Art of tarp

Sleeping under a tarpaulin under the stars guarantees a night more comfortable than in any type of tent.

The possibilities for camping with a tarpaulin are endless and, because this camping style requires no poles, the packing weight is low and packing size greatly reduced. Leaving more room for luxuries if you’re that way inclined.

Boat and tarp

A favourite camp style for sea kayakers uses the boat as the back wall (positioned perpendicular to the wind), wrapping the tarpaulin around the kayak hull and extending the sheet forward as a roof with its end edge supported by two paddles and guy ropes making the construction taught. Another pole positioned centrally increases headspace as required.

This puts the camp in the lee of the boat and often, the view out to sea in front of the widescreen opening. Forget Netflix entertainment, this is adventure unfolding on the doorstep.

Force 7

This design withstood an on-shore Force 7 under my watch and it was an extremely comfortable night. Just like listening to rain pitter-patter on a tin roof whilst tucked up at home, I slept soundly through the night occasionally to wake and smile as I listened to the fury of the storm.


One must be ready at any moment to reposition the aspect of the camp. There is a risk the wind direction shifts in the night, gets under the front side and the whole shelter acts like a windsock. I’m not sure how confident I would have felt is it was an offshore of the same strength – waking to see your home floating off in the Atlantic swell might be beyond the pale.

Safe as houses

The tent pegs should be the type with a flattened blade (looking more like the a spade than a skewer) as they offer more grip in loose soil and sandy beaches. Secure pegs mean tight lines meaning a secure home. Using luminous markers makes finding such things in the middle of the night easier if the wind direction shifts.

Modern tarp is lightweight however the word originates from early maritime days with the tarring of the palls (holding perishable goods) to make them repel water more efficiently.

Jack Tars

Sailors would also tar their over-clothes giving them the name Jack Tars (later becoming oilskins). Nowadays a tarp is more likely to be made from polyester coated with urethane but the effect is the same.

To ensure that you don’t awake in a puddle in the night, locate your camp away from run-off areas, on the flat and well above the high tide mark. It is also important to locate the camp away from areas under cliffs and, so as to minimize the hazard of winds, position the camp in less exposed areas.

Come rain…

However, if the rain does come, life is more comfortable under a tarp because the air moves and the sleeping area does not feel damp or muggy, as it would otherwise do in a tent.

…or shine

Likewise, it is cooler under a tarp in the heat because the air moves through the area whilst remaining in shade.

…life’s better under tarp

Whatsmore, nothing beats the view from an open sided tarp positioned on the cliffs facing out to sea.

So, whether you prefer an A-Frame to a Low Tetra or the Shade Sail to the Gunyah, there is probably a tarpaulin camp style to suit your needs. Indeed I know of 66 tarpaulin camp designs…

Watch this space for photos of all over time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s