There are many ways to set up a tarp depending on what you have to work with and what your needs are. I’d like to detail a method that I read about that the British use with their tarps, or “Basha’s”.
The Brits have been issuing tarps to their military for a long time and there are some really interesting ways they’ve come to with to set them up. With it being summer, I thought this would be a good one to share. This is a good hot weather tarp setup, with good ventilation on all sides. It’s also very low profile and allows entry and exit from any side. This makes it a good selection for a shelter in a non-permissive environment since you can roll out in any direction. By suspending the sides it also gives more coverage, allowing a moderately sized tarp to give coverage for two people and their gear.
On the day I set this up for these pictures, and another project, it was about 100 degrees out and after about 20 minutes it was noticeably cooler underneath. The breeze we had that day felt pretty nice coming in under the sides as well.
I’ll be using a surplus USMC MARPAT tarp in this article. They are good, heavy duty tarps, bridging the gap between a canvas tarp and a lightweight nylon tarp.
The materials you’ll need are about 10 feet of 1/4” elastic cord, about 25’ of 550 cord, 8 tent stakes, as well as your tarp. Start off by cutting the elastic cord into one foot lengths. Tie each one foot piece into a loop by just using an overhand knot on both ends. Push the loop though the grommet and pull the knot through into a Lark’s Head knot.
Next take your 550 cord and cut it into 8 pieces about 30” long. Burn the ends to melt them, then put overhand knots on each end. Put an end of the line loop on one end, such as an overhand loop or a Bowline. You want the loop to be about 3 inches across. Take the other end and make a bight, then pass it around the loop you made with elastic cord and make a Lark’s Head with it down against the knot in the elastic cord.
At this point you should have a small loop of elastic at each grommet, a shock absorber essentially, with a long piece of 550 cord on the end, a guy line.
There are two ways to support the tarp depending on what you have for trees and also which way you want it to face. One method is to use a low strung ridgeline between two trees and set the tarp up in an A-frame style. Students at The Fieldcraft Course get a lot of practice with this method.
The other method uses “Bivy poles”. These are short poles used to support the shelter in the absence of a ridgeline. This allows you to setup a shelter anywhere, whether there are trees or not. Bivy poles can be purchased or made, mine happen to be made, scavenged off of an old tent at a garage sale. I shortened them to be about the same length as from my knee to the ground. Knee height is about all the taller you want your shelter to be if you’re trying to keep a low profile. One thing Bivy poles should have is a point to go through the grommet on your shelter.
All that is required is to lay out the tarp on the ground with the corner guy lines extending out from the corners at about a 45 degree angle. Lightly stake the corners on one end, pulling them snug from each other. Then put the Bivy pole in on the center grommet and pull it’s associated guy line tight and stake it. Then repeat this process on the other end. Then nail down your side guy lines. At this point go back and adjust the ends to get them the way you want and you should be set.
If wanted you can reinforce the center of the tarp with some Gorilla tape and use an appropriate length stick to prop up the center. This helps support the tarp if you add any vegetation or other camouflage material later.