The “Poly” in Poly Tarp is short for polyethylene or polypropylene, which are plastics commonly used in woven/sheet form to make the water resistant tarps with which many people are familiar today. These tarps are great for a variety of anti wetness uses in the home environment, on the road, and on camping or hiking trips. Let’s go over a few of these:
In the Home
Poly tarps can protect items such as lawn mowers, camping gear, and virtually anything else form moisture, for example in a leaky garage or basement. The items can be wrapped up in a poly tarp to help prevent mildew and dampness. This can be valuable to the outdoor enthusiast, because often camping items are not stored in the indoor spaced where many other objects are housed. They may need extra protection from moisture, and tarps can provide this while being stored themselves.
During Vehicular Travel
Poly tarps are well known for their use on the road – covering objects strapped to the tops of cars, vans, and SUVs or placed in the beds of pickup trucks. This protects items from getting soaked by rain, snow, sleet, hail, and so on which may be encountered during vehicular travel. Outdoor or hiking items such as sleeping bags, tents, backpacks full of clothing, and so on can all be protected with poly tarps, insuring they will be clean and dry for use in the outdoor adventure.
Tarps used in this way must usually be tied or strapped down to the top of the vehicle or pickup truck bed. A good way to do this is to use the familiar bungee cords, stretched and hooked to vehicle racks or protrusions on the car underside or bumpers. Rope can also be used to secure the poly tarp and hold it tightly over the items being transported.
During a Hiking/Camping Trip
Now we come to the main and more directly outdoor related focus of this article – the use of poly tarps during camping and hiking trips. Though folded poly tarps are fairly bulky and probably would not be used for high level climbing expeditions, they can be a really helpful item for more ordinary camping and hiking trips. Here are a few of a poly tarp’s potential uses on such a trip:
For Use Over Camp Sites
Poly tarps can be set up over camps sites using suspension means such as tying them to trees or setting up high stakes onto which they can be fastened. They provide shade from the sun and, more importantly, protect the camp site from precipitation such as rain and snow. This can make for a semi sheltered area that is ideal for cooking, eating, hanging out, and resting when not in tents.
For Use Under Tents
You can also put a poly tarp under a tent to give get increased moisture protection. Though tents are designed to be water proof or at least highly water resistant, it never hurts to have an extra moisture barrier between you and the ground. An added advantage here is that poly tarps also help to prevent accidental puncture of tents by up jutting rocks or sticks. And if puncturing of a tent bottom should ever occur, a tarp can be placed under the tent to prevent water from entering.
For Immediate Use While Hiking
Poly tarps can also be used in a more immediate sense while hiking. Should a sudden flash thunderstorm or snow storm occur, the tarp can be unrolled and simply thrown over a hiker or group of hikers while they wait for the precipitation to pass. Hiking while wet or damp can be uncomfortable and lead to chafing and blisters. It’s hard to plan for a sudden storm when in the middle of a hiking trip, and tarps can be the solution that keeps hikers dry in short notice situations.
If there is more time to prepare, a poly tarp can be put over tree branches or a few hastily put up stakes to create a temporary shelter while rain or snow run their course and pass over. This is a bit more comfortable than sitting under a tarp that is not suspended.
As you can see, poly tarps can be used at all phases of a camping or hiking expedition to keep things dry and protected. As mentioned above, they do have some bulk, but they can usually be either conveniently put inside or strapped to most backpacks. Bring a poly tarp along on your next outdoor expedition and chances are you’ll be glad you did.