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.

Tarp and VW Campervan
A tarp is simple and versatile!

Latest update: October 2020

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.

Unigear tarps

This Unigear £25 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 tarps

This is the Lomo 3m by 3m tarp (or basha as though bivvy experts will tell you). It costs around £25 and comes with a good lot of reinforced tying points, pegs and guylines.


Tarp shelters

And here are a few tarps in real-life use!

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 the Zebco storm brolly as it’s very tall (around £65 with side panels)

Essential clips and bungees

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.

A few bits and pieces to make your tarp perfect

Tarp poles

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 Noorsk above to your kit.

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

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

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

Sleep under your tarp in our favourite bivvy tents like my personal favourite, the simple and airy Aquaquest West Coast.

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