Top survival uses for a tarp

Nick Oetken
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Photo Credit

One of the most practical and versatile items that you can ever have in a survival situation is, without question, a tarp. In fact, a dependable tarp is an absolute must have survival item in any bug out bag or survival kit. Yes, they do take up space even when folded, but they are still well worth having for the reasons we’re about to explore.



Here are the top eight survival uses for a tarp:


The first and biggest reason to have a tarp is for the primary reason we have them in the first place: shelter. A tarp will serve as a superb protection against the wind, sun, rain, or snow in virtually any kind of environment or weather conditions that you can think of. In fact, besides a quality tent, it’s arguably the best shelter material that you could ask for in a wilderness survival situation that you can carry with you.


There are a variety of different kinds of shelters that you can make with a shelter, including lean-to’s, an A-frame, a teepee, or a simple sunshade.

Rain catchment

One of the best sources of clean drinking water in any survival situation is rainwater, and you must have a reliable method to catch as much of it as you possibly can. This is where a tarp will come in handy. Simply tie a tarp between four trees and allow it to catch the falling rain. Collect the water when it begins to weigh down.


If you’re willing to cut a hole in the middle of your tarp, it will serve as an excellent poncho. Just use Paracord or vine to tie it around your waist so it doesn’t flop around or get in the way.

Privacy curtain

This one is extremely simple. Simply set up a tarp as a wall so it serves as a privacy curtain. This will be especially useful if you plan on setting up a toilet or showering area in your campsite where privacy is strongly desired.


With two strong trees, some Paracord, and a tarp, it’s very easy to set up your own makeshift hammock. Tie two corners of the tarp to a tree each and then simply lay down in the middle of it, and just like that you’ll have a hammock. You’ll likely sink down farther into it, so you’ll have a protected covering on both sides. Cover yourself with a space blanket at that point, and you’ll be very well protected from the elements (and up from the moist ground).

Signaling device


So long as your tarp is brightly colored, it will be an excellent signaling device. You can either tie your tarp to a pole or stick and wave it around or better yet you can spread it out on the ground on a flat and exposed side of the hill so it’s visible to pilots in the sky. Orange or bright red tarps will work the best for this method.



Should anyone in your survival group become injured, you can use a tarp and some cordage and poles to help carry them out. You’ll need four poles that are each equal in length to the sides of your tarp. Tie them with Paracord, string, or vine and then have your injured person lay down on it. At that point, you can either drag the stretcher along, or you and someone else can pick it up from both ends to carry the person out.

Insulation from the ground


A tarp will be one of the best choices you have available for a mattress in a survival situation. Keeping yourself above from the wet ground while you rest is wise not only so you’ll be farther from any creepy crawlies, but also so you can preserve body heat by not being in direct contact with the moist ground. Simply place grass and/or pine needles on the floor of your shelter to serve as your insulation, and then cover it up with a tarp. Lay down on it and you’re set.


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