After a close call last summer with getting stuck outdoors in the wilderness, I’ve been slowly but surely piecing together an emergency survival kit. One item on my list of basic survival gear is a simple tarp to provide shelter.

I’ve found a number of options, from simple blue tarps to rain ponchos that unfold into shelters. Here’s my list so far, in case anyone else is in the market for tarp shelters.

Blue Tarp

Blue trap as emergency wilderness shelterThe duct tape of shelters. They aren’t light for their size, but you can’t beat the price of the good old blue tarp.
Cost: $3.50
Weight: 11 oz.
Area: 48 sq. ft.

Outdoor Products Coated Tarp

Outdoors Products outdoors tarp
Made from a supple polyurethane-coated nylon, this is a step up from the blue tarp in quality – and cost.
Cost: $42
Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz.
Area: 63 sq. ft.

Kelty Noah’s Tarp

Kelty Noah's Tarp
This simple tarp is relatively cheap and would come in handy in a pinch. Kelty makes three sizes, the smallest of which is 972 square feet and design for up to three people.
Cost: $59.95
Weight: 1 lb. 13 oz. / 0.82 kg
Size: 81 sq. ft.

Go-Lite Poncho Tarp

Go Lite Pancho Tarp
Go Lite Poncho Tarp as survival shelter
This pancho can be unfolded into a tarp that lives up to it’s manufacturer’s name: it’s super light. It’s also very small, designed for one person.
Cost: $80
Weight: 7 oz
Area: 42.3 sq. ft

Sea-to-Summit Tarp Poncho

Sea to Summit survival shelter and poncho

Another poncho that turns into a tarp, made with silicone coated Cordura.

Cost: $84.90
Weight: 12 oz
Area: 39 sq. ft.

MSR E-Wing Shelter

MSR E-Wing Shelter
This MSR tarp is about the same size as the Kelty survival shelter, but weights much less. It will protect two people from the elements.

Cost: $149.95
Weight: 1 lb
Area: 81.8 sq. ft.

About The Author

Chris Emery is a mutt. Half woodsman, half geek. He spends as much time outdoors as possible. On rainy days, he writes and publishes STRAY.

2 Responses

    • Chris Emery

      That’s great info Tony. I’d never heard of Bothy Bags. For some reason, bivies didn’t occur to me either, mostly because I was thinking of something simpler and cheaper. I wonder how a Bothy would work for rainy weather if you needed to spend an entire night outside…?


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