Do You Need a Tarp Over Your Tent?

If you are questioning do you need a tarp over your tent, the short answer is no, whilst a tarp isn’t completely necessary there are many excellent uses of tarp that might just come in handy, so they are definitely worth brining on your camping trip.

When it’s raining, camping can quickly turn into a nightmare. Wet clothes and sleeping bags, puddles and mud in the tent, and no way to get dry can be annoying at best and dangerous at worst.

Even the best tents out there need a little added support every now and then. To withstand a night-long downpour, you might want to throw a tarp over your tent.

Tarpaulins or tarps are large sheets of strong, flexible, waterproof material, often made out of heavy cloth or plastic. A big blue tarp is one of the gold standards when it comes to useful camping gear.

Tarps come in handy in all kinds of situations: from strengthening your storm protection to building a sunshade at base camp to stretching it out underneath your tent if you’re camping on saturated ground.

How do you pitch a tarp over your tent?

Taking a tarp along with you on a camping trip is a great way to fix bad situations. If it’s raining, stretch a tarp over your tent. If there’s a strong side wind, make a tarp windbreak. If it’s sunny and too hot, make a tarp sunshade. 

Without a tarp, you are way more exposed to the elements. If it’s nice weather, that’s no big deal. But if there’s one thing campers know, it’s that the weather is unpredictable. 

Along with your tarpaulin, it’s a good idea to take something to use to hang it up. Bungee cords are awesome for this purpose, as is strong string like paracord. 

Most tarps have holes punched around the edge called eyelets or grommets. They tend to be reinforced with metal or plastic washers to stop the tarp from tearing. A handful of tent pegs come in handy for pinning down tarp corners.

If you’re camping in a forest or near trees, you can string up your tarp in the low branches. Climbing trees is always fun on a camping trip, though, as always, be careful!

If you’re camping in the open, a great solution is to take along a spare tent pole. You want to keep most, if not all, of the tarp off your tent at all times. If the two surfaces come together, there’s a much higher risk of water ingress.

If there’s no way to keep your tarp off your tent, just chuck it over. A double layer of waterproof plastic is better than one, but it’s definitely not an ideal solution.

How do you set up a tarp canopy?

As well as rigging up a tent using trees or an extra tent pole, you can also get specifically designed tarp canopies.

Like tents, tarp canopies come in call shapes, sizes, and prices. There’s everything from basic, square tarps with plastic grommets to double-peaked, multi-poled behemoths.

The most common design is a simple A-frame tarp canopy. There’s usually a couple of end poles, a central pole, and lines to tie the corners down. 

Whether you’re using your own tarp or a tarp canopy, it’s essential to keep it taught rather than slack. Water accumulates in a slack tarp and you’ll get pooling.

Even the best tarps tend to start leaking when there’s too much water pooled on top. Too much water can actually split a tarp because of the added weight.

So, make sure you pull your tarp tight and secure it well using a combination of string, bungees, and tent pegs to pin it down.

How to put up a tarp without trees

There’s no doubt that stringing a tarp over your tent is way easier with trees. You can use low limbs and trunks to fix bungees and paracord.

However, campsites and spots aren’t always right at the foot of a few useful, well-branched trees. So, what to do if there’s no trees to use with your tarp? You’ll need a stick or pole, as well as a decent length of paracord and a few pegs.

You want to create a ridgeline with your tarp. This should be at least a foot above your tent and ensure the rain drains over the perimeter of your tent. 

The most basic way to put up a tarp without trees is with one stick or pole. Stand it up a foot or so in front of your tent door and drape the tarp over the top of your tent. Sticking the pole through a grommet is a great way to make sure it doesn’t slip.

Now, peg down three corners of the tarp: two parallel with your door and one directly back from the pole. Now, your tarp should make a triangle shape. 

You won’t get any side protection from this simple set up but it will provide plenty of overhead protection. It’s definitely the easiest, fastest way to erect a tarp over a tent without trees.

How do I protect my tent from rain?

Throwing a tarp up over your tent is a great way to add extra protection from rain to your camping setup.

If you know you’re going to be staying in the same spot for a while, it’s a great idea to erect tarps over your tent and cooking area. 

Having a roof over your head and four walls open to the elements is a great way to relax and enjoy nature, no matter what the weather is doing. 

All tents lose their waterproofing over time with repeated exposure to the sun, wind, and rain. Maintaining your tent, cleaning it, and storing it correctly helps prolong its waterproof capabilities. 

However, you can also re-waterproof your tent. There are plenty of washes, sprays, liquids, patches, and glues you can use to reinforce your tent’s water resistance.

If you have faulty or worn-out seams, you can use a patch, glue, seam sealers, or tape to close the gap. You can reinforce worn-out walls and floors with sprays and liquid coatings.

Re-waterproofing your tent every season or two is a great way to keep the rain out. Taking along a tarp and pitching it overhead is a great way to double down and ensure success. Being well prepared is not a bad thing when it comes to camping in the wilderness. 

Tarp over tent for rain

Erecting a tarp over a tent is a surefire way to reduce the headache of camping in the rain. Getting wet while camping can ruin your trip and even turn a cold night into an emergency situation.

Tarps are cheap, lightweight, easy to pack, and perfect for multiple situations. If you want to significantly improve your camping trips, start taking a tarp. 

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