Ultralight Tipi Tarp

This was an interesting experiment . . . a 15 foot diameter round tarp makes a 9 foot diameter tipi with 8 stakes and a 6 foot hiking staff.

The tarp weighs (1 lb. 7 oz.) plus (8) 10’ long pieces of No. 36 nylon bank line for guylines (4.33 oz.) and (8) aluminum stakes (5.24 oz). Total without hiking staff 2 lb. 1 oz. Floor area ≈ 56 sq. ft.

UTT 15 ft Tarp Sketch Y

This sketch shows a 10’ x 10’ tarp, a 10’ x 20’ Sioux style tipi cover, a 15’ diameter round tarp and the ‘ultralight’ shape which is shown in dark lines. The use of material is very efficient and can still be used as a flat tarp for A-frame or lean-to pitches.


UTT 9' Tipi Tarp Blueprint

(2) strips of 62-65” wide silnylon by 15’ long flat-felled seamed and cut to a 7’-6” radius. First mark well the center point of the radius with a marker and make it very visible. You will need that spot later to install the reinforcing material and ties for the cap.

Hem all edges and add (16) 5/8” grosgrain tie-outs – 2 yellow, 8 gray and 6 black – the colors help in keeping track. Make the 2 yellow tie-outs on centerline, 90 degrees to the flat-felled seam for easy identification. Watch the direction of the flat-felled seam and hems to shed rain.

Following the sketch above, the tie-outs around the circumference should be evenly spaced. The chord dimensions on the circumference of this tarp measured out to be 33.75”. This has to be checked and is dependent on your radius and hem work. Make them equal whatever dimension you get.

Where the straight side meets the circumference, make these corner tie-outs black and then alternate colors all the way around the circumference. You will have 6 black tie-outs, 4 gray tie-outs and 2 yellow tie-outs. Cut the grosgrain ribbons 5 1/2” long, fold in half and bar tack them to the hem.

On the straight edge there are 4 more gray tie-outs. From the center yellow tie-out measure 33” and 63” in both directions and sew them there. These tie-outs are opposite the tie-outs on the circumference and are helpful for A-frame or lean-to pitches.

The absolute center of the tarp from where the radius was drawn needs a reinforced area for the pole. The location of the center pole in the pitch is key for taut sides.

UTT 12

Make (1) 12” diameter and (1) 15” diameter piece of silnylon for each side. Stitch to tarp with bar tacks 3/4” long in an 8 spoked radial pattern 3/4″ away from the edge. Sew the 12” pieces in first, top and bottom, at the same time.

Add the 15” circle pattern top and bottom, and rotate to miss the 12” circle pattern. Stitch through all 5 layers at the same time. Do not stitch along outside edge, that will just perforate the main tarp, leak and tear – use the bar tacks. Plenty strong.

UTT 15

Cut (1) 40” long 5/8” grosgrain tie for the top side and (1) 40″ long 5/8” grosgrain tie for the bottom side. Bar tack 1 1/2” long  loops on each end of the ties which will prevent pulling the ribbon through the knot when tying off.

Sew both ties centered on the tarp, top and bottom, with two bar tacks at the same time. Leave a 3/4″ space between the tacks for a rope or carabiner. Make the top tie yellow for easy identification, and the bottom tie gray or black.

Having the looped ends on the inside of the tent gives tie off places to raise the sides for more air flow, hang a candle lantern, flashlight, bug net . . . .

UTT Top Cap and Tie

Finished top cap shown with center pole tied in. First wrap on the pole is a half-hitch, then wrap and finish with a bow. A black rubber crutch tip on the top of the staff keeps the tie from running off and also helps to protect the tarp. Rounding off the edge and grooving the top of the hiking staff will work too.

UTT 5 Sided Stakeout

To pitch the tipi create a pentagon first then insert the pole. Use the black tie-outs for the tipi shape.

A simpler way is to anchor the rear 2 tie-outs, tie in the pole, raise the tarp, then pull down to the front 2 entrance tie-outs and stake. Finish by staking out the remaining 2 sides. Easy and no math!

Easton®makes aluminum tent poles that can be made up to provide a collapsible center pole to carry on planes, trains and automobiles. Get (4) .742” diameter poles x 26” long – (3) with inserts, (1) without an insert, 6 feet of shock chord and (2) shock cord end caps. Cut all the poles to make it a 6 foot overall length assembled. Add 3/4” rubber crutch tips to both ends to complete. Weight 12.5 ozs.

The combination of using a modified form of a circular tipi cover along with the 5-sided layout worked out really well. This is one handy tarp.

UTT Snowy Pitch

UTT Half Side Open

UTT Beach Pitch

Here is a list of some observations which may be useful.

Condensation – This is a single wall, non-breathable tent that can be closed up – it will condensate. It can also snow on the inside from frost in the cold. Attention to venting will alleviate some of this and some of it is unavoidable.

Suffocation Hazard – Using a non-breathable tent can be risky – especially in the snow and cold. A buildup of CO2 (carbon dioxide) or CO (carbon monoxide) in a sealed space can be fatal. Be aware of ventingkeep fresh air flowing at all times.

Pouring rain – With the flap tied over to one side this is an exceptionally rain proof structure. The steep sides really help shed water and the round edge between the staked tie-outs lay down nicely for a good seal. With no floor it’s important to setup as high and dry as you can get.

High winds – This tipi sure did shine in that department. It took 25 mph winds with 50 mph gusts. That was a welcome result. Obviously all anchors need to be dependable for that duty. For more security stake the center pole straight down from the inside ties at the top of the tarp to a ground stake.

Heat – With an outside temperature of 30°F on a bright and sunny day, the inside of the closed tipi was 80°F. Wow. Open the door. Pull the rear two stakes out and use guylines to float the tarp off the ground. Pull the intermediate tie-outs up for more air flow.

Setup on rock or other hard ground – That is the beauty of being a flat tarp. You can always revert to an A-frame, lean-to or any other attempt to ward off wind, rain, snow or cold.

Larger Formats

For those that might want a larger tipi follow the dimensions charted below. Double check before making center poles and check the chord lengths on your tipi to make sure they are all equal. Weights are based on 1.3 oz/yd silnylon. All fabrication and pitching instructions are the same as the 9’ tipi tarp.

size tipi radius


chord length








1 lb. 7 ozs.

10 yds.






2 lbs. 3 ozs.

17 yds.






3 lbs. 2 ozs.

25 yds.


UTT 25 ft Tarp Sketch Y

Here is a sketch of the 25’ tarp and the material layout. 25 yards total. Have the material cut (2) at 26 feet long and (1) at 23 feet long.

The tie-outs on the straight side are 52” and 99” from the center both ways to match up with the tie-outs on the circumference.

UTT 20 ft Tarp Sketch Y

Here is a sketch of the 20’ tarp and the material layout. This one is a little different. It uses (2) full strips and (1) ½ width of another. 17 yards total. Have the material cut (1) at 21 feet long, (1) at 19 feet long and (1) at 11 feet long for this tarp. Cut the 11 footer in half lengthwise and flat-felled seam them together to make it 22 feet long before flat-felled seaming it to the main tarp.

The tie-outs on the straight side are 42” and 80” from the center both ways to match up with the tie-outs on the circumference.

UTT Needles and Thread

Good Luck.