While there are many uses for tarps these days, one of the fondest memories I have growing up is using them to make forts and hideaways. There were many days I would search high and low at my house, my dad’s house and at my grandparents, to see if there was a single tarp I could use to build an outdoor room of solitude and hiding.
That is not to say, the sheet and blanket forts inside the house were childish. While I enjoyed them as much, especially on rainy days, the tarps were great for the many hours I spent outside.
Over the past year, there has been a minimalist movement to go camping without a tent. Many of the reasons I have heard often include the size, or bulk and weight of the tents, including those that are considered backpacking worthy. I had one of my own and that was truly the case for me as well.
While there are times when a good canvas or family tent are warranted, gone are the days when the only choice you had for camping is to spend anywhere from thirty minutes to four hours constructing a flimsy home away from home. Not only does that become part of the problem, I needed a solution for when I just want to go on a day trip.
Enter the favored tarp. While there are many sizes that are offered, there are two basic shapes, square and rectangle. The issue that is now faced as someone using a tarp, is how to construct it to be beneficial for your immediate and long term need. You can add rope to the corners and string it from a tree to serve as a canopy. It can also be used at a slant as a quick lean-to configuration. But the question becomes, is that all?
I answer with a definitive and resounding, “NO!”. Not only is there multiple ways to configure the tarp to fit your need, there are pages of pictures and books showing these configurations. I personally have set one up in a self-enclosed, tent configuration that worked out nicely on a windy day and when I was needing a little privacy.
Sure, the lean-to and taco configurations are great for quick ups but will you be warm should you need to put one up in the colder or even rainy days? My answer is not quite as simple this time. I have to answer with, “it depends”. If you have a fire, then yes. If not, then it probably is not the best configuration for you to use.
During Christmas, I asked for a 10’x12′ tarp and after receiving it, I purchased a smaller 5’x7′ MEST (Multipurpose Emergency Survival Tarp) for my EveryDay Carry (EDC) bag. I use my larger one for shelter when I go hammock camping and will probably use it for other events as they arise. The smaller is to be used in conjunction with my larger one, maybe as a footprint, as a quick fix on a day trip and most certainly, and if there is an emergency/survival situation.
Keep in mind, the ones I have are not the big blue or silver tarps that are seen laying over log piles or strapped to the back of a pickup. While I have used those types for many years, I needed something a little less bulky and lighter for my activities. Do you see a pattern?
With that in mind, I have attached two photos that have tarp configurations. Also, is the book that I mentioned about how to configure the tarps based on sizes. Click here to download.
Here are some configurations in use to get you started:
Montana style from Mark Dejong
I hope this helps with some of your planning and preparations. Keep in mind, you will want more than one tarp for multiple reasons: Bug Out Bags, EDC Bags, Get Home Bags, Survival Kits, Camping Gear, and even Car Survival Kits. You can use the blue ones and I urge you to do so as they are inexpensive and a great addition to your preps. I know I have several that are earmarked just for that.
Use your instincts to survive