We’ve mentioned many times how tarps are incredibly useful on a bike tour, so imagine our disappointment when we recently discovered our tarp had been misplaced.
We only found this out 2 days before we left to go bike touring in Denmark. What to do?
Buying a new tarp wasn’t an option, but we equally didn’t want to go without. Denmark is renowned for its fickle weather and we needed to be prepared. So, we made our own tarp! It cost us about $5 U.S. and took less than 30 minutes, once we’d bought the required items.
To make your own tarp, you need:
- A large sheet of plastic (in this case, the covering from a mattress we’d just bought)
- Eyelets from a sewing store
- Duct tape
- 50m roll of parachute cord
- A pair of scissors
Making the tarp was very simple. We laid the sheet of plastic out on the floor.
Then we used duct tape to reinforce each corner, where the eyelet would be pounded in. We used 2-3 small strips of duct tape on each side of the tarp, and then used the hole punch that comes with the eyelets to put the eyelet through the middle of the tape.
Add some string through the hole, and it looked like this.
Here’s the finished product, in a campsite.
Shortly after we put our tarp up for the first time, it rained heavily and the wind was strong throughout the night. Despite these challenging conditions, the tarp didn’t break or stretch. It coped perfectly.
Of course, there are downsides to this kind of tarp:
- It’s heavier than most commercially made tarps of the same size.
- It’s see-through, so while it’s great for rain (it lets lots of light in), it’s no good for creating shade on a hot day. In other words, it’s not as versatile as a tarp made of fabric.
- The strings become slack after the tarp is up for a few hours, but are hard to tighten again. We could buy some line tensioners to help with this, or we could learn to tie an “alpine butterfly” knot, as in the video below.
All in all, we’re pleased with our make-shift tarp. It may not be as light, compact or robust as our Hilleberg XP 10 tarp, but it also cost a fraction of the price. It would be an ideal solution if you only plan to bike tour a little bit, or want to try out a tarp before committing to a bigger investment.
Another guide to making your own tarp can be found on the Backpacking Light website.