Knot of the Week: Rigging a Tarp Shelter, Part 2 - ITS Tactical

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Knot of the Week: Rigging a Tarp Shelter, Part 2

By Bryan Black

Tarp Shelter

When we left off last week with part one, I’d gone through setting up the necessary trunk line to hang your tarp shelter.

Today, I’ll cover attaching the tarp to the trunk line using a Prusik Loop and Prusik Knot. The Prusik Loop is created by tying a Double Fisherman’s Knot. I’ve linked to our previous posts covering these knots, and have also walked through them in the video below.

The biggest benefit of using the Integral Designs SilTarp, is that it features an external center tie loop. Why is this important? If you haven’t had the pleasure of rain wicking down a trunk line underneath a tarp, and dripping on your face while you sleep, then by all means please experience it.

For the rest of us, you’ll see why this is a great feature of the SilTarp. Let’s get into talking a little about the tarp and the attachment method.

Integral Designs SilTarp

Weighing just 7.1 oz with the stuff sack, the 5″ x 8″ SilTarp is made from 1.1 oz ripstop nylon impregnated with .25 oz silicone. It features 16 lightweight nylon webbing attachment loops on the edges and corners, with one center loop on a reinforced patch.

As you’ll see in the video, the tarp is carried with guy lines and Prusik Loops already attached, as well as the trunk line. With the whole kit stuffed in the sack, it measures 7″ long by 3.5″ wide, with a circumference of 11″. The 115.5 feet of paracord carried with the tarp brings the total weight to only 14.2 oz.

Yes, that’s 115 feet of paracord at your disposal, should need it. The trunk line is 30 ft., primary guy lines are 8 ft., secondary guy lines are 5 ft., tertiary guy lines are 6.5 ft., and the Prusik Loops are each made with 2.5 ft. of paracord. That will all make sense once you watch the video below.

One thing to keep in mind with this tarp is that its a single person tarp, Integral designs makes larger SilTarps, but this is one I’ve carried in my truck for two years just in case. Of course it could always be rigged up differently to accommodate more people if needed. Also, all the Integral Designs SilTarps need to be seam sealed with silicone sealant, like McNett’s SilNet. Do this when the tarp is brand new too.


As noted previously, we’ll be using the outermost attachment points of the tarp folded in half, including the external center point. This will give us three attachment points, and the ability to create a triangle-like shelter from the tarp.

Instead of reiterating what I go over in the video, I’ll defer to that for instruction on attaching the tarp and an explanation of the guy line system.

Double Fisherman’s Knot » Bends

(Strength: 5/Secure: 5/Stability: 4/Difficulty: 3)

Prusik Knot » Hitches

(Strength: 4/Secure: 4/Stability: 4/Difficulty: 4)

Please refer to our Knot of the Week introduction post for a description of what these ratings mean. 

For instructions on tying these knots please refer to these video above, or our original write up on each of these knots found here Double Fisherman’s Knot (Prusik Loop) and here Prusik Knot


Join us next week as I finish up the final article and video on Rigging a Tarp Shelter, going though tying the guy line knots and showing how everything packs away. Until then, let me know what you think of the series. Do you carry a tarp like this with you in your vehicle for emergencies?

Links to part 1 and part 3 so you can tie this all together!

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  • jon

    very interesting.
    I’ve never used a sil-nylon tarp before, but I have used a poncho that fufilled pretty much the same job, and a rather heavier tarp for over my hammock.

    in both cases I’ve had huge problems with the bowing problem you described. I’m definately going to try out the guideline system you guys show, and I recon the poncho could be rigged up with the centeral point aswell.

    • Hey Jon,

      The bowing will definitely be lessened by this system, and you’ve just made me remember something about the video. I kept saying guideline and guy line, I have trouble keeping those straight LOL. It’s actually guy line and I need to get better at remembering that!

      The Sil-Nylon tarp is nice because as long as you seal the seams it’s inherently waterproof because of the silicone. Regular tarps will leak, not to mention shredding in high wind 🙂

  • Brockb

    Very cool way to rig the tarp. I have the same tarp except I have the OD green model. I’ve always just haphazardly tied mine up and can’t wait to rig it up like you have shown.

    • Thanks Brock, the next video will get detailed on staking it in and tying the knots needed to set up the tension system.

  • Homer J. Simpson

    Great series of articles, guys. These kind of skills are great to have. Gotta practice them, though, not just read about it on the internet!

    I have a similarly sized sil-nylon tarp by O-Ware that I tote even on dayhikes. Two weeks ago I bivied with no sleeping bag (on purpose!) in heavy thunderstorms that literally dumped rain all night long. I stayed bone-dry under the sil-tarp. I had sealed the 1 seam with the proper stuff (Sil-Net by McNett) the day I bought the tarp.

    Of course site selection was key. If you pick the wrong spot, it will turn into a lake no matter what your tarp setup.

    • Very true Homer! It’s very different to read about it, and then to actually do it. How did you rig up your Sil-Tarp during the thunderstorms you were in? I ditto the site selection, and forgot to mention that in the article. You should look for where the typical flow of water runs, its easy to spot. Look for the high ground and spots where you won’t get a stream flowing into your site. Of course you seem to know this and my mention of it was just as a general statement to add to the article.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • Homer J. Simpson

      I just got lucky. It was only drizzling when I set up the bivy. The skies opened up later. The lightning was impressive when viewed through the somewhat translucent sil tarp.

      Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good!

  • Michael Liptak

    Great series! I’m just wondering, is there any way to rig a good shelter with the tarp w/o the external center tie loops?

    Tip for the next parts – cold weather setup ;).

    Keep up the great work!

    • Homer J. Simpson

      If you mean “what do I do if my tarp doesn’t have the center loops”, just place an acorn or similarly sized smoth rock underneath the spot in the tarp where you want a tieoff. Tie it off with some 550 using a clove hitch (or whatever floats your boat). Bingo, you now have a tieoff point where you want it.

    • Great tip Homer!

    • Michael, Homer hit the nail on the head. Simply gathering the tarp and tying it up with 550 will give you an attachment point. It won’t be as pretty as a sewn loop, but will still do the job.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Jason

    I gotta look into getting one of these. Using a poncho sucks and tarps are to heavy and bulky, not to mention the glare that comes off a tarp. I’ve been using sharpened sticks for a while too and my Gerber LMK (Ithink thats the acronym for it) works well for hammering the stakes into the ground.

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