Camping-Tarps-101

Camping Tarps 101

Ahhh, the great outdoors! All campers know that your trip is only as good as your survival skills and your tools. That’s why you need a great camping tarpaulin—they can come in handy for an unlimited amount of outdoor situations. Make your adventure a smooth one. Use this post as your guide to choosing the right camping tarp and getting the most use out of it.

Which kind of tarps should be used for camping?

You’d want something waterproof, durable and weatherproof. So, the best tarps for camping would be either vinyl-coated polyester tarps or iron horse polyester tarps. You can also use some lightweight camping tarps, like poly tarps, for short-term light-duty use (never for pitching tents or providing shelter, though).

Tarp vs Tent

Tarps can be used as shelter, but should you use them instead of a tent? Well, it depends on your preference. If you want to “rough it”, be our guest and pitch a tarp to use as shelter. However, tarps are usually used for shelter under “survivalist” situations. For families and less experienced campers, we recommend complementing your tent with a couple different tarps to provide extra protection and a ton of extra use throughout your trip.

Uses for Tarps While Camping

A tarpaulin could have an endless amount of use on your camping trip. Use it practically (such as ground covers, protection covers, privacy screens, etc.) and for survival! Check out just some of what you can use tarps for while camping.

Tent ground tarp – A tarpaulin can be placed underneath the tent on the ground or inside the tent covering the floor to block out moisture and add extra protection (this will also prolong the life of your tent!).

Ground sheets – Pull out your tarp to sit on during picnics, hikes or just around your campsite.

Rain barrier – Have extra protection in case a storm hits, protect yourself and your stuff against the mud, create a short-term shelter while bringing gear in/out of your tent, and cover your campfire.

Wind – Tarps can act as a windbreaker for your shelter.

Shade – Vinyl-coated poly tarps are UV-treated, so they protect you against the sun and its rays. Ideal for desert camping! Use this helpful video to learn how to hang a tarp from trees over your campsite.

Camp kitchen shelter – You should never cook inside your tent. Instead, create a cooking area with a tarp secured from above to protect against the elements. If your tarp will be next to an open flame, you will need a flame-retardant tarp.

Campfire protection – A must for when there’s unkind weather. A tarp can also help keep the warmth in, making your campsite cozy.

Tarp hammock – A comfortable and useful rest area/survival shelter. If you’d like a tutorial for this, here’s an excellent video from Survival Tracker. You can even go a step further and protect your hammock with another tarp shelter (see tutorial).

Tarping a Campsite

There are several different ways to tarp a campsite. Here are three of the most popular tarp shelter configurations:

  1. Diamond Fly
    • What it is: a diagonal pitch using a square tarp.
    • What you’ll need: Trees/poles, stakes, guy line and a square tarp.
    • Ideal for: Personal shelter, protecting against rain/sun, maintaining warmth.
  1. A-Frame
    • What it is: a tarp that’s pitched from the middle.
    • What you’ll need: 8×8 or 8×10 tarp, paracord, loops, stakes, lighter and a knife.
    • Ideal for: Roomier shelter (with two walls a roof) for campers, pets and equipment; shelter during snow or rain (because the angle allows for runoff)
  1. Envelope Tarp Shelter
    • What it is: A tarp that’s pitched from each corner at different heights to create a pocket for shelter.
    • Ideal for: Protection from ground and one side.
    • What you’ll need: guy line, stakes, trees/poles, tarp.

These are just a few ways you can pitch a camping tarp. Which others do you rely on? Let us know in the comments below.

Until next time–stay happy, campers! 😊

Unsure which kind of tarp of what tarp size to purchase?

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