How to set up a Tarp Tent

What do you think of when I mention the word Tarp?  Visions of  something that covers debris in back of a pickup truck, or wood pile in someones back yard probably.  But did you know that a tarp can also be used as a tent?

A tent made from a tarp is cheap, portable,  fast and easy to set up, usually in about ten minutes. This makes the tarp tent an ideal emergency shelter.  Keep in mind that tarp tents are not intended for use as a long-term habitat or replacement of  a manufactured tent.   

Another possible use for this type of tent is for a summer campout in the backyard with the kids. Teach your kids how to build a tarp tent they can use as a playhouse or fort which will bring hours of fun with very little cost.

Below is a supply list and set up instructions on how to create a Tarp Tent. 


Blue TarpCredit:

Supply list:

  • 8 x 10 foot tarp (1 ea)

  • Metal tent stakes (10 ea)

  • Hammer, Mallet, Hatchet, Large Rock (if available)

  • Hiking Pole, Branch, Broom handle, etc (min 3 ft high)

  • Mosquito netting (optional)

  • Duct Tape (optional) for repairs

  • Small bag for storing above supplies (optional)

  • Paracord (use as a guy line if needed)

Step 1

Lay the tarp on a level ground surface completely spread out with the grommets showing on all sides. An 8 x 10 foot tarp is obviously rectangular in shape so lay it so the long sides will serve as the front and back of the tent.   Try to place one of the long sides of the tent which will serve as the opening of the tent away from the elements if possible.

Step 2

The tarp should have four grommets on each side.   Starting from the opposite of the entrance side on one of the long sides of the tarp, pound the tent stakes in the two center grommets.   Leave the corner grommets open.

Step 3

With the corner grommets open from step 2, pound the tent stakes in the remaining three grommets on both of the short sides of the tarp.  Tuck the corners of the tarp that have the open grommets (from step 2) under the tarp.  It should fold like a triangle.

Step 4

At this point the only side not staked will serve as the opening of the tent you have made. Place a walking stick, branch, broom handle or something about three feet high in the center of the tent opening to prop open the tent.  The rest of the tent will be stable because of  the stakes in the ground.

Tarp TentCredit:


Step 5

You can place a barrier on the floor of the tent to insulate you from the cold, dirty, or  moist ground.  You can use a smaller tarp, lawn bags, paper, tree leaves or needles as insulation. You can also place the mosquito netting (optional) on the front of the tent opening to keep the bugs away.

Handy Tip:

  • Try to barrier the cold ground with a smaller tarp, lawn bags, paper, tree leaves or needles, whatever is available.

  • Try to place tent/shelter on level ground to avoid pooling of rain water (if possible).

  • Opening of tent/shelter can be made “bug free” by using mosquito netting placed over entrance.

  • Tie a guy line to tent opening grommets and stake down for extra stability in wind.

All the materials to build the tarp tent should cost around twenty dollars and are found at most hardware and big box retailers.  

The tarp tent can serve many purposes.  Use as a quick shelter,  camping tent, or possibly even as play area for kids.  Setting up a Tarp Tent is easy, fun, fast, inexpensive and is something everyone should learn to do for when there is an emergency.