A couple of years ago I posted a simple way to make a shelter from a tarp using a single pole, and without having to tie it off to any trees or solid connection point above. This latter point is useful if you need to make a shelter on ground away from the woods, or for when you have limited cordage.
I read through (with difficulty) David Macpherson's Introduction to Tarp Shelters, but got flummoxed with all of the configurations shown. Then while browsing through BushcraftUK.com, I came across a thread about shelters that at first led me to Pablo's excellent blog posts about shelter, and then finally to NWWoodsman.com, which has a terrific article and video showing off how to set up this tarp tent (video shown at bottom of this post).
There are two improvements I see over my first tarp tent configuration. First of all, this is a closed shelter. The doors keep the warmth in and the wind out. Secondly, the ingenious simplicity of the pole configuration that holds the tarp up opens up and clears the entrance way, allowing for greater freedom entering and while within the shelter.
As I am unable to make it outside easily at the moment (our 8-week old baby commands our devoted attention), I have modelled this shelter.
I used a ceiling tile for the ground, kitchen cotton twine for rope, pins for tent stakes, a sheet of garbage bag plastic with the dimensions of 3 X 4 for the tarp, and 2 sticks cut from a piece of trim I found in the basement for the poles that by their very angle can remain free-standing and hold up the tarp.
All that is needed is some method to keep out mosquitoes (depending on local conditions and the season), and a groundsheet on to which I would place my camping mat and sleeping bag (or simply wool blankets).
Now I can transport 2 wool blankets, tarp, and a groundsheet all in a single roll - and without having to carry fibreglass poles, because I can cut a couple of poles using my axe from the woods.
This solution makes for a brilliant, weather-tight lightweight shelter for bushcraft camping.
Have a look at the Woodsman Tarp video, from Northwest Woodsman which provides some clear directions on how to set up this configuration of tarp:
Let me know about some of your experiences sleeping under a tarp as compared with a tent in the comments below.