There are many uses for a tarp in the great outdoors, but what I’ll be covering in this article are the many uses for a camping trip.
More times than not you’re going to need more than one, and if you’re a newbie to the outdoor game you’re probably wondering why the heck you need so many.
Well, keep reading and discover all the good ones below 😀
For Your Tent
A footprint is a piece of material that sits underneath your tent to protect the flooring.
However, there are a lot of tents that don’t have a footprint, and more times than not they are sold separately. They aren’t cheap either.
This is where a tarp comes in handy.
Just lay out a tarp and pitch your tent over top, keeping in mind that you need to fold the excess to stop water from “pooling” under the floor when it rains.
2. Extra Rain Protection
Pitching your tent between two trees and tying your tarp securely above is a great technique not many people use.
It acts as an extra line of defense against the rain so you can sleep with a peace of mind knowing you’ve done everything in your power to keep you and your family safe.
Keep the rain fly on also, as two waterproof strategies are always better than one 🙂
3. Blocking Wind
This can literally become a lifesaver when you suddenly realize your $50 tent from Walmart isn’t going to cut the mustard for the unexpected rise in wind conditions.
They are really THAT good since they are windproof and waterproof, and being so lightweight makes them a no-brainer in my eyes.
Secure it wherever the wind is smashing against your tent, as it can help stop your tent blowing over in the middle of the night!
Around the Campsite
4. Makeshift Shelter
Tarp shelters create the best kitchens, eating areas and even sitting areas. Sometimes when it’s raining it makes being outside a dreadful experience.
With the help of a tarp you won’t have to be cooped up inside your tent on a rainy day.
Because they are compact and extremely lightweight, take AT LEAST a few with you, and that’s minimum.
You’ll soon realize the vast amount of shelters you can create and you’ll get better at creating them after some practice.
5. Sleeping Shelter
Rather than the traditional “tent camping”, you may want to take your outdoor experience to the next level.
It is called tarp camping and it makes you feel like you’re actually sleeping in mother nature since there are no walls. Just use one of your trekking poles to prop the tarp up and you are set.
You are truly sleeping in the forest with a thin piece of fabric keeping you sheltered, that is it.
Note: This also means you’re in the firing line for bugs – nothing a bit of insect repellent can’t fix though.
6. Covering Equipment
If your tent doesn’t have a vestibule but you’re out backpacking and have no place to store your equipment, a tarp comes handy in this situation.
Usually you can store your gear in a car, a vestibule or even inside the tent, but in some case this is just not possible.
A tarp is the next best option.
Secure a tarp over your equipment or just wrap everything up inside one. You’ve now weatherproofed your gear and don’t have to worry about your valuables getting wet.
7. Covering Wood Pile
You can keep your wood pile dry with the help of a tarp.
Throw a tarp over your wood pile and make sure it’s secured with some paracord, as tarps can fly away if not secured properly.
Another great use of a tarp and firewood is when you need to move large piles from one place to another.
Tarps are strong and allows you to carry heavy things like a sack.
8. Creating a Bathroom
Need I say more?
Of course in the wilderness there is really nothing to worry about, however, some people just like to be sure they aren’t going to be seen doing their business.
Creating a bathroom via a tarp will give you a private bathroom and peace of mind.
It’s easy to create and can be left up for the duration of the drop if need be.
9. Keeping Food Out of Reach of Bears
Wrap food up in a tarp, tie it with paracord, throw it over a branch and tie it securely so it’s suspended in the air.
If you’re in bear country you need to know how to store your food correctly, and doing this is just another simple technique that works like a charm.
10. Emergency Shelter
Tarps are SO lightweight…they should be with you everywhere you go, especially when you’re out hiking and exploring the surrounding areas of your campsite.
In the event you get lost and can’t find your way back to camp, a tarp will allow you to stay sheltered and out of the rain.
Have one in your day pack no matter where you are!
11. Slip ‘N Slide
Fun for the whole family, and probably more so for the adults if I say so myself.
I’m usually one of the last to get off of these things because they are just THAT much fun.
The beauty of a slip ‘n slide with a tarp is that you can set them up differently with every campsite.
I usually have mine setup to slide straight into a lake or body of water.
Of course you need to ensure it is safe before using first.
12. Guaranteed Dry Surface
The great outdoors is extremely unpredictable.
You aren’t guaranteed anything so you need to be prepared for the unexpected.
Usually the earths ground is wet or damp at best, and sometimes keeping your gear on a table or in your tent is out of the question.
Lay a tarp out and stake it down. All your equipment is now dry and safe from the damp ground.
Keep in mind that this method can be used with anything, even kitchen utensils, clothing, etc. You are only limited to your imagination.
13. Storing Gear in the Car
After the camping trip is over, there’s going to be muddy boots, gear and wet clothing.
You can stop the interior of your car from getting dirty just by laying a tarp down flat and everything dirty and wet on top of it.
It’s as easy as that 🙂
14. Clear Tarps
In some cases it might be best to use clear tarps rather than colored, which in my personal experience, work great for shelters.
They are good for kitchens, sitting areas and emergency shelters.
Sometimes it’s good to see the surrounding areas, especially when you’re out hiking but get stuck in a sudden storm.
Tarps are a wondrous creation made for literally anything, and I’ve seen people struggle just because they don’t know how to use tarps to their advantage.
There are probably hundreds of uses for a tarp – here I have stated what I use them for only.
I’m intrigued to know what YOU use your tarp for in the great outdoors.
What do you use your tarp for? Pop your answer below!
20 thoughts on “14 Ways to Use a Tarp For Camping”
This was a very interesting read! Like I’m not a camper but your post sure makes me want to go camping with my family and give your tips a try!!
I’m happy to see I’m helping others on their adventures AND inspiring others to go on trips too. Thanks for your comment 🙂
Thanks for all the great ideas! I know I’ll be using some of these on my next camping trip.
Happy to help, anytime 😀
Wow you can use a tarp for loads of uses. A great descriptive article that will be good for newbies to read. Sounds like a tarp is a real life saver when in the great outdoors.
It sure is Eden. Don’t forget to use these ideas on your next trip 🙂
I certainly did not know that there are so many ways to use a tarp when camping. As a newbie to camping, I never thought of anything else, but the basic use. I especially like the bathroom idea. Who says that you can’t have some privacy outdoors? Then again, the slip and slide idea can certainly rev up the fun for the kids and of course I will be in it too. Already, I am picturing the family having fun on our next camping trip. Thanks a million for sharing. The kids gonna love these.
There are even more ways than the ones I’ve mentioned, they are just the ones I like the most hence why I’m sharing them. Glad you liked it Carol and I hope you use some of them on your next camping trip 🙂
Thank you for sharing this article!
While reading it, I learned some new (and in my opinion extraordinary) ways to use a tarp.
Do you know what material are tarps usually made of, which makes them weatherproof? What would be the average price?
I would consider going outside St. Petersburg, Russia for camping (I went there for camping as a child), and I’m glad that I’ve read your post 🙂
Keep up the great work!
All tarps are extremely waterproof and prices vary anywhere from $5-$100. The higher the price the better quality and the longer it lasts.
Hope this helps.
Wow, Brandon. What a great list of uses for a tarp. I have used many of these when I camp but you had a couple of new ones. Good Job and Happy Camping!
Thanks Lenny 🙂 Get out there and put this new-found information to good use!
Hey Brandon! Above all, your article is USEFUL and ACTIONABLE. I try to go on surf trips at least twice during the year and honestly, have never used my two tarps other than for giving us extra shade! What you share here is, in my case, essential for a better camping experience. Man, I will print it out and carry it in my backpack during my next trip. Thanks again and great advice!
Hahaha, that’s what 99% of people use them for, so I’m glad you found something new in this article.
Thanks for the kind words and I wish you nothing but the best on your future adventures brother 🙂
I used to camp a lot when I was young. Never new you could do so much things with a tarp. Great tips. I will remember these when I will camp again.
Fortunately these are only the tip of the iceberg.
You gave some really good tips on how to use a tarp for camping.
Some we have used ourselves, like placing one under our tent before putting it up, also for covering wood.
However, all the times we have went camping and been caught in down pours, I never thought of tying one to a couple of trees to add more rain cover. I seen a few ideas I would like to share with my husband. I will have to share this with my husband.
I’m happy you liked it and learned a thing or two from this article. Good luck on your future adventures, Lee Ann 🙂
Hi, I just found your blog a couple days ago, and I love the content!
I like your tarp suggestions. Some of your comments make me wonder what type of tarp you’re using. The kind I have are heavy, awkward, and not sized to fit in any day pack. Got any useful links for lightweight tarps?
Good morning Macgyver.
The Hanjet Tarp is 2.9 pounds and very large and the FREE SOLDIER Waterproof Portable Tarp Multifunctional is even bigger, lighter and more versatile but costs a little extra.
Although if you want to go ultra compact yet effective, go with the Traveler’s Outdoor Gear Pocket Blanket (this one’s probably better suited for your day pack).
Hope this helps you my friend 🙂