How to Put a Tarp over a Tent

Tarp Set Up Over Camping Hammock

Whenever you pack for a camping trip, you should always be prepared for bad weather situations. Unfortunately, one of these situations could be rainfall.

While rain can be soothing to you, it might not be the case for your tent. The solution? A tarp. Not only will it protect you from the rain, but also the sun and windbreak.

Stick around to learn how to put a tarp over a tent.

Related: Looking for a new tent? Check out our reviews of the best 6 person tents.

1. Find a Spot Between Two Trees (Watch out for widowmakers!)

Before you get your tarpaulin out, you need to find the poles or trees you’ll hang them on. You can get creative here since there are numerous tarp styles you can use.

The most straightforward approach is the A-Frame-style tarp. You only need to locate a couple of poles or trees for this style, and it’ll still provide you with sufficient shelter.

Always remember to be wary of widowmakers. They’re more likely to snap on you and can, in the worst cases, fall on your campsite.

A plow point tarp structure set up for camping in a forest.
The Plough Point or arrow point tarp set up.

2. Get Your Ropes or Cords Out

Now it’s time to wrap your ropes or cords around the surrounding poles or trees. This’ll create a ridgeline. When you’re wrapping it up, try to set up the knot to be higher than you want it to be.

If you’re looking for a better weather-protection tarp plan, you can take advantage of an arrowhead-style tarp. You’ll be connecting two ends of your tarp to two trees or poles using your rope. You can then keep the opening propped up with a couple of sticks while the back lays low.

3. Center the Tarp

In this step, once your ropes or cords are connected to the poles, you just need to lay your tarp on top to provide your shelter.

When you’re putting it over, make sure to spread it out evenly to get the perfect shade. Don’t let one side dangle more than the other.

A-frame Tarp tent on a forest background.
The A-frame tarp tent. You can use a second tarpaulin as a groundsheet.

4. Secure One Side of the Tarp’s Corners

After your tarp is over your head, you’ll need to fasten it using a stake from one side first. As a general rule, you want to keep the back pegged down, the middle as the highest point, and the front low.

That being said, for the more simple A-Frame design, you just need to secure one side with a stake.

5. Pull the Tarp Taut

You should now have one side done. Go over to the other side of the tarp tent, and pull until it’s taut enough. That way, the rain will flow directly away from your shelter.

Once it’s stretched out, stake it down. It should almost look like another tent above your actual tent.

Placing a drip line on the suspension ropes is the best way to stop water flowing down them onto your hammock.
Most of the water will drip down the suspension ropes, so remember to place a drip line on them to guide the water to the ground.

6. Hammock Camping? Use Drip Lines and Water Breaks

Whether you’re backpacking around or simply enjoy hammock camping, rainwater can be challenging to avoid. This is because the hammock’s suspensions are usually exposed to the rainfall, while the tarp covers the middle.

The tarp alone won’t be able to prevent water from seeping into the hammock. That’s why using drip lines and water breaks will help you out the most in this situation. This can be as simple as finding some spare rope or shoe laces and tying them to the hammock’s suspensions.


What size tarp do you need for a rainfly?

You need the tarp to extend a foot on both ends of the rainfly. For instance, if the rainfly is 10 ft, make sure the tarp is at least 12 ft wide.

How do you keep a tarp from collecting water?

Make sure the tarp is taut and has doesn’t sag. You should also keep the tarp at an angle or slope to allow the rain to flow downward.

How to modify this setup for the wind?

You can use a wedge-style setup for wind protection.

Find out how to build a wedge style tarp setup

How to put a tarp up without trees?

Instead of trees, you can use poles to support your tarp. You’ll also need stakes to properly stretch out the tarp.

To Conclude

Your tarp will keep you sheltered from any harsh surrounding weather conditions. As a bonus, you’ll feel cozier inside your camping tent.

The best part is that you can choose whichever tarp style you want to suit your needs. That’s where you can let your creativity flow. Happy camping!

Next up: Have you had your tent for a while? It’s probably overdue for a re-waterproofing. Find out how to waterproof a tent floor.

Glossary: Parts of a tent

Leave a Comment