17 Uses for a Survival Tarp and How to Buy the Best Product

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you know the feeling of sleeping under a tarp with the stars and moon staring down.

But this is not all a tarp will do for you. A tarp is one of the most versatile pieces of kit any outdoor adventurist should have with them.

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FREE SOLDIER Waterproof Portable Tarp Multifunctional Outdoor Camping Traveling Awning Backpacking Tarp Shelter Rain Tarp

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17 uses for a survival tarp

1. Shelter

One of the biggest reasons to have a survival tarp is shelter.

Large tarps make excellent survival shelters. Within minutes, you can set up a makeshift pup tent to protect you against harsh elements and retain heat. You must keep in mind that plastic tarps do not breathe like those made from fabric. As such, be sure to leave an opening to let fresh in.

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2. Privacy curtain

A tarp can also act as a privacy barrier. Simply set up the tarp as a wall to act as a curtain. This especially comes in handy when you need to set a toilet or showering area at the campsite.

3. Ground cover

In a wilderness survival situation, tarps serve as an excellent ground cover. Depending on the number of people that need to be covered, you can fold them as many times possible to create a thicker barrier.

4. Hammock

It’s easy to set up a makeshift hammock between two strong trees using a tarp. You simply tie two corners of the tarp to each tree and lie in the middle of it. And voila! You have a hammock.

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Camping Hammock, Portable Hammock with Tree Straps (10+2 Loops), Single Travel Hammock with 210T Nylon, Lightweight Parachute Hammocks for Backpack, Outdoor, Beach, Backyard, Hiking for Kids and Adult

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5. Stretcher

Unfortunately, anything can happen in the wild, including accidents. Should anyone in your campsite become injured, you can tie a tarp to four poles and use it to carry the injured person to get medical care.

6. Insulation

A tarp is your best option for a substitute mattress in the wild. Staying above wet ground keeps crawling animals away from your body and preserves your body heat by not contacting the ground.

It would be best to place some grass on the floor to act as insulation and place it on top.

7. Hunting

Tarps can be used in a hunting situation. If you have a large animal in your hands, you roll it onto the tarp and drag it to your campsite.

8. Sail

On rafts, tarps can serve as sails. You can make use of your small boat when you have a sail.

9. Plant Protection

A tarp can protect your plants from a cold snap in your survival garden.

10. Signaling for help

Brightly colored tarps can act as a signaling device. You can tie it to a stick and wave it around or spread it out on the ground in a way that it’s visible from the sky.

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Go Time Gear Life Tent Emergency Survival Shelter – 2 Person Emergency Tent – Use As Survival Tent, Emergency Shelter, Tube Tent, Survival Tarp – Includes Survival Whistle & Paracord

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11. Poncho or raincoat

If you have a spare or an old tarp, you can cut a hole in the middle of one to serve as a poncho in a rainy situation. Remember to tie a vine around your waist to keep in place.

12. Catch rainwater

If strong enough, tarps can hold some water that can be filtered and used for various purposes.

13. Cover damaged windows

Tarps can act as cover-ups for damaged windows, efficiently until you fix the damage.

14. Keep firewood dry

If you don’t have a woodshed, you can use a tarp to cover the wood. Just throw it off now and then to allow fresh air in.

15. Covering and camouflaging supplies

A green or brown tarp can be handy when you want to maintain a low profile. You can use it to cover your supplies and gear.

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16. Roof leak

A well-placed tarp can serve as a roof leak relief before getting a repair done.

17. Water distillation

To distill water using a tarp, you only need to hang the tarp over the boiling pot of water and catch the runoff.

The Best Survival Tarps

Below are some of the best survival tarps in the market. You can check them out on Amazon.

Aqua Quest Safari
  • 70D Nylon fabric
  • Comes with Boa straps, stakes, and a stuff sack
Aqua Quest Safari Tarp

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  • Boa straps have adjustable tension
  • Lifetime warranty
Snugpak All Weather Shelter
  • Eight tents stakes
  • Olive drab
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Snugpak All Weather Shelter

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  • 4 ten foot guy lines
  • Lightweight
Aqua Quest Guide Tarp
  • Boa straps, stakes, and stuff sack
  • 40D Rip-Stop Fabric
  • Available in different sizes
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Aqua Quest Guide Tarp

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  • Lifetime warranty
  • Plenty of tie-outs
S.O.L Survive Outdoors Longer utility
  • Lightweight
  • Comes with a resealable bag
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S.O.L. Survive Outdoors Longer S.O.L. Multi-Use Sport Utility Blanket, 5 x 7 feet

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  • Reflect body heat
  • No stakes
Chill Gorilla
  • 210D Rip-Stop Nylon
  • Comes with guy lines and stakes
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Chill Gorilla Hammock Camping Tarp

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  • Lightweight
  • Has center tie-out

How to Buy the Best Survival Tarp

Choosing the best survival tarp is really simple. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:


The tarp material can determine how long it lasts. Some of the most common materials are:

  • Polythene
  • Silnylon and Silpoly rain
  • Canvas
  • Neoprene

All these materials have their respective benefits. For example, polythene tarps are cost-effective and waterproof but not durable. Silnylon and silpoly are strong and waterproof but not breathable.

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RipStop Silnylon Rain Fly EVOLUTION tarp

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Canvas tarps are also strong and can withstand wear and tear. They, however, may shrink over time.

Neoprene tarps are strong and durable, and also offer strong corrosion and tear resistance.

Material thickness

The best tarp needs to be of durable material.  Its thickness plays a role in this. Lightweight ones are ideal for temporary campers and in scorching sun areas.  Heavy-duty tarps are more permanent and provide reliable protection against elements.


Tarps come in different sizes. Small ones are best in moderate wind areas, while larger ones are best in environments with strong winds and heavy downpours.

You also need to choose the size depending on how you intend to use the tarp.

Color and style

Tarps come in numerous colors, from dull to bright colors. Dull colors are best if you intend to blend into the environment, while bright colors are best for campers not well familiar with the environment they are in, and might need rescue by being spotted from afar.

Waterproof qualities

Not all tarps are waterproof. The waterproof ones will keep you dry. Therefore, it is important that you think of this aspect of your outdoor survival situation, and before you choose one to purchase.

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Gold Armour Rainfly Tarp Hammock

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Tarps are one of those items that are inexpensive but invaluable in survival situations. Its many uses make it a great trade item as well. When choosing a tarp, consider how you will be using it and choose the right fit for the tasks.