How to keep the rain off using a camping tarp kit

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I think every camper should have a tarp in their kit bag.

Even if you go the DIY route, knowing how to put a tarp up can be very useful, and a big part of keeping dry when you are camping.

Fortunately you can get a tarp kits with all the essential bits in.

We show you how below so you too can keep dry when camping.

Putting up a Tarp Shelter

In our video below I show you how to put up a tarp shelter.

I’m using the Easy Camp tarp kit in this video, but the same principles apply regardless of what tarp kit you have.

So to recap:

One of the main tarp poles
  1. Unpack your tarp kit and assemble the tarp poles. Most tarp kits will come with two poles, just like this one from Easy Camp.
  2. Locate one of the main eyelets in the tarp. This is usually where there are two guy lines attached, and if it is a good tarp kit like this one, there will be extra reinforcement on the tarp material.
  3. Place the spiky end of the tarp pole into one of the main eye lets.
  4. Now peg out the two guy lines from that point. The guy lines go in opposite directions, creating an A shape from the main pole.
    A little helper to hold up the pole during this stage is very useful. You can do it single handed though (see below).
  5. Repeat for the other pole in the second main eyelet, which should be opposite the first pole.
  6. The poles should now support themselves as each pole has three points of tension on them: two from each of their guy lines and tension through the tarp from the opposite pole.
  7. Finally, peg out the rest of the guy lines.

How to put up the tarp on your own

If you don’t have any little helpers, it’s still possible to put the tarp up.

  1. Lay the tarp out on the ground where you want it to go.
  2. Peg out the double guy lines from each of the main pole eyelets but leave some slack in the guy lines.
  3. Get a pole, insert into an eyelet, and push the tarp up with the pole.
    If your guy lines are too tight you may need to loosen them.
    You should find there’s enough tension to keep the pole upright, even if it is not completely vertical.
  4. Repeat for the other side of the tarp, then adjust the guy lines to give the correct tension.

This second method you may find easier than the first.

Try it out and see which method you prefer.

Dealing with tarps when it gets windy

You’ll be surprised about how much wind many of these tarps can take.

Delta Ground Anchors
The weakest point is usually the tent pegs you get in the tarp kit. Delta Ground Anchors or steel Rock Pegs are better in windy conditions (click here to read about tent pegs).

However, if the weather does get very bad, you will want to get the tarp down. This is especially important if your tarp is next to your tent as shown in the picture above.

Why? Well if the wind gets underneath your tarp and a tarp pole comes out, the pole could fall onto your tent.  If you are very unlucky, the pole could put a hole in your tent.

The solution is very simple though, and you don’t have to put the entire tarp away.

Simply do the reverse of the ‘single handed’ method above:

  1. Take out the tarp poles and lower the tarp to the ground.
  2. Peg the tarp to the ground at the eyelets.

Try to keep it tight to the ground to avoid the wind getting underneath.

If you had something like a table under the tarp you can often keep it there. The tarp then simply covers all the contents that was under the tarp from the bad weather.

As soon as the weather passes, remove the additional tent pegs that were holding the tarp close to the ground, and re-insert the tent poles, just like the ‘single handed’ method above.

Creating more space under your tarp

Most tarp kits come supplied with two poles (though some come with no poles).

Creating a Camp Kitchen
With two poles you can create the basic tarp setup, but if you add a few more poles you can create more headroom underneath.

See our picture to the right of our camp kitchen set-up as an example.

Additional Tarp Poles
If your tent came with a few poles to convert the tent’s door into a canopy then you could use those with your tarp.

You can also buy some additional tarp poles. (Click here to find some tarp poles)

Getting a Tarp Kit

We found the Easy Camp tarp kit we used in this demonstration to be very good, and nothing to really fault it.

GOWTK Thumbs Up AwardIf you’ve not yet got a tarp, getting the Easy Camp tarp kit is worth considering. It gets the thumbs up from us.

Below you can find some similar tarp kits.

Easy Camp Tarp 3 x 3 m High Peak Tarp 1 High Peak Tarp 2 DD Tarp XL
Buyer Reviews
BrandEasy CampHigh PeakHigh PeakDD Hammocks
Height (cm)200
Hydrostatic Head (mm)3000
Length (cm)300300400350
Material190T 100% polyester PU coated. Fire Retardant190T polyester with PU coating
Poles Supplied220
Weight (kg)3.53.9
Width (cm)300300400450
Units: Height, Length and Weight are in cm; Weight is in kg
Prices and review ratings last updated on August 14, 2015
Using the High Peak Tarp 2 as a kitchen shelter when camping
Click here if you wish to read our review of the High Peak Tarp 2 kit.

DIY Camping Tarp Tips Pin
Still not convinced you need to get a tarp for camping?

Click here for a few more tips on using a tarp and why it may help you keep dry.

Disclaimer: We’d like to thank Easy Camp for providing a tarp kit so we could create this guide to putting up a tarp.
All opinions are our own.

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Gav Grayston
Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) ....but unfortunately spends too much time behind a computer keyboard than he would like! Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.
Gav Grayston


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