Stay dry camping.

This is the best rain tarp design I have found in my years of camping.

Step 1: Tarp Design

Picture of Tarp Design
The main concept of this tarp design is to have a tight support rope under the tarp between opposite corners. The tarp needs to be attached to the center support rope but it should not be pulling on the tarp when the center support rope is pulled tight. This is done by tying a 1 foot loops in the rope where the tarp corners will be. The loops are tied through the corner grommets and adjusted for tension. The center support rope should be tied tight at 10 - 12 feet above the ground to give you plenty of head room. The other two hanging corners can then be tied with ropes and pulled out. The corner ropes should be lower than the center rope and tied with little tension.
scud772 months ago

If using poles... would you put the corner grommets of the tarp through the top of the poles, or do the loops and have the poles out wider than the tarp? thanks!

This design puts the main tension load onto the rope instead of the tarp, which lets you pull the rope very tight without damaging the tarp; don't put the tarp grommets onto the poles.

TuckerLatham11 months ago

Thanks for the information! I'm intrigued, but I have a few questions.

First, I'm sure it's because I don't know anything (!) about knots, but how do the loops help to pull the tarp taut?

Also, what kind of rope do you suggest? I've always used clothesline; though flexible, it's kind on the trees, cheap, and strong.

Finally, how well does this setup handle wind?

Thanks again!!

jaaaaayyyyy (author)  TuckerLatham10 months ago

The diagonal design requires only 3 ropes. Only the rope under the tarp needs to be strong. I have used cheap string to hold up the sides on occasion since there is little tension. I like to use yellow polypropylene rope for the center rope because it does not stretch very much.

I use simple loop knot that that does not require the end of the rope. Wikipedia calls it a Overhand Loop. Getting the loop in the right place is critical to the design.


All bets are off in high wind. This thing is like a sail. Bungy cords may help a bit but most of my tarps have missing grommets at the corners.

Is there a large net advantage to laying the tarp diagonal as opposed to one edge running the length of the main rope? (I assume you would make several loops to be able to attach the tarp in multiple places)

Is that Algonquin park
jaaaaayyyyy (author)  The_Epic_Juan1 year ago
Yes Opalescent Lake in Algonquin. We did the Barron Canyon loop.

I'll use this design next weekend when I go camping with my friends. We're only bringing food, water, knife, rope , and a tarp. This will help a lot, thanks.

I like the connector idea. I've used emt conduits, and couldn't come up with a connector i trusted, so I left them long, (10, 8, and 6 ft lengths). I used the "S" hooks from the rubber bungy cords, hooked into the tarp grommet, then into the top of the emt. The ropes then held the whole assembly down.
I also used a oak "stick" 1/2" x 3/4" x 6" with a hole at each end, (diameter of the rope used), to act as a tensioner.
Bigfoot49093 years ago
Very nice pole rig, will make this weekend!!!
kd4uwk3 years ago
Thanks This is a big Help Like it alot
owenlavery4 years ago
I gave this instructable over this weekend a chance and it worked out great. I have one question though. When attaching the tarp to the two "loops" what knots are you utilizing and are they tensioning?
jaaaaayyyyy (author)  owenlavery4 years ago
I take the loops, put them though the grommets at the corners and then tie them to the center support line with a couple half hitches. The tarp should just be sitting on the center support rope without being pulled. The loops are not used to put tension on the tarp just hold it in place. The loops can be adjusted to take pressure off the tarp if the loop knots are not positioned perfectly on the center support rope. I like to use polypropylene rope for the center support rope because it stretches very little.
swizzle5 years ago
If water running down the main line is a problem then just tie to short pieces of jute twine, para cord or whatever around the main line just under the tarp. Leave a little bit hanging. The water will run down the main line and hit the knot and drip off there. Swiz
redsuit096 years ago
this really is a great design... i have been trying to figure out a way to hang a tarp above me when i go backpacking with hammocks
abadfart6 years ago
this would be great for cooking
Northwest Profile #60 Blue tarp camper.
espdp26 years ago
You'd be surprised how dry you can stay, even in a downpour. My light fighter buddies still use this method in the Army. Not perfect, but you can't carry perfect on your back anyways. We weathered many storms, and only got soaked because water was running on the ground. This is the also hot ticket for a hammock cover. Good sleeping.
shmacky267 years ago
There's no way you could stay dry under there, especially in a hard rain. Water would run down the rope from both sides and then drip at the lowest point, which in this case is dead in the middle of the inside of the test. This would be an ideal set up it the ropes sloped away from the tent and there was some sort of peak in the middle.
shmacky26: Your right about rain running down the center rope. The loop knot just outside the tarp on the center line act as a water stop(not 100% but a lot). Gravity lets most of the rain drip off the rope outside the tarp. Shock cord at all corners helps a lot. But camping in a thunderstorm is for extremist...
jaaaaayyyyy (author)  den82466 years ago
I have never had a problem with water dripping from the support rope. It should be very tight and not have much of a low point. I like to use polypropylene rope for the support rope because it doesn't stretch much.
lwooly7 years ago
Thanks a million...single mom of two had no problems putting this up. I just scratched the design on paper before we left for camping. I did have to climb 2 trees though!!!!
summer 08 062.jpg
reiver7 years ago
We tried your design this past weekend, and it worked great! It was very fast and simple to set up, which worked out well because we were only 30 minutes ahead of the rain.
Yup the best way to put up a tarp shelter by far. I have one set up on my property for when it rains. It has been dry for almost a year now.
Awesome, I want to try this with the instant hammock. It would be cool if we could get a "Camping" tag for Instructables.
I have been sifting through camping instructables and adding them to my group, the Happy Campers Club. Check it out if you like, but i agree there should be a Camping tag...

The instant hammock, by the way, is an awesome idea. I have one in my bedroom. If you like it check out my Hammocking instructable, How To Backpack Better With A Hammock. Aslo, feel free to join the group, the more the merrier!
jaaaaayyyyy (author) 7 years ago
I added some pictures from Grundy Lake Provincial Park. The tarp over the tent saved us in the middle of the night.
shmacky267 years ago
Inside of the "tent", not test.
Dog_Man8 years ago
I got lost in step 1. I don't understand about the loops. Does the rope that runs between the two trees in the drawing run all the way under the tarp or is it two ropes tied to the gormets? Also, if it is really windy would bungy cords between the gormets and ropes help prevent rips and blowing down?
jaaaaayyyyy (author)  Dog_Man8 years ago
I posted a new pic that shows the center rope with loops. The center rope is one rope that runs all the way under the tarp. The loops tie onto the corner grommets. I haven't had much luck with high wind and tarps. Shock cords may help.
Thanks Jaaaaayyyyy. I was thinking of the shock cords on the other 2 ropes. As a former scoutmaster, we found they helped on tents.
This is great!
dchall88 years ago
Now if you hang your Instant Hammock from the same trees at the same location, you have a nice rainproof place to sleep. You might want to lower the height of both the hammock and rain fly if you don't trust yourself in a hammock.

I see you use my favorite pink polyester rope. I have easily used 1,000 feet of that in the past 20 years. It is great because it never stretches like ALL nylon rope does.

I'm having trouble understanding step 5. Can you add pictures or diagrams?

Can you use a larger PVC pipe (1.25 inch) and a regular connector instead of the heavy metal and welding up a connector?
jaaaaayyyyy (author)  dchall88 years ago
I will have more pictures to add after some trips this summer. Poles need to be straight and stiff so PVC, Fiberglass, wood, steel will all work. I don't bother with poles unless I drive to the site.
in step 5 he is attaching the rope to a stick then throwing the stick over branch, a branch whihc is about the height we wants the rope then ties off the rope
dont correct me on spelling it pisses me off
Robotrix8 years ago
this is what my dad came up with too. We do it with a huge tarp and it's our kitchen shelter. Best way to make a roof and easy to add walls too!
we hang rocks off of ours if it starts to puddle.
Awesome... a well-written (and well-modeled) useful idea.