How to Put A Tarp Over A Tent?

Camping trips are fun. And with the right camping gear, they’re all the more exciting. A tarp is one such gear. 

We’ve all heard of people who had to cut their trip short due to unprecedented weather and their camps being infiltrated with rainwater. But there is a simple, low-cost solution to this. Using an overhead tarp can save you from all the unwelcomed rains and water leakage. It is easy to set up, has low maintenance, and is a great option for beginners! 

If you’re wondering how to put a tarp over a tent, keep reading to find out!

Can You Put A Tarp Over Your Tent?

First things first, can you do it? Well, you can. But the question is, should you?

Most people have a mixed opinion about using an overhead tarp for rain cover. While it is a good option for beginners and those of you who are on a budget. It provides protection against rainwater leakage and works as a decent shelter. 

But for those of you who use rather expensive camping gear and tents, you most likely don’t need a tarp, nor should you use one. The friction caused between the tarp and the outer layer of your tent may wear out the waterproof layer faster than usual. 

How to Put A Tarp Over A Tent?

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at how to put a tarp over a tent!  

Overhead tarps are often fixed over trees or grounded poles that are slightly taller than your tent’s height. There are many ways you could set them up, and each might suit one better than the other. 

Fixing a tarp over your tent can be pretty easy if you have all the equipment and the right setup. Let’s look at what you’ll be needing! 

Setting up an A-frame Tarp

With an A-frame tarp, you get great rain protection and plenty of space for your gear. You can either set it up over your tent or directly put it over your hammocks or open camping areas. For this, you’ll need to do the following. 

  1. First, you’ll need to look for a good setup location. Look for parallel trees that are at such a distance from each other that it is comfortable enough to fit a tent. 
  2. Next, go ahead and set up your tent. 
  3. For the tarp, you’ll need to set up a ridgeline between the two trees and create enough tension so that it will hold the tarp’s weight and not fall over. 
  4. Some tarps come with reinforced loops along the edges and on the top. If that is the case with your tarp, hook the loops into your ridgeline and secure the top.
  5. If your tarp does not have any loops, you can simply let the tarp rest over your ridgeline and secure the ends by fastening them. 
  6. Next, you need to secure all four ends of your tarp to the ground. 
  7. For further space, you can raise the height of your ridgeline and fit the ends of your tarp to the ground using extensions. 
  8. And you’re done!

Setting up a wind shed 

A wind shed, as the name suggests, is a great use for your tarp for when you don’t expect any rain but there’s plenty of wind around you. This way, you close one end of the tarp to the ground and leave one open. 

  1. To set up a win shed tarp, first set up your tent. 
  2. Next, secure the ridgeline between the two trees and place the tarp over it in such a way that 1/4th of it is hanging over one side of the ridgeline. Secure this part to the ground using extensions. 
  3. Next, consider the other, larger part of your tarp on the other side of the ridgeline. Secure this tightly to the ground. 
  4. Secure your ridgeline so it’s tight and firm.
  5. And you’re done! 

Setting up a C-fly tarp

With a C-fly tarp, you get wind as well as rain protection! 

  1. How this works is, you need to take about a quarter of your tarp and stake it flat on the ground. This provides an underground cover that is great for rain protection and keeping you dry!
  2. Then, lift the tarp and place it over the ridgeline. 
  3. You’ll first need to tense and guy out the ridgeline and then secure the edges of the tarp that is hanging over it. 

While I’m aware that this method does sound overly complicated and confusing, I promise you it isn’t! You can refer to this video for clarification! 

How to Set Up a Tarp Over a Tent Without Trees

Suppose you’re camping at a location that does not have enough trees or suppose there are too many there to set up a tent amongst them, what do you do? 

Well, thankfully, you don’t always need trees to secure your tarp! You can do it just as well, if not better, using trekking poles! 

All you will need to do is the following: 

  1. First, secure the trekking poles to the ground by creating a little tension. Make sure they’re not moving around too much and can hold the weight of your tarp.
  2. You can adjust the height of your poles to fit the height of the tent. Secure both at equal height.
  3. Create a ridgeline like you normally would with the help of your trekking poles. Tighten it so it’s firm.
  4. Place your tarp over the ridgeline and ground it like you normally would. 

An important thing to note here is that you need to use trekking poles that are sturdy and heavy-duty. Good-quality trekking poles will ensure that your tarp stays put even under heavy rain and snowstorms. After all, you don’t want your tarp flying around in the wind just because your trekking poles couldn’t hold it together! 

I recommend the TrailBuddy Trekking Poles on amazon! They’re light, sturdy, heavy-duty, and come with various multi-purpose tools! 

Should You Put A Tarp Under Your Tent?

Sure, we now know how to put a tarp over a tent. But what about under the tent? Is that a good idea? 

Putting a tarp under your tent, or using it as a footprint, can have multiple benefits. Here are some of them. 

  • It protects the floor of your tent against any rocks, twigs, branches, or anything that could make it tear.
  • It provides rain protection from underneath the ground. No more rainwater seeping into your tent from the ground!
  • It prevents your tent from sliding due to the muddy soil from all the water.
  • It acts as an extra insulation layer that protects you against cold. 
  • And it keeps your storage dry! 

How to Choose The Right Tarp?

Choosing a tarp for your trip, in between the thousands of options in the market, can be quite an intimidating task. And there is so much variety! Tarps range from the cheapest price tag to the most expensive ones, and with features that are both useful and unnecessary at times. 

So how do you decide? 

When buying tarps, remember to look for these 3 important features. 

  • Weight and Size

The weight and size of your tarp matter a lot when making a buying decision. Look for lightweight but heavy-duty tarps that can hold up heavy rain and wind. The size of your tarp should ideally be an inch smaller than your tent.

You may also like: How to Live in a Tent Long Term

  • Waterproof ability and Quality

Professional camping tarps are a lot different than your average plastic sheets of tarp. They are high quality and waterproof. While you don’t want to spend a hefty amount on your tarp, it is probably best to avoid the store-bought cheap quality tarps too.

  • Ease of use and Fabric

Your tarps can have multiple features, but some of the most important ones include reinforced loops and welded edges. You might also want to choose a tarp that is made out of either polyethylene, canvas, or vinyl. 

If you’re looking for a tarp that could fit your budget, I recommend the REDCAMP Waterproof Camping Tarp! It is comparatively cheaper, but provides great quality and maximum comfort!


How do you hang a tarp for rain camping?

Hanging a tarp for rain camping is pretty simple. You need to form an A-line tarp using a ridgeline, secured around two trees or trekking poles. 

What is the best size tarp for camping?

Ideally, get a 10-by-10 tarp for four people and a 6-by-8 tarp for two. Most tarps are slightly smaller than the size described in their product description so this should be perfect for you!

Can I use a tarp instead of a footprint?

Yes! In fact, most people do prefer to use a tarp instead of a footprint due to its durability and price difference. And since tarps typically come in a larger than needed size, you can tailor it to make two footprints from one!

What is the best tarp material?

Look for polyethylene tarps due to their durability and long-lasting ability. You can also buy industry standards vinyl tarp for even better quality!

Final Thoughts

Now that you know everything about tarps, right from buying the right one to set them up, it’s time you put this knowledge to use! And do not worry, you will never have to cut short a camping trip again! 

If you have any further questions, feel free to ask them!

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