Camping & Survival

Quick Camping Tip: Take a Tarp… or Two

Picture shows a blue tarp strung between three poles to make a shelter.

You learn many lessons when you are still a wet-behind-the-ears camper. Through numerous camping fails, I have learned that packing a few extra multi-purpose items can turn a potential camping disaster into a weekend of camping success.

One of those items is the humble, plastic tarp. When you purchased your tent, you probably also purchased a tarp to put between the ground and your tent’s floor to protect it from rips and water seepage. Just one unexpected rainfall combined with a cheap tent will have you wishing you bought a spare tarp or two.

The number one use for cheap, plastic tarps is cover; cover your bags, food and other gear. A tarp also makes excellent makeshift rain fly for your tent and sunshades. Don’t forget rope! If the ground is wet from rain or dew, use the tarp as a picnic blanket. To keep bugs and critters away from your dining area, use a tarp as a tablecloth. Instead of food sticking to the table attracting bees, mosquitoes and flies, you can easily wipe down the tarp after eating. In an emergency, you can use a tarp to collect rainwater.

I have even used tarps to make a slip-n-slide.

When camping season is over, tarps have many uses at home as well. Tarps can be used to cover your firewood, protect your floors when you paint and protect vehicles that you don’t park in the garage. Further, throw a few in the truck. There are many times I have used tarps to cover furniture when moving.

With prices starting at around $7, a plastic tarp is one item you cannot afford to go without.

How many uses for tarps can you come with it? Share them with us in the comment section.


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Comments (2)

  1. My wife and I were still into tent camping when most of our friends had graduated into trailers and motorhomes but Uncle Sam had spent a lot of time and money teaching me how to live in the field and we were still having fun. We were pretty well organized and everything fit neatly into four plastic crates like you see at home improvement stores and what was on top were two big plastic tarps.

    But without some field sense they can be useless. If you’re winter camping and there’s even a threat of rain picking a site that’s high and dry is essential. We had an eight by eight dome tent and I always trenched around it. A ten or twelve foot tarp always went under it. If there was even a chance of rain the second tarp went over the top and overlapped past where the lower tarp was folded up onto the tent. They over lapped for a couple of feet and I staked the top tarp down. We were protected in a waterproof plastic cocoon.

    the last time we camped with them our friends were up all night worrying about us because they thought I had picked an antisocial site about a hundred and fifty feet above and away from the sandy wash of the RV parking area. When the rain started that night they were stranded. If they had stepped out of their deluxe accommodations they would have been in fast moving knee deep muddy water. We were comfortable, high and dry.

    Admittedly that was a lot of years ago but we took away an important lesson and today we each have a tarp in our earthquake prep/bug out bags. Hank

  2. Besides the obvious a 4×4 sheet will make a solar still to get water out of dry dirt, wrap a body to hold heat for first aid, also many survival uses.Anytime someone leaves camp they should have a large black plastic trash bag in a pocket. Even better a red or orange bag. Tie it on a kids belt or use it as a belt. Bag or tarp same stuff. I lived out of a back pack on the road in my hippie days and A 8×8 tarp was home, dry, warm, wind brake. With a sheet of plastic and some jump cord you are set. In scouts we used plastic “tube tents”. They are a sealed tarp open at both ends with a rope run through. After a week on the trail the smell became the stuff of legend !

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