How To Make a Tarp Canopy (5 Easy Steps)

Learn about making an outdoor canopy with a tarp in this helpful guide.
How To Make Tarp Canopy

Guides, Tents

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If you like to spend time outside you may need some extra help protecting yourself from weather conditions. Making a canopy can offer a shady spot and keep the hot sun off your skin, in addition to sheltering you from rain.

Read this guide to learn how to make a tarp canopy in five easy steps and find out what you’ll need to do it.

What You Need for Your Tarp Canopy

Before you make your DIY outdoor canopy with a tarp, you’ll need a few materials:

  • Tarp with grommets in each corner of any size, depending on your preference
  • Four tent poles about 6–8 feet tall
  • One tent pole that’s about two feet taller than the other four to be placed in the center of your canopy
  • Sturdy tent stakes that work in the terrain you’re located on
  • Four nylon ropes or guylines

Once you have all of these materials, you’ll be ready to build your own tarp canopy. Keep reading for the five steps to putting it up.

How To Make a Canopy with a Tarp

Step 1: Lay Out the Tarp

First, you’ll need to clear your area where you plan to stand up your tarp canopy—whether that’s on a sandy beach, on a grassy field, or at your campsite. Make sure the ground around you is mostly flat and there aren’t any large branches or sticks in your way.

Lay out the tarp to make sure you have enough room and to prepare the tarp for the next steps.

Step 2: Attach Poles to Corners

Use rope or extra guylines to tie the corner grommets to each of the four tent poles. This will ensure the tarp stays attached to the poles that will act as the tarp canopy’s legs. Once you have each pole tied securely to the corners, you’ll be ready to stand up the canopy.

Step 3: Lift the Tarp and Place Poles

Ask friends or family members to help you with this step if possible. Pick up each pole and walk them in until the tarp is slightly hanging loose. Dig each pole into the ground as much as possible so they stay in place while you finish the rest of the setup.

Step 4: Place a Center Pole

Walk under the tarp with the taller pole and stand it up in the center to give the canopy a peak in the middle. This will help keep the canopy standing and ensure that rain or any debris slides off from the top, rather than making the tarp cave in from the center.

Step 5: Secure the Canopy with Ropes

Once you have the center pole stood up in the middle, your canopy should be generally stable. However, to ensure its stability, you’ll need to use your ropes and tent stakes. 

Attach the guylines to the top of the tent poles where they connect to the tarp corners, and stretch them to the ground, digging them into the dirt or sand with tent stakes.

Reasons To Make a Tent Canopy

DIY tarp canopies can take the place of a camping tent, shelter, or store-bought canopy tent, and they’re considerably cheaper, since you primarily only need to purchase poles, a tarp, and tent stakes.

We recommend trying out our methods for a tarp canopy if you’re looking for an easy shady shelter from weather conditions and are shopping on a budget. In fact, you could even get by without buying tent poles—long sticks may do the trick just fine.

If you’re roughing it in the wilderness, replacing your sleeping shelter with this homemade option could be a rewarding experience on your backpacking or camping trip. There are other methods for this type of tarp canopy, such as tying ropes to trees and other strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions About DIY Tarp Canopies

How do you hang a tarp for shade?

If you don’t want to build your own full tarp canopy, and you have trees near you, you can use rope to hang a tarp for shade. To do this, tie ropes around tree trunks until you have at least two tight ropes stretched from tree to tree. Then, lay your tarp across the top, tighten it, and tie it down.

How much do canopy tarps cost?

You can typically purchase tarps for your outdoor canopy for around $10–$20, but it depends on the quality of material you’re looking for.

Can a tarp canopy replace a tent?

Yes, you can replace a canopy tent with a DIY canopy tarp. However, some people may prefer to purchase a canopy tent, since they’re specifically designed for outdoor shade and can be a sturdier option.

Can you camp under a tarp canopy?

You can use a canopy tarp in place of a camping tent if weather conditions are mild, but we wouldn’t recommend going this route if you’re a beginner camper.


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