DIY Camping: 3 Simple Tarp Shelters

A rope, tarp, and axe are the three things I always bring to the campsite. Sure, I always try to bring the right gear with me and while they all come in handy individually, together, you could use them to create a shelter just about anywhere. In this article, I’ll share with you three simple ways to make a shelter just in case you find yourself in need of one. 

Before you start building any one of them, you should first make stakes. The easiest way is to find a recently downed tree and cut a few straight branches about the size of your pinky. You’ll need at least four. 

Lean-To Shelter

lean-to shelter

They call it a “lean-to shelter” because you’re essentially just leaning something against something else, typically a tree. It’s incredibly simple and only takes minutes to build. 


  • Find two long branches, preferably that are the same size and shape
  • Shave off any sharp points, so they don’t poke holes into your tarp 
  • Notch a “Y” with the sticks and prop them against the tree
  • And, tie the tarp to it, and then stake the tarp to the ground out

Shelter For Two 


If there are two or three people in your group, this is an easy way to cover up. If you have a picnic table, great, but if not, you could still do it. However, our instructions include a picnic table. 


  • Tie a corner of the tarp to the tree (above your head if you can reach it)
    • If you have a picnic table, push it against the tree and stand on it
  • Next, pull the tarp out (over the picnic table) and then stake it

One note about this, though, is that it’s not meant to create a large space. You’re just creating a small pocket to eat a meal with a few friends. If it’s angled right, it’s particularly effective for heavier rains.

The 10-Second Shelter

10-second shelter

Laugh all you want at this one, but I’ll tell you what: the 10-second shelter saved my gear more than once when the rain came unexpectedly. Most people never think to do this. If you had a bivy sack and a sleeping pad you could easily hunker down for the night under here. It also works great for that friend that had one too many beers and needs a place to crash. And it’s as simple as it looks. 


  • Throw your tarp over the picnic table and stake it into the ground

The last thing I want to throw out to you is always to make sure that you’re not setting up at a low point. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. If you step back a few yards it can be easier to see where the relative high point is.