Tarp Survival Shelters



Tarp survival shelters are one of the most easiest shelters to set up in a survival situation. One may not have the energy or tools to cut down branches to make the “Half-Cave” shelter or the “Fallen-Tree”shelter mentioned in previous post, “An Encyclopedia of Wilderness Survival Shelters” .

Because it’s easy and quick to set up we’re going to talk about how one can use a tarp survival shelter to protect yourself from the elements.

There are several different ways you can utilize a tarp. Some of these ways are designed to shelter more than one person and some are intended for just one person.

My friends from Dan’s Depot recently wrote made this video and wrote this article for this site:


The first method of setting up a tarp is solely meant to protect one person. Simply wrap the tarp around yourself to keep the elements off of you. This is a quick solution to getting out of the elements. However, this is one of those ways the tarp can only be used to protect one person and is not ideal in a group setting.


The second method is to use the tarp as a shelter is a fairly simplistic lean-to structure. This is a great choice if there are several people in a group who need shelter. Use rope to connect two corners of the tarp to trees that are set apart approximately the length of the tarp and stake down the backside. This setup is a great fire reflector as well. Meaning the heat from a fire placed in front of the shelter will be trapped inside the lean-to, thus keeping the occupants warm. It is important a fire reflector is placed on the opposite side of the fire as well.


The next two methods require a little more skill to get set up. You will need to be familiar with knot tying as well as how to stake a tarp. Both are pyramid-style designs and are ideal for holding several people and will protect the group from the elements on three sides. The first setup allows for a fire, while the second does not.


Lastly, is the common pup-tent style tarp setup, which will protect you from the wind on two sides. However, if you are not careful and set your tarp up in the wrong direction, you will end up creating a wind tunnel. Several people can fit in this setup, but a fire would be out of the question.


No matter which tarp setup you choose, always put some kind of barrier on the ground to protect yourself from the wet and cold. Cold, damp ground will zap the heat from your body and could potentially lower your core body temperature, which is a huge problem.


If it is raining, do not touch the sides of the tarp while you are huddling under it. The tarp acts a conduit for the water and you will get soaked. This is a downside to the first setup where you wrap the tarp around yourself.


Now that you know how useful and vital a tarp is to your survival, make sure you get one into your survival kit and as always, practice setting the tarp up.

Craig Caudill instructs about camping equipment at Dan’s Depot and offline at his Nature Reliance School.

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