A Tarpaulin Raft

This raft has a very simple construction and does not take long to build. It is very stable and the components are fairly easy to transport as there are no bulky drums. The size and shape can vary (square or rectangular) depending on the materials available but we have given dimensions for a square raft.


  • 16 x 1.8m (6ft) spars
  • 2 x 2.5m (8 ft) spars
  • 4 x 1m (3ft) staves
  • A plank or spar for a seat approx 2m long
  • Sacking or foam rubber (lots)
  • 32 x 6mm polypropylene lashing lengths (man made ropes are easier to untie when wet than natural fibres)
  • Tarpaulin approx 5m x 5m (17 ft x 17 ft) we used a fairly cheap woven polypropylene one such as those advertised in the Exchange and Mart by Bradshaws 01904 691169
  • 2 short paddles


Make two similar squares by lashing 4 x 1.8m staves using square lashings.

Lash 1 x 1m stave to each corner of one of the squares so that they stand vertically.

Lower the second square over the vertical staves and lash it securely to the top of each one.

Use the remaining 8 x 1.8m staves as diagonal bracing around the sides 2 per face.

The 2 x 2.5m staves are used to cross brace the bottom square.(a)

The plank (seat) is supported by the junction of the vertical cross bracing of two opposite sides. (Diagram b)

Tie sacking or foam rubber firmly around the ends of the spars at the bottom of the raft. It is worth spending time and trouble with this as the tarpaulin will rub against the ends of these spars and can tear if they are not very well lagged.(c)

Place the raft in the middle of the tarpaulin. Bring the sides of the tarpaulin up over the framework and tie securely in place.

Two Scouts sit on the plank and paddle.

Care needs to be taken not to ground too heavily as the tarpaulin may tear.

It will be a help if there are eyelets around the edge of the tarpaulin at fairly close centres. The edge of the tarpaulin can then be tied to the base frame of the raft.

Alternatively, ropes can be attached by folding the material over a rounded pebble and tying rope around it.

To download the complete plan and design document please Click Here

Put your phone down and what are you left with? Just teamwork, courage and the skills to succeed.’
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls