Tips for Tarp Shelters

One of the easiest to store and most useful survival items is a tarp.  It’s primary purpose being to provide waterproof shelter that can be adapted to varying needs and available resources.  Like all tools, you will get the most out of your tarp if you know how to properly use it.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when constructing your tarp shelter for camping or survival that will keep your tarp safe and help it keep you safe.


Fire Safety

Whether you are using an oilskin tarp or a synthetic tarp, you will have to be cautious about it catching fire.  You may be tempted to build your fire close to the opening of your shelter to get the most of the heat, but if your fire pops, it could easily send a flaming ember onto your tarp which will at the least degrade the strength of your tarp and its ability to keep you dry.

Tie Offs

Preferably your tarp will have tie offs on it, but you might be forced to use something like a garbage bag, space blanket, or you might want to tie off to an area that doesn’t have a preplaced tie off.  Don’t make a hole in your tarp that is likely to spread under tension and ruin your only shelter.  Instead find a stone about the size of a quarter that doesn’t have sharp edges, place the stone an inch or two from the edge you want to tie off to and wrap the tarp around the stone.  This will allow you to tie off directly to the tarp, the stone will keep the knot from slipping and the knot will keep the stone in place.

Ridge Line

If you are using a log for a ridge line instead of cordage, be careful to select a log that doesn’t have knots or sharp points.  The ridge of your shelter will be under tension and a point of high friction, even a small point can wear a hole during a windy night.


Your tarp is capable of saving your life, but you are going to have to protect your tarp from damage if you want it to protect you from the elements.  Keep these tips in mind and your tarp will last much longer, which could keep you alive much longer.

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