Stay Safe and Dry: The Best Survival Tarps for Your Outdoor Adventures


Survival tarps are an essential piece of gear for outdoor enthusiasts and survivalists alike. Whether you’re camping, hiking, or preparing for an emergency situation, a tarp can provide shelter, protection from the elements, and a multitude of other uses. In this article, we will explore the different aspects of survival tarps, including choosing the right material, selecting the appropriate size, waterproofing techniques, setting up your tarp, alternative uses, lightweight options, heavy-duty protection, budget-friendly options, and maintenance and care.

Choosing the Right Material

When it comes to survival tarps, there are several materials to choose from, each with its own pros and cons. The most common materials used for tarps are nylon, polyester, and polyethylene. Nylon is lightweight and durable but can be more expensive than other options. Polyester is also lightweight and durable but may not be as resistant to UV rays. Polyethylene is a heavy-duty material that is waterproof and resistant to tearing but can be heavier and bulkier.

When choosing a tarp material, it’s important to consider factors such as durability, weight, and waterproofing. If you’re planning on using your tarp in rugged conditions or extreme weather, a heavier-duty material like polyethylene may be the best choice. However, if you’re looking for a lightweight option for backpacking or hiking, nylon or polyester may be more suitable.

Size Matters

Selecting the right size tarp is crucial for creating a comfortable and effective shelter. The size of your tarp will depend on several factors, including the number of people in your group and the type of shelter you want to create. If you’re camping alone or with one other person and only need a basic shelter to protect against rain or sun, a smaller tarp around 8×10 feet should suffice. However, if you’re camping with a larger group or want to create a more elaborate shelter with walls and a floor, you may need a larger tarp, such as 12×16 feet or even bigger.

It’s also important to consider the weight and packability of your tarp when selecting the size. A larger tarp will be heavier and bulkier to carry, so if you’re backpacking or hiking, you may want to opt for a smaller size that is more lightweight and compact.

Waterproofing 101

Keeping your tarp dry in wet weather is essential for staying comfortable and protected. There are several techniques you can use to waterproof your tarp, including seam sealing and using a ground cloth. Seam sealing involves applying a waterproof sealant to the seams of your tarp to prevent water from seeping through. This can be done using a seam sealer or by applying a thin layer of silicone caulk.

Using a ground cloth underneath your tarp can also help keep you dry by providing an additional layer of protection from moisture on the ground. A ground cloth can be made from a variety of materials, such as plastic sheeting or a lightweight tarp, and should be slightly smaller than your tarp to prevent water from pooling between the two layers.

It’s important to note that even with proper waterproofing techniques, no tarp is completely waterproof. In heavy rain or prolonged exposure to moisture, some water may still seep through. Regular maintenance and reapplication of waterproofing treatments can help prolong the effectiveness of your tarp’s waterproofing.

Setting Up Your Tarp

Properly setting up your tarp is crucial for creating a sturdy shelter that will withstand the elements. There are several essential knots and techniques you should be familiar with when securing your tarp. The most common knots used for tarps are the square knot, the taut-line hitch, and the trucker’s hitch.

The square knot is used to join two ropes of equal diameter and is commonly used to secure the corners of a tarp. The taut-line hitch is a versatile knot that can be used to adjust the tension of a line and is often used to secure the guy lines of a tarp. The trucker’s hitch is a powerful knot that can be used to create a high-tension line and is useful for securing the ridgeline of a tarp.

There are also several different tarp configurations you can use depending on the weather conditions and environment. Some common configurations include the A-frame, lean-to, and diamond pitch. The A-frame configuration is ideal for shedding rain and snow and provides good ventilation. The lean-to configuration is great for blocking wind and creating a cozy shelter. The diamond pitch is versatile and can be adjusted to suit different weather conditions.

Beyond Shelter

While shelter is the primary use for survival tarps, they can also serve a multitude of other purposes in the outdoors. In an emergency situation, a tarp can be used as a makeshift stretcher to transport injured individuals. It can also be used as a ground cover to protect your gear from moisture or as a makeshift table or seating area.

In addition, a tarp can be repurposed in creative ways in an emergency situation. For example, it can be used as a signaling device by reflecting sunlight or as a makeshift rainwater collection system by creating a funnel shape and directing water into a container.

Lightweight and Portable

For backpackers and hikers, weight and packability are important considerations when choosing a survival tarp. There are several lightweight options available that are specifically designed for these activities. Ultralight tarps are made from lightweight materials such as silnylon or cuben fiber and are designed to be as lightweight and compact as possible.

When packing and carrying your tarp on the trail, it’s important to consider the weight and bulk of the tarp, as well as how it will fit in your backpack. Some tarps come with their own stuff sack or compression sack, which can help reduce the size and make it easier to pack.

Heavy Duty Protection

In extreme weather conditions or emergency situations, a heavy-duty tarp may be necessary to provide maximum protection. These tarps are typically made from durable materials such as polyethylene and are designed to withstand high winds, heavy rain, and other harsh conditions.

When choosing a heavy-duty tarp, it’s important to look for features such as reinforced corners, grommets for securing the tarp, and UV resistance to prevent degradation from sun exposure. These tarps are typically heavier and bulkier than lightweight options but provide superior protection in extreme conditions.

Budget-Friendly Options

If you’re on a tight budget, there are several affordable options available for survival tarps. One option is to make your own tarp using inexpensive materials such as plastic sheeting or canvas. This can be a cost-effective solution if you have basic sewing skills and access to a sewing machine.

Another option is to look for sales or discounts on tarps from outdoor retailers or online marketplaces. Many retailers offer discounted prices on older models or during certain times of the year, such as the end of the camping season.

It’s important to note that while budget-friendly options may be more affordable, they may not be as durable or long-lasting as higher-end options. It’s important to carefully consider your needs and priorities when choosing a tarp within your budget.

Maintenance and Care

To ensure that your survival tarp lasts for years to come, it’s important to properly maintain and care for it. Regular cleaning is essential to remove dirt, debris, and mildew that can accumulate over time. Most tarps can be cleaned with mild soap and water using a soft brush or sponge. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can damage the tarp.

After cleaning, make sure to thoroughly dry your tarp before storing it to prevent mold and mildew growth. Store your tarp in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Avoid folding or creasing the tarp for long periods of time, as this can weaken the material.

It’s also important to regularly inspect your tarp for any signs of damage, such as tears or fraying. Repair any damage promptly using a patch kit or adhesive tape designed for tarps. Regular maintenance and care will help prolong the life of your tarp and ensure that it remains in top condition when you need it most.


Survival tarps are an essential piece of gear for outdoor enthusiasts and survivalists. They provide shelter, protection from the elements, and a multitude of other uses in a variety of outdoor activities and emergency situations. When choosing a survival tarp, it’s important to consider factors such as material, size, waterproofing, setup techniques, alternative uses, weight, durability, budget, and maintenance. By investing in a quality tarp and taking proper care of it, you can ensure that you’re prepared for whatever nature throws your way.

If you’re looking for the best survival tarp, you might also be interested in our article on the top 10 best tactical survival tomahawk axes for 2022. A tomahawk axe can be a versatile tool in survival situations, and having one in your kit can greatly enhance your chances of survival. Check out our article for a detailed review of the top options available on the market. (source)


What is a survival tarp?

A survival tarp is a lightweight and durable piece of fabric that is used to provide shelter and protection from the elements during outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and survival situations.

What are the features of the best survival tarp?

The best survival tarp should be made of high-quality materials that are waterproof, tear-resistant, and lightweight. It should also be easy to set up and pack away, and come with a range of attachment points and guy lines for versatility.

What are the benefits of using a survival tarp?

Using a survival tarp can provide protection from the sun, wind, rain, and other elements, helping to keep you dry and comfortable during outdoor activities. It can also be used to create a shelter, as a groundsheet, or as a makeshift stretcher in emergency situations.

What are the different types of survival tarps?

There are several different types of survival tarps available, including ultralight tarps, heavy-duty tarps, and multi-use tarps. Ultralight tarps are designed for backpacking and other lightweight activities, while heavy-duty tarps are more durable and suitable for longer-term use. Multi-use tarps can be used for a range of different purposes, such as creating a shelter, as a groundsheet, or as a makeshift stretcher.

How do I choose the best survival tarp?

When choosing a survival tarp, consider factors such as the size and weight of the tarp, the materials it is made from, and the number of attachment points and guy lines it has. You should also consider the type of activities you will be using the tarp for, and whether you need a tarp that is more lightweight or more durable.


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