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tarp shelter set ups for camping and hiking

see also:

  • I don't sell any of these nor do I receive any remuneration if you buy them, and I have not personally reviewed all of them, they are listed here to give you perspective
  • wind force on tarps
    • wind force in pounds per sq feet = 0.0034 x projected area in sq. feet x C x wind speed in knots2
    • wind force in N per sq.m = 0.613 x projected area in sq. m x C x (wind speed in m/sec)2
    • hence doubling the wind speed will increase the force by 4x!
    • C = drag coefficient value for the tarp but varies with angle to the wind and usually varies between 1-2, with an average of 1.5.
    • it can be assumed the force on each tie out is the total force / number of tie outs


  • tarps are extremely versatile options for creating shelters
  • see tarps for camping and hiking for a comparison of various types of tarps
  • the most popular for hikers is perhaps a 3x3m tarp, while for those with hammocks, a 3.5×2.4m tarp may be preferred.
  • best to use lightweight polyester, ripstop nylon or Dyneema and avoid those heavier cheaper polyethylene NOISY tarps
  • if you are planning on sleeping on a tarp on the ground you need to have some insulation under you such as either:
    • insulated sleeping mat
    • at least 8-12“ depth of leaf debris

Tarp camping


  • allows an ultralight, compact hiking kit eg. use a 3x3m DD Hammocks ultralight tarp and one or two trekking poles and some pegs and guy ropes
    • lighter hiking gear means less injuries, more distance able to be travelled, and more fun as long as the weather is nice to you
  • are a great emergency option when you have not brought a tent hiking and you get caught out in bad weather
  • provides a greater “adventure” experience, closer to nature and a sense of accomplishment with minimal gear
  • depending upon set up, better visibility of surrounds and spacial awareness without having to find and undo noisy zips
  • very versatile and generally easier to find a pitch than with tents
  • larger floor space than a 1P tent
  • can be used with hammocks
  • can be set up with a lower profile for better wind protection or stealth camping


  • needs practice to set up, especially in the wind or in the dark
  • no bath tub floor so you are exposed to flooding issues if you set up in a low ground position
  • strong winds will likely result in the tarp hitting against you continuously and keeping you awake as there is no frame to keep it off you as with a dome tent
  • strong winds may blow over your centre pole which will need adjusting in the dark
  • strong winds will whip in under most set ups causing wind chill
  • they are NOT insect proof or animal proof - mosquitoes especially can be problematic but at least in cold weather insects tend to be much less an issue
  • they generally do not have a floor and thus you may have to put your sleeping mat on wet or muddy ground
  • depending upon set up, wind and rain can be problematic, especially if the wind changes direction overnight
  • more enclosed set ups can have condensation issues
  • are effectively only “single wall” tents and run the risk of rain seeping through contact points
  • some set ups have a central pole(s) which can be annoying
  • needs a bivy bag for added water and wind protection
  • impossible to keep the air warm and hence your face will get cold on cold nights
  • less amenity than a tent with a large vestibule

ground based shelters

Plow Point set up for stormy weather

  • this is an easy set up especially with a 3x3m tarp and has 1 high point set at about 7' from the ground with the other 3 corners pegged to the ground to protect against the wind
  • a 3.5×2.4m DD Hammocks tarp works really well in this set up to provide shelter for a 2P free standing mesh tent (with or without a fly) - one can even get away with using a single trekking pole (instead of finding a tree) and a few guy ropes and pegs.

modified Adirondack for good visibility and light-moderate rains

  • a lean to with some triangular floor cover giving good visibility and some rain/wind protection
  • uses a ridge line, 3x3m tarp;
  • place tarp over ridge line as if setting up a diamond configuration with the 2nd grommet attached to the ridge line at each end with a Plusik knot to tension it
  • peg out rear starting at the 2nd grommet on each side and fold excess under the tarp
  • guy out the front grommet then peg out the corners as small side walls then guy out a rear grommet to give more room

lean to with floor

  • great for lots of visibility and air flow while providing tarp on the ground (if you have enough tarp try to double the floor layer) and one side
  • uses a ridge line then drape a front section of the tarp over the ridge line and guy out
  • peg out the floor
  • this is often used for sleeping in a bivy in front of a long fire
    • wind should be coming from one end of the tent (ie. a cross-wind) so the smoke and embers don't go into your setup
    • the fire should be lower than your setup so logs don't roll down onto you
    • fire should be about 1.5m from the front of your setup


  • tarp draped over, or attached to, a ridge line and guyed out to the sides
    • having tarp draped over rather than attached by the tarp loops to the ridge line allows the ridge line to be accessible for drying out clothes, or hanging a lantern, etc
  • great for when you want to keep in as much heat as possible, or have head room for a camp chair
  • not so good for sleeping with a camp fire
  • can be modified to have “doors” at each end
  • tip: peg out two sides then middles and lastly the corners to give a nice taut shape

full surround tarp similar to a plowpoint but with a floor

  • a great set up for sleeping without a tent or swag
  • a 3x3m tarp can be set up with a triangular floor, both sides and a door which can full seal you in during inclement weather (although condensation can be an issue) and then allow one of the sides to be opened up as desired
  • peg out the floor first with inside of tarp facing upwards on the ground and with pegs in to adjacent corners and a 3rd peg at the “ridgeline” loop position
  • then bring the rest of the tarp over to a tall 5-6' pole placed at the right angle corner of the floor leaving sufficient tarp to drape down to the ground to form the other wall and the door.
  • needs one tallish pole and guy rope

rapid low profile stealth tarp with floor

  • fold tarp in half and peg out the rear and sides then guy out the front to a tree or pole
  • works best with a larger tarp at least 4m and up to 4.5×3.5m
  • great for wind protection and for rain
  • low pitch of the roof can be problematic in heavy rain

rapid 2P emergency rain and wind proof fully sealed pyramid tent without floor

  • using a 3x3m tarp and a centre pole plus 4-6 pegs (no guy ropes needed but can be used optionally in strong winds)
  • lay out tarp on the ground (if raining you could cover your backpacks, etc) and peg the two rear corners
  • then grab the other two corners and bring them together and join them and peg to ground to form a triangular base
  • insert centre pole to taut height and this creates a narrow door way which can be folded over the tarp and pegged down in the middle of one of the walls (pegging accessible from inside the “tent”)

tarp tent with a floor

  • 3.5×3.5m DD Hammock tarp with a 4-5' centre pole
  • lay out on ground with underside facing upwards with ridge line running towards the front and peg out the two lateral central grommets
  • fold in half bringing the rear half to the front
  • peg the two touching corner grommets (bottom and top layer) to the adjacent front grommet of the bottom layer only, pull the excess materials into and onto the tarp
  • do the same on the other front corner
  • place the centre pole on the ridge line and one grommet back from the front
  • guy out the door grommets to the rear pegs
  • guy out the central door grommet forwards to stabilise the centre pole

tarp set ups for hammocks

flying A-frame

  • tarp draped over, or attached to, a ridge line and guyed out to the sides

diamond A-frame

  • tarp draped over a ridge line but in a diamond shape to provide more length coverage at the expense of side coverage.

tarps as awnings from your vehicle's roof

  • this requires two tent poles and guy ropes and works best with taller 4WD vehicle roofs to give you better head room
  • many 4WD owners opt for a fixed awning on the side of their vehicle instead of using a tarp
australia/tarp_shelters.txt · Last modified: 2023/02/03 23:59 by gary1

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