The Best Camping Tarp – isn’t a Tarp

The best camping tarp – isn’t a tarp….it is a vapor barrier called Tyvek.

Heres’ why:

  • It’s light. You would be hard-pressed to find a lighter tarp material. 1.25 to 1.75 oz per square yard
  • It’s tough. Depending on the kind of Tyvek it will be UV resistant as well as have ripstop qualities
  • It’s breathable.
  • But it is waterproof as it is made to insulate and protect houses but still allow air flow. The qualities it provides for houses will be there for your camping and survival needs.
  • It has insulative qualities.
  • It is versatile
  • It’s cheap. Anything you can buy in bulk at Home Depot and wrap your house with will be cheap relative to tarps made specifically for camping. Cost is somewhere around $6.00 to $9.00 per yard depending on how many yards you buy.

A Cheap Footprint

You can use Tyvek as a tarp to shield from rain and shade (UV block), but you can also use it as a great footprint for your tent. I remember being shocked at the price I would have to pay for a ground cover for my tent. Basically what you are looking to do is protect your tent from water and dirt from the ground. Why pay $60 for a footprint? (the cost of a footprint for my Big Angus) Ridiculous when you can pay less than $10 for a piece of Tyvek. And Tyvek will do a better job especially if you get the reflective kind it will insulate and help to keep heat in and cold out.

A Survival Bivvy Material

The Best Camping Tarp - isn't a Tarp
SOL Survival bivvy

In fact, many people, have used Tyvek to make their own survival bivvys. A survival bivvy is a great way to cover your sleeping bag, add more protection from the elements or replace a shelter in a pinch….that is if you are handy with sewing. Otherwise, buying a good bivvy is probably a better option.

A Shelter

It’s possible to make a piece of Tyvek big enough to make a tipi type structure or a complete tent. I think Tyvek would make a great amendment to insulate and waterproof any survival shelter that would otherwise be built entirely of wood, branches, and sticks.

It is possible to add grommets to Tyvek just as you would any tarp.

Protective Clothing

You have to be handy with the sewing machine but you could make clothes from Tyvek. But again it is possible to buy protective coveralls in the event of a nuclear fallout situation or anytime you need disposable coveralls to keep a clean room.

The Best Camping Tarp - isn't a Tarp
Tyvek Coveralls

It is really amazing stuff when you start to notice all the things Tyvek has been repurposed for when a tough and light fabric is needed. Envelopes and signage are another two examples of where you can see Tyvek in use. It is tough enough to be used as wristband in hospitals and light enough to make a kite. If you have ever tried to get one of those wristbands off without a pair of scissors (or pulling it apart at the glued seams) you will have gotten an idea of how strong Tyvek is. If you search around the net you can find all kinds of ingenious ideas people have found for Tyvek in the outdoors.

If you don’t like the brightness of Tyvek, it is pH neutral and is very amenable to dyes and printing so that you can pick your color.

The Best Camping Tarp - isn't a Tarp

14-S: My Choice of Tyvek Style

There are a lot of different kinds of Tyvek. There are different weights and qualities. However, you can just go down to Home Depot and any kind you get will serve the purpose well enough. But if you are a discerning Tyvek connoisseur, I would suggest the 14-S reflective Tyvek style.

The 14-S weighs only 1.25 oz per yard. There are two benefits of this type that make me prefer this particular type of Tyvek:

1. It is soft:

One problem with other types of Tyvek is that it can be very rigid when new, in large sheets is known to make big annoying crinkling sounds like a huge stiff piece of paper when working with it, folding it etc. Some people throw new stuff into the washing machine a number of times, or take it outside and jump on it for hours and weeks, but I would rather just buy the soft kind.  They are typically referred to as “Paper-like” or “Fabric-like”.  Get the Fabric-like Tyvek to preserve the pristine quiet of your woodland campsite.

2. It’s reflective

Of course being reflective, the 14-S Tyvek will reflect heat back toward you. As a ground cover or footprint that is just awesome! The other aspect of being reflective is that it has great light blocking qualities. Use it as a fly on your tent and you can sleep in in the dark instead of having to wake up at the crack of dawn as is usual in most tent situations.

Off the Beaten Track with the Ultimate Survival Fabric

So Tyvek in one piece can be used as a tarp, tent footprint, tent fly or instant shade. If you are handy with the sewing the possibilities are endless. But if you are thinking off the beaten track and are concerned about or sensitive to EMF radiation from cell phone towers or geoengineering HAARP, etc, I suspect that the aluminized reflective Tyvek will block at least some of the frequencies if not all of them. I haven’t been able to test this myself yet but hope to soon. If it does block RF and EMF then Tyvek could be used to make a cheap Faraday cage. But that is another discussion. Overall though, if you want the Ultimate survival fabric for your bug out bag look into Tyvek as a tarp or footprint at the very least!

Tyvek For UV Protection

If blocking UV is your primary intention I would look at the Tyvek 1460C which weighs a bit more at 1.75 oz per yard but will just be that much tougher.


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