How to use a tarp for a trailer canopy.

First step...purchase some hinges with removable pins.  Size them such that when you remove the pin, the larger rounded area that the pin goes through will fit into the track on the front of your trailer.  How many you need will depend on how many holes you have on your canopy running in that direction.  Ours has 6.  Since they come in pairs, it might be worth putting 6 in, even if you only need 5 - that way if you end up with a 6-hole tarp down the road, you're ready to go.  I would recommend painting them prior to installation.  Mine were brass-coated, but the coating didn't last long and they are now rust brown.

The next thing you will need is 4 wing nuts and screws.  Wing nuts?  Yes, wing nuts.  I pulled one out of my trailer to figure out the size - I believe they are either #8 or #10 (probably #8) holes with matching screws.  I recommend all brass so they don't rust.  Get short screws that have the V-shaped countersink type under the head - so it fits down tight into the V of the wingnut..  I'm sure there's a proper technical term, but I don't know what it is.  If anyone can correct me, I'll update my notes.  Take the wingnut and slide it into the track on your camper so that the "wings" are sticking out towards you.  When the screw is put in from the front and tightened down, it will lock tight in the track. does this all go together?  As you look from left to right along the track on your trailer, you will see it look like this:

Wing Nut : Hinge : Wing Nut :  Then 4 hinges spaced out  :  Wing Nut : Hinge : Wing Nut

The idea is that the wing nuts hold the outer-most hinges in a fixed position.  The outer-most wing nuts don't really matter, they are just there so the hinges don't fall off the end.  The inner one will need to be adjusted once you put up the canopy so it is kept tight across the length of your trailer.

Now, go get yourself some reasonably heavy-duty zip ties.  You don't want the little tiny ones, but you don't need really big ones either.  Zip tie the canopy grommets to a hole in each hinge.  Zip ties work best (unless someone comes up with a better idea) - they are strong, won't come loose, and they keep the canopy close to the trailer.  For obvious reasons you don't want any more gap there than you can help.  Then buy a cheap set of wire cutters and use those when you are taking the canopy down.  Dad sliced his finger open once using a knife to cut them off...

Once the canopy is zip-tied on, stretch out one of your end hinges until the canopy is tight, then tighten down the wing nut.  You shouldn't need to adjust it any more until you get a new tarp.  Perhaps not even then if the size is close enough.

Here's what the end hinge assembly looks like when put in place.  Note that it is put in so it hangs down.  You can flip it the other way, but it won't drop down nicely as you see illustrated in this photo.  Depending on your track though, you may have to install it pointing somewhat upwards.  This isn't my trailer, this is dad's.  My hinges point upwards and are very rusted!

Here's the whole rig set up on the Outer Banks with all 10 poles.  Cape Point National Park Service Campground for those interested.  When I'm in the mountains and don't have to worry about thunderstorms and high winds, 3 poles across the front is normally sufficient.

The poles are the cheap Wal-Mart variety.  They do the job, but tend to rust.  I've just recently found a source for nice aluminum ones.  Unfortunately, they are a bit pricey.  They can be found at

The ropes are hand-made out of sisal rope and some blocks of wood with 2 holes drilled in them.  Tie a knot on the end, thread it thru one hole and back through the other.  Then tie a (slip?) knot at the top that's just large enough to keep a hole open for the pole.  Dad has some ropes made like this that are probably 30+ years old...they just get better and smoother with age.  Keep in mind the sisal rope with tighten up when it gets wet, weather changes, etc.  At the beach, I use the nicer and longer metal V-style tent pegs from Wal-Mart.  The plastic ones don't hold nearly as well in the sandy soil.

If you have any questions, feel free to send an email to me at

Good luck!


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Last Updated:  8-14-06