Tarps are an affordable and extremely versatile supply for camping and enjoying the outdoors. From offering a bit of shade on a sunny afternoon to functioning as a lightweight shelter to replace a traditional tent, tarps can be hung in a variety of ways to give you shelter from the sun and other elements.
Here are the 4 best ways to hang a tarp for shade:
- Hang a tarp without knots.
- Hang a tarp in an A-frame shape.
- Hang a tarp overhead.
- Hang a tarp with corner poles.
These four different ways depend on what kind of shade and protection you’re looking to achieve. In the rest of this article, we’ll dive deeper into each of these methods and offer you step-by-step tips for your tarp shade needs.
1. Hang a Tarp Without Knots
If you’re out in nature and looking to set up a tarp to give your camping area a bit of shade, you can use this quick and easy knot-free solution.
Here are the steps to follow to hang a tarp without knots:
- Locate two nearby trees or posts at an appropriate distance apart. Tie a thin rope from one tree or post to the other. You should tie this rope at the approximate level you want the top of your tarp to hang at. This main line of rope is referred to as the ridgeline, which you shouldn’t tie too tightly, as you’ll need a bit of slack in order to complete the process.
- Pinch the rope together to form a small loop (at a point where the edge of your tarp will go). Take this small rope loop and insert it through one of your tarp’s grommets (the metal rings along the edge of the tarp).
- Grab a sturdy twig from your surroundings and insert it through the loop to secure it in place. When pulled snugly, this should secure your tarp to the string without using any knots at all.
- Continue this process at the other corner of the tarp. Insert another rope loop through the grommet and secure it with a strong stick. After both grommets are secured, the rope should be fairly taut between the two trees or posts. Now, you have the top of your tarp securely fastened. If you aren’t in a windy area, this might be sufficient for you.
- Make sure the tarp is more secure by grabbing another two strong, sturdy sticks. You can use these at stakes, inserting them through the bottom grommets into the earth below.
- Secure the bottom of your tarp at an angle to provide optimal protection from the elements. You can adjust where you secure the bottom grommets in order to have the ideal setup for you and your environment.
This method is handy because it’s very easy to make adjustments. If you want to adjust the placement of your tarp as the day goes on and the sun changes positions, it’s quite easy to do so. You can easily slide your tarp along the rope without fumbling with any knots.
If you choose two trees or posts that are further apart and have a longer rope, you’ll have a lot of room to adjust the placement of your tarp throughout the day.
For a complete demonstration of this method, you can check out this informative video on YouTube:
2. Hang a Tarp in an A-Frame Shape
The shape of an A-Frame is exactly as the name implies: a tarp is draped over a line to form two sides that resemble the sides of a capital letter A. This is a very protective shape for your tarp and is great for shade as well as protection from wind and rain.
For this setup, you’ll need a few different pieces of rope to get the job done. Prepare these materials before setting up your A-Frame:
- A single piece of rope that’s about 100 feet long (approximately 30 meters) for your ridgeline. This may seem excessively long, but that extra length will come in handy if you’re in an open space with trees that are quite far apart.
- Four pieces of rope that are approximately 15 feet each (or around 5 meters) to secure each of the corners of your tarp. These pieces of rope don’t need to be as thick as the ridgeline piece since they’ll not be responsible for carrying so much weight.
- Four ground stakes to secure the corner of your tarp. These can be the small metal stakes commonly used for tents, or you may be able to create your own from strong sticks or branches you find around your camping area.
Once you have your materials gathered, you’re ready to set up your tarp.
Here are the steps to follow to hang a tarp in the shape of an A-frame:
- Secure your ridgeline. Run your long rope across your camping area, securing it to two available trees at each end of the rope. Make sure the rope is tight enough to hold the weight of the tarp without sagging, and hang it as high as you can from both of the trees. The rope will naturally be pulled down in the middle, where the tarp will be located. The higher you can tie it on each end will make for an overall higher setup when completed.
- Hang your tarp over the ridgeline. If you’re looking to cover a picnic table or any particular spot, make sure you arrange the tarp accordingly. This also makes a great covering for a hammock, so you might try to find the proper configuration of trees for both your hammock and your shade tarp.
- Take your ground stakes and your four pieces of shorter rope. Use the rope to connect the grommets of your tarp to the ground stakes. Make sure the rope is taut. The longer the rope and the further out your place the stakes, the more gentle the slope of the A-Frame will be.
- Tighten up the ropes and bring the ground stakes in closer if you’re more concerned with rain protection instead of shade. This will make the slope of the A-Frame more pronounced and will give you better protection from the elements.
If you like the idea of the A-Frame but aren’t sure it’ll provide enough room for your outdoor activities, the next option will give a more spacious setup.
3. Hang a Tarp Overhead
If you’re looking to improve upon the A-Frame shape and give a bit more space beneath your tarp, there’s a simple step you can take once you’ve set up the A-Frame. An overhead tarp is ideal if you’re battling against the mid-day sun and need direct protection.
This setup is also nice because you can easily set up a foldable table and chairs underneath if you’re car camping or just enjoying an afternoon outside. This gives one of the most comfortable shade options out of the different setups we’re exploring today.
Here’s how to hang a tarp overhead:
- Follow the instructions for setting up your tarp as an A-Frame.
- Prop up each corner of your tarp using four long stakes. You can create these yourself from long branches or sticks around your camping area. The length of these stakes depends on the desired height for your tarp. A good estimate is for them to be a few inches taller than you, which would allow you to walk freely under the tarp without worrying about bumping your head.
- Add these larger stakes under each corner of the tarp and ease them into a straight up and down position. You can adjust the rope and ground stakes to make sure they’re tight enough to hold tension without preventing the addition of the taller stakes.
To see the full tutorial on how to set up your tarp overhead for the perfect amount of shade, you can check out this video on Youtube:
4. Hang a Tarp With Corner Poles
If you want to hang your tarp for shade but don’t have any trees around, you can still manage to set up your tarp effectively. For this scenario, you’ll want to hang your tarp using four corner poles.
If you have tent poles, you may be able to use them for this setup. If you don’t have any supplies on hand, you can gather some long branches or sticks from the surrounding area to use as your corner poles.
Here’s how you can hang a tarp with corner poles:
- Secure four poles in the ground at each corner of the tarp. You can use a bit of rope to secure each corner grommet to the top of the pole.
- Set up the poles so that they’re perpendicular to the ground and closely fastened to the corners of the tarp.
- Fasten everything securely since there’s no ridgeline to prevent a drooping or sagging shade tarp.
- Place this pole in the center of your shade tarp if you’re looking for a little extra support and have access to one longer pole. Since it’s taller than the others, it’ll push the center of your tarp up higher than the corners. This gives your tarp a bit more shape and also comes in handy if you experience a light drizzle in addition to sun protection.
3 Tips for a Successful Camping Trip
Now we have a few great ways to set up your shade tarp for an afternoon or a weekend outdoors. In order to get the most out of your upcoming trip, let’s keep in mind these three tips to help you camp successfully.
1. Secure the Ridgeline
If you’re struggling to tie your rope high up on a nearby tree, you’re in luck–this tip is just for you. You can easily take a rock or a big chunk of wood and tie the end of your rope around it. Then, take the rock or wood and throw it over a large branch of your desired tree.
This should help you get the rope where you need it, even if you’re not quite tall enough. Now, you can untie the rock and continue securing the rope to serve as your ridgeline.
2. Be Mindful of the Firepit
If you’re setting up your tarp for shade but are considering leaving it up overnight, make sure you take note of where the firepit is. It can come in handy if the tarp covers the firepit, making sure no rain or drizzle will interfere with your campfire.
However, you’ll also need to make sure your tarp isn’t close enough to where the fire will burn to become a hazard. Tarps could melt or otherwise create a dangerous situation if too close to the flames of your campfire.
It can be hard to move a predetermined firepit, so it’s best to plan ahead when it comes to your tarp’s placement.
3. Know Your Knots
Before you head out to the wilderness, it can be handy to know a few basic knots for tying your shade tarp. Learning a few basic quick-release knots is a handy skill that can help you secure your tarp effectively. These will keep your ropes and stakes from slipping out of pace, causing your tarp to fall or come loose.
You can get to work practicing these basic knots on your own at home. Take a bit of rope and try it out with this step-by-step tutorial on YouTube:
A shade tarp is a great idea if you plan on camping or spending an afternoon outside in the sun. Whether you’re looking to create shade over a picnic table, a hammock, or just in a clearing, you can use a tarp to block the sun and enjoy your time outside.
Remember to always gather supplies beforehand, including rope of different lengths, tent poles, and ground stakes to help you with your shade setup.
Thanks for reading!
For more, check out The 3 Best Tent Brands for Long-Term Camping or Survival.
Hey, I’m Jim, and I’m the author of this website. I have been teaching people a wide variety of survivalism topics for over five years and have a lifetime of experience fishing, camping, general survivalism, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!