There's a lot of distrust when it comes to tarps and maybe a little apprehension ... after all, if you get it wrong you might be in for a very miserable night. The tarp in the pictures measures 1.5m x 2m, it's about as small as I'd comfortably go in winter or if I were expecting much rain. Even something this small can keep you dry and snug if you give it a little thought.
One of the first things I'd suggest, is ftting your tarp with a set of lines. Guylines offer a lot more options because you can pitch your tarp higher. They don't have to cost a fortune (even ultralight ones) and a full set shouldn't add more than 50g to the weight of your tarp. Tarps with mid guy points are much more versitile than those without (the AlpKit Rig is a good example of one with) ... if you don't have any fitted, improvise with Tarp Clips. Lastly, don't be afraid of using poles, the advantages they offer far outweigh their weight/packsize, the poles in the pictures weigh 80g the pair and fold up to 30cm.
|Simple 'A' frame ... it's what you see a lot of.|
The most common set-up and possibly the first that people try is a basic 'A' frame. It's something we can all relate to because it looks like a tent of sorts. If set high then it offers a reasonable amount of room, although that may come at a cost. Once you start to lift a small(ish) tarp high, cover/protection can become an issue. I can't actually sit up under the above tarp and I'm exposed on all four sides to wind and rain.
|'A' frame with a semi dropped tail for more protection.|
A partial solution would be to drop the tail. You could remove the rear support and peg the tarp directly to the ground at the back but you'll lose a massive amount of space. Instead, if you still use a support but anchor it to the mid point of the tarp, you'll create a semi dropped tail. The dropped tail pitched into the wind will stop a lot of draught and wind driven rain getting through to you ... also consider piling your gear up at that end to, to form a 'wall' to block the emements.
|'A' frame with a front beak added.|
If you need to add a little extra protection to the 'head end' you can form a beak which will keep a surprising amount of weather off you. All you need to do is move your support/pole inside the tarp ... the further it is inside the bigger/lower the beak. Bear in mind that doing this will increase the overall height of the tarp (for a given length of support).
|It's an 'A' frame but not as we know it ... extra protection and room.|
A twist on the 'A' frame ... Using two supports again but this time set on the long sides of the tarp. This set up gives you a lot of room in the centre of the tarp for sitting/cooking and more side cover that the normal 'A' frame.
|This is the same one from the back!|
|Move your pole inside for added headroom ... ooh and a porch.|
If it's space and height you're after then the set up above works well, it's particularly good in summer when it's raining and you need protection from above but not from the sides. Your support now goes 'inside' the tarp. Depending where you place the support you'll be left with a flap that you can raise (guyline to stick in pic) to form a porch. Even with a pole in the centre there's still enough room to sleep alongside it.
|A half 'mid' possibly the best set up for winter.|
I think this has to be amongst the best set ups for protection and stability. It's basically half a pyramid, supported by a single pole ... the pole goes at the centre of one long side, the corners of the opposing long side are pegged out, with the two remaining corners being pulled round to form the pyramid shape. Pitched back to the wind this really does offer a lot of protection ... even more if you pitch the door close to a wall, tree, etc.
Off you go then, into the garden and have a play ... I hope it's warmer for you than it was for me ;o)