Saturday, 26 April 2014

How to make a 3m x 3m tarp tent

I recently purchased a new one man tent and decided to use the adjustable pole I purchased with it to do a tarp tent 'how to' to see how it did . The items needed for this little project are: A 3m x 3m tarp which in this instance is a DD one, a minimum of seven tent pegs, three guys lines and one suitably sized pole (adjustable or wooden).

Lay it out on the ground and orientate it (the door will be at the front of the picture above). The numbers 1 and 2 at the front relate to a later stage in the construction.


Start with the back of the shelter-to-be, we are interested in the first loop from the corner on the back and side which I'm pointing at in the left hand side picture above. Firmly peg them.

Once the loops are firmly pegged in, grab the corner and gently but firmly fold the flap that is formed underneath the tarp on both sides.

Now to form the front of the shelter/ the entrance. You want the corner (in my left hand) pegged into the ground an inch or so past the loop (near my right hand).

In reference to the numbers in the above picture, the corner (1) is positioned for pegging an inch or so past the first loop from the corner (2) which is the same as the ones used to form the back of the shelter. So in the picture above, I've pulled the corner from left to right and pegged it.

So that's four pegs down, three to go, but before we use any more it's time to get some rigidity into the shelter...Enter the pole. This could be a walking pole, a length of wood about an inch in diameter such as Hazel or, as stated earlier, an adjustable pole. This is adjusted to around three feet but you'll need to check and adjust if needs be when you do yours. Also bear in mind that the ground may be soft too and a well placed sliver of wood may be needed to prevent the pole sinking.

It is also important to mention at this stage that the pole of choice must be located underneath the nearest central reinforced ridge line loop, if you try using a general purpose (i.e. a non-camping) tarp you may need to use something like a small length of gaffer tape to reinforce it. I've never made one from a household tarp but it's what I'd consider. If you look at the left hand side picture above you can see the black loop by my left hand. I'd also suggest that something like half a ping pong ball upturned on the top of a pole would help too.

You should now have a stable and recognisable structure with a flappy front. The door size is determined earlier with the position 1 and 2 loops manoeuvre earlier. Some demos say to peg the two corner loops in the centre which forms a slit like door and therefore a 100% sealed shelter-It's essentially this structure with a tight door! With this one grab the two corners of the flap and pin them three loops back along the side using a guy line and peg. If you make a slit like entrance the flap is a different shape and just needs pinning on one side in a similar fashion. 

One more peg and guy line to go. Attach them to the central position of the 'flap' and secure. This is to both tighten the front and to give the shelter some more support. And that's it done. It's nigh on impossible to get a shot of me lying down from the outside of this structure but suffice to say that there is plenty of clearance for me at 5' 11"(ish) to chuck a bivi bag in. I'd like to try knocking this type of shelter up another time using a length of paracord 550 from the top instead of using a pole. I reckon it would work but I wonder if it would benefit from the pole's rigidity.

As you can see from me sitting by the front, it's perfect for one person and a bag of kit.

I've also tried this with a tipi style support (not a wigwam, that's a domed structure). I've never made this to sleep in but for experimentation, that said it seemed structurally sound but I'd perhaps use a quadpod instead of the tripod shown. Another variation on this is the Closed Tarp Tent.

Suggested Further Reading:-


  1. A really helpful 'how to' - thanks Austin! Do you know of a website or series of videos that demonstrates different pitching options for tarps? I've searched YouTube and the like without much success. Also, any idea how I'd adjust this method to set up a 4.5 x 3m DD tarp?

  2. Hi Matt, Glad you liked it, it's easy but satisfying knocking it up. IIRC DD Hammocks' website has a 'how to' page for set ups. I don't own a 4.5 x 3 tarp as it's too big for my needs but having doodled on the back of an envelope (literally). I'd suggest that using this method will still give you a shelter but to utilise it fully it may need a length of paracord from the last ridgeline loop at the rear tied to a tree to tension and lift the extra material...One way to find out :)

  3. Hey dude, brilliant job. but I still don't get the first part for the shape of the back. You pegged a loop either side of one corner? Do you do same to both corners so the back then is half hexagon? Sorry buddy but I just cant "see" that bit in my foggy head lol

  4. Cheers Rich. It was a warm night on the Woodlife Trails wild camp and that open door kept it lovely and cool. You are correct about the back being sort of like half an octagon. Once you've laid out and orientated the tarp, go to the edge that will be the back, start at the left hand corner and peg the first loop from the corner in both directions (sort of like the hands on a clock showing 3 o'clock). Go to the right hand corner and do the same (9 o'clock), then tuck in the two corners between the pegged loops to make your ' half an octagon'. Your sleeping stuff will rest on the tucked in corners which will help anchor the tent. Hope that helps.

  5. Magic, many thanks Austin. I think I have it now..... now where did I leave me tarp ;-)