My Home Made Cook/Rec Shelter

When I camp I like to have a good outdoor shelter area to cook in when it rains, hang out in when it rains, store gear under to keep it dry, Shower under on cold rainy days and other things. Its a nice luxury to have an open air sheltered area outside of your tent.

I have always used portable shelters like canopys or tarp over a ridge line between a couple trees. The problem with canopy set ups is the roof does not angle down far enough and everything gets wet in a big rain. and canopy shelters are not very touch or wind proof.

The issue with tarps is there is not always a couple trees close enough together to use correctly.


My solution is a 40 dollar set up. it gives me 4 ways to set it up (although I only show the worst case way here).  The height at the ridge line inside is 7 feet. the ridge poles are 8 feet tall. The tarp is 12’x16′ so the length pole to pole is 14′ with a 12′ tarp. I didn’t measure how wide it was when up but i figure about 12 feet or so. LOTS OF ROOM!

Option 1: use 2 trees and run the ridge line between them and drape tarp over ride line then use 4 posts in corners to really open it up.

Option 2: use 1 tree and one (2 piece) pole with a ridge line between the tree and pole, then drape tarp over ridge line. Use the 2 other poles to prop middle ends for more open area in the middle sides.

Option 3: Shown here with poles used support the ridge line staked out wide to give me good room but less than option 1 or 2.

Option 4: same as 3 but shorten the tarp guy lines on the sides to bring the sides in tighter to the ground to really weather proof everything inside.

This is what it consists of: a 5 foot piece of 1″ emt steel conduit, a 4 foot piece of 3/4″ emt conduit (the 4 foot and 5 foot nest together to make one telescoping pole). There are 2 of these nested poles so total is 2 5′ and 2 4′ pieces.   A 12×16 heavy duty tarp.  8mm mtn climbing rope for the ridge line (any strong rope or para cord would work).  Standard 1/8″ braided rope for guy lines. and 12 big nails as stakes (12″x3/8″).  Total cost was 40 bucks from home depot. I also used 2 1/4″ eye bolts to connect the ridge line and 2 1/4″ bolts to keep the 4″pole at the right height in the 5″pole.

It took me about an hour to cut the lines to size and get everything organized.  Then the set up only took me about 6 minutes to do alone and the take down took about 10 including getting the tarp rolled nice and in the bucket.  Everything fits in a 5 gallon bucket (need the bucket in camp anyway) and then you just have the 2 collapsed poles to throw in the truck bed.

It is super solid and i think it will hold up very very well. The 3/4″ emt flexes a little but I like that it nests in the 1″ and I dont have to carry 8 foot poles.

Im really excited to try this set up out this season as it gives us many options to set up and use it regardless of the tree options in camp.

IMG_4581 IMG_4576 IMG_4571 IMG_4583Below is the ideas I wanted the tarp set up to be able to do. These are different ways I can set this up that are important to me and can be customized for different camp locations.







    • The poles are supported by 2 lines that are staked out on 45 degree angles from each pole. So the ridgeline between each pole pulls the poles inward and the 2 lines on each pole pull the pole back and to each side making them solid.

      • Jason,
        Have you been able
        to use the shelter much since your posting? I am wondering how the conduit held up. Thanks for all your effort you put into this site and podcast

  1. The first big wind that comes along is going to bend your uprights. Your guy lines need to be tied to the TOP of the uprights, where your ridgeline is anchored. Your uprights should have only a compression load on them from the supporting the weight of the tarp.

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