Tarp Shelters Are Very Versatile

This Tarp Shelter weighs less than 6oz

Tricks To Mastering The Tarp Shelter

When it comes to sheltering yourself in a bug out scenario few things are as lightweight or as versatile as a tarp shelter.

All tarp shelters are more versatile than tents…and some like the MLD Cuben Fiber Grace Tarp pictured above weigh less than 6 oz.

Most tents weigh much more than a tarp and aren’t nearly as versatile as a tarp shelter. Simple plastic sheeting and 55 gallon plastic bags are both lighter and as versatile as tarps, but they both lack in durability.

Out of all of the different configurations that a tarp can be put into, the simplest and most used is probably the A-Frame. The A-Frame tarp shelter isn’t just simple to put up, but is also very effective when placed correctly.

Types of tarps for making a tarp shelter:

There are a large number of tarps available that will serve you well when making a tarp shelter. They are usually rectangular in shape, waterproof, and have grommets along the edge to tie them down with. Some are quite inexpensive (around $5)

while others can cost you over $100

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. On the cheap end, the blue and silver polyethylene tarps are both waterproof and tear resistant, but weigh significantly more than the expensive lightweight backpacking tarps that are made of nylon. The more expensive tarps also have more tie down spots along the edge, quarter fold, and sometimes along the center line. More tie down spots means more ways to configure the tarp.

This excellent video goes into detail about a good method for rigging a tarp shelter.

Choosing a location for your tarp shelter:

The first thing that you need to do when you make a tarp shelter is you need to choose a good location. Since the A-Frame works so well draped over a paracord stretched along it’s center line, it is often easiest to choose a place between two trees spaced 15 to 20 feet apart. Check above the site and determine if there are any large branches that might come crashing down on you. Also make sure that the site doesn’t sit in a depression that will retain water. Try to pick a spot where one end is elevated slightly so that there is adequate drainage. You will also want to choose a spot that isn’t directly underneath the trees drip line.

Prepping the site:

Once you have chosen a good location, you need to prep the site. Clear the ground of all the rocks, sticks, and any other debris. If you didn’t bring stakes then gather eight pointy sticks to use as stakes. Tie your paracord between the two trees at a height that is slightly less than half of the tarps length.

Setting up the A-Frame Tarp Shelter:

A Frame Tarp Shelter Are Very Versatile

A Frame Tarp Shelter

Drape the tarp over the paracord so that you form a simple tent shape. Hammer your stakes through the grommets to secure the sides down. If you are in an area without trees then use tent poles or adjustable tarp poles to elevate the center line, and use additional paracord as guy lines out to additional stakes.

Ideally, you will have with you a second smaller tarp that will be used as a ground-cover. Roll up the edges to keep you and your survival gear nice and dry during any wet weather.

Using a tarp set up in an A-Frame tarp shelter isn’t ideal for all weather conditions but it will serve you well in most. One thing is for sure, it is a way to create a survival shelter that will keep you protected from the wind and rain in all but the worst kind  of weather.

  1. Jack

    One of the most important design tasks when using a tarp as a shelter is to dig a decent drainage ditch around the perimeter of the tarp/tent (just under the eave of the tarp) to prevent water from flowing across the ground and into your shelter.
    The drainage ditch should be a Q-shape, with the tail of the Q n the downhill (lee) side and the tail of the Q should be long enough to help direct the water from the ditch out/away from the shelter.
    Note: If the ditch is outside of the perimeter of the tarp, then the runoff from the tarp itself will flow into the floor of the shelter. (Too many people incorrectly dig their ditch just outside of their rain-fly perimeter.) The drainage ditch needs to be inside/under/within the perimeter of the rain-fly or tarp!
    Also, many people only dig a complete circle-ditch (O-shaped ditch.) This simply becomes a moat during a heavy rain, which will eventually overfill and then flow into the shelter, too. You need the Q-tail for the moat to drain out/away from the tent (downhill.)
    Granted, if you shelter site in on somewhat of a hill, then you can just dig a U-shaped ditch around three sides of the tent, because the down-hill side will be self-draining and not require inbound/uphill drainage protection. But, you should still make both ends of the U feather-out & away from the shelter (to avoid creating a washout on the downhill side of the tent/shelter (which is usually your entry/exit side.)


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