How to build an emergency shelter with a tarp
02/09/2018 // Zoey Sky // Views

If someone hands you a tarp and asks you to build an emergency shelter, how sturdy will your construction be? (h/t to

When you find yourself in a survival scenario, finding shelter should be a priority. If your shelter is sturdy, you can stay safe, warm, and dry.

If you don't have a camping tent on hand, you can make do with a tarp, as long as you know how to make an emergency shelter using one.

Here's how you can use a tarp to make an emergency shelter:

  1. Locate a solid anchor point - Once you have your tarp, find a stable anchor point. Your best choice is the space between two closely placed trees, but you can also go with a large rock crevice. Before you set up your shelter, consider if your surroundings can help block out the wind and keep you warmer. Don't forget to settle in a space visible to rescue crews.
  2. Secure the tarp to the anchor points with rope - After you decide on the anchor points for your shelter, secure the tarp on both points with some rope. Fasten the rope tightly so your tarp won't fly away if strong winds blow. If you don't have any rope, find a long and solid stick that you can hang between the forks of two trees. The tarp can also be propped up on sturdy sticks stuck into the ground. Put the ends of the sticks through the metal rings on the tarp. If you don't have rope, stay in a location with at least one to three sides completely wind-blocked, so you have a smaller area to secure.
  3. Drape the tarp over some rope or sticks - Make sure that the tarp shelter is evenly secured over the rope, so it equally blocks the wind on both sides. Pull the ends of the tarp, so they equally reach the ground on both sides. For a tarp shelter propped up by sticks, secure the tarp to the sticks so that it is leaning downward by the entrance of the shelter and that it can deflect rain.
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  5. Tightly stake down the tarp - Here's where you try to make your emergency shelter as windproof as possible. With a rope, you can place some large sticks in the holes of the tarp that is on the ground. This will secure the bottom of the tarp close to the ground. Find some sticks with a knot or fork so they won't slip out of the holes. If there are open areas, cover them with leaves or foliage, so your shelter is tightly insulated. Get some branches and lean them over your doorway, so every opening in the emergency shelter is covered.

Other materials for a makeshift shelter

If you have a bug out bag (BOB), make sure to keep it stocked with some tools and materials like high-quality rope, a knife, a small ax, and a wood saw or machete. Use a poncho, thermal blankets, snow, or even local vegetation as survival shelter materials.

What if you don't have a tarp with you? You can rummage through your BOB or forage for the following materials for an emergency shelter:

  1. Bungee straps - Bungee straps can be used in place of some rope because it will allow for some movement, especially if it's a bit windy.
  2. Saplings or vegetation - Substitute saplings or vegetation if you don't have a tarp.
  3. Thermal blanket or poncho - Use these materials and follow the steps above if you don't have a tarp.

Since an emergency shelter might not be as warm as a camping tent, try and gather some materials so you can start a fire. Set it up a good distance away from your shelter so you can keep an eye on it, but make sure it's not too close, especially if you're using a thermal blanket. (Related: What’s in YOUR bug out bag? 10 must-have multipurpose survival tools.)

You can learn more about other uses for tarp and survival tips at

Sources include:

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