Whether it’s for camping or survival, a lightweight tarp can be a trusty friend. I use one regularly for sleeping out, coping with a brief storm on a dayhike, or when I’m shade-hungry in the desert. In addition to a Heatsheet in my shirt pocket, I always carry a small 6’x8′ blue tarp in my pack for short trips or a 10’x10′ Campmor nylon tarp for multi-day trips. These can be erected in mere minutes compared with the time (and calories) it takes to construct a shelter from branches and pine-needles. A blue or red tarp can also serve as a ground-to-air signal panel for searchers.
When I’m staying in a wilderness basecamp near my truck or weight isn’t an issue, I prefer a more rugged 14’x14′ canvas tarp from Panther Primitives which I arrange in a diamond configuration (photo above). This provides ample space for sleeping, storing gear, and room for my dogs. There’s nothing better than waking up to the first rays of the morning sun from the spacious interior of a tarp. If mosquitoes are severe, I’ll defer to a tent but, thankfully, that rarely happens in the mountains and desert regions where I live. See the pics below for more info on rigging methods.