Take One Tarp…Make 66 Camping Shelters (How to)

We love a space-age tent, a bit of glamping canvas or an all-mod-cons campervan, but we like simplicity too.

Thanks to fat dragon for this lovely guide to making shelters. 

And see our recommendations for the best tarps and accessories.

Latest update: March 2021

All our reviews at Campfire Magazine are independent and honest.

In a hurry? If you don’t have much time using the links below to quickly find our favourite tarp shelters and acessories for you on Amazon and beyond. You can be assured we only choose the best products…

The best tarps we’ve found

OK, so tarps are just a sheet of waterproof material with some eyelets. Anything will do, but these top picks are reliable and come with the bits and pieces you’ll need.

We took a budget of between £30 and £150. This might seem a little high, but we aimed to find three-season options that would stand up to fairly regular use and would last for years and years. Bear in mind that three seasons in the UK won’t include late autumn or early spring – so essentially, we’re looking at May to October. We set a maximum weight of around 2,5kg.

So, read on for the best three-season sleeping bags. And if you need something extra warm, zoom right to the end for our three top four-season cold weather sleeping bags.

OUR TOP PICK

Unigear Hammock Rain Fly Tent Tarp 300cm x 300/400/500cm,Portable Lightweight Waterproof Windproof Snowproof Camping Shelter for Snow Sunshade for Camping Outdoor Travel

This Unigear tarp, including lines and stakes comes in three sizes. Everything you need in a handy bag, including six adjustable nylon ropes, six aluminium spikes, and a sack for the ropes.


Lomo 3m x 3m Tarp Bushcraft Bivi Basha

This is the Lomo 3m by 3m tarp (or basha as though bivvy experts will tell you). It comes with a good lot of reinforced tying points, pegs and guylines.

There are many ways to use a Tarp!

Tarp shelters


Michigan Fishing Umbrella with Top Tilt and Sides/Windows Brolly Shelter 75 Inch

Fishing umbrellas for shelter?

One of our readers told us they used a fishing brolly instead of a tarp. It’s a great tip. 

We like this storm brolly as it’s nice & tall and comes with a carry case.

ESSENTIAL CLIPS AND BUNGEES

30 x BALL BUNGEES TARPAULIN TARP BUNGEE CORD TRAMPOLINE

These bits and pieces will cost you under a tenner and will change your (camping) life! Use the bungee cords to secure tarps, awnings, bits of flapping tent or for 101 other uses. The green clips fasten on to canvas taps, tents and so on without damaging the fabric and give you more options for securing. 

We’ve used a combination to make sun shelters, to keep the rain off, to create a market stall backdrop, to cover stuff in a trailer…..and more.

Faithfull TARPCLIPS Instant Clip on Tarpaulin Eyelets (Pack of 4)

A few bits and pieces to make your tarp perfect

Tarp poles

Unigear Tarp Poles telescopic set of 2, Aluminum pole for tarp, tent, awning, camping, adjustable from 40cm-240cm

Providing you have the tarp clips, guyline and trees, it’s pretty easy to make yourself a shelter. But for extra versatility, add a few tarp poles like the Unigear above to your kit. This item was featured as one of our best camping gear.

Go for as light as possible and don’t forget to check how many eyelets your tarp has to accommodate the pole ends.

This Justcamp tent and tarp pole is fantastic for height (it’s telescopic up to 95 to 230cm), so it would work as the central pole in a lightweight bell tent or tipi.

Tent and tarp poles made to last

The Unigear tarp poles are the best we’ve found if you need something more packable than the ones mentioned above. They’ll give you between 40 and 240cm of height and are made with lightweight (800g in total) but strong aircraft aluminium. They also have some good bits of design to add strength and make it easier to set up. They come in a set of two.

Bungee Cords for guylines

MAGARROW 164ft /50m GuyLines Reflective Tent Rope Camping Cord 4mm with Guy Ropes Tensioners for Camping Hiking (Green)

Thanks to ex-para and now car-camper Tommy Graham for his tip on using stretch rope or bungee cords when tying down tarps and other shelters. Go for reflective or bright-coloured.

Smart Looprope

LoopRope 3' in Black with 2 LoopClips

The clever Looprope is great for hanging tools, kitchen kit and more when you’re camping. 

It’s also strong enough to tie down bikes, tarps and disobedient children (following strict safety guidelines, of course). Comes with strong carabiner clips.

The Best Bivvies

Rhino Valley Camping Tent, Waterproof Portable Lightweight Single Person Outdoor Instant Cabin Tent, Sun Shelter for Camping, Hiking, Riding, Trekking, Mountaineering, Green & Army Green

Sleep under your tarp in our favourite bivvy tents like my personal favourite, the simple and airy bivvy from Rhino Valley


Bargains Hut 4 5 6 8 10 Pole Windbreak Wooden Windbreaker Beach Camping Caravan Holiday Sun Screen Shelter Tall Wind Break (4 Poles (4ft High x 7ft Long))

Add some colour to your life and stop the wind from hitting you from all sides, the windbreaks come with a choice of five sizes, and have some fantastic reviews.

For more information check our our article Wild Camping With Minimal Kit – It’s Bivvy Tent Marvellous! also quite importantly you will need the toilet, check out our guide to Camping Toilets

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