Tarps and Tents: Can You Put a Tarpaulin over a Tent?

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For many new campers, understanding the relationship of the tarp and tent can be tricky. Why would you need to but shelter above the shelter? For all intents (pun completely intended) and purposes, a tent should be more than enough after all.

Well, believe it or not, for many seasoned campers and outdoorsy persons, tarps are indispensable accessories that are a must in your camping arsenal. Tarps can offer added protection, extra insulation, and even expand the living space of your campsite.

In this article, let’s seek to answer the question: Can you put a tarp over a tent and, if you can, why?

Can You Put a Tarp Over a Tent?

The short, sweet answer: Yes! Attaching a tarp above the tent, either mounted on poles or tied to trees, provides additional protection form rain, falling debris, and other elements that can make your camping experience uncomfortable.

Even more than that, tarps can also be placed under the tent and serve a variety of other functions – all of which adds convenience, safety, and comfort to your outdoor adventures.

How to Put a Tarp Over a Tent?

There are quite a number of ways to set up a tarpaulin over your tent, while there is also a few things to consider before you do. The wind direction, for instance, is an important factor to take into account. The location of the trees or poles too is another consideration.

With trees, ensure the spacing is large enough to accommodate the tent, camp fire, and seats underneath. The tarp must be hoisted on an angle that’s sure to let the rain run off one side and not accumulate at the center.

When using a tarp without trees, poles, ropes and pegs will also be needed. One way to go about it is by using two poles, positioned vertically, a rope running on their tops like a wash line, and the tarp draped over to form an elongated triangle – this is the easiest tarpaulin covering to make. Ensure that the tarp is fastened to the ground with strong pegs and bungee cords – this serves as windbreakers and sure defense against rainfall.

Other Uses:

  • In cases where the ground is wet and/or muddy, the tent can be pitched over the tarp to keep it dry and retain more warmth.
  • A tarp covering can also serve as a canopy that allows the building of camp fire even when raining. It also lets you cook and lounge about safe from rainfall or intense heat.
  • When done correctly, the tarp can serve as a quick, impromptu shelter by itself.
  • The tarpaulin and windbreaker serves as great insulation that can retain heat from lamps or a fire in cold weather.

Can you use a tarp as a tent?

If for some reason, none of this has worked, you can actually use a tarp as a tent! While it won’t really have walls, you can hang a rope (which we will talk about in a moment) between two trees, and then lay the tarp over top and pull it tight.

This will give you a structure that keeps you out of the rain, but also open to the elements to enjoy the forest for what it is.

What gear you will need?

Are you ready to start using a tarp to cover up your tent on your next camping getaway? Here are some of the supplies that you are going to need to make sure you are successful.

Before we get too far, you have to make sure you have your tarp, this one right here is actually built specifically for camping, and is lightweight while staying a great price.

For staking the tarp to the ground if needed, these camping stakes will be an option you should keep on you during your camping, as it will make it easy to keep your tarp from flying away.

Finally, always have a good supply of rope, like these ones, as you will find you won’t only need it for the tarp, but also tons of other things on your campsite.

Frequently Asked Questions

How thick should a tarp be over a tent?

While tarps that are under a tent should be thicker, a tarp that goes on top of a tent will likely need to be a bit thinner. This is so that it doesn’t bend or fall from whatever is supporting it. Tarps can actually be rather heavy, and you don’t want it to fall during the night.

What is the purpose of a tarp under a tent?

Tarps under tents provide an extra layer of protection away from moisture, sticks, rocks, and anything else that the ground holds.

Can you put a tarp directly on top of a tent?

If you aren’t able to put a tarp in the air somehow, you can easily put a thinner tarp directly on top of the tent. You will want to make sure it is a lighter tarp so that it doesn’t affect the integrity of your tent itself. The tarp should also be staked down to make sure it doesn’t fly away.


The tarpaulin is truly a camping essential. Simple and unassuming as though it may seem, it can serve a variety of functions that can make your next camping trip all the more pleasurable. We hope this article was able to give you enough information to induce you to make the tarp a part of your next camping set up. Happy Camping!