Tarp Tent Setup: Make Camping an Enjoyable Experience

Sleeping in nature and waking up to watch the sunrise, may be the best experience you will ever have. Enjoying the fresh air and the abundance of plants and animals can really take your stress of you and create a relaxing adventure. Tarp tent setup is an important task to do in order to stay dry and protected from the wind while sleeping in the woods. You can set up a tent and build yourself a great temporary home.

See also: Best Tarp: A Versatile Necessity for any Lightweight…

Learning how to setup a tarp tent is a very necessary skill to know if you are an admirer of calm places far away from civilization. Although setting up the perfect tarp tent can be sometimes tricky, the following article will give you some simple directions.

Important Tips before Setting Up

Before setting up your tarp tent, there are some important tasks to do in order to have n enjoyable camping experience. These tips will help you to prepare the tarp tent location and will make the setting up process much more easy.

Find a Perfect Spot

First of all, you need to find the perfect location. The place should be wide open, or in designated camping area if you are in a national park.

perfect location for tarp tent

Take some time to find a nice flat area because if you are planning to sleep in the tent it’s very important the ground to be comfortable enough. Some hard objects like pointy rocks or twigs may be very uncomfortable and will keep you tossing and turning all night. If there are pine trees in the area, spread a thin layer of pine needles and make the ground little softer for better sleeping. For more tips and trick on how to properly set-up your tent, check out our article for details.

You should also be aware of swales, divots, and hollows in the ground. It should slope slightly for the water to runoff away from your tent. In cases where the ground has no slope, you might need to dig some trenches around your tarp tent in order to aid drainage. Even if you have a waterproof tent, the places that are lower than the surrounding area will pool with water in cases it rains. See also our must-read article on DIY tent footprint for more options.

Don’t Forget to the Direction of the Wind

The direction the wind is blowing from is also one important factor to consider. The right way is to position you tent is with the doors away from the prevailing wind, so your shelter won’t blow away and create some extra tension on the stakes.  To avoid this, move your tent closer to the trees to create a windbreak.

camping near the trees

Avoid camping under tree branches that are dead or partly broken. They can provide shade but can also be dangerous in storms and destroy your tarp shelter. Building your tarp tent on top of a hill or ridge is also a dangerous idea.

Find out Where the Sun will Rise

Before setup the tent, it is also good to predict the sun’s path, so you can wake up gently and comfortably at a time of your choosing. In summer, with the warm mornings, tentscan be like ovens if you set up your tarp tent in the direct path with the sun. Place the tarp in an ideal position so you will remain in the shade during the morning.

Create A Well-organized Campsite

An organized campsite means that the sleeping area will be away from cooking and toilets areas. A fire should not be close enough to spray sparks onto the tarp tent, but if the camping area is just too small, ensure your campfire is completely out before going to bed. Take into account the main purpose of the tarp tent and make it as large as you need it to be, keeping the above concerns in mind.

well organized camping

How to setup a tarp tent

Once you found the perfect place, it’s time to setup the tarp tent. It is completely up to you to decide what material you should use. By using a heavier construction, you will have greater abrasion resistance and tear strength. On the other hand, you will be carrying it with you on your back while hiking, so you will likely want to use lightweight tarp tent.

In order to setup the tarp tent properly, take the following steps:

  1. You should start by setting the tarp on the ground and then put up the tent. It’s very essential to insert some bound in the middle of the bottom of the tent and the ground where you put the tent if you want your tent to stay dry. The tarp should be setup into the corresponding shape of the tent, or maybe a bit smaller. Not every tarp component should hang out beyond the edge of your tent because if it’s raining it may collect water underneath. The edges should be folded up and tucked below the tent.
  2. Next, check out the parts of the tarp tent. Nowadays, it easier with the newest tarp tent which is lightweight and most usually made of nylon, stakes, and tent poles. In the past, tarp tent were made on much more complicated way, with so many poles and coverings. Although the making process is same, you just need to follow the instructions of your tent.
  3. Once you discover the sides of the tent, you should lay down the bottom side of your tent under the tarp. You may orient the tent windows and doors in a position you desire the most.
  4. When the tent is laid out, the next step is to connect your tent poles. Every tent has a different way of how the poles should be connected. The tent poles might be banded together with paracords or ropes, or more simply to have numbers and marks so that you can connect them with yourself. Regardless of which it is, you should put them and one fell swoop and position the poles tent over the tent.
  5. Find the corresponding flaps of the tent and put the poles of the tent inside them. Usually, the basic frame of the tent has two poles, which are put across each other to form an X. In order to put them inside the tent, you need to fit the furthest of each pole into the eyelet through their corners. After that slide them on the top through the existing flaps. The second option, if there are no flaps available you could attach plastic slip at each pole the tent has on its top.
    Because all tents are designed in a different way, look more closely to discover if the tent poles are fitting in or just follow the directions for your tent set up.
  6. Next raise you tent. This is a task for two or more people, so it is really helpful if you have a company so you can do this. When the poles are fitted in the connection spots, it is supposed for them to be bend. The only thing left to do is to straighten up the whole construction, go ahead and look inside your temporary home. In case the tent needs a coaxing, make a square be pulling the corners of the tent apart, and take care of the poles because they need to be unassailable and straighten out.
    Some tent constructions might have additional plastic hooks, like a part of their construction, which can be added to little chords. After you raise the tent, fix those hooks in the right place and attach all the others important parts so that the tent stand up durable.
  7. Just after the tent is squared under the tarp, stake it to the ground. Tent stakes might be easy to bend, but if you are on the hard rocky ground, you will probably be obligated to use some blunt objects to knock down a little. When you don’t have problems with the ground, use the standard metal tent stakes, in order to fit through the flaps at the corner, and push them into the ground.
  8. The last step is to put an extra material for the rain, in case the weather gets bad. This material called the rain fly will be used like an extra layer to cover the tent. This sheet of extra material comes together with the tent, and has poles that correspond to the tent to make the setup process easy. The tent instructions will teach you how to put this extra rain fly and to set up all this together. Check out our piece on how to waterproof your tent for more insight.

What to do if a Part is Missing

Unfortunately, if during hiking some of your tarp tent materials are broken or lost, you might improvise some basic tarp shelter. Having a tarp and some paranoid in your backpack is really all you need.

There are a lot of different tarp shelters designs, and some of them are explained below.

A-frame shelter

The most common shelter and can be made very easy. You just need to string the paracord between two trees. Then you just need to drop over the tarp and stake it down. This way you will create a tent that will provide rain and snow run off, but also a good wind deflection.

A-frame tarp shelter

Although you should know that you won’t have floor and in case you don’t stretch the paracord tight, there may be sagging in the middle area.

Sun shade tarp shelter

This shelter is parallel to the ground and it may provide about 100 square feet of a sunshade.

Sun shade tarp shelter

If you decide to make this type of shelter, you should find four anchoring point/trees to tie the paracord. However, the sun shade tarp shelter may provide good protection from the sun, but if the rain comes it can’t be supported for a long time.

Lean-to tarp shelter

A very good option if you want wind protection or providing sunshade. It is also very easy and simple to make. First, on the windward side secure the tarp to the ground, and after that support the tarp with the paracord into two anchor points. This way, you will create a 30-degree angle tarp shelter, that is very simple to create and can easily be taken down.

Lean-to tarp shelter

It will protect you from the rain or sun heat, but not against other elements because of the fact that doesn’t have floor and sides.

Tub tent tarp shelter

With this tarp shelter, you will have a floor properly secured to the ground. Although the construction process is not complicated, you should secure the paracord in the middle of two trees and drape over the tarp with the opposite ends secured together.

Tub tent tarp shelter

The tub tent tarp may afford 3 feet of width and around 3 feet of headroom, which is enough for a single adult.

Mushroom shelter

The only difference is that the mushroom shelter adds central support pole at the midpoint of the tarp. It is very suitable if it’s raining or snowing because it provides great runoff, and very secure because the four corners of the tarp are secured well enough.

Mushroom shelter

Based on the length of the pole, the mushroom tarp shelter can adjust its height. The disadvantage of this shelter is that it won’t provide a protection from the wind or cold.

Dining fly tarp shelter

Besides the sun protection, this shelter has enough headroom and space to move around comfortably. Although like the other designs, it does not have protection from the sides but will keep the rain away. This dining fly tarp shelter may be a tough shelter if you properly tie down and stake the tarp. And the amount of headroom will be controlled by the height of the support pole.

Dining fly tarp shelter

This is a favorite shelter design to many campers because provides very good ventilation but also has proper coverage.


A tarp tent is a wonderful shelter for the adventure explorers. It can be setup very quickly and easy. Your tarp tent may be positioned in a several ways that will give you many options regardless of your personal preferences. With a fire built in front of the tent, space will be filled with light, warmth and will also keep the bugs away.

You should also consider the weather conditions in choosing a tarp tent model that is stable enough and will not collapse in case of rain or snow. When, where and how you setup your tarp tent is completely up to your preferences, and that is the beauty of it.

best tarp tent setup

There is a bit of learning involved, so now is the best time to get some practice in before you head out on your camping trip. Get the friends and family involved as well so that you can all learn together and learn where your strengths and weaknesses are.

We sincerely hope that you enjoyed the article. If you have any suggestions or experiences about tarp tent setup, please share with us in the comment below.

4 thoughts on “Tarp Tent Setup: Make Camping an Enjoyable Experience”

  1. I enjoyed this especially the video, which you included. As for the design, I have always followed the A-frame shelter because it is easy to set up. Just like what you have mentioned, it is also good for wind deflection, which is always a plus. Next time, I will try the mushroom shelter one.

  2. Thank you so much for giving clear instructions. You have perfectly explained every step. I will surely be printing this as a guide on my next camping adventure. It is nice too that you have included the factors to consider like the location and wind direction. Great job Daniel!


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