How to Put A Tarp Over A Tent? (Complete Guide)

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If you are one of those whose vacation starts right when the others return to work, congratulations! Your time has finally come. If your spiritual retreat is a place surrounded by greenery and mountains in which to camp, you will need a tarp, especially in rainy seasons.

When you want to travel in the rainy season, an ultralight tarp is undoubtedly the cheapest and easiest option to practice. Have you ever thought about a tarp? It is not widely known in our area, but this accessory can be right for us on many occasions. Let’s try to find out why and how to put a tarp over a tent!

What Is the Tarp?

The tarp is simply a waterproof sheet that can be fixed with tree cords or to our trekking poles.

A tarp is an essential accessory to keep the tent dry. Not only that; a tarp will save your tent from direct sunlight and protect you from heat.

Moreover, it is a suitable replacement for the tent when you need to travel very light, and you are sure you have points to attach it to. Among other things, there are also “new” design tarps that look a lot like Native American teepee, and that need only one pole to be mounted and are very simple.

But why should we decide to prefer this sheet over a standard trekking tent? There are many valid reasons, and I’ve listed them here.

How to Put A Tarp Over A Tent?

It is complicated to answer this question because there are many ways to mount a tarp: to decide how to do it you have to take into consideration the terrain you are in, the time you have available, and the material you have at hand.

Today we are going to look at the most common way to set up a cloth with a ridgeline, and we are going to look at the various knots tat it takes to tension the tarp out properly.

First, try to make ridgeline in the first three using the event knot. Pass the working end around your hand, bringing it under the ridgeline. You will have a loop where your fingers are. Grab the working end with the fingers and pull it tight. That’s an event knot. Pull it to the tree.

On the other end, make an adjustable knot to tension the ridgeline. This knot is also called adjustable coiling hitch. This is the loose working end. Pass the loose working end underneath the ridgeline and loop it around. Pull the excess rope and loop again (maybe four times). On the final loop, don’t just pass it around the ridgeline but pass over both pieces of rope creating a square. Through the square pass the loose working end and pull it tight. The coiled rope will pinch the ridgeline. The beauty of this knot is that it is adjustable.

The ridgeline will depend on whether you are sleeping on the floor or a hammock.

Tensioning the rest of the tarp is easy. Use trees around or wooden pegs on the ground. You can use the adjustable coiling hitch to loosen or tighten the tarp whereas use the event knot on the other side of the tarp. If you follow these steps, you should be able to put a tarp over a tent easily.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Tarp

At this point, we want to analyze what a waterproof tarpaulin means for a camping plot. The advantages and disadvantages (or instead of the risks) of having a tarp on the camping site.


Let’s start with the good, which is partly what will make us buy a waterproof canvas and not an umbrella, for example.

  • The main one: the price.

Waterproof tarps are cheap. This aspect is essential since the investment of other camping accessories can be very expensive. For example, a small tarp that would serve as a waterproof fabric on top of the tent would cost us around $ 2.40 (for example for a 2×3 meter one).

  • The second: its function.

A camping tarp must be waterproof. It is one of the essential functions for campers since in camping there are good days with sun and not so good days with rain, hail or even snow. So that it is a waterproof canvas and that we can place it on the tent, trailer tent, caravan; It is more than advisable. It is essential. The good thing, all the polyethylene canvases have a waterproof laminated double layer, from the most straightforward and cheapest to the most resistant and most expensive. Therefore, it is essential to emphasize that: thickness or grammage is not directly related to impermeability.

  • We continue with another advantage of a camping awning: protection.

A tarp protects us. We have already seen that from rain and water too, but it also protects our tent or the material that we have on the plot. And we ask ourselves, what does a tarp protect from? First of all, from the sun. Prevents the rays of the sun from wearing down the tarps of the tent, the plastics of the caravan, secondly, from the rain (enemy number 1), dust and dirt, from fallen branches, pine cones or even from balloons that we can fall from the neighbor.

  • Other advantages: multipurpose

These “camping tarps” do not have the primary function since they are multipurpose. Do we want to cover the car since we will have it parked for a few weeks without removing it? We use a waterproof tarp. Do we want to cover the firewood for a barbecue when it rains? We use a waterproof tarp. Do we want privacy and seek to create a false wall between two plots? We use a raffia canvas. Do we want to cover the sun so that it does not hit us directly? White canvas will be the best option. Do we want to avoid being impregnated with the resin of the trees? We use a waterproof tarp. And so, we can conclude that it is a multipurpose canvas.

  • Ease of positioning

If you use a tarp in combination with a hammock, you don’t have to worry about what’s under your roof, at ground level: you can place it all on steep or stony surfaces. The important thing is to have held, and you will have protection guaranteed from the elements.

  • Reduced weight and space

Being a simple sheet treated with waterproofing, the tarp is very light and above all, compact. I don’t think there are any cover lighter than any tarp. This is why this accommodation is the favorite of those with a bit of experience and trekking for several days wanting to travel in rains.

  • Maximum livability

Compared to any classic tent, the tarp is very livable. It has no poles, has no height limits and in most cases allows you to light a fire (or a simple stove) even when it rains. It can accommodate more people with comfort, and if you like the outdoor life, it’s ideal!

  • Another essential advantage: ease of assembly

Buying a tarp is the first step. Then you have to mount it or place it wherever you want. It seems like a complicated task, but it is not. What makes it extremely easy to install are the eyelets (or washers, etc.). The round holes that are located on the entire side, usually one meter apart and are made of aluminium or reinforced plastic. Through these eyelets, we can place the tarp very quickly and grab it with extensible fixings, fixed rope awnings or even with simple flanges. Here there is no fixed rule, and everyone can place it with whatever they have on hand. However, it is essential to fix the canvas correctly since the wind or rain does not complicate our campaign. It is also important to emphasize that in each corner there is an eyelet,

  • We finish with: the measurements of a camper canvas

All the advantages exposed in the previous points will only be advantages as long as we find a waterproof canvas to the extent that we need. Fortunately, this aspect can be an advantage and not a disadvantage. The size range is from 1.5 x 5 meters to 10×15 meters.


Everything that exists in this world has disadvantages, although some less than others. Let’s start with those that we recommend keeping our readers in mind, following our philosophy of guiding the purchase and helping the client to make the best decision.

  • First disadvantage: the wind is the worst enemy of the tarp

As we are in front of some lightweight and easy to assemble tarps, it is highly recommended to use as many grommets as possible to tie the awning well. The main reason is the risk of tearing that the canvas can suffer when a strong gust of wind comes to visit us. The behavior of the wind is to look for all those holes that there are, pushing the canvas and applying pressure with the grommets. So, the more eyelets we have attached, the less chance it will come off.

  • Second, hail is the second enemy of tarps.

Storms are complicated environmental factors to avoid. As such, they sometimes forcefully and violently discharge and turn the entire campsite upside down. If the shower stays in the water, there is no problem. If the storm stays in small hail, it will still hold up the tarp. If the hail begins to be considerable, we fear that those thinner or lighter tarps may suffer excellent wear. However, there is a small trick that is to loosen the canvas a little so that the impact of the stone when falling is less. It seems obvious, right? So, the solution is to buy a canvas as thick as possible, with the increase in cost.

  • To finish: the useful life of canvas is complicated to predict

Many camper clients ask us: How long will the awning last? Do you guarantee a good duration? Here we want to be clear and transparent, and we return the following questions: What will you use the canvas for? Will you put it on and take it off often? According to the answer to these questions, we will recommend a tarp of more or less thickness, with which we improve the years of the useful life of the product. The solution always chooses a grammage higher than what one would choose for a specific utility. And it is not about always taking the most expensive, and there are thicker and cheaper awnings!

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Do I Have to Put A Tarp Under the Tent?

No matter the size of your tent, a tent almost always has a groundsheet. This ground mat is attached to your tent, and you can zip or unzip it or put it in your tent. To protect this floor mat from dirt, you can opt for an additional floor mat under your tent. But when do you opt for a tarp under the tent?

A tarp is available in different materials and sizes. They are mostly used over the tent. But some are used as floor mat such as

disposable plastic. A large piece of plastic for a small price, which you throw away after use. Opinions on the use of a tarp are divided. We have listed the pros and cons of using a tarp:

Benefits Disadvantages
Tarpaulin under the tent
  • The underside of the tent stays clean
  • The tent is better protected against sharp objects in the grass
  • If the tarpaulin is not correctly positioned, water can remain between the tent and the tarpaulin
  • Grass suffocates faster
  • Bad for the environment (if you use plastic)
No tarpaulin under the tent


  • Better for the environment
  •  No extra baggage
  • More cleaning at the end of your vacation
  • Risk of damage/wear to the tent mat


We think we have said everything about the tarp. If you find this article helpful, please do share it with your friends on social media.

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