Is there something like 'canvas tent' (translation for Polish 'płachta namiotowa' suggested by Google Translate), or this has some other name?

This is what I mean:

enter image description here

It's not a tent, it can be considered outside part of small tent, but is used mostly as emergence (because it's very light, compared to ten) and by survivalists.

How is something like that called? The search 'canvas tent' returns the pictures of tents in Google, so I think this thing has some other name...

  • Your question can be worded better if you use the word what, instead of how. Saying "How is something like that called?" is not natural in English. That also applies to the title.
    – Tristan
    Jul 24, 2013 at 20:24
  • @Tristan: Try suggesting that as an edit next time :)
    – Matt
    Jul 25, 2013 at 0:36
  • Sometimes I leave comments because they're more educational than edits.
    – user230
    Jul 25, 2013 at 21:52
  • Matt, I did. That's why I wrote it as a comment. My point also applies to the start of the last line of Łukasz Lech's question, which is "How is something like that called?". That should also be edited to replace the how with a what.
    – Tristan
    Jul 26, 2013 at 11:41

3 Answers 3


Shelter-half, rain fly, and leanto (or lean-to) are three terms sometimes used as names of a structure as in your picture. Scattered among images on the google-images pages (1,2,3) are some pictures like yours, although for the third term images like yours are infrequent. Also see tarp, tarp tent, and tarpaulin.

Among people who camp in the US, fly or rain fly is the accepted term for the outer layer of a tent-and-fly combination, where the fly serves as a rain shield or additional thermal barrier for the tent. Most multi-season camping tents come with a fly or offer one as an option. Flies for tents typically are shaped to roughly match a given tent (ie are not flat) and are sewn together from pieces of thin nylon fabric, often waterproofed. A tent and fly can be used in several combinations: the tent alone, in mild dry weather; the fly alone, as a quickly-set-up rain or sun or sleeping shelter; or in more-severe weather, used together, with the fly keeping the tent drier and warmer than it would otherwise be.

A tarp, on the other hand, may be made of canvas, nylon, or various combination fabrics (such as rubberized or plasticized nylon). Tarps typically are flat fabric, with grommets along the hems. A shelter-half is a particular kind of fly, such that two shelter-halves together can make up an enclosed tent. Shelter-halves have been common items in surplus stores after various wars, and while (in my opinion) they are practically obsolete, the term shelter-half lives on.

  • rain fly seems to be the nearest Jul 24, 2013 at 20:43
  • @ŁukaszLech Perhaps, but I've never heard it and wouldn't understand what you meant if you said it. I haven't heard shelter-half either. As jwpat7 mentions, a slightly different image comes to mind when I hear lean-to. I think the last suggestion here, of simply tarp, is going to be the most common and understandable. You hung the tarp to block out the rainwater. Makes sense to me.
    – WendiKidd
    Jul 25, 2013 at 15:41
  • @WendiKidd, rain fly actually is quite a common and appropriate term. But see edit. Jul 25, 2013 at 16:35
  • This is why I've posted a photo. Because of real problems with finding even approximate term. Jul 25, 2013 at 16:47
  • @jwpat7 Great edit; +1! Lots of good information in there.
    – WendiKidd
    Jul 25, 2013 at 17:38

The green, uh, fabric thingy with grommets in it is unequivocally a tarp. The only way it could be closer to an archetypical tarp would be if it were blue instead of green.

What you call it when it's set up like that picture is not so unequivocal. You probably shouldn't call it a tent, since that implies more structure/shaping. One particular tent manufacturer (which specializes in historical tents, hence the oilcloth and canvas instead of stereotypical tarp material) has the following in its catalog:

Panther Primitives tarp setups

So, you could call that shelter a trail tarp, or a diamond shelter, or even a half-open reflector. (I wouldn't suggest using the latter unless context has already established that you're talking about a trail shelter -- oh, look, another possible term! -- because for most people "reflector" means something shiny.)


Some survivalists/extreme backpackers might term that a bivouac.

  • Sometimes contracted to 'bivvy'
    – peterG
    Jan 10, 2015 at 14:56

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