Paracord, bandannas, socks, belts, tin cans… we all know some of these survival items with dozens of uses. You can make shoe laces from floss, you can knead dough with a zipper bag (without getting your hands dirty)… you can even use your socks as clothing for your dog.
In today’s article I’d like to talk with you about tarps and the many ways they can help you survive. Tarps are one of those things that are dirt-cheap today but will probably impossible to make or get in a post-collapse environment. Sure, you can improvize by using plastic bags, rags and such (depending on the task) but a solid, waterproof, lightweight tarp will be hard to come by.
Tip: you may want to buy more than one, you just never know. Keep it as a back-up, take it to your bug out location or store it to barter with later.
You may already know tarps are excellent good for making temporary shelter in warmer climates (I already covered that here) or sleeping on but there are other uses that will come in handy in both bug in and bug out situations.
#1. To cover your windows
When bugging in, you need to lay low and not let anyone know you’re there, let alone that you have means to light your home when everyone else is sitting in the dark. Ideally, you should use thick black curtains on all your external windows but what if you realize you don’t have enough of? A tarp can… fill in the gap, pun intended.
This raises an interesting question: should you get tarps in bold colors? To hang them on windows, that’s obviously a bad idea. I would go with black and neutral colors because you’re most likely be trying to get away from people when STHF than trying to be found. If you’re lost, there are other ways to get yourself noticed (colored duct tape, glow sticks, brightly-colored clothes, flare guns etc.)
#2. To harvest rainwater
Whether you’re bugging in our out, you can always risk running out of water. Simply hang a tarp using some poles, tilt it so the water runs in one direction and put a container at one end and collect every drop of water from 80, 100 or even 150 square feet. The bigger the tarp, the better.
#3. Throw it over your quinzhee to shield it from rain
Think of quinzhees as simpler versions of igloos. They’re made from snow and can keep you warm but rain, unfortunately, can damage their structure. Throw a tarp over yours to prolong its life. You’re going to need a second one, of course, to put on the floor.
The question that arises is whether or not you should have two tarps in your BOB. As you can imagine, they will weigh you down so please keep your fitness levels in mind when making the decision. In my humble opinion, if your survival scenarios involve quinzhees, you’re probably looking to spend a long time in the wilderness. To do that, a bug out bag is not enough and I strongly suggest you consider its larger and better equipped cousin: the INCH bag.
#4. To carry wood.
The more dry wood you can find, the longer you can keep your fire burning. You need to heat yourself and your family, you need to cook, you may even need to signal for rescue. However, carrying more than a few branches can be a challenge.
Paracord can help tie several branches together (for you to drag) but why not use a tarp to carry even more and make less trips?
#5. As a shower curtain for your camping shower
Don’t expect it to cover your all around, though. I’m sure you can find vegetation to help you with that…
#6. You can butcher an animal on a tarp
The last thing you want is leave a mess, right? Blood will only attract wild animals if it gets into the ground.
#7. As a stretcher to carry an injured person
You’re also going to need a couple of sturdy poles. PVC pipes or wood branches will do the trick. You don’t need cordage to tie the poles to the tarp as shown in this video:
This obviously isn’t something you want to learn from a video so I strongly suggest you take a first aid class and ask them about this.
#8. To act as roof for your hunting cabin
If you can’t afford shingles just yet, you can use tarps to keep the inside of your cabin dry. In fact, you can put several tarps one op top of the other as they will deteriorate in time.
Which tarps to get and where should you keep them?
More and bigger are the two key words when it comes to tarps. Larger ones can help you do more things or they can do the things we talked about better (such as harvesting more rainwater). As for how many you should get, it all depends on your budget.
At the minimum, you should have a (somewhat smaller) one in your bug out bag, two of them if what you have is an INCH bag, another one in your car’s trunk and as many as you can at home and at your bug out location.
What about other survival items?
Like I said in the beginning, there’re plenty of other items (some of which fit in your BOB) that have other alternative uses. Here’s a small list to get you started:
- aluminum foil
- trash bags
- condoms (the weirdest usage has the be wearing them as socks)
- plastic water bottles
- dryer lint
- duct tape (of course)
- …and more
By the way, did you know there are special tarps that protect your hammock from rain? Check out the best ones in this other article.