A parallax image

How to keep the rain off using a camping tarp kit

Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Jul 2015; updated Sept 2023.

We show you how easy it is to provide your family with additional shelter at the campsite using a tarp kit.

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 kit with all the essential bits.

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

Putting up a Tarp Shelter

YouTube Video Thumbnail

In our video above, 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

One of the main tarp poles

  • Unpack your tarp kit and assemble the tarp poles. Most tarp kits will come with two poles, just like this one from Easy Camp.
  • 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.
  • Place the spiky end of the tarp pole into one of the main eyelets.
  • Now peg out the two guylines 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).

  • Repeat for the other pole in the second main eyelet, opposite the first pole.
  • 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.
  • Finally, peg out the rest of the guylines.

How to put up the tarp on your own

If you don't have any little helpers, putting the tarp up is still possible.

  • Lay the tarp out on the ground where you want it to go.
  • Peg out the double guylines from each main pole eyelet, but leave some slack in the guy lines.
  • Insert a pole into an eyelet, and push the tarp up with the pole.

If your guylines are too tight, you may need to loosen them.

You should find enough tension to keep the pole upright, even if it is not completely vertical.

  • 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 at how much wind many tarps can take.

Delta Ground Anchors

Delta Ground Anchors

The weakest point is usually the tent pegs 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 gets very bad, you 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.  The pole could put a hole in your tent if you are very unlucky.

The solution is simple; you don't have to put the entire tarp away.

Simply do the reverse of the 'single-handed' method above:

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

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 covers all the contents under the tarp from the bad weather.

As soon as the weather passes, remove the additional tent pegs 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 with two poles (though some come with no poles).

You can create the basic tarp setup with two poles, but if you add a few more poles, you can create more headroom underneath.

See our picture below of our camp kitchen set-up as an example.

Creating a Camp Kitchen

Using a tarp to create a camp kitchen

If your tent came with a few poles to convert the door into a canopy, you could use those with your tarp.

You can also buy some additional tarp poles.  Click here to see tarp poles on Amazon.

Getting a Tarp Kit

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

View the Tarp Kit on the Easy Camp website
GOWTK Thumbs Up Award

If you've not yet got a tarp, getting the Easy Camp tarp kit is worth considering. It gets the thumbs up from us.

Reader's Setup

Photo Credit: Tim Miller

The Miller family have found that using the Easy Camp tarp gave them much-needed extra protection.

The tent they are using is the Coleman Rocky Mountain 5. They are also using the Landmann Tripod over the fire pit.

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

See Also