Rope. Tarp. Axe.
These are three things that I always have with me when I’m camping. From taking a nap on the beach to keeping your gear dry, these items can be used together to do many useful things, including making tarp shelters. On this particular day out I had the Zippo 4-in-1 Woodsman with me, which I like, because I can pound, saw, and chop with one thing. It just makes things easier. I’ve also started to enjoy making tent stakes with the axe (needs to be rather sharp). I realize that tent stakes are cheap, and that they’re in my campbox somewhere. Fact is I just like using an axe, so I do whenever I can.
First things first: make a few stakes. Try to find a recently downed tree, and cut a few straight branches that are the size of your pinky (and no bigger). Make at least four.
Simple Lean-To Shelter
I make this one quite often because it’s stable and only takes a few minutes. Find a long branch (doesn’t have to straight) and shave off any sharp branches that could poke a hole in your tarp. Next notch the Y on a tree, tie the tarp to it, and stake it out. It makes a great gear shelter for the weekend.
Simple Shelter For Two
Here’s another easy one that will keep the sun and rain off 2-3 people. Pull the picnic table up to tree, stand on it, and tie one corner. Then you simply pull the tarp tight over the other side of the table and stake it. It’s not meant to create a large space. You’re just creating a small pocket to have a meal with a few friends. If it’s angled into the rain it’s particularly effective for heavier rains.
The 10 Second Shelter
Laugh all you want at this one! I’ll tell you what – it’s saved my gear more than once when the rain comes in unexpectedly. Most people never think to do this. If you had a bivy sack and a sleeping pad you could easily hunker down for the night under here. It also works great for that friend that had one too many beers and needs a place to crash.
Bonus tip: With both tarps and tents, always make sure that you’re not setting up in a low point. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. If you step back a few yards it can be easier to see where the relative high point is.