

The procedure in setting up a wind-shed tarp tent is to first lay your tarp flat on the ground and firmly peg one side of the tarp, then securely place one of the poles in the middle of the adjacent side of the tarp at a 90-degree angle. 

Thirdly, place the second pole on the opposite side of the tarp that is pegged on the ground at a 90-degree angle from the first pole.

What if there are no trees where you can tie the ropes?

When you have no access to any trees or poles to tie your rope (ridgeline), you may improvise by using branches, sticks, or any strong and lengthy object that could withstand strong winds. Dig a hole on the ground and plant them securely in place.

What can I consider when pitching my tarp?

In utilizing a tarp for shelter purposes, you must consider factors before pitching your tarp, including weather conditions, camping location, and personal preference. 

Camping with the use of a tarp requires creativity, planning, and experience, which all play a role in creating the most suitable tarp tent design applicable in all weather conditions.

Weather Conditions

The primary factor you should consider when pitching your tarp is the weather condition. This will determine what kind of tarp design you should choose to build. 

It is important to remember that it is highly advisable to choose a tarp design that is lower and nearest to the ground for cold and wet weather conditions to ensure a greater chance of staying dry. 

A lowered A-frame design mixed with a pyramid design on the other two sides is the best design option to have during these weather conditions. 

On the other hand, it is recommended to have a tarp design that is pitched moderately high to ensure sufficient airflow for hot and dry climates. The simple A-frame tarp design will suffice.

 In mild weather conditions, it is highly advisable to choose a tarp design that is slightly lowered and near to the ground with one side opened for good ventilation. The half pyramid tarp design would be an excellent option.

The surface or location

Similar to camping with a casual tent, it is crucial to examine your campsite before pitching your tarp. Trees are beneficial in making sure your tarp can be pitched firmly and securely–so it is recommended to choose a location near trees. 

Another factor is the wind. Strong winds can damage your tarps, so look for a campsite that has moderate wind conditions. 

The last factor to inspect in a campsite when going tarp camping is the passageway of water when it rains. 

Since tarp camping doesn’t provide any underlays or ground layering for you to stay dry, it is ideal to stay on an even and flat campsite rather than an inclined site. It is important to keep in mind that safety is better than any aesthetic scenery. Inspect and examine a campsite before pitching your tarp to avoid any unwanted incidents.

Space inside 

Whenever you pitch a tarp, always consider the space inside. There are a variety of tarp designs to choose from that vary in dimensions, including height, length, and width.

If you want a wider and lengthier tarp tent, you should spread your tarp wider rather than pitching it narrowly. On the other hand, if you want a taller ceiling inside, you should pitch your ridgeline higher on the trees. 

What should the shape and size of the tarp be?

The size and shape of the tarp vary depending on the dimensions of the person staying (height and weight) and the number of people who plan to occupy the tarp.

Can I make my own tarp tent design?

Creating your own tarp design is possible as long as it keeps you protected from weather conditions. However, there are a variety of effectively tested tarp designs you can choose from which include the following:

A-frame Tarp

The A-frame tarp is the most popular and simplest tarp design you can use. The shape is exactly what the name implies: the letter “A” or a triangular shape. The A-frame tarp provides moderate protection from rain and wind.

Lean-to tarp

The lean-to tarp is a partial basic construction of an A-frame tarp. Unlike the A-frame tarp, the lean-to tarp only secures one side of the tarp firmly on the ground. It is easy to set up by using one ridgeline, two guylines, and four peg/stakes. This tarp design is only applicable for favorable weather conditions. 

Mushroom fly tarp

The mushroom fly tarp is a design that is ideal for snow and rain runoffs. It utilizes a pole or a stick in the middle of its entry point while the four edges of the tarp are pegged/staked steadily on the ground.

Wind shed tarp

The Wind-shed tarp is a tarp design that is perfect for what its name implies–wind. This design provides great protection from winds coming from one specific direction. It is ideal to choose this tarp design if you are in a windy and warm weather area.

Square arch

The square arch tarp design is similar to the rest of the list, its name implies the shape and formation of the tarp– a square. This tarp design is made using two ridgelines and four peg/stakes. The square arch provides good protection from the sun, rain, and wind.