Tarp Shelter

Tarp Shelters


When it comes to using a shelter system in a Wilderness area we all have a preference on what we like. There are a variety of shelter systems you can use.  The more popular ones are:

  •  Tents
  •  Hammocks
  •  Bivy’s
  •  Tarps

I have used the above shelter systems and each have their own advantages and disadvantages. One shelter system is not necessarily better than the other.   Personal preference, terrain, and weather will dictate on which one will suit your needs.

I recently did an overnight backpacking trip into the Ocala National Forest (ONF). During my stay, I used a Tarp Shelter System that used a 10’ x 7’ Aquaquest Tarp and the MSR Mesh House 2.

I have used Tarp Shelters before while serving in the military. That shelter system consisted of a military rain poncho. I can recall some good times using that Shelter System and I still carry a military poncho on my Wilderness Expeditions for its multi purpose use. Tarp Shelters are very versatile and they have the following advantages:


  •  They are lightweight.
  •  They provide a large area of coverage.
  •  They have better ventilation and less condensation.
  •  They can be set up in various configurations.
  •  They can be set up without using poles, (Depending on Terrain).
  •  You have a better view around you while in your Tarp Shelter.

Having a Tarp Shelter System has many advantages but there are some disadvantages that may inhibit you from using them:


  •  No protection from insects.
  •  Water can get under the Tarp or into your sleep area.

Today’s Tarps are made in many different configurations, (Square, Rectangular, Catenary, or Triangular). They are lightweight and made of more durable and stronger material Such as Nylon, Silicon, and Polyethylene.

The Shelter system I used was a rectangular cut made of Nylon Silicon (Nylon Sil 40 D) Material with a 20,000 mm hydrostatic resistance making it waterproof during extreme weather. I incorporated a mesh tent made by MSR, (MSR Mesh House 2) under the Tarp. I used my hiking poles to erect the tarp and tent. I could have used the available trees in the area but I wanted to see how durable using the hiking poles would be.

Tarp Shelter System
Aquaquest (10 x 7) Tarp with the MSR Mesh House

If you find yourself in an area where you cannot use trees or other natural sources then your hiking poles will work great. It was a windy day in the ONF so I had some difficulty getting it set up. The Aquaquest Tarp I used had a total of (13) grommet loops that made securing it in a windy environment easier.

I set the tarp up in an A frame type configuration and there was no rain during the night. It was a warm evening in Ocala, (80 Degrees) and it cooled off in the early morning hours with the temperatures dropping into the upper 50’s. Having the open configuration and mesh tent allowed me to take advantage of the cross ventilation during the warmer hours.  It was cold at night but my sleeping bag kept me warm.

When I woke up in the morning there was some moisture on the outer portion of the Tarp. The Tarp maintained its shape and its nylon silicone material kept the moisture off me.  I enjoyed using this Tarp System and it reminded me of my bivouac days in the military. This system is very versatile and you can use either the tarp or mesh tent individually under certain conditions.

Having a good Shelter System allows your stay in a Wilderness area to be more enjoyable. Shelter systems protect you from the elements and choosing  the right one compliments your basecamp.