How To Build A Tent for a Backyard Campout

How To Build A Tent for a Backyard Campout

Learn how to build a tent that’s perfect for a backyard campout.

By: Amanda Formaro

Backyard camping is a giggle-worthy experience for kids of all ages. Catching fireflies, playing flashlight tag, telling ghost stories and roasting marshmallows over the backyard fire pit are all reminiscent of great nights under the stars. Buying a tent can be quite costly, but making your own — whether it's temporary or reusable — can be a great alternative.

Whether you’re making a teepee for one afternoon of make-believe play, or a tent you'll use over and over, the basic materials are similar. You need something for the walls and something to hold it all up. The following are instructions on how to build a tent.


  • Large branches
  • PVC piping
  • Shower curtain rods


  • Cardboard boxes
  • Tarps
  • Sheets
  • Waterproof fabric

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Temporary Forts
For an afternoon of imaginative play, simple supplies such as large cardboard boxes or an old bed sheet will do the trick. Large branches make decent poles, but broom handles or shower curtain rods work great as well. Simply prop up your walls with your poles, using a large tree or hedge line as a lean-to. Pushing the poles into the ground can add a little bit more security and keep the fort from caving in.

A More Durable Structure
PVC pipe is the way to go if you'd like to make a tent, fort or teepee that will hold up well and can be used more than once. PVC piping is available at hardware and home improvement stores. You can purchase joints to go with your piping, allowing you to create bends and turns in any direction that you choose and is economical and lightweight as well.

Making the Structure's Skeleton
Sketch out on paper how you want your final dwelling to look. Based off of your drawing, connect pieces of PVC pipe using joints to create the base or bottom. Remember to insert T-joints where you want your sides to insert!

Insert the side PVC pipes and connect them together at the top for a teepee or a tent. You can drill holes in the top of the pipe and secure them with zip ties or cording.

Making the Walls
Using your skeleton as a pattern, place fabric over the structure to measure out and mark what you will need. Cut out and sew (or safety pin) all the pieces together then put the cover in place.

Outdoor Versus Indoor
For indoor use, any fabric will do, but for outdoor use it's best to use a waterproof fabric. Vinyl tablecloths and tarps are great for this purpose and are sturdy and tear resistant. For indoor use, a floor is not really necessary, but for outdoor use sitting directly on the grass is not ideal. You can create a floor in the same way that you created the walls, or simply use large throw pillows for comfortable seating.

Kids and forts (or tents or teepees) go together like peanut butter and jelly. Taking the time to make a fun play structure the kids can enjoy will result in hours of unplugged fun!

Amanda is a mother of four, craft designer and recipe developer who also runs several sites, including Crafts by Amanda, Cooking with Amanda and the Secret Recipe Club. Her work has appeared on and as well as in Parents, Redbook and Mixing Bowl magazines among others.

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