Tarps Serve More Purposes Than You Think

While there are many tools, gadgets, and camping gear that are underestimated and underappreciated when it comes to their importance in camping, the tarp is, perhaps, the most underrated among them. With its incredible versatility in almost all things outdoors, and with its vital importance in providing you with the best camping experience possible, the tarp is certainly an essential part of any camping gear.

The first thing that probably does come to mind when ‘tarp’ and ‘camping’ are mentioned in one sentence is

Makeshift Tarps

Makeshift Tarps

covering all those camping supplies to protect them from the elements. That is, without a doubt, one of the most important functions of a good tarp. But tarps go way beyond that. While it may be impossible to list all the possible uses of tarps for the outdoors, it is certainly worth listing as many as may be useful in any situation. Just three neat ideas come to mind: floor covering, makeshift shelter, and extra tent protection. But the uses of this seemingly basic camping equipment go beyond these obvious and essential purposes.

Tarps for Tent Floor Covering

The ground on which you plan on setting up your sleeping bag on may not always be the best to sleep on. Recent rain, snow, mud, or simply dirt are good enough reasons to have the floor in your tent covered for a clean and good sleep. And of course you also want to dissuade any creepy crawlers from disturbing a good night’s sleep. Heavy duty tarp can also do a good job at preventing rocks and harsh and rigid landscape from tearing into your gear and ruining it, and it would certainly force insects to take the long route from under the ground to reach you.

A good tarp will keep you and your material dry when the ground is wet, and your material secure when the ground is sharp or rigid.

Makeshift Tarp Shelter

Tarps can be set up and used as a tent for shelter or as a simple canopy in several ways. Perhaps the simplest method of setting one up as a canopy is by simply securing the tarp on five poles – one at each corner and a taller pole in the center to ensure that rainwater drains out. Of course this method only provides a ‘roof’ over your head, but, if the weather is fine, it should be a great way to provide some shade and keep everything dry in case of some light rainfall.

In the event of a sudden change in weather, a tarp can also be relatively quicker to set up for a quick makeshift shelter than a tent and would, therefore, be a great choice in an emergency. One way to do so is to tie one corner of the tarp to a tree or pole, facing downwind, and secure the other three corners to the ground. You can also use a stick or pole of some sort as extra support for the center. This method may prove crucial during an unexpected storm or rainfall.

Another great, but slightly less secure, method of setting up a quick emergency tent is to secure one whole side of the tarp to the ground using stakes, hang the rest of the tarp over a line tied to two poles or trees, and tie the other two corners to the ground. Let this open side of your makeshift canopy face downwind. This method will provide you with a good shelter from the rain, and plenty of room for a good view of the rainy scenery. And something else to talk about when you get back home.

Another tarp canopy method you can use is to tie each corner of the tarp to a tree or pole, and either ensure that one side is higher than the other, or provide a line that runs across the tent and lifts it up from the middle to let any

Tarp for the ground

Tarp for the ground

rain drain out from the sides. This will provide you with a nice long fancy canopy for your campsite.

Tarps as Extra Tent Protection

Not all tents are fit for storms and torrential rainfall. And even if the one you are using is made to handle tough weather, extra protection never hurt to ensure that no water leaks through and ruins your camping experience. Simply securing a tarp over and around a tent will do a great job at preventing any potential leaks and keeping your temporary abode dry.

Tarps can also be used to protect tents from strong winds. Prepare two poles, or find two trees, that are upwind from your tent’s location, but just a few yards away. Tie and secure one side of the tarp to each tree or pole so that it holds back the wind from blowing on toward your tent.

Tarps as Drying Surfaces

If you need to get some clothes or anything else dried up outside, just laying out a tarp on sunny ground will do the job. Simply lay out the tarp in a sunny spot and lay out the fabric and clothes you need dried on top. This keeps their moisture away from the tent, and keeps them off the dirt and soil of the under them.

Tarps as Emergency Signal Devices

Any camper knows how important it is to be prepared for an emergency, and brightly colored or reflective tarps provide an extra level of safety that you might not have been aware of; they can be used as signaling devices in case of an emergency. In the unfortunate event that a rescue crew is needed for a sudden accident of some kind, a tarp can be hung, waved, or used in any other way to signal to rescue personnel that help is needed.

In similar situations, a tarp can also be used as a makeshift stretcher in case a campmate is injured and needs to be carried back to the tent quickly.

Tarps as Hammocks

Who wouldn’t want to relax on a nice relaxing hammock in the woods, tropical beach, or any other natural landscape? And, as long as you have a good tarp with you, it is not hard to set one up.

With this impressive idea, your camping trip has just been upgraded to first class. Your tarp, along with some rope and good sturdy strong trees, can be transformed into a temporary good hammock on which you can just relax on and watch as the world flies by at the comfort of your campsite.

Tarps as Shower Curtains

With the modern convenience of showering devices for campers – such as solar showers – comes the need for some privacy while showering at a campsite. And again, tarps got you covered. Just fix up a few poles around the area where you plan on showering, fix the tarp onto the poles so it surrounds the designated shower area, and you have yourself a nice enclosed shower near your tent. Now you have plenty of modern-day amenities while camping in the outdoors.

Tarps for Storing Gear in the Car

So you had a long and exciting camping trip and it is finally time to pack everything up and throw it all in the car. Of course there is a big chance that there is still plenty of wet and muddy gear, clothing, boots, and shoes. And you certainly don’t want all that messing up the inside of your vehicle. If you do have a good tarp handy, they won’t mess up a thing.

Rather than just tossing all that into the trunk and keep the mess at bay there, just lay out the tarp in the trunk, arrange all your dirty gear on top, and, if necessary, cover them. Now you can drive back home without a care in the world.

Choosing the Right Tarp

Of course not all tarps are made the same. And choosing the right tarp for your camping need is essential for the best possible camping experience. You will certainly want a good tarp that can hold against wind, prevent rain from seeping through, and handle UV rays well enough to last long. And you also want one that will not weigh down your already burdensome load of camping gear and equipment. So what tarp should you carry along on your next trip into the wilderness?

Most tarps come in one of three types of material: polyethylene, vinyl mesh, or cotton duck canvas. And each one of

Finding the Right Tarp

Finding the Right Tarp

these types has its pros and cons, so make sure you choose the one you feel is best for your camping needs.

While polyethylene tarps are great multipurpose tarps, it might not be well suited for all climates. These tarps are certainly made to be waterproof and they probably the cheapest choice. However, they are not known to be long lasting, they handle poorly in extreme cold weather, and they may disintegrate from prolonged sunshine.

Vinyl mesh tarps are strong, sturdy, durable, and resistant to all sorts of problems. And while they may seem to be a great choice, they will be a burden when it comes to carrying due to their heavy weight. And if you plan on long hikes and long journeys, that will certainly weigh things down.

Cotton duck canvas tarps are probably the most suitable tarps for camping. Thanks to their lightweight characteristic, durability, and the ease by which they can be handled, it is only a matter of whether you prefer breathability or waterproof material.


Take a Tarp on your next Camping Trip

Wherever you plan on camping, and whichever season you are in, grabbing a good quality tarp along with your other camping gear will certainly enhance your camping experience. Whether you plan on hiking a bit, relaxing on a tarp hammock, going sailing for a while, diving in for a little swim, or just preparing for the worst possible scenarios, a great tarp can make all the difference between a trip well spent and one you will wish you never left out the house for.

So save yourself the possible headache and grab a tarp when you head out for your next camping adventure.

Browse our Camping List and Tips category for more camping related ideas and information of your interest to guarantee yourself a smooth camping experience!