How to Make and Repair Camping Equipment

How to Make a Tarp

Stitch the two panels together with a 1-inch seam; then open the panels, turning the seam side up.

Anyone who camps or has kids who build backyard forts has good use for a big tarp. This inexpensive, easy-to-build version has a myriad of uses; its finished size is roughly 10 feet square.

Tools: tape measure, sharp sewing scissors, candle, sewing machine, straight pins, chalk, grommet setter.


Materials: 7 yards of 60-inch-wide coated nylon, matches, seam sealer for nylon, cloth adhesive tape, eight grommets, all-purpose thread.

Time: 4 to 6 hours.

Cut the material into two 3 1/2-yard sections. In a well-ventilated room, singe and seal all cut edges of both pieces of material. Light a candle. Hold the fabric with one cut edge stretched between your hands, and carefully pass the stretched edge of the fabric near the candle flame so that the fibers at the cut edge melt and fuse together. This prevents the finished tarp from raveling. Sear the cut edges of both pieces of material, working slowly and carefully around the panels. Blow the candle out.

Place one piece of material directly over the other, coated sides together. Pin together along the seam line. Sew the two pieces of material together lengthwise along one 3 1/2-yard edge, using a sewing machine set to make close stitches; leave a 1-inch seam allowance. Remove the pins along the seam. Open the sewn-together panels to form one large sheet with a seam down the middle, seam side up.

Holding the two seam allowances together, fold them under lengthwise and then fold them again in the same direction to produce a flat-felled seam of five thicknesses. Pin the seam and stitch it in two parallel rows down the tarp, once close to the fold and again close to the original seam. This flat-felled seam is the inside of the tarp. Remove the pins along the seam.

Turn the edges of the tarp under 1 inch and then under again 1 inch to make a 1-inch hem on the inside; pin the hem in place and then stitch it all around close to the folded-under edge. Backstitch at the beginning and end and tie off the thread ends. Remove the pins. For added strength, topstitch close to the edge around the entire tarp. This is all the sewing you'll have to do.

Fold the seam edges under twice to form a flat-felled seam; stitch the seam twice. Seal the open edges, on both sides, with seam sealer.

To complete the tarp, set grommets around its edges within the 1-inch hem. Mark grommet points with chalk in each corner, midway on both of the long sides (parallel to the center seam), and just next to the points where the center seam hits the shorter sides; if desired, place more grommets along the sides of the tarp. Reinforce each marked grommet point with a piece of cloth adhesive tape. On the inside, set a grommet at each reinforced point with a grommet setter.

Finally, apply seam sealer for nylon along the open joints of the center seam, sealing the entire length of both the inner and outer surfaces. Let the sealer dry completely, as directed by the manufacturer, before using the tarp.

If you're a camper who loves to hike, you may own a worn-out pair of hiking boots that are headed for the trash. Before you ditch them, consider breathing new life into them by replacing the soles. The next page will tell you how.

For tips on caring for and repairing other types of sports equipment, try the following links:

  • Learn how to keep your bicycle in top condition, including how to patch a tire, replace a chain or spoke, and tune up the brakes at How to Repair a Bicycle.
  • How to Maintain a Boat has practical tips for making hull repairs, caring for the outboard motor, and making boat accessories.
  • If you're a skiier, check out How to Maintain Skis to find out how to extend the life of your skis and ski poles.
  • How to Maintain Golf Equipment leads you step-by-step through regripping and refinishing a golf club.
  • Skateboarders can get valuable information on taking care of their boards at How to Maintain a Skateboard.