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Muddy Faces

Large shelters

An introduction to large shelters - with suggestions for choosing, using & maintaining a large group shelter.

Bushcraft & Survival


A focus on non-permanent lightweight shelters that need to be erected and dismantled after each session. There's quite a lot involved in putting up a shelter correctly - we offer some guidance and links to more detailed information.

Includes top tips on how to look after and store your shelter.

What you'll need

Muddy Faces fire retardant lightweight shelter or other tarp

This activity has been provided by

Useful items from our shop

Item available from our shop

Environmental Considerations

Consider the environmental impact of preparing, carrying out & completing this activity. Could this impact be reduced? Specific considerations for this activity could include:

  • protecting trees from rope/cord friction

Health & Safety Considerations

Follow your usual operating procedures and carry out appropriate risk benefit assessments.
Some considerations particular to this activity include:

  • refer to working at height regulations if you choose to use ladders
  • visibility of rope – to prevent trips and walking into taut guy lines

Things to consider when choosing & using a large shelter

  • site restrictions / size
  • does the shelter need to be fire retardant?
  • shape - round/square/rectangular
  • colour
  • storage and care
  • lightweight and portable eg Muddy Faces fire retardant lightweight vs semi permanent thick canvas

For either cost or safety reasons you need to use a non-permanent shelter at your setting

These shelters require putting up & dismantling at each session which can be quite time consuming so rigging a system can vastly speed up your erection and dismantling time.

Why use a large group shelter?

Large shelters provide group protection from the rain, provide shade from the sun and create a focal meeting place. A shelter can last for years if you look after it correctly - leaving it exposed to the elements when it is not in use reduces its life span significantly.

Often it is a slow and complicated process to put up a shelter and if you use the space frequently it’s very tempting to leave the shelter up until your next session, but this puts it at risk from the elements and possible vandalism. Therefore we recommend, where possible, that you use a shelter-rigging system that allows you to quickly and easily set up and dismantle your shelter.

Read on for tips and techniques to help you achieve this.

Choosing a site

Points to consider:

  • area suitable for group to gather under the shelter
  • size and condition of trees above the site
  • available hoisting and fixing points
  • floor condition, trip hazards
  • spiky flora that may snag your shelter

Choosing how to erect the shelter

To raise a shelter you will need to have a high point to hoist your shelter up to. A simple technique can be seen here: Throwing a rope over a high branch.

If you plan to use your site more frequently or don’t have anything directly above the correct location to hoist to, then a more complicated (fixed line system) would be beneficial.

Once you have your shelter hoisted there are different ways to attach and use guy ropes see shelter fixing - guy ropes.

Shelters with a fixed central strap

Some larger group shelters already have a built-in central webbing loop or loops to assist with hoisting a central point.

Top tip

To protect the webbing strap, use a carabiner or piece of sacrificial rope. This will stop any cutting friction to the webbing from the main pulley rope. Never allow rope to run through any webbing loops or straps as it will cut through them.

Central pole

Using a central pole is a quick, effective and straightforward way to erect your shelter and very useful if you don’t have anywhere to hang your shelter from.

The disadvantages of this technique are that you have a pole in the centre of your shelter that can get in the way and might be tripped over or leant against. Also, where the pole is in contact with the material, a hole might form, damaging the shelter/tarpaulin being used. It can also sometimes be tricky to fix out the edges of your shelter in such a way to create a usable space whilst holding the pole up.

Please note: Muddy Faces shelters are not designed to be used with a central pole.

Looking after your shelter

To ensure the longevity of your shelter it is imperative to follow these guidelines:

  • Your shelter needs to be dismantled when there is no direct supervision. Leaving it up overnight unattended or for sustained periods of time, even in calm conditions, causes damage to occur and this will significantly reduce the longevity of the shelter. Using some of the techniques above will enable you to erect and dismantle your shelter quickly
  • do not use the shelter in gusty or high wind conditions. Large shelters create a massive sail area, this can put an excessive force on seams and fixings
  • choose an area free from any obstructions that could pierce or rub the material
  • use the fixing points provided on the shelter
  • use a carabiner or rope loop through the webbing loops and straps to protect them. Rope or string running through a webbing strap will cut and cause damage
  • use a cord with stretch in it to tension from the fixing points
  • do not use poles or similar pushed up against the material to hold it up
  • fire retardant materials are designed to burn slowly and self extinguish preventing the spread of fires. If using near a fire, set a safe distance away. Ensure all fire users are aware of the type and size of fire to be used to ensure your chosen distance remains safe
  • if your shelter gets dirty, wipe it down with water. Do NOT use detergents
  • make sure the shelter is clean and dry before storage. Store in a dry location out of direct sunlight and extremes in temperature. Shelters that are left up are exposed to wear and tear from the elements (light/wind/sun) and from tree/aphid sap and bird faeces

Folding and storage

For most large shelters folding is a two person job.

For round group shelters, have one person holding the central fixing point whilst the other person/people hold the edges and fold up the shelter like a pizza slice. Once you have a narrow, manageable slice, roll from the centre to expel the air.

Top tips

  • roll on dry ground or on a dry tarpaulin
  • if you are on your own, tie the central point of the shelter to a tree or similar at chest height. This leaves you free to manage the folding independently
  • If the situation necessitates that you pack your shelter away wet, remember to unpack it then clean and dry before storage

Disclaimer: Muddy Faces cannot take any responsibility for accidents or damage that occurs as a result of following this activity.You are responsible for making sure the activity is conducted safely.

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