How to Make a Sun Shelter Out of a Tarp

Written by jack hugo
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How to Make a Sun Shelter Out of a Tarp
A tarp can easily be made into a sun shelter. (camping sauvage image by piccaya from

Quickly convert a tarp into a sun shelter with a minimum of tools and labour. Most of the items required to make the transformation are a vital part of any camper's backpack, but the shelter can just as easily be built at the beach, the park, or in the backyard. Sun shelters can be a lifesaving device if you are lost in the wilderness, or merely a structure to keep rain and UV rays off your head at an outdoor picnic.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 1 tarp, minimum 8 feet by 10 feet, with grommet holes
  • 6 tent spikes
  • Duct tape
  • Nylon rope, 150 feet or more
  • 6 lengths of PVC pipe, 6 feet each (minimum)
  • Sharp knife or scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Shovel

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  1. 1

    Choose the most logical location for your shelter. It should be on relatively level ground and above any high-water marks if you are in the wilderness. Make certain that the highest point of the shelter will be facing the sun, thus providing the most shade and protection. Try to erect the shelter near trees, if possible, as they will serve as your upper tarp anchors.

  2. 2

    Lay the tarp flat on the ground. Cut a 30-foot piece of rope with a knife and tie one end to the highest point you can reach on a tree. If a tree is not available, cut a 10-foot piece of rope and tie the tops of three 6-foot-long sections of PVC pipe together so they form a tripod. Place at least five complete loops of duct tape around the top of the tripod to make it more sturdy. Dig holes for the legs of the tripod and secure them with rocks. Attach one end of the 30-foot rope to the top of the tripod.

  3. 3

    Run the 30-foot rope through the middle grommet on one side of the tarp, loop it, and run it through the grommet again. Run the rope under the tarp and repeat the same procedure through the middle grommet on the opposite side.

  4. 4

    Tie the end of the rope, again as high as you can reach, to a convenient tree or limb. If no tree is available, build a second tripod with three more lengths of PVC pipe, duct tape and another 10-foot length of rope. Secure the tripod as before and tie the rope near its top. The tarp will now hang over the rope, divided exactly down its middle.

  5. 5

    Cut six lengths of rope, each 10 feet long. Run the pieces of rope through the end and middle grommets on each side of the tarp. Secure them with a tight knot. Tie the end of each rope to a tent spike. Walk perpendicular to the tarp until the rope is tight. Place the end of the spike on the ground at an angle leaning away from the tarp. Pound it into the ground with a hammer. Repeat this process, alternating sides, with the remaining five tent spikes.

Tips and warnings

  • You can never have too much rope or too much duct tape. It is better to have extra than to run short.

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