When it comes to finding shelter from the rain or sun, both a tarp shelter and a tent camping gear can be great options – but which is best for you? That’s what we’ll cover in this article.
Life is unpredictable, and disasters can turn our lives upside down instantly. For this reason, many people are often turning to survivalism as a way of preparing for the unexpected.
However, when it comes to preparation, nothing beats having reliable shelter—and both tarps and tents have their advantages, so which is the best option for survivalists and preppers?
Tarps are often considered the optimal choice for short-term situations requiring versatility. Tarps are usually waterproof and lightweight. Alternatively, tents provide more security and come in different sizes that can accommodate several people, making them a great option for long-term usage.
Let’s dive into more detail.
What Is A Tent?
A tent is a shelter consisting of sheets of fabric or other material draped over, attached to a frame made up of poles and guy ropes.
Tents are typically used by campers on outdoor trips in order to provide temporary protection from the elements. Smaller tents are usually free-standing, while larger ones require anchoring using stakes and guylines tied around them.
Most tents offer features such as a water-repellent roof, inner pockets, or pouches for storing supplies like papers and tools safely away from moisture and insects alike when not in use.
Furthermore, they employ insect screening at doors & windows, giving travelers an opportunity to sleep peacefully without worrying about bugs getting inside their tents.
With different sizes and shapes available for sale, they come in an array of colors to match the tastes and preferences of every camper out there!
Tent Pros & Cons
- Can provide more substantial weather protection: Tents are more robust shelters than tarps and provide a greater level of insulation, which can make them suitable for covering larger areas or items. This means that camping under a tent is the go-to approach if you need reliable shelter from bad weather condition, such as wind and heavy rain storms in colder climates because it protects your campsite far better compared to using just tarp material. Being encircled by fabric walls provides a second layer of protection from the elements, insects, and other animals while still allowing some natural ventilation.
- Cozy feeling of being inside and away from bugs or other animals: One major advantage that tents have over tarps is their ability to offer more privacy by creating an enclosed environment for your campsite’s activities. Campers can feel cozy and secluded from the outside environment by being inside a tent, whereas you only get minimal cover with tarps. It can also be argued that tents provide more security against possible take-overs of your camping site or unwanted visits.
- Available in different sizes and shapes to match the tastes of various campers: Tents come in various sizes and shapes – from one-person backpacking tents to permanent structures that can house whole families. This allows you the freedom to get exactly what specs best suit your needs without sacrificing quality or affordability. Backpacking tarp shelters, on the other hand, are usually limited by size due to their construction out of single pieces, so it would be hard for them to comfortably accommodate larger groups, making tents more suited if camping with family or friends.
- Quick to set up: When weighed against tarps, tents can also be the more convenient choice when it comes to setting up shelters. While some larger models take longer due to their greater construction complexity and cover a wider area, on average, they are much quicker than having set multiple pieces of tarpaulin together for adequate waterproofing coverage. This convenience of setup means that if you need to move on from your camping spot, it is an easy job with minimal fuss.
- Don’t have a mount to anything: One major downside of tarps, when compared to tents, is the limitation induced by their reliance on support structures – such as trees or metal rods – for them to hold up properly and provide waterproofing coverage. If no available mounts are nearby, then not many options remain besides seeking alternative shelter elsewhere, which often involves time-consuming motions like scouting out another suitable campsite area. With tents, however, all that’s usually required is just setting down its poles on soft earth, leaving you free more freedom when choosing where to get camped up.
- Better security for you: Tents provide campers with superior protection against animals and insects or even potential take-overs of their campsite by unwelcome visitors from both its physical coverage fabric walls and the greater sense of privacy they create when camping in them versus tarps. This improved level of cover could be crucial to remain safe, provided an extra layer of sheltering one gets important events such as hurricanes rushing through the area where shelters need to withstand powerful winds requires full-length encasement structures like tents have supply if proper safety needs become met upon a time being outdoors.
- Heavier than a tarp due to its poles and materials used in construction, which could be difficult when portaging on foot: Tent poles and stakes can add significant weight to the entire structure, making them less suitable for trekking into remote backcountry sites or where access is limited. Carrying a tent around this way could also prove too inconvenient if situations arise when you need to pack up camp quickly due to potentially unfavorable weather conditions. For these types of trips, tarps have proven more advantageous than tents as they will require much less effort when packing away campsites than putting up and dismantling a large tent. There are ultralight tent options out there that are decent, however.
- Takes longer time and skills to set up compared with tarps: Tents come in many different shapes, sizes, and color options—and this variety is expanded further by the added complications of tent poles. As a result, tents can take far more effort than the straightforward approach of assembling an organized tarp system which may require practicing setting it up beforehand if you’re not familiar enough already.
- More expensive than a tarp camping: Because tents are constructed from more materials and tend to be bigger overall, they typically come more expensive than tarps. This difference can become even greater when purchasing larger tent models, which also feature additional features like insect screening or pockets, so you could find yourself paying much more for these enhanced shelter amenities.
- Tents can get hot: As mentioned earlier, tents provide an additional layer of insulation which is great for colder climates but less so in hotter conditions. Without the provisioning for passive cooling mechanisms built into them, you could become uncomfortably warm while camping inside a backpacking tent during the peak summer season or in hotter biomes like deserts. Using groundsheets to keep direct sunlight from heating up your floor area and also leaving door flaps slightly open are two ways that one might reduce temperatures within their shelter.
- May be illegal in more places: Citizens may face serious legal ramifications if they set up camp in an unregulated area or place that has been predetermined for conservation, such as a National Forest. Tents are more likely to draw attention due to their larger surface areas on account of which can be utilized by thieves and lead to more confrontations. Because of this, the use of tents can be prohibited in certain sensitive areas, while tarps may still remain dispensed at your discretion as they usually present a much smaller footprint compared with tents.
- Less connected to nature: Tent camping is far less immersive than tarping because you’re situated within a separate space entirely from any elements that could exist outside, and most models only offer small windows, if even that when considering family-size tent options—blocking out sections or entirety’s of spectacular views completely which would otherwise have been accessible by setting up an open shelter like a tarp.
What Is A Tarp?
A tarp is a large waterproof covering made of heavy-duty polyethylene fabric featuring reinforced hems on each side.
Tarps are an incredibly versatile material that can be used for everything from camping to industrial uses, and they come in a range of sizes depending on the application.
Tarps are prized for their breathability and waterproofing abilities; this makes them ideal shelters from wet weather or sun exposure during outdoor activities like camping trips, hikes, and fishing expeditions.
They typically feature grommets at each corner that can be used to attach cords fore fixing it down or suspending it up as a makeshift tent or shelter.
Tarps can also be used to protect items such as tools, machinery, and furniture from bad weather while in storage.
Tarp Pros & Cons
- Lightweight and easy to carry: Tarps are incredibly lightweight and don’t take up much space in your bag. With its roll-up capabilities, you can easily store it away when not needed or tie it onto a backpack for easy carrying during hikes or camping trips. Their portability makes them ideal shelter options even during long journeys.
- Versatile for more situations and has more uses: While the main use of a tarp is as shelter, it can also be used to cover items while in transit or storage, act as ground cover where there are no trees nearby when camping out at night & provide some shading if you’re in a hot area. Tarps are also long-lasting because of their durability, tear resistance, and waterproof material, meaning they can be used again & again for years to come.
- You can sleep cooler if you’re in a hot area: Tarps can provide further protection from the relentless sun. They allow airflow, so you’ll be able to sleep cooler during warm night temperatures—not a luxury when exposed to the day’s heat!
- More durable than tents: Tarps are made from a heavy-duty polyethylene fabric, so they’re more durable and will last longer than traditional tents. With reinforced hems on each side and grommets for attachment points at the corners & sides of tarps, you can be sure it won’t tear easily or break in windy conditions without proper anchoring.
- Waterproof material that can keep contents dry in humid weather conditions: There’s no need to worry about your belongings getting wet when exposed to rain or moisture. Tarps are made with waterproof, breathable material, so you won’t have any problems putting things away and keeping them safe from the elements, even during overnight camping trips!
- Affordable, with most products being very affordable, around $5-20 per item: Tarps are cost-effective if you’re looking for a basic shelter mechanism. Most products available on the market range from $5 – 20, depending on size and material quality – making them an economical choice compared to tents that can easily set you back $100+.
- You have airflow, so you can cook: Depending on the size of your tarp and where it is secured, you can even cook food while under the shade of a tarp. The breathable fabric will also provide ventilation to dissipate any smells from your stove – something not offered in tents!
- Not as secure against animals or intruders: Tarps are generally not as secure against animals and intruders when compared to tents. They do offer some protection, but in most cases, a tarp will be no match for an intruder who is determined enough or larger wildlife that could cause damage if they come snooping around your campsite.
- Anchoring tarps can be difficult in windy conditions: Attaching a tarp securely in place is easy enough when there’s little or no breeze, but as soon as the wind starts to pick up, it becomes much more difficult. This means that you’ll need additional stakes and lines just for your tarp if you’re going to spend any length of time camping somewhere with regular gusts of strong winds.
- Less privacy compared to tents: Tarps generally provide less privacy when compared with a tent, although you can always drape another tarp over a frame as an extra layer of protection. This tarp setup will provide improved privacy and more contained space than just relying on your original tarp design for sheltering from the elements.
- Tear-resistant material is often more expensive: Tear-resistant polyethylene tarps are usually the best for camping and survivalist scenarios as they offer superior durability, but these tarpaulins can be more expensive than standard varieties due to their strength.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can you use a tarp as a tent?
Yes, you can use a tarp as a tent. However, it is recommended that you also bring an extra groundsheet or some additional padding to place under the tarp in order to provide insulation and protection from rocks and rough surfaces.
Is a tent or tarp better for bikepacking?
For bikepacking, a tarp is generally the preferred option as it is lighter and more compact. This makes it easier to store on your bicycle without adding too much extra weight or taking up unnecessary space.
Tents can be good for providing shelter, but often come with added bulk that may make them difficult to carry when cycling long distances.
What color tarp is best for camping?
It depends on your individual needs when it comes to camping. If you’re looking for camouflage and want to stay hidden from sight, then a darker green or olive color tarp is best.
If visibility in bad weather conditions is important so that others can spot you easily, then choose one with bright colors like blue or orange. Additionally, if UV exposure is an issue then look for tarps made of reflective materials as they will help reflect the sun’s rays away from you.
Do camping tents need ventilation?
Yes, it is important for camping tents to have proper ventilation in order to reduce condensation and keep air circulating. Look for models that feature built-in vents or mesh panels near the top of the tent walls.
Additionally, you can also opt for tents with tall peaks or rainfly that completely cover the entire roof, as these designs will provide extra venting options.
As mentioned in the earlier sections, tarps and tents have pros and cons. Both provide adequate protection from outside elements but differ regarding other features like security, ease of setup & size & shape options for sale, etc., thus making one more suitable than another depending on a particular use case or necessity.
Ultimately, the best shelter for survival in any given situation comes down to how long you’re staying outside and it’s budget constraints – so make sure that whatever option chosen offers sufficient protection against prevailing conditions without breaking your bank account too much!