Easy Survival Tarp Shelter

There are a thousand ways you can make a shelter out of tarp.  It’s a great piece of knowledge to have, so I’m going to show you an easy SurvivalistBlog.comsystem I came up with.  The first thing you need is a tarp.  The bigger the tarp the larger your shelter will be, so keep that in mind when you go shopping.  The one you see here is about 10 x 12 feet and cost about $12.  I ran a ridge pole between two trees then ran the tarp over it the long way.  On each end I used paracord through the grommets tied to stakes or tree limbs that were readily available.  There are a thousand ways you can make a shelter out of tarp.

By Jarhead Survivor, a contributing author of Survival Cache

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It’s a great piece of knowledge to have, so I’m going to show you an easy system I came up with.  SurvivalistThe first thing you need is a tarp.  The bigger the tarp the larger your shelter will be, so keep that in mind when you go shopping.  The one you see here is about 10 x 12 feet and cost about $12.

I ran a ridge pole between two trees then ran the tarp over it the long way.  On each end I used paracord through the grommets tied to stakes or tree limbs that were readily available.  The back of the shelter is about a foot off the ground, but I’ll probably either drop that in the winter or pile snow up to it.  I wanted the top of the shelter a good distance from the flames so that it wouldn’t melt the tarp or catch it on fire. On one of the top corners I put a carabiner in the middle of the line so I can easily drop one side of the shelter when I leave, otherwise it would eventually tear or collapse under the weight of water or snow trapped on the tarp.

Also Read: Review of the Hennessy Hammock Expedition

In the middle of the tarp I ran a small pine limb with the end flattened to hold the middle of the tarp up.  This helps keep water and snow to run off, which helps to keep the tarp from collapsing.  As I mentioned earlier there are hundreds of ways you can build a tarp shelter and you’re limited only by your imagination.  I have a military poncho that I’ve used to make many a shelter, but the tarps are bigger and you can make a good sized shelter for minimal dollars.


I like the darker colored or camo tarps too, because I hate things that stand out in the forest.  Call it a remnant of my military background, but if I’m out camping in deep forest I like to blend in rather than stand out.  I have included various pictures of what it looks like in the snow, the carbiner system I used, and a fire going under the shelter.  In the video below, I talk about how I set it up and you can get a better idea of what it looks like.

The Video

Once you’ve got your shelter set up it’s time to kick back and enjoy yourself.  Get the coffee pot on, put your steak or hotdogs on to cook, and relax.  You’ve earned it!

All Photos By: Jarhead Survivor

Questions?  Comments?

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17 thoughts on “Easy Survival Tarp Shelter”

    • I have 2 big tarps in my BOB as well. I have set up several practice winter shelters and what I do is start with a place to sit. Find a level place with a log or some big rocks to sit on and set the tarp up over the place to sit. The ridge pole is a good idea, but if two trees are not around I can use my walking sticks. I like to make my winter shelters lower. When it is cold and rainy it is hard to stay warm and dry. I sure hope I don't wind up Getting Out of Dodge when it is winter, cold and wet.

  1. this might also work at home if you lost your roof /windows in a storm.
    Dry, and Out of the Wind is good wherever you are. plastic works, also. a pebble or any other small object can be tied in, in place of the grommets. the corners of plain canvas or TYVEK, can be tied to with a "sheet bend" knot.

  2. go to tipitarp on utube. the narrator used a 10×15 tarp and 3 poles. i had a 11-4x 15 tarp similar in size and cut 3 rivercane poles. it came out perfect as a winter shelter and i added a small tarp to the top for rain. as i recall the midgrade strength tarp from harbor freight was less than 20 bucks and i scavenged rope,carabiners and stakes to secure it. i am 6ft2 and it has plenty of room for me and a guest.

  3. Looks like you left your window open. I prefer a tent but that is just me. If you are going to carry crap in your BOB – it might as well be something that goes up quick and totally protects you from the elements. Although, I like where your head is at.

  4. Tentage is great in the Winter, but for Summer with a light rain a tarp works best for me. Just need some type of shelter that is quickly deployed and provides protection from the elements. A large trash bag would probably work too. For me it boils down to how much weight do I want to backpack in.

  5. I also prefer a tent, micro-environment, that tarp isn't much good especially if the wind is blowing hard and/or the rain/snow is being blown onto you! Though a fire inside a tent isn't advisable, a fire pit's heat can still be utilized by simply burying the coals with at least 8-10 inches of dirt and moving your tent on top of it, of course, a tent with a floor is better for this! If you only have a tarp (by design or otherwise), then you should keep it as low as possible, blocking three sides to keep wind out. Also, a fire pit needs a U-shaped fire 'ring' (preferable using stones, not smooth-sided) with the opening toward your tarp shelter and the bottom of the 'U' being about twice the height of the legs of the 'U', which has the effect of a chimney, drawing the smoke up and away from you while reflecting more radiant heat toward your shelter! And, of course, a partial wind break if the wind shifts. Lastly, a canvas tarp is far superior to a plastic tarp, well worth the higher price! As far as weight to carry, a tent or canvas tarp may weigh more but can always be discarded if necessary and/or can be used as a make-shift pack to carry other needs! Good Luck!

  6. Tarps are handy and quick but they leave you rather exposed. But where they really shine, is if you build a nice debris shelter, you can make it really waterproof when covered with a tarp. It all just depends on the situation, if your just spending a few hours and you want to stay dry and have a little cover, a tarp over a pole is fine, but if spending the night I'm making a debris hut. Trekker Out.

  7. I agree with a lot of the people below about how a tent is better. Personally I just cant find a light, camo, pop-up tent that could go into a B.O.B. and thats where a tarp excels.

  8. Hello All, I am brand new here and have been reading everyone's comments regarding tent vs tarp and I know everyone us going to go with whatever they are most familiar/comfortable with but I would like to add one or two things about using tarps instead of, or even in addition to a tent. The heavy duty tarp is going to be much sturdier than the average tent. More resistant to tears and weather (except for possibly high winds, depending on how secure it is tied down). Because the tarp isn't seen into a permanent form, it can be more flexible to being set up in a variety of ways, not just a standard tent shape. I would prefer to bring two tarps (heavy duty) so that one can be used as a floor to keep things dry/drier. Another benefit to using the heavy duty tarps is that they are silver on one side a dark brown on the other. You can set them up to reflect or absorb heat from the sun or not. Granted this works best if you are in friendly surroundings and not worried about others knowing where you are. The original topic was, I believe, was dealing with a Get Home Bag vice a Big Out Bag or Bug Out vehicle. Obviously you are much more limited in what you can carry if you are trying to get home as opposed to getting out of your town. And, as any Jarhead worth his/her salt knows, a poncho and, especially a poncho liner, is worth a small fortune out in the field. I was a squid and I know how valuable they are. About as valuable as a good knife, good boots or clean water!.
    Anyway, I digress. I would suggest possibly pepper spray or mace included in your get home bag also. You never can anticipate what some chuckleheads are going to do during a crisis, just like looters stealing tv's during a hurricane when there is no power. Just no telling. You gave to be able to protect yourself, first in nonleathal manner but, again, you never know…

  9. Andy, i spent some time in the USAF as an aircrew member in Vietnam. Had to go to all the USAF survival schools before heading over the pond. Spent about 10 days up in Fairchild AFB survival school in the middle of winter in 1972. We used a parachute panel as a shelter. Was trained to make sure we got down to bare ground and then make a bough bed. Placed a standard down filled mummy bag on the boughs and stripped down to bare skin with clothes set aside to keep from sweating in and compromise the layering! Slept naked inside a sleeping bag within a tube style shelter made from the chute panel! Used paracord and rocks to make tie off oints to set up the shelter. Low to the ground, out of the wind, down to bare eat on a bow bed and down mummy bag! Warm and comfortable!

  10. I like the EXPED poncho and chaps protection of the lower extremities is neglegted and it shouldn't be
    wicking is a threat to core temp your pants leggs wick mosture into your socks that goes into your footware.
    if you do not have water resistant footwear and live in an area that gets 30 or more inches of rain or snow a year
    a pair of water resistant rip stop chaps are in order.

    the poncho is well thought out and large enough to be altered with para cord to encompass a pack and you wearing all your winter clothing. it can be used as a shelter it is larger than a shelter half made from a standard military poncho.
    everything is a balancing act size, weight, fire resistance, mutiple uses and warmth.

    nothing is perfect this is a wind breaker in my mind but it has a place we are going to have to layer in winter
    and in long summers like here it is hard to tote winter wear in 7 months we call summer a month of fall and a month of spring kinda <?> we never know.
    What I do know is we wera a coat for a couple of months fight mosquitoes for at least 7 months and when it rains it a deluge seldom a sprinkle and it comes with viscious lightining and wind.
    heat is horrible but it is not effected by rain like living in a jungle.

    Having lived in the far east I can say that a poncho is good if you wrap the bottom of your pack or else the splatter
    will soak the bottom and wick up into your dry socks add in wading creeks or swamps you need a light weight
    and multi use unit no matter what type or brand you decide on.

    notice the belly in the above picture of a rain shelter that is always a problem and usually leeds to your fire or
    equipment getting flooded learning what to look for how to build the many types of shelters from a poncho

    A tarp is great but they are not all quality and they get old fast and they leak in wear spots or contact points .

    I would point out that pitcing a tent or a poncho shelter most people are in a tree line limbs are not deterred by
    a flimsy tent or poncho shelter if your not aware you could be sheltering underneath a dead fall trap YOURS
    not to mention taller attracts lightiing but that is no real defense flat terrain gets struck all you can do is minimize
    your risk, so don't play golf while bugging out in the rain.

    If your a large person in height or girth a standard poncho is like a fat chick wearing a mini skirt it is more
    exposure than cover IMHO.

  11. Hey, I have read many opinions and articles on this site for a few years, I have no military backround myself , but am from a military family. Many if not almost all of you have great outlook and knowledge of what you talk about and have given me great direction , but for the most part of being non-military, Iwould think that you get what you pay for, if you going camping , buy the $200.00 tent to protect you, if it fails , you can pack up and go home. in a survival case, anything is better than nothing, but in those terms, I keep a bag with me at all times, with heavy mill plastic and a tarp, layers of gear in the wool variety, 2 military rain poncho's in case there is someone traveling with me , and always have a rubberized rain suit in my jeep. If weather would tear apart your tarp/ shelter,It would most likely do the same with a nylon tent, so your left with what you have on. I myself would carry a heavy duty military poncho setup for any kind of survival scenario , your travel , bug out or whatever you want to call it, and leave the tent for camping or your destination mountain climbing hikes with friends. I see it as this , we all do not have cash to drop on any and every kind of gear for every scenario. so I'll outfit myself to be able to move and ( hopefully survive with $200.00 worth of gear/ instead of the $200.00 tent )

  12. I am 77 years old and a former navy pilot. I have been through the navy survival,escape rescue and evasion course three times in my career. A parachute is a wonderful thing to have. There are 28 panels in a standard chute, cut the chute in half and make a paratepee out of 14 panels and use the other half to make a sleeping bag. Fold the panels over until you have all the wrinkles out and put dry leaves between all the panels. Separate the panel and crawl in with 7 under you and 7 on top. You will stay dry and warm. NOTE! Spanish moss can contain chiggers/ redbugs
    and pine straw is the favorite habitat for ticks. In my old age I now use a 10 x 18 foot 3 room tent and you can,t backpack with something that heavy. My Ford 350 crew cab dually diesel can carry a lot of stuff. It ain.t camping out

  13. I have a large family and when considering BOB what would be the best situation for ER WSHTF situation. A Tarp we have XLarge we also have a 10×18 Tent that will sleep us all but trying to get the packing down for 10/15 mins out the door is VERY hard. Is there a course that we as a family could take?


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