Setting Up a Tarp Shelter – 5 Quick Bushcraft Tips

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So you have just bought a new tarp shelter. You can not wait to get out for a night or two with it to try it out. Well, you may want to check out the info below before you do, more so if it’s your first time camping with a tarp.

There are some small things you may not think of straight away, and there are also some things you should take serious note of as they could be potentially life-threatening. 

Below we will go over a couple of points to consider when setting up a tarp shelter out in the woods to make sure it a safe and pleasant experience.

Give Your Tarp Shelter the Once Over

Have a good thorough look over all of your Bushcraft kit. The last thing you need while out and about is to find a problem with your kit, especially your tarp shelter; it’s the only thing keeping you dry at night.

So give it the once over before you leave home, check for any rips to the main body of your tarp and also check the tie-down points for signs of wear. 

Be sure to pack enough paracord to fully tie down your tarp in any configuration you may need to. 

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Last update on 2024-02-28 at 19:33 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Always carry some extra paracord with you as you do not know where you may need to string up a ridgeline too.

The same goes for all other kit. It’s best to know it’s all ok, and you have everything you need before you leave home. 

Check out the DD Hammocks 3×3 Tarp in the picture here

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Last update on 2024-02-28 at 22:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Widow Makers, What to Look for?

When you first get to camp, the first thing you should do before setting up your tarp shelter up anywhere is have a very careful look around.

you want to be looking up in the trees for any loose limbs or branches (widow makers) that may potentially come crashing down with a gust of wind.

you should also be checking the trees in the surrounding area are not dead standing just waiting to be blown over.

If you think the tallest tree around where you plan to set up your tarp is about 15m tall, I would check out a circle of 20 to 30m from your Tarp shelter for dead standing and loose branches. Remember they don’t fall where they stand!

If you do find some dead standing trees, it’s not worth the risk just set up somewhere else.

It’s All About the Weather

The first thing I would say is to check the weather, and not just for the day you plan to go camping.

If there have been showers the day before you go camping, that may affect you getting to camp. There may be rivers or streams in flood blocking the way to camp or the ground may be boggy, making it hard to carry kit into where you are going. 

The same thing applies when you are due to leave camp, so think ahead. And you may be thinking yea, but I only camp in summer.

This is the UK we can get 4 seasons in one day remember!

The direction of the tarp setup can determine if you have a comfortable stay in the woods or not. Take things into consideration like wind direction, rain, sun, and god forbid snow, hail. 

I can think of more pleasant things than wind howling down the length of your tarp, giving you zero protection from it.

Try to set up with the sides of your tarp shielding you from the worst of it. Whatever the weather your tarp is there to protect you from it so make use of it. 

Check out the weather over at the BBC

Can’t Tie Knots Tie Lots!

Practice this goes without saying really, you have to ask yourself where you would sooner be not knowing what to do with your tarp shelter at home or in the middle of nowhere. Possibly cold, wet, tired, and hungry, I know where I would sooner be!

There are only a few essential knots to set up a tarp. It’s a good idea to know how to tie them properly, so things don’t come crashing down in the middle of the night.

This theory applies to all kit, make sure you know how to use it 100% before going out wild camping.

Stuff Your Tarp Shelter in!

When packing away your tarp shelter, try not to fold it the same way every time as this will cause uniform creases in one spot, and over time they may fatigue and tear.

Instead, a stuff sack or dry bag is an excellent option.

You can cram it in there; no uniform creases will form this way as it’s different every time you pack it. Therefore, extending your tarp’s life and speeding up the pack away process; this is great when it’s pouring down, trust me! 

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Last update on 2024-02-28 at 19:33 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

In Summary

It’s all about getting out there and having a good time enjoying what we do, but we must make sure we do it safely.

Anyone can go out into the wilds, but if you don’t know some basic bushcraft, you may quickly become unstuck.

If it’s your first time out wild camping, try to find a friend or someone to go with who has done it before and has some experience. 

If you can just get one or two camps in with a friend just to learn the basics of tarp setup and some basic camp skills, you will feel a whole lot more confident about getting out there on your own!

Now you have your tarp up why not look at getting a campfire going.

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