Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
My DIY tarp: lighter, warmer, much cheaper than silnylon :)
Display Avatars Sort By:
Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
My DIY tarp: lighter, warmer, much cheaper than silnylon :) on 03/31/2011 13:55:20 MDT Print View

I have been meaning to make this DIY tarp for a while now. When I was younger I made a few that were similar, but did it while camping, not before so I could take my time and make it extra nice. They worked alright back in the day, but I wanted to make it better, and today I think I did just that. In total it cost me about 5 bucks, and took about an hour to make, and I was being very careful, you could probably do it in like 15 minutes and have a good but sloppy version of the same thing.

All it is: 4 garbage bags, 1 space blanket, and duct tape.

3m x 2.2m, 403g, waterproof, reflects heat, fits in a 1.5l ziplock bag.

I can't wait to test it out. Being broke sure forces you to be creative sometimes! Here are some pics:

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Clever on 03/31/2011 15:18:33 MDT Print View


I love seeing things made from everyday objects.

At first I didn't realize that the bags were opened up to create single layers. I was thinking the bags could be filled with leaves for insulation. Nevermind.


Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Nice on 03/31/2011 15:23:39 MDT Print View

Let's just hope it doesn't get windy!

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Nice on 03/31/2011 15:42:53 MDT Print View

I like 5 bucks

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: Nice on 03/31/2011 16:13:58 MDT Print View

Actually, I have survived out under tarps during pretty windy conditions. Including thunderstorms, rain, and snow. Being a hybrid bushcrafter/lightweight backpacker, I use my shelter skills with natural materials to adapt to the situation and conditions at hand.

The thunderstorm I slept through last summer, sure it was a more advanced natural shelter with a tarp on it. But about 3 weeks ago when I went out for an overnighter and slept through very windy conditions and woke up to around 3-4cm of snow, and did it using a trimmed hardware store bought tarp, plastic rope, sticks, and rocks:

To give you an idea of how windy it was, the trees above me were bumping into each other with some of the gusts.

So should it get windy when I try out my new tarp, I am sure I can adapt. It is not much thicker than the trimmed tarp I used last time.

Edited by PrimeZombie on 03/31/2011 16:20:38 MDT.

Jeff Brown
(northshorehc) - F

Locale: New England
tarp on 03/31/2011 17:37:23 MDT Print View

I think this project is very interesting. It would be great to hear how it goes.

Martha S.
(kitfox) - F
Five bucks is great on 03/31/2011 18:05:08 MDT Print View

That looks neat -- how do you stake it down and keep it from tearing in high winds? Or is it an emergency-only kinda thing?


Tyler H
(ctwnwood) - F

Locale: The Palouse
Tested on 03/31/2011 18:34:04 MDT Print View

Awesome idea but I too would like to see some photos of this pitched. I hope that doesn't mean I'm nominating myself...

Edited by ctwnwood on 03/31/2011 18:35:02 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: My DIY tarp: lighter, warmer, much cheaper than silnylon :) on 03/31/2011 19:29:52 MDT Print View

Ceasar! How many ounces is it?

gotcha. 14.21541

Nice job for cheap.

Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
hmmm... on 03/31/2011 19:37:23 MDT Print View

So how do you pitch it? And won't it just disintegrate in the wind?

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
re: everyone on 04/01/2011 03:02:21 MDT Print View

Thanks for the feedback everyone!

I am going to test it next weekend. I am going camping this weekend, but we are sleeping in an improvised shelter that is already built, so no need to bring any shelter with us :)

But next weekend I am going out and can bring my new de-lux El Cheapo shelter.

To get an idea of how I plan on pitching it, check out the pic I posted of my other tarp (see: above the green trimmed hardware store tarp) that I have used several times in March in below freezing, windy, typical southern Sweden weather for March. One night it got down to -8 C, and I had to break out my space blanket to put in my sleeping bag. 50 grams of great warmth, btw.

I will either tie a rope between two trees, or build an A-frame type improvised shelter to put the tarp on top. I prefer the rope and trees, but sometimes not possible or easy to find such a sweet spot to suit those needs.

To secure the tarp to the rope, I just get a big pinch of leaves or moss and make a button-tie on the tarp, no need for holes to tie it. To anchor it I use rocks and logs, and like I said before, it is surprisingly sturdy and wind proof. The shape of the shelter helps, and it is low to the ground too.

I will be sure to post field test pics in the future. Cool that there is an interest. I was half expecting to be made fun of. Which would be easy. I seem to be turning more and more into a hobo. My stove is made out of an old tin can, one of my water bottles is a recycled plastic bottle, now my shelter is a bunch of garbage bags?

Well, it's not like I am going to bring a plastic bottle of Jim Beam along with me at least....


Daniel Fosse
(magillagorilla) - F

Locale: Southwest Ohio
I don't get it on 04/01/2011 07:48:24 MDT Print View

Sorry, I don't get it. Is the goal to make a kit out of stuff around thehouse? If so, then that's a neat concept. If not then why wouldn't you just use a plastic drop cloth from the hardware store? You could eliminate all those seams. At least you could use packing tape for the seams. It's lighter and likely just as strong. In fact I would think the bond between the packing tape and plastic is stronger than duct tape.

Is the mylar reflector really efective? Why not make the entire tarp from a single section of mylar? I'm not bashing your idea, I'm genuinely curious about all these things.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: My DIY tarp: lighter, warmer, much cheaper than silnylon :) on 04/01/2011 14:19:14 MDT Print View

When I was hiking the PCT I bought a garbage bag for 25 cents from the lady at the Kracker Barrel in White's Pass. I used it for a pack cover. The next section of trail was extremely overgrown and I was constantly rubbing up on overgrown brush and small fir-trees growing into the trail. The bag never got so much as a scratch on it. They make those things so you can put yard waste and maybe even broken glass in them. I'll betcha a garbage bag shelter has the potential to be quite durable, so long as you can find an effective way to tie it off. The pebble in the corner method might work, but also the material is sort of slippery so it might just slip its way apart. Should be an interesting experiment. I'm looking forward to the report.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
My DIY tarp: lighter, warmer, much cheaper than silnylon :) on 04/01/2011 17:20:59 MDT Print View

That "cord in between trees" (pup tent style) bit I think is the way to do it because it distributes the stress all along the top and the bottom. If you set it up A frame (with sticks) or any of the typical tarp set ups (corner pull out) I would imagine it will tear the plastic apart pretty fast.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
update on 04/04/2011 04:53:21 MDT Print View

@ Daniel:

The goal was/is to make a lager and better tarp for my shelter for camping as a broke full time student and father. I can't afford silnylon or any of those other fancy tarps. For over a decade I have used the humble hardware store bought cheapo plastic tarp, and that was what I used on my last solo camping trip (see: above, the pic of the green shelter) and it worked great even though a mild snow storm.

The new shelter I built is bigger than my green tarp, lighter, and with the space blanket also adds extra warmth and insulation from wind/water should there be say, a small hole or rip in the garbage bag.

I actually had planned on making another shelter, this was just my first run before I could find the clear plastic. But I finally found the clear plastic and this week will be making the UL version of the Super Shelter. And yes the space blanket really is effective, I love the stuff. For inside sleeping bags and for shelters mainly, but can also be used for singaling too.

Check out this video to see the kind of shelter I aim to have:

And thanks for the tip on clear plastic tape, I made sure to pick some up! :)

@ Piper:

Thanks for the feedback, good to know that others have also used garbage bags and seen how tough they can be. I am conflicted about doing my shelter half garbage bag, half clear plastic or all clear plastic. The garbage bags are tougher and would provide some better shade, but the clear plastic would allow for more radiant heat to pass through like the sun or a campfire, plus it is also lighter I think.

We'll see, I am leaning towards doing an all clear plastic. I will test out both this coming weekend. I am going with my camping club from my university, so there will be some good guinea pigs to help test things out. I think the all garbage bag with a centered space blanket is good for a solo trip with either a small or no campfire for warmth (relying more on sleeping bag and clothing for warmth). But I often go out with groups and we have a big campfire, in which case the clear plastic with the space blanket on one side would be good for warmth. Plus you can see what is going on outside your shelter too.

@ Franco:

Good tips, thanks, but keep in mind that you can do improvised shelters with only one stick (a sturdy ridge pole). You just tie it to one tree and then have the other end lean on the ground or a log or something to form a triangle type shelter. Just make sure to trim the stick so that it won't damage the tarp. As a hybrid bushcrafter / lightweight backpacker, I always have either a good knife, a good axe, or both, so this is not a problem for me. But I could imagine that a more resourceful and die-hard UL person could find the right kind of rock and smooth out a ridge pole, with much more difficulty and time, however.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
another update on 04/06/2011 00:11:09 MDT Print View

Okay, as I said in my last post I got my hands on some clear plastic, and last night made another tarp with it and modified my other tarp by adding two squares to use as doors on each side.

With doors the garbage bag shelter is 502g.

I used space blanket to make doors for the new clear plastic shelter. Total it weighs 344g (including doors), measures 2.5 meters long and 2 meters wide.

Going with a group for any overnighter this weekend and will be sure to take pics. I will be sleeping in the clear plastic one near the campfire, a friend will be sleeping in the garbage bag one away from the fire.

In total I have yet to spend more than 10 bucks on everything. Granted, these tarps are more fragile than other ones. But for the price and time it takes to make, plus how light weight it is, I think it is a good option, even for a thru-hiker. Everyone has duct tape and plastic bags with them, so repairs are no problem on the trail. Then once you get into civilization again, all supermarkets have garbage bags and most hareware stores have clear plastic.

Looking forward to testing them out!

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
back from overnight test on 04/10/2011 09:06:34 MDT Print View

Got a chance to test out both of my shelters. A friend tested the garbage bag one away from the fire, and I tested my UL super shelter next to the fire.

The clear plastic and space blanket worked much better than I thought. I went for a simple tripod and ridge pole that I made sure to smooth down with my axe so it would not get ripped up.

It was about 2-3 degrees C at night, but getting inside I would guess it was around 15-17 degrees. I feel asleep on top of my sleeping bag and was very comfy. I woke up three hours later when the fire died and it had cooled down, but I just got inside my sleeping bag and slept very well. After I got out when I woke up at dawn, I did notice that it was warmer inside than outside, even without any fire, though not by much. There was no condensation at all.

I am definately going to use this shelter again. Cheap, easy to set up, water proof, and gets very warm with a fire near by. The down side is that to keep it warm you have to have a fire going all night. I guess if you pile on a bunch of thicker logs right before you go to sleep, that might work for a while.

My friend told me the garbage bag shelter was good. Easy to set up, warmer inside, and he said he was surprised how well it kept wind out. It did get a few small holes in it from logs he used to weigh the tarp down (he didn't have an axe). But no big deal, they were down low and can be easily fixed up with some duct tape.

Hope this helps! Let me know if anyone else tries this out.

Edited by PrimeZombie on 04/10/2011 09:11:25 MDT.

Hoot Filsinger
(filsinger) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
A simple alternative on 04/10/2011 10:22:00 MDT Print View

This is what I used in the 60's and 70's -- Very versatile.tubetent

Edited by filsinger on 04/10/2011 11:00:23 MDT.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: My DIY tarp: lighter, warmer, much cheaper than silnylon :) on 04/10/2011 11:21:45 MDT Print View

You may find some useful info in this thread.

It appears in your pitches there's very little tension, but if you do try one that way, you'll need to add appropriate tape to the edges to prevent stretching.

Justin Nelson
(jnelson871) - MLife

Locale: CA Bay Area
Re: back from overnight test on 04/10/2011 12:00:19 MDT Print View

Absolutely brilliant! I really like the Mylar insert idea. I will have to keep that in mind if I decide to take a shot at making my own tarp.