Follow these easy steps to make a DIY tarp for Hammock Camping, ultralight backpacking, cycle camping, canoe or kayak camping, Scouts or various other things.
However, if a DIY hammock tarp project just isn’t your thing, CLICK HERE for a few options that you can purchase.
I have made two hammock camping tarps. The first was a copy of the Hennessy Hammock Hex tarp.
Another option is the Winter Dream tarp design from BackwoodsDayDreamer.com
The second is based on the Ogee concept that Gargoyle Gear produced a few years ago. The Ogee also shares some shape characteristics with the ENO Dry Fly (click for info).
Update: I have now also made a third tarp, a long asymmetrical tarp. You’ll find details of that tarp in the article: How to make a DIY Asymmetrical hammock camping tarp: MYOG
You can use these methods to make a simple square or rectangular tarp, a curved edge tarp, or something a bit more complex like the Ogee. You’ll find other tarp ideas and info at the bottom of this post.
Materials used for the Ogee tarp:
-a bit over 17′ of 60″ wide Lemon Yellow 1.9 SilNylon from Noah Lampart (use whatever color and material weight you like)
-a bit over 48′ of grosgrain. Mostly 3/4″, some 1″ when I ran out of 3/4″ 😮
-less than 1 spool of gutterman 100% polyester thread
-a few square feet of non-RipStop DWR nylon for the main tie-out reinforcements.
-I cut the sil with an old pair of electric fabric sheers. Sil is much easier to cut with a very sharp fabric scissors, a sharp rotary cutter, a hot cutting knife, or a sharp tipped soldering iron. The later two methods actually heat seal the fabric as it is cut, which is a very good thing when dealing with fabric that likes to unravel.
-My trusty old Singer 15-91 Thread Injector (the manly, gear-maker’s term for a sewing machine) was used to sew the pieces together.
1. Determine the desired dimensions.
I chose an 11 foot main ridgeline to give good coverage over my hammocks. Total length with the integrated end “doors” is 13 feet. Width is the full 60″ width of the SilNylon, plus the triangles added to each side. If you make a standard square tarp you will likely need to join two pieces of fabric together along their long edge to get the desired width. My HH Hex DIY tarp is 12′ long and 10′ wide. The 10′ width is from joining two 60″ wide sections with a flat felled seam to get the 120″ = 10′ width.
2. Measure, mark, and cut the SilNylon fabric.
The old “measure twice, cut once” adage comes in handy here. Don’t ask how I know.
3. Determine how your edges will be finished.
I chose to use the binding foot on my Singer 15-91 Thread Injector (TI) to attach grosgrain ribbon around the periphery. On my first tarp I finished the edges with a rolled hem, using the hem foot on my TI.
4. If using a rolled hem on the edges, hem any edges that won’t be accessible after the pieces are assembled, or that are easier to do at this point. This is where I messed up on my Ogee tarp, as I hemmed the edges where the triangle pieces attach to the tarp body. I don’t know what I was thinking, as a flat felled seam is appropriate here. I guess this highlights the risk of making gear while watching hockey on TV.
5. Assemble the pieces of the tarp and join them with the TI. For ridgeline seams, use a flat felled seam.
6. If you choose to add corner reinforcements, measure, cut, and hem the edges of the corner reinforcements.
Some people add corner reinforcements, some don’t.
Here are corners of my DIY HH Hex tarp. The reinforcements are the same yellow sil as the tarp body, and are sewn with an opening that makes them pockets to stow the tie-out line.
My Ogee tarp has 2 main ridgeline tie outs where I added semi-circular reinforcements, and 2 main side tie-outs where I added triangular reinforcements. I cut the reinforcements to shape 1/2″ larger than needed, then hemmed the edges. The other 8 tie out points have no reinforcements. Time will tell if that was the right decision.
7. Sew on the reinforcements with your TI. On my Ogee tarp, I actually did this step after attaching the grosgrain edging, and wish I would have thought to do this BEFORE the grosgrain, so that the corner reinforcement edges would be under the grosgrain instead of on top of it. I just think it would look better. It would also have been harder to feed the material through the binding foot, but I think it would have been managable.
8. With the tarp assembled, finish the periphery by the method chosen in step 3. For the Ogee tarp I used the binding foot on my TI to fold 3/4″ grosgrain ribbon over the full length of the edge of my tarp. I used one continuous piece of grosgrain, but ran out about 7 feet from the end. So, I finished using 1″ grosgrain, which I found looked neater than the 3/4″ due to the way my binding foot rolled the edges under on the 1″ grosgrain. On my DIY HH Hex tarp I used the adjustable hemming foot to put a 1/2″ wide rolled hem all the way around. Most folks can also do a rolled hem by hand with a little practice.
I like the look of the grosgrain edging better, and feel that it has to add strength the the tarp. However, it also adds weight. I’ve also heard of some UltraLight backpackers just heat sealing the edges by cutting with a hot knife or soldering iron, and not hemming at all.
9. Cut and heat seal (I use a lighter for this) the cut ends of grosgrain ribbon for each tie-out point. For my Ogee tarp, I have 12 tie out points, each made of a 6” grosgrain ribbon folded in half so it sandwiches the edge of the tarp.
10. Decide if you want to add D rings to the tie outs. If so, do it now before you sew on the tie outs.
11. Sew on the tie outs. A lot of folks like the “box with an X inside” method. I read in a climbing publication (that I wish I could find for reference) that the box is OK, but even stronger is to make long rows of stitches down the length of the ribbon (same applies to making loops in straps). I use a combination of both methods with a long rectangular box with an X inside and several long rows of stitches.
12. Seam seal any seams on your tarp before use. You can buy seam seal products, or make your own by using mineral spirits to thin clear, 100% silicone caulk to the point that you can paint it onto the seams with a paint brush.
Maybe it is just that I have an addiction for gear making, but I’ve developed a fondness for 12 step processes. So I’ll stop here and assume that you know you’ll have to add tie out lines and decide if you want a ridgeline, or just tie-outs.
Check out these overviews for further info on hammock camping, tarps, and how to hang them properly.
Black Bishop of HammockForums.net posted this VERY thorough write up (link to .pdf file) of how to make a Caternary cut hammock tarp (cat cut tarp).
More pics of my DIY tarps below…