How to build emergency tarp shelters

 There may come a time when you find yourself without shelter for one reason or another. There are several options but the two easiest forms of shelter are tarps and tents. This is not going to be a debate on whether a tent or tarp is better. This article will teach you a few easy to pitch tarp shelters and how to make a great survival tarp on the cheap.

The Tarp
Tarps can be made from any waterproof material. From canvas to tyvec all tarp materials have strengths and weaknesses but to keep things simple, affordable, and lightweight we will be using a standard 8x10 general purpose tarp available at any hardware store. In addition to the tarp I used a space blanket from SOL, they make a good quality emergency blanket that won't rip like cheaper ones.

The few things needed for this project
 Make a survival tarp
I wanted to come up with a tarp that was lightweight, waterproof, strong, easy to make, and would be able to reflect heat. This is what I came up with. Virtually anything that goes wrong can easily be fixed on the fly with duct tape. As I remember the whole project was maybe $20.

Step 1. Using white duct tape spell out "SOS HELP"
Step 2. Flip the emergency blanket so the silver side is up. Center it on the tarp

Step 3. Using duct tape attach the space blanket to the tarp. Don't use adhesive because you want to be able to remove the emergency blanket and attach it to the outside of the tarp for emergency signaling.

Step 4. Reinforce all the grommets and corners with several layers of Gorilla tape. My preference was gorilla tape because it is very thick and strong. You could use duct tape as well. All of the factory grommets will probably need to be reinforced and replaced.

Step 5. Install new grommets. I generally don't buy much coghlans gear but the grommet kit they have is actually decent quality.

Add three grommets to each corner. If you need to set up your shelter in high winds this will give you 3 times more strength in the corners.

The tarp rolls up to a nice small size. A tarp repair kit can be added to your bag along with the remaining grommets. An easier solution is to just bring some duct tape.
 Setting up tarp shelters

The internet is full of different tarp shelter designs. I choose to keep things simple so the several hundred different shelter types doesn't concern me much. There are two very easy shelters that take between five and ten minutes to pitch.
A frame. Super easy to set up as long as you have two attachment points. Run a rope between two trees then lay the tarp over the rope. Stake it out and your done. If it is very windy out this design can be lowered considerably.
Different options for tarp stakes.
Shelter when there are no trees around. No knots needed. 6 stakes and a 2.5 foot long branch is all it takes to have shelter. 

General Rules for tarp shelters
  • Pitch the shelter with the lowest point facing into the wind.
  • Dig a shallow trench around the shelter to help with condensation
  • Drip lines will help with condensation on a frame shelters
  • Use as many stakes as you can to keep everything secure
  • Don't start fires inside a tarp shelter


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  2. Tarpaulins have long been used for a wide range of agricultural and industrial applications; however polyfabricsare now being increasingly used in construction for the creation of decorative building facadesand linings andfor the creation of stylish tarp shelters. This article explores the modern uses of tarpaulins in construction

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