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How to pitch a tarp by yourself

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Sept 2023; updated Sept 2023.

Camping tarps are essential. But how do you pitch one if you are on your own? Follow this how-to guide!

Many experienced campers will tell you that a camping tarp is an essential item in your kit.

They provide a helpful shelter if it's wet (or very sunny) and are a great place to set up your camp kitchen.

But, without know-how and practice, you might get frustrated.
After all, if you don't have help, who will hold the tarp pole while you peg out the guylines?

Fortunately, there's a way to do this.

Follow this guide, and with a few practice attempts, you'll easily put up that essential camping shelter.

What you need

  • A camping tarp
  • 2 tarp poles (you can add more later)
  • 6 guy lines (more if you have them)
  • Pegs appropriate for the ground

You can get tarp kits with everything included, which I've used in this video.

Step 1 - Layout the Tarp

Lay out the tarp, and ensure guylines are leading out from each corner.

Peg those guylines in, but leave enough slack.

Step 2 - Push in the Tarp Pole

With one of your tarp poles, push it into the eyelet on what will be the apex, or ridgeline, of your tarp.

Well done if you judged the slack in the guylines correctly the first time!
However, if the pole is not held in place using the tension from the guylines, adjust the line's length.

Once the first pole is in, repeat for the pole at the other end of the tarp.

Step 3 - Peg out and adjust

Peg at least one line from the top of the pole so that the poles are pulled away from each other.

This creates a ridge along the top of the tarp.

It also provides the pole with four supports:

  • Two supports are from the lines on the tarp
  • One support is this new guyline from the pole
  • A final support is the tension along the ridge line from the opposite pole.

You'll need to adjust the guylines' tension, probably re-pegging a few and maybe even moving the poles.

If you have additional guylines, add those for even more stability.


That's a lot of words. Watch our video to see the steps.

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If it is windy, you might want to try this approach.

Instead of running guylines from the four corners of the tarp, run two guylines from the top of the tarp pole.

Then, push the pole into the tarp with those lines attached.

This is similar to the first approach but uses tension from these lines, rather than the tarp lines, to help hold the pole in place.

Although this method needs more practice, it is easier in the wind as you are not as reliant on the tarp, which could be blown around.

Once the poles are in place, you must run guylines from the tarp corners.


Hopefully, with the video and these diagrams, you'll get this mastered.

Diagram for pitching a tarp by yourself.

Practice Makes Perfect

You might not get this the first or even the second time around.

However, stick with it, and you'll master this pro-camping skill. 👍

See Also