Good luck trying to get three (3) or more people in today’s environment to agree on anything. A beautiful sunny day … no, we need rain. Don’t even start on politics. Therefore, I’ll assume you will grant me some slack on the issue of creating shelters from a tarp.
That blue, comes in various colors, tarp that we use to throw over our firewood in order to keep it dry, or drape over our prized antique auto to keep the leaves from staining it, that very tarp could prove essential in helping insure you stay alive in a survival situation. Let’s look at some variations of shelter building with a tarp.
Wedge Tarp Tent
This type of shelter is very good for windy conditions, specifically when the wind is blowing constantly from the same direction. The wedge design provides an aerodynamic shape which disperses the wind and rain away from the main opening. The installation will require at least 5 tie down pegs, of course the more the merrier.
To build the wedge tarp shelter, simply stake down two corners of the tarp into the wind (not opposing corners). Then tie up a line to the center of the opposite side of the tarp. Tie the remaining two corners down toward the ground. Use more cord and of a less steep angle for open wings and better ventilation. Tie the last corners down sharply for the best weatherproofing.
This design is great for keeping rain off you and the campfire, as well as offering shade from a blistering hot sun. Obviously the size of the tarp dictates the area size to be protected, but the rope tie downs can be as long as necessary. To hang the wing tarp tie up opposing corners of a tarp, two up high and two in lower positions. Be sure the tie downs are secure as a sudden gust of wind will make the tarp react like a ship’s sail, billowing and breaking loose if not secured taunt.
The Tarp Burrito
Let me begin by saying this is not only one of my least favorite shelter, but I’d say use as a last resort. Why? Because you will be relatively tightly wrapped inside the tarp there will be little to no ventilation, which causes moisture to form. And as we all know moisture permeating a sleeping bag is not good. However, there will be situations which require you to use this type of protection so let’s learn how to build it.
It looks easy, just roll up in it, but that’s a sure fire method to insure discomfort. Lay the tarp out in the area you are going to sleep in. Fold one side over @ 1/3 of the way, straighten, then fold again, in the same direction. This will form a loosely rolled tarp where the seam is on the bottom. Tuck one end of the tarp underneath itself, closing the end, then carefully shove your sleeping bag into the center of the roll.
Depending on the length of the tarp, if there is quite a bit of excess length, you can place rocks on the folded under portion to insure it stays closed. The configuration is complete, all seams are under you which keeps them pinned down by your body weight and you have a flap for an opening which you can close or leave open depending on conditions.
Chances are you probably built a primitive tee pee as a child. It’s the original American home built by Native Americans, originally covered with animal hides, then replaced by canvas.
There are many traditional ways to build a tee-pee, remember it housed entire families, but for a quick field shelter we’ll stay simple. Use rope or twine to bundle a few (3 or 4) straight poles together, lacking twine, use forked sticks to lock together. Place other poles in a circle around the main supports. Pull the tarp or other covering into place, and tie down well. Try to size the framework so that you tarp covers it completely.
Practical tip: Make the tarp come together so that you have a door flap, which can be closed in cold or wet weather; or opened for ventilation and easy egress.
A-Frame Tarp Shelter
The A-frame is designed to offer the greatest protection against rain and wind when secured close to the ground, or still protect against rain but allow ventilation when constructed higher off the ground.
An A-frame goes up fast. Simply secure cordage, rope, twine, or a long straight stick between two trees. Throw the tarp over the support, center, secure to the ground and bingo. You’re done.
This type of shelter originated with desert cultures, particularly in Northern Africa and the Middle East, dating back 100’s of years. Due to the recent warfare in these areas American military includes it in their survival training.
To get started with this shelter, you’ll need two tarps and several dozen feet of rope. Locate a natural indention in the ground or dig your own low spot. Lay one of your tarps out over the low spot and drive stakes at each corner of the tarp.
Secure the second tarp tightly to tie down stakes, leaving one foot or two of air space between the two tarps. The idea is to keep you insulated from the heat radiating from the ground and shaded from the direct sunlight overhead. The temperature differences between under and outside the tent could be 20 – 30 degrees F. An incredible difference.
This is an excellent and comfortable survival tool, but I only mention it in case you want to tinker with constructing one. I say that because it requires you to tie knots that the normal person lacks the knowledge to perform.
This is a quick way to improvise a hammock to get off the ground in wet or bug-infested environments. Use an 8 x 10 tarp and some ¼ inch braided nylon rope. Start out with one of the long sides of the tarp and roll it up halfway across the entire tarp. Then roll up the other long side to meet the first, so that the whole thing looks like a 10-foot long, two roll bundle. Now, tie a sheet bend securely to each end of the tarp, leaving 15 feet or so of rope on each end to tie to your trees. Select leg-thick or thicker trees about 10 feet apart, and securely tie the end of each rope to a tree, as high as you can reach.
Wrap around the tree twice for good grip on the bark, and then use two half hitches, with an extra hitch for added security. Tie to the trees high up to compensate for the settling of the hammock as the knots cinch down. You can tie up another tarp as an “A” frame between the two trees that the hammock hangs from to give yourself a roof.
Survival Tip: To help minimize critters from walking down your tie lines to you, spray each cord with bug repellent. To insure snakes are discouraged soak rags in kerosene and tie to the lines, which will also ward off bugs. The smell may not be pleasant, but snakes in the hammock are worse. (In my opinion anyway)
**** Be sure to not sleep too close to an open flame if using this method. Obviously kerosene is highly flammable.
Is the plastic tarp the most important tool in your survival kit? No. But it plays its part in the overall strategy of surviving in a crisis situation.