How to Make a DIY Tent

diy tent in campsite with fire, chair, and sleeping bag
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 25
What You'll Need
Two tarps
Four stakes
What You'll Need
Two tarps
Four stakes

To create a great DIY tent you have to start with great materials. Gather two tarps, four stakes, rocks, and a good amount rope, then head outside to construct. We recommend using DIY tents during good weather (or emergency situations).

Step 1 - Getting Started

Once you have gathered your supplies, find a good spot for your makeshift tent. The location has a big impact on how enjoyable your time in the tent is. Look for a spot with a large flat area and very few large rocks on the ground. You'll also want to take a good look at the trees you decide to use and make sure there are no dead branches that could tumble down during the night.

You'll also want damp ground where possible and a slight incline, especially for nights when it's supposed to rain (to keep your tent from flooding). If the ground isn't damp and you can responsibly dampen it yourself, spread a little water around in order to prevent dust from clouding up in your shelter.

diy tarp tent hanging between trees in the woods with a bicycle

Step 2 - Rope it Off

Take your sturdy rope and tie it between two trees. Wrap the rope around the trunks of the trees several times before tying a knot. It's important that you tie the rope at a good height on the tree—you want to tie it high enough that the tarp touches the ground with a little extra at the bottom. Too high and you'll have a drafty enclosure that doesn't stay put.

tent rope attached to tree

After you rope off your trees, clean up the ground under your tent by removing anything that you don't want to spend the night laying on top of like rocks and branches.

Step 3 - Construction

When the ground is all clear, lay one tarp on the ground between the trees, perpendicular to the direction of your rope. Center it beneath the rope you have just tied and pull it taught. You want as few ridges and bumps in the tarp as possible. Then secure the tarp with stakes or rocks. Place a securing item at each of the four corners of your tarp. If you're using rocks, look for some heavy ones that have a flat side.

Next, hang the tarp over the rope with even amounts of tarp hanging down both sides of the rope. If you've used stakes to secure the bottom tarp, remove them and use them to secure the top tarp to the ground along with the bottom part. This may take a little finessing, but you can secure both tarps at once.

tent peg with rope

Repeat this step at all four corners and add a securing rock in the middle when needed. This step can take a little trial and error to get right. You may need to adjust the rope a few times before you have the perfect setup.

Step 4 - Build Up

Next, take the dirt from around your tent and build up a small barrier around the edges. Wet or damp dirt will work best here. This will keep water out as well as keep the tent really secure. If you don't have a small shovel to create the embankment with, you can use your hands, a cup, or even an old tin can to help you build the barrier quickly. If you're using rocks to secure your tent, build the rocks into the barrier.


In true emergencies, you may find yourself without all of the recommended supplies. You can craft a tent with just one tarp, it just takes a little ingenuity and strategic thinking.

If you've only got one tarp, hang your rope much lower and use the extra length on the sides to create the floor of the tent with the tarp. With this type of tent, you will need to create a triangle with one tarp so you will have to get crafty with the way you secure it.

Ultimately, setting up a DIY tent in the wilderness is fairly simple, but you may want to get a little practice in before you hike far away from civilization with it. Consider taking your tarps and other supplies for a test-drive in your backyard before you use them in the wild for the first time. This will help you gain the confidence you need to tackle your tent with no problems.

Other handy DIY camping hacks you may want to brush up on include how to craft a portable camping toilet, how to build a perfect camping kitchen, and how to filter your water in the wilderness.