Make a Tarp Tent

This ultralight mainstay transforms from an A-frame sleeping shelter to a lean-to kitchen in seconds. Tip: Practice on a paper model if you're new to sewing.

What You'll Need

  • One 10.5-by-10.5-foot square of 60- or 63-inch silicon-impregnated nylon, aka silnylon ($4-$11/yard; Can't find these dimensions? See our work-around at
  • Nylon thread ($2)
  • 1/2-inch grommet tool and grommets ($10)
  • 2.5 feet of 1.5-inch-wide flat nylon webbing (about $0.40/foot)
  • 2 Eureka! Guyline Kits ($7 each)
  • 1 tube SilFix glue ($6)

Reinforce Edges

1. Lay the nylon square matte-side-up on the floor. Apply a spot of glue every 6 inches along each edge.

2. Run a 10-foot line of nylon rope from the guyline kit down one edge. Fold the tarp's edge over a quarter inch so it covers the rope and stick it to the glue. Repeat for all sides.

3. Using a sewing machine, sew 1/8-inch stitches with an 1/8-inch seam, back-tacking (reversing and re-stitching the line at least three stitches in length) in both directions at every corner.

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Add Webbing

4. Cut ten 3-inch-long pieces of webbing. Cauterize the rough ends with a lighter.

5. To make grommet patches: Fold sections of webbing in half and place them over each tarp corner, with a flap above and below, sandwich-style. Sew webbing onto corners, back-tacking each edge.

6. Add another patch to one side of the tarp at the 5-foot mark. Repeat on the opposite edge. Add patches to the 2.5-foot and 7.5-foot marks on the remaining edges. (Use the sides with two patches to stake tarp to the ground.)

7. Punch a grommet through each patch.

Final cost: $35-$100

Final weight: 1 lb.

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Cheap Trick

When making tarps and other ultralight gear, check Wal-Mart bargain bins for rolls of silnylon at $1/yard.