How To Build A Tarp Shelter (In Just 3 Simple Steps)

Before we cover how to build a tarp shelter in 3 simple steps just remember this fact...

Anything has the potential to ruin your trip out into the woods or into nature and nothing more so that not having shelter should bad weather or an emergency strike.

So it’s important that you always have emergency supplies to make everything you need. And...

You might have heard the piece of advice: ‘always carry a tarp!’ before, but never really known what it had meant until now. 

If you were fortunate enough to take this advice and carry around a piece of tarp with you, you might find it invaluable when an unexpected storm rolls in that you need to take cover from.

A tarp is much more lightweight than a camping tent, so it could be a great way of reducing your weight limit as you explore nature.

Today we’re going to show you how to build a tarp shelter.

There are many ways to do this, but we’re going to try and show you the easiest method so that you can get your shelter up and running as quickly as possible.

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Step One: Finding the Best Area

So you’ve decided to build a quick shelter to hide out under until the weather clears.

If you’re lucky and decide to do this before the rain has started, you can spend more time finding the best place to set up your shelter.

Alternatively, if the rain is already pouring you might not have the luxury.

If you are walking around looking for the best area to set up; however, look for a flat area that offers a nice spot for perching.

Sitting on a bunch of sharp rocks or in a puddle of swampy mud is definitely not what you want if you can help it, so look for a patch of dry, flat land. 

Once you’ve found the best place to set up, make sure that there is no threat coming from above.

Dead branches and falling rocks could pose a big threat to you and your tarp shelter, so make sure that there is nothing above you that could harm you. 

You’ll need two trees between you as well that you can use to hold up the shelter. Make sure that the trees are spaced far enough apart to build a wide enough shelter.

You should ensure that your tarp and rope is long enough to stretch between both of these trees.

how to build a tarp shelter

Step Two: Create the Top of the Shelter

Use your rope to create the top of the shelter. Tie one end of the rope to one of your chosen trees and fix the other side of the rope to the other tree.

Make sure that the line is tight and straight rather than loose and sagging. 

This line of rope will be the top of your shelter so make sure that it is as tall as you need it to be. Also, make sure that the rope is as level as possible.

Once you’re happy with the rope’s position you can knot the rope as tightly as you can to avoid the rope slipping during the storm. 

Step Three: Place the Tarp

Take your tarp and shake it out to its full size. Hang it over the rope equally so that each side is the same length.

Now you can stretch one side of the tarp out as much as you can so that the bottom edge remains close to the floor.

You’ll need to anchor the edges to the ground with whatever you can find or have to hand. 

If you have some tent stakes you can use these as they will be the most stable anchors.

However, if you don’t have these you can look around for some heavy rocks. Make sure that they’re large and strong enough to hold the tarp down. 

Anchor each corner of the tarp to the floor, making it as large as possible. Keeping the tarp taut will ensure that the wind or rain doesn’t disturb you inside of the tarp shelter too much.

A sagging tarp will allow the wind to manipulate your shelter and could cause the rocks or stakes to falter under the pressure. 

To avoid the shelter from collapsing during the worst part of the storm, make sure that your tarp is secured tightly with as little give as possible.

All Done!

You have now created an A-line tarp shelter. This will protect you from all sides and is ideal if you need to wait out a long weather storm.

However, if you want to remain able to see out of the tarp shelter and only need the back of you covered, you can create a lean-to shelter instead. 

To do this, follow steps one and two of our above guide.

However, instead of placing the tarp equally over the rope, you can attach only one side of the tarp to the rope. Do this by looping the edge of the tarp over the rope. 

You can either tie the tarp to fix it or create holes in the tarp and attach it with a cord.

Make sure that the tarp is fixed strongly to the rope and anchor the other edge of the material to the floor. Again, you can either do this with tent pegs or heavy rocks. 

You can perch under your lean-in shelter and watch the storm roll by.

This type of tarp shelter won’t be as protective as an A-line shelter, but you will be more immersed in nature and your entire trip won’t be wasted behind a tarp.

How To Build A Tarp Shelter Summary

As you can see, you won’t find it too difficult to build a tarp shelter. If you think you might need to build one, all you’ll need to carry with you is a tarp, some rope, and a few anchors.

A tarp shelter shouldn’t take too long to build, either. 

Whether you choose to build an A-line shelter or a lean-in alternative will be determined by what you need the shelter for.

Strong winds and rain will require the former, while a light shower might only call for a line-in tarp shelter.