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Muddy Faces

INSPIRATIONS - tarpaulin dens

It is amazing what you can do with a tarpaulin! Check out a few tarp den designs to get you started.

Outdoor Play


A smaller sized tarpaulin is the perfect resource to have in your bag for a quick fix shelter outside (or inside).

Here we'll show you some different designs to play around with.

What you'll need

Long sticks/poles

This activity has been provided by

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:

  • prevent rope friction on trees
  • source of wood

Health & Safety Considerations

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

  • use of rope/cord
  • suffocation
  • choice of site - check for insect nests, falling dead branches etc

Top tips

  • choose your site carefully and consider wind conditions
  • use tarpaulin grabbers to add additional fixing points, and to create stronger fixing points than the eyelets
  • try using bungee cords or ball bungees as an alternative to string
  • make repairs with tarp tape
  • to extend the life of your tarpaulin pack away at the end of the day to prevent damage/deterioration caused by the elements.

As simple as it gets....

Just lie under it! (pegs or no pegs)

Lift up the front to create a raised entrance

One step up from the 'just lie under it' approach is to lift the centre of the tarp to create an entrance.

Tie a piece of string to the central eyelet on the long edge of the tarp, then tie the other end to a reasonably strong branch, fence or line to lift it to the height required.

Use poles to raise the tarp

Use one or two poles to raise the tarp. Either prop them up if you have the tension and the tarp is pegged out, or tie the tarp to the poles.

Using poles that have a hole in the top makes this a quick technique.

Tie the tarp to trees

Creating a tarp shelter in the woods is ideal as there will be a good selection of fixing points.

Create a ridge using a line

Tie a line between two trees and hang the tarp over the line, pulling it tight using ropes attached to more trees on pegs on the ground.

If you make the ridge high enough you can hang a hammock underneath.

Create a ridge using poles

Create a a simple ridge by propping up 2 points in the centre of the tarp, at opposite edges. Peg the poles for strength.


Add a camouflage net to the front of your den for the perfect animal/bird observation den.

To create a tarp shelter in a school playground

Have a look at our tarp den on a yard/hard space activity for ideas if you have limited fixing points.

Try using den pole stands; they are portable and are easy to use.

Take it further

The Den Book by Jo Schofield is a good read to develop your den building. For a more advanced approach consider Shelter Frames and Campfire Furnishings by Dave Watson.

    Further reading

    Our Outdoor Hub has lots of useful theory and practical information on dens.

    Loose parts, block play & dens

    This section looks at benefits and theories, guides, articles and ideas for using block play, dens and loose parts in your outdoor setting.

    Read More about Loose parts, block play & dens

    Free den building guide

    Free to download, created by Muddy Faces. An excellent (though we say so ourselves!) and extensive practical guide to indoor and woodland den building.

    Read More about Free den building guide

    Benefits of den building

    As well as being a lot of fun, den building supports the development of a number of key skills.

    Read More about Benefits of den building

    Muddy Faces products

    The Muddy Faces shop has a great range of tarpaulins, poles and shelter fixings - visit the following shop sections to find out more.

    MFK52 B Bird Hide kit 20x20

    Den Building & Loose Parts

    At Muddy Faces we provide an inspiring range of den building equipment that supports you in encouraging children to be innovative and more resourceful.

    For more information about dens explore the Dens & Loose Parts section of the Outdoor Hub and our range of Den Building activities!

    MFK54 LD Adventure Den Kit 20x20

    Den Kits

    These den kits are ideal for small groups as a starter kit and individuals.

    TOSET05A Insect Observer600

    Den Sets

    Use these sets to supplement your den kits and go out, explore and have an adventure!

    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.

    Key Features


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