Tarps, also known by their full name tarpaulin, are large heavy duty pieces of plastic, often made with polypropylene but also can be made with canvas and other plastic materials. They have grommets along the edges so you can run string, rope or attach bungee cords without damaging the integrity of the tarp. But while people generally think of tarps as being useful for shelter, there are a lot of other uses for a tarp that you might not have thought of, meaning that a tarp should be in everyone’s long term survival plan, as well as in your vehicle’s emergency kit.
They can be used to make tents or other shelters outside. Because they are generally waterproof, it helps keep you dry from the elements. You can even create a triangle tent if it is large enough, folded in thirds, one for each side and the bottom.
Shelter in your vehicle
If you get stranded in hot weather, you can attach it to the outside of your vehicle to provide shade from the hot sun, since cars get pretty hot on a hot day when you cannot run air conditioning. Likewise, in cold weather, you can use it as an insulator, or as a way to open the window to get some fresh air and ventilation, but without letting rain or snow inside.
Collecting fresh rainwater
String up a large tarp between trees or buildings and use it to collect rainwater in the rain. Because of the large surface area you can collect much more water than you could in a regular rain barrel or bucket. It can be a bit unstable, so get a partner to help you collect the water into a container.
You can use it to cover wet ground to sit on, so you don’t get wet as well. It also serves as a great ground sheet underneath a tent so the bottom of the tent doesn’t get damaged.
If you are taking shelter in a building with a leaky roof, you can secure it to the roof to stop the leak. Do remember that leaks can travel quite a distance from where the leak is on the roof versus where you see it leaking inside the house, so check the attic first if you are trying to find the exact spot, especially if you have a smaller sized tarp.
You can use a tarp between two poles or sturdy branches to carry an injured person on, or even just to carry supplies between two people.
A color for every season
Gone are the days when tarps came in bright blue or occassionally bright orange. Now you can get them in a white, which some people like for shelters since it lets in more natural light and doesn’t make it seem as dark. I have even seen them in pink! You can also get them in dark green and black if you are looking for one you could also use without drawing attention to yourself like a bright blue or orange one will.
Don’t forget you will also want some bungee cords and some string or rope so you can easily tie it up if you are using it for a shelter or to collect water. While a tarp has many uses, it is even more useful when you can tie it up!