One of the items a survivalist absolutely must have is a tarp, and while having a tarp might not be a matter of life and death, it certainly could make the difference between a miserable time bugging out and a fairly tolerable stay in the woods.
Tarps can be pitched in a variety of ways to serve your needs – a lean-to for shade, an A-frame for rain, as a wind break, or even as a tepee to let the snow slide off.
Besides basic shelter, tarps enable you to catch rain to top up water supplies.
You can use a tarp as a ground sheet, privacy curtain, hammock, stretcher, or a travois, to cover food supplies, keep firewood dry and as a signalling device.
Survival tarps are constantly evolving as manufacturers receive feedback from clients.
New technologies and materials are incorporated into the designs, and there is a move towards more sustainable survival tarps.
The use-and-discard era is now past – clients are looking for survival tarps that will last.
Eight Factors To Consider When Choosing a SURVIVAL Tarp
These are factors that assume a great deal of importance when choosing a SURVIVAL tarp compared to choosing a tarp for a camping weekend:
When you are using a tarp for survival you will possibly be using it every day for an extended period of time.
You’ll need something more durable than the usual once a year camping tarp, because it will have to withstand strong winds, hail, rain, and even snow.
It will need to be sturdy enough to stand up to the abrasions of daily use. You’ll also have to buy the tarp suited to the environment in which you will be using it.
For example, a survival tarp made from laminated vinyl is UV resistant and will resist ripping.
It will be waterproof and resistant to mildew, but if you use it in zero and sub-zero temperatures you will find the material will get stiff and tend to crack.
First off in a survival situation you may not just be sheltering under the tarp at night but also using it for various other uses like collecting water and covering food supplies, so it will need to be durable.
Cheap tarps break down fast and have to be discarded – that’s more product going into landfill every couple of years, whereas if you buy a quality product it will last for a decade or more if properly looked after
When you are carrying everything in a pack back every little bit of weight counts. So if something is just an ounce lighter, but the same quality, as another tarp then go for it.
Being constantly on the move means traveling as light as possible to avoid fatigue, but also having the items that count when it comes to keeping you safe, warm, and dry.
Avoid a tarp with seams down the middle as this is where you are likely to get a leak, unless they are double stitched and heat sealed.
Tarps come with waterproof coatings, but these wear out over time. Re-apply waterproofing regularly to ensure your tarp remains waterproof.
If you neglect to do this your tarp may get mildew into it which will rot the fabric resulting in a much shorter lifespan.
4. Grommets Versus Tie out Loops
Personally, I prefer tie-out loops because if they should tear out they can be repaired or replaced. They are stitched in and made from the same material as the tarp.
Grommets made from plastic may break down with extreme temperatures, and if not made from stainless steel they can rust and discolor your tarp.
In strong wind they can tear out from the tarp leaving you with plenty to repair. Tie out loops on the other hand can be resewn should they break.
The tie out loops should be on each corner, and one halfway down each side, with a couple in the centre of the tarp.
You need the tarp to have plenty of tie-outs, so you can pitch it in a variety of ways.
This enables you to adjust the pitch to varying campsite conditions and to prepare for adverse weather by altering the way you pitch the tarp.
An 8 foot by 8 tarp will house one person and gear, keeping you clear of gentle rain but a 10 x 10 will be better should there be a driving rain.
Square tarps give you more options for configuring them, whereas a rectangular shape does limit you to certain pitches.
On the other hand a rectangular tarp has that extra fabric to use as a ground sheet when you pitch.
6. Versatility of Pitches
A square tarp enables you to use in in more ways than one that is rectangular.
With a square tarp you can do a number of pitches – see here for some illustrated pitches
The rectangular tarps are useful in that you can pitch so that you have a floor too. See how here where there are 21 pitches with floors
In this video an ex Royal Marine shows three of the best tarp set-ups.
The bigger the tarp the more coverage you get, but when it rains the wind tends to drive rain in, reducing the amount of usable space, so you will probably want to factor in size versus weight.
You’ll need to decide which factor is more important according to your specific circumstances.
For a more permanent bugout campsite it is probably better to go for size to provide more comfort.
You’ll not be needing to move it often, so can deal with the once-off inconvenience of getting a heavier tarp to site.
If you will be on the move from place to place then having a lightweight tarp will make a huge difference to your ability to keep mobile without getting fatigued.
8. Ease of Set Up and Take Down
If you plan on erecting your tarp a certain way then you will only need to pack the stakes necessary for that pitch.
Now, if you want to alter the style of pitch you will need to take the extra poles to accommodate the various styles, but will end up not using all the stakes.
At least you’ll have them with you should you need to rearrange the tarp in order to deal with certain weather situations.
Doing something the first time usually takes longer, so before heading out do practice setting up and taking down your tarp.
Time yourself and aim for just a couple of minutes to get your shelter up and ready. Once you are skilled, pitching and setting down will be a breeze.
Drum roll please – here are the tarps that people are buying – the tarps that will be trending in 2022, because they deliver on their promises, rather than on any fancy marketing.
Disclosure: This post has links to 3rd party websites, so I may get a commission if you buy through those links. Survival Sullivan is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See my full disclosure for more.
1. Aqua Quest Safari Tarp
- Material: 70 D Nylon fabric
- Size: 13 x 10 ft
- Color: Olive Kit
- Weight: 3.10 lbs (1.41 kilograms)
- Water Resistance Level: Waterproof
|Lightweight||Maybe a bit lightweight for an extended outdoor stay|
|Webbing loops instead of grommets|
This tarp comes in a variety of rectangular sizes, including the popular 10 x 10 ft and 15 x15 ft.
Although lightweight, it will keep the people sheltering under it dry, thanks to its dual coatings of silicone and non-toxic polyurethane.
Depending on the size chosen, the tarp has between 15 to 29 reinforced webbing loops, with one in the centre so you can lift the tarp, tepee style.
It is a perfect combination tarp – lightweight yet strong enough to handle many survival situations. The stitching is reinforced and the seams are heat taped.
The best bit is that these tarps carry a lifetime warranty and Aqua Quest’s customer service center is located in the Pacific Northwest, so should you have an issue you will be able to get hold of them.
The tarp has 4 foot long Boa straps, stakes, and a stuff sack. Just check if you are ordering online whether these are included in the price or are an extra add-on.
Get it here.
2. Aqua Quest Defender Tarp
- Material: 70D Nylon
- Size: 10 x 10 ft
- Weight: Approximately 3 lbs (1.36 kg)
- Color: Woodland Camo
- Water resistance level: Waterproof
|Hydrostatic resistance of 20,000mm – will keep you dry in a storm||Could be a bit heavy for daily backpack carry.|
|Reinforced stitching and heat-taped seams|
|Comes with webbing loops and pole inserts in the 4 corners.|
|Durable tarp that packs up small|
|Lifetime warranty from the manufacturer|
Two tarps from the same company? Well, they’re good. What can I say – Aqua Quest knows what people want.
This tarp is heavier than the Safari tarp and comes in camo, to blend with the surroundings.
Made from a waterproof heavy duty nylon the bushcraft survival shelter stands up to repeated use, so it get top marks for durability.
I wouldn’t go less than the 10 x 10 ft size although these tarps come in a variety of sizes, up to 15 x 15 ft.
The 10 x 10 tarp comes with 17 webbing loops, including one at the centre to lift the top of the tarp.
Like one reviewer said, you have more chance of your paracord breaking than the tie outs for this one parting company from the tarp itself.
The Defender is not as lightweight as the Safari tarp, so expect to pack an extra pound or two, however it can stand up to strong winds and heavy rain. The Defender is also backed by Aqua Quest’s lifetime warranty.
Get it here.
3. Extreme Duty 40 oz Vinyl Coated Tarp
- Material: 100% PVC Coated Polyester Scrim
- Fabric Weight: 40 oz. Per Square Yard
- Thickness: 50 Mils
- Color: Black
- Finish: UV and Mildew Resistant, Waterproof
- Low Temperature: -40 degrees F
- High Temperature: 160 degrees F
- Grommets: #4 Stainless steel grommets, spaced approximately 24″ apart
- Hems: 2″ wide, reinforced with webbing on underside
|100% waterproof||Heavy – 40 ounces per square yard|
|Acid, mildew and rot resistant||Vinyl-coated PVC – this product carries a California proposition 65 warning for Californians regarding chemicals used.|
|Webbing reinforced thickness hems||Wait period for the tarp to be custom made|
|High abrasion resistance|
|Stainless steel grommets used|
Made in the US by TarpsNow, these tarps are seriously heavy-duty, and perfect for a long-term survival setup.
You certainly wouldn’t want to be lugging this monster along on the trail though – a 10 x 15 foot one weighs 40 lbs.
Let’s just say this will be a once in a lifetime purchase that will probably outlive its first owner.
These tarps are custom-made, so there will be a wait period of up to 3 ½ weeks, but it does mean you can order the tarp to your measurements, so they can be made site-specific.
The only drawback is that you can order it in black, or black – there are no other color choices.
Get it here.
4. Mongrel EDT – Arcadia Gear’s Element Defence Tarp
- Material: 90D ripstop nylon
- Size: 10 x 10 ft
- Weight: 2.25 lbs
- Water resistance: Waterproof, treated with polyurethane
- Tie outs: webbing loops inserted onto webbing around perimeter
- Finish: aluminized polymer undercoating reflect and retains heat from a candle, a small fire, and even a person’s own body heat
|Rip stop fabric used||Mainly for cold weather survival|
|Thermal reflective properties|
|Can be used as a signalling device|
|Sturdy webbing perimeter|
|Double stitched, heat taped seams|
The tarp comes in bright orange, but thankfully also in Woodland camo, Camo, and Olive green.
Most survivalists want something that blends into nature, so I guess the orange probably won’t be the top seller.
Touted as a multi-purpose survival shelter the 10 x 10 ft lightweight tarp is made from 90D rip-stop nylon, treated with polyurethane, making it able to withstand heavy rain (20, 000 mm hydro-static resistance).
The undercoating is an aluminized polymer – creating a radiant barrier, reflecting heat, and capable of reflecting the rays of the sun when signaling for help.
If you are lost I guess the orange side could help with aircraft spotting you!
Let’s look at the construction. Arcadia certainly don’t want their tie-outs pulling out so the 19 webbing loops are sewn onto a nylon webbing around the perimeter of the tarp – there is even nylon webbing along the ridge line.
The purpose of the webbing for attaching the tie outs is to minimize stress on the tarp fabric itself.
Get it here.
5. Wildventure Rain Fly Tent Tarp
- Material: 210T Ripstop fabric
- Size: 13 x 13 ft
- Weight: 3.8 lbs
- Water resistance: Waterproof, treated with 2000PU
- Tie outs: 25 webbing tie outs attached to a webbing perimeter
|Lightweight||The single center tie out cannot take much strain.|
|Plenty of tie outs|
|Can be configured in various ways|
When a product is sold out, then you know it’s popular and the manufacturers just can’t keep up with the demand.
Is it a tent? Is it a tarp? Well, it all depends on how you configure the Wildventure Rain Fly Tent Tarp.
This tarp is on the lightweight side for a survivalist on the move. The tarp takes up no more space in a backpack than a water bottle and weighs about the same at 1.9 lbs for the tarp alone.
Wildventure claims the tarp is ‘masterfully designed to be indestructible’. Hmm, everything can be destroyed but I guess it will be a bit tougher with this tarp when you look at how the company crafts them.
The weakest point of this tarp seems to be the center tie out which wind and general wear and tear can rip out. Hopefully when the company is back in production this issue will be sorted out.
Get it here.
6. DD Tarp
- Material: 190T polyester
- Size: 3m x 3m (10 x 10 ft)
- Weight: 1.74 lbs (tarp only)
- Includes: 4 pegs and guy lines with stuff sack
- Water resistance: PU 3000mm waterproof coating
- Construction: heat taped central seam
|Lightweight||Probably not for extreme cold weather conditions|
|Plenty of tie outs including 3 on ridge line|
|Multiple configurations possible|
If the tarp is good enough for Chris Ryan (former British SAS) to use in the Amazon rainforest during the monsoon season, then it should be fine for most survivalists.
The 10 x 10 ft (3 x 3m) size has 16 tie outs along the sides plus an extra 3 on the ridge line in the center.
The tarp can be configured in a variety of ways, and weighing in at 1.74 lbs without pegs and guy ropes, is ideal for a survivalist on the move.
Get it here.
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