Tarp Shelters

Tarp Shelters are the quickest and easiest way to make a shelter. This means savings of energy and/or calories, which we all know are key factors in any survival situation. If you can carry one with you, you can’t beat the convenience.

Now, what’s the key to these shelters? Well, you should still follow the shelter criteria principles, along with the bedding, etc. But as for the best style, the lean-to design seems to be the quickest and best.

So what do you need? A standard blue tarp will work fine, but there are fancier styles like those with reflective material, tube styles, or even capes. Even a big trash bag will work. It would help if you also had some twine or parachute cord ready to go.

Knot tying is always a good skill for any outdoors person (I’ll have to do a future post on it), and it sure makes tying them easier, but you can about tie anything.

Here’s a good picture of different variations from Brad Bradley.

Picture of Tarp Shelters under Shelters in Wilderness Survival Skills

Now, how you don’t want to do it is like this one where it’s all open, and the wind can blow right through the bottom and the sides. True, it would stop the rain a little from above and beat nothing, but let’s learn how to do it better.

Now you can always combine the Dubree hut with the tarp, such as in this photo, where you build a frame and then cover it with a tarp. But the point of a tarp is quick and easy, so why not make it easier? Besides, if you build a Dubree hut, you might as well finish it because they’re way warmer with the insulating value that the roofing materials provide. Note: the bottom is open on this one too.

So here’s an example of a quick and easy one. A lean-to design with pine bows for a bed and a reflection fire keeps you warm. The key is a reflection fire, where the heat of the fire is reflected into the shelter. Because tarps have almost no insulating value, you almost always need a reflection fire to make them warm. All I did here was lay a few logs in a “V” in front of the shelter and build a fire in front of them. Man, was it warm. (I’ll have to do a future post on reflection fires also)

Now for the king of tarp shelters! Again the lean-to design, but with a few modifications. I built this one in the trees, with an overhanging tarp blocked on one side and a reflection fire in front. The roof helps to trap the heat from the fire, along with the fact that you can only enter from one side. I also built it in the trees, which creates a little micro-climate. Wow, this one was warm!

1 thought on “Tarp Shelters”

  1. I think the main thing about a tarp is not about conserving calories. Putting up a tarp is the same effort as some of the ultra-light one person tents. And although isolation wise tents do not add a lot they do keep you from wind, which in a tarp situation is often less the case. Ofcourse a tarp, including reflection fires etc. will add up to a new situation, but builing and maintaining a fire also costs a lot of energy. There are excellent light weight tarps for sale with loops to attache in any way you want. I would nog go for a big volume, heavy duty sheet. I like it because it is convenient and I like to be in the open air plus it is less conspicious (depending on the tarp). Also the possible contact with fire, whilst in you tarp area is nice.


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