A good camping tent is a nice thing to have on any camping trip, but it’s not always a possibility. Whether it’s too expensive or you’re in an emergency situation, there are plenty of times when someone would like to have a tent but can’t just go buy one.
Fortunately, making a DIY camping tent is much easier than it looks, and they can make camping trips lots of fun. All you’ll need are a few simple materials you can find in nature or any hardware store, and you’ll be ready to go.
Continue reading below to learn exactly how to build your own camping shelter from scratch.
How to Build Your Own Camping Tent
Materials You’ll Need
While there are plenty of ways to further upgrade your tent (which we’ll discuss later in the article), a basic setup only requires a few materials. These are all easily purchasable for a low price at a hardware store, and you can find sticks in nature.
Two tarps, preferably large and waterproof
Four sticks or aluminum poles
A long piece (25+ feet) of rope or paracord
Now that you’ve gathered your materials and made your way to the campsite, it’s time to start getting your tent set up.
Step 1 – Choose Your Tent Camping Location
You’re going to want to find a spot between two trees that are 8-12 feet apart to begin the building process. Also, make sure that the area has flat ground and not too much debris. This will ensure that you’re not uncomfortable sleeping later that night.
If there is any debris, make sure to clear it away before the next step. Also, do your best to fill in any divots or un-level patches with dirt.
Step 2 – Tie Your Rope Between the Trees
Now, tie your rope tightly between the two trees, wrapping it around as many times as the length allows. The height at which you tie your rope will depend on the size of the tarp.
As a general rule of thumb, the height of the rope should be a bit less than half the height of the tarp.
Step 3 – Lay Down and Secure the Floor Tarp
At this point, you’re ready to lay down the first tarp. Spread it out flat between the trees as centered as you can make it.
Then, drive your sticks or poles into each corner of the ground tarp, making small holes and securing them into the ground. For added stability, you can also put some rocks around the corners and edges.
Step 4 – Put the Top Tarp Over the Rope
Once the rope is tied and the floor tarp is in place, you can drape your other tarp over the rope. Once you’ve finished this step, it should be hanging an equal distance from the ground on both sides in a pyramid shape.
Step 5 – Add the Sticks or Tent Poles
Push the sticks or poles you added earlier into the corners of the top tarp as well. This will hold it in place and stop it from blowing around in the wind.
Once you’ve finished this, congrats! You’ve just built your own tent.
Other Things To Consider When Building a DIY Tent
Tent Size and Weight
It’s important to know how many people you’re going to be camping with before buying your materials. When you’re purchasing your tarp, make sure that there’s enough room for everyone in your party to comfortably lay down on it.
While it’s unlikely these materials will be too heavy, also make sure to account for weight if you’re carrying it in a backpack. Some types of tarps can be quite heavy.
Current Weather Conditions
There are several important variables to consider here, starting with temperature. If you plan on camping in the warmer months, a larger tent with more room is likely a better choice. If it’s going to be colder, you might prefer the better insulation that a smaller tent will provide.
Next, you’ll need to be prepared for the rain. At the very least, you should have a waterproof tarp for your tent walls, and preferably the floor too.
Trust us, it’s super uncomfortable to sleep on wet ground or feel water dripping down on you. Make sure you construct your tent so that there won’t be any water pooling anywhere, which means stretching it out well.
The last thing you need to keep in mind here is the wind direction. Try to pitch your tent in a way that the wind will blow away from you. This will make setup much easier and decrease the chance that a gust will move the tent at night.
Other Comfort Items
Just because you’re building a homemade tent doesn’t mean you have to skimp on your other camping gear. Feel free to pack a sleeping bag and pad, some good food, a lantern, and anything else that will make your shelter more comfortable.
Tips to Upgrade Your Tent
While the basic DIY tent above works for beginners or if you’re in a pinch, there are ways to make it better.
Add Tent Stakes
Sticks should be enough to make your tent floor secure in most situations, but stakes are a much more sturdy option if you can bring them.
They’re incredibly strong and easy to push into the ground thanks to their sharp point, which makes them more reliable than sticks. You won’t have to worry about your tarp blowing away if you use stakes.
Guy Ropes and Pegs
Guy ropes and pegs will make for a much tighter fitting and more sturdy top tarp. If you happen to buy some at a hardware store, you can make holes in the corner of the tarp as we did above, and put the guy rope through.
Then, you’ll want to pull the tarp until it is nice and taut. Tie the ropes to your pegs and hammer or push them into the ground, and viola, you have a well-secured tent.
Building a DIY camping tent from scratch might seem like a daunting task, but it’s simple to do, especially if you’re only making the bare-bones version. And there are plenty of easy ways to upgrade it if you have more camping experience.
Also, if you’ve gotten through this article and don’t think making a homemade tent is for you, there are plenty of budget camping tent options available that are nearly as cheap as building your own. You can check out our review of the Coleman Skydome camping tent if you’re interested a good value option.
If you end up building this makeshift tent on your next camping trip or have other tent-making tips, please let us know in the comments. Happy camping!
Carl is a content writer for The Camping Buddy, specializing in informational camping articles and product reviews. Carl has been a freelance writer for outdoor news sites while spending his time backpacking across the world. His favorite camping spot is Malaekahana Beach in Hawaii.