65 Survival Uses For Tarpaulin

65 Survival Uses For Tarpaulin

When you’re in a disaster scenario, you have to make compromises, and use what you can. In short, preppers need to find more advantages in fewer things.

Whether that’s eating smaller meals, wearing the same clothes repeatedly or breaking normal-world rules like re-using plastic water bottles, it’s important to think creatively. That includes the things you use.

Plastic sheeting and tarp is one of the most common materials you’ll find lying around when SHTF, and we’re here to help you take full advantage of it.

Here’s 10 great ways you can use plastic sheeting in areas including storage, filtration and accommodation. Then read on for a further 55 ways to make the most of this humble piece of survival kit.

1. Waterproofing your shelter

The UK’s known for its rain, especially in places like Cumbria, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. If you’re bugging out, it’s absolutely essential you waterproof your shelter – and plastic sheeting is a great way to do so.

Affix it to your space with materials like nails, staples and even duct tape – most preppers would consider these essentials for a number of reasons. Make sure to do this on the inside, as external fittings can be damaged more easily, and the fastenings can come loose when exposed to the elements.

2. As a makeshift bag

This is self-explanatory. Simply move the plastic sheeting into the shape of a bag, and you’re good to go – one waterproof, fairly strong vessel for transporting things. It can be hard to repair, unless you have materials like duct tape, so try to avoid this.

It does, however, work as a good last-minute resort. This is also a great way to line a different material, as it’s waterproof and strengthens your vessel, creating a higher tolerance for weight.

3. Preserving air quality

There are very few things you can compromise on in life – and one of these is your breathing. In disaster events like nuclear attacks or supervolcano eruptions, respiration becomes one of the main areas of focus, rather than an afterthought or something you take for granted.

If you properly set up plastic sheeting throughout your shelter, you can prevent airborne toxins like dust and smoke getting into your body.

4. Making body bags

No-one wants to think about this possibility – but as you know, if a disaster situation occurs, then anything can happen. It’s also one of the most respectful ways to handle a corpse, as you’re doing everything you can to provide a traditional aspect of a ceremony.

One thing worth noting is that it requires a lot of plastic sheeting to wrap around many times, and preppers might not have this much material available to spare.

5. Trapping animals

Like making a body bag, you won’t want to think about this aspect of survival – but as Tesco isn’t open, every prepper must be ready for the possibility of killing their meals themselves.

Preppers can make simple traps to catch animals like rabbits and squirrels, and more experienced animal trappers can also use plastic sheeting to for fishes and crayfish in nearby streams. A survival fisherman can also use individual bits of ripped plastic as bait.

6. Making a shelter

We’ve already touched on using plastic sheeting to upgrade your current shelter, but it can be used independently to make a shelter by itself. As you’ve guessed, this is a good way to create an airtight, waterproof space, although it’s one of the worst long-term solutions you can choose.

For a night or two, you’ll be okay. Simply form the general shape of a shelter, secure it in place with materials or the environment around it, like tying it to trees, and you’ll have created your own temporary space.

7. Collecting rainwater

When SHTF, clean water is scarce – but thanks to the rain, you have unlimited access to a less clean alternative. Plastic sheeting is a great way to collect this. All you need to do is lay it horizontally with the corners up, the larger the surface area, the better, and let mother nature do her thing.

The water will need filtration, purification etc, but you can buy an assortment of materials and equipment to ensure this is safe for consumption.

8. Covering dirty ground

This is plain and simple – just use the sheeting as another layer between you and dirt and insects. You’re probably thinking of using it to lie on, not a bad idea, but you can also use it as a material to prepare any caught animals for your consumption. After all your efforts, you don’t want a meal consisting mostly of mud and twigs.

9. Quarantining loved ones

Depending on the disaster you’re facing, there’s a number of reasons you may need to separate yourself from those you’re with. This is especially true for groups who are bugging out, as properties used to bug in may have more than one room.

Whether you’re fighting a contagious disease, or something mild like a coronavirus, or want to stop younger survivors from seeing things they aren’t ready for, plastic sheeting is a good way to divide the group up, and protect the surrounding environment from anything that may occur within your makeshift walls.

10. Building a roof

Like waterproofing your space, this is a great way for preppers to stay away from the UK’s more challenging climates. It will act as a waterproof fixture, but it doesn’t add much security as it can’t handle much weight like falling branches.

Strong winds can also cause it to blow away – if not this, then there is still a high chance of tearing. Also use it to patch up  roof leaks on your home, tent or caravan.


Not enough? Then here are 55 more uses for your plastic sheet or tarpaulin as a prepper:

11. Waterproof firewood – keep your logs nice and dry by covering them

12. Solar still – another way of collecting rainwater, spread it over a hole

13. Patch up windows – if you are somewhere with a broken window, just cover it up

14. Greenhouse – make a greenhouse simply with some clear or opaque sheeting

15. Polytunnel – create a long polytunnel with a metal or wooden frame for growing things

16. Cloches – improve your yield of fruit and veg with a small homemade cloche

17. Solarize soil – clean soil by trapping heat above it, good for seedlings to grow in

18. As curtains – black tarp can cover windows to hide your presence inside

19. Frost protection – a sheet over your survival garden at night will stop frost killing them

20. Shade – protect plants from the heat of the sun with a white reflective tarp

21. Pond – dig a big hole and line with tarp, allowing you to keep fish or drinking water

22. Heat – keep heat just in one room to preserve energy by sealing the other doors

23. Scoop – carry water back to camp with an improvised bucket

24. For pets – if you’re bugging in and can’t go outside, train your pet to potty on it

25. Privacy – in the wilderness you may need some privacy when showering

26. Latrine – create a latrine and put the tarp around as walls so you can go in peace

27. Warmth – place a sheet in between two sheets or blankets to keep the heat in

28. Stretcher – tie a tarp over two long and strong branches for an instant stretcher

29. Signalling – a large sheet can be written on or waved in the wind to attract attention

30. Trapping – dig a very deep hole, cover with tarp and leaves, put bait in the middle

31. Backpack – wrap all of your gear inside and tie around to carry things with ease

32. Animal kills – place your kills such as a deer on the tarp and drag it back to camp

33. Floating – put your belongings inside and float them across a river so they don’t get wet

34. Raft – use a tarp to wrap around a wooden frame to create a boat or kayak

35. Fun – play games with it for the kids, like a parachute, a fort or a slip and slide

36. Camouflage – need a quick distraction, ruffle the tarp up and crawl under it

37. Hide objects – a dark coloured tarp can cover a motorcycle or your supplies

38. Tourniquet – cut strips of thick plastic sheeting and use to stop blood flow

39. Glue – melting small pieces of your plastic tarp will make things stick together

40. Water saving – if you know the water will go off, line your bath with a tarp and fill it up

41. Poncho – if it starts raining and you don’t have the right gear, just get underneath

42. Hunting – use a camouflage tarp with leaves to make a small hunting blind or shelter

43. Pool – cool down in hot weather by making your own small swimming pool

44. Pillow – roll it up tight and cover it with a piece of clothing for a makeshift pillow

45. Shoes – make your shoes instantly waterproof by covering them with tarp and securing

46. Wash – get clean with a bath you’ve made by digging a hole and lining it with tarp

47. Cover fabric – keep your seats clean as you’re bugging out with a layer or plastic sheet

48. Mixing – you can mix mud and cob for your makeshift shelter on a laid out tarp

49. Protect food – stop foxes and badgers from stealing your food, hang it from a tree

50. Sailing – catch the wind on your boat or canoe by replacing a broken sail with tarp

51. Towing – twist a sheet many times and it will be strong enough to pull a car

52. Cooling – keep a killed deer cold with packets of ice or water wrapped in a tarp

53. Shooting – lay it out on the ground and use it for shooting practice so you don’t get dirty

54. Hauling – if you need to carry things from your garden, load up a tarp and drag it

55. Projects – you may need to keep materials like cement dry when building things

56. Animal food – straw and hay should ideally be kept covered, moisture free for animals

57. Booby trap – dig a hole, put spiked branches at the bottom, then cover with tarp and leaves

58. Strainer – cut a circle and poke holes in it for washing and straining vegetables and pasta

59. Windbreak – attach the tarp between two poles and use it as a fire windbreak

60. Sled – carry weary children on snow, or make a snowy downhill descent a lot more fun

61. Livestock – some animals don’t fare well in snow and rain, build a shelter for them with tarp

62. Cordage – braid some tarp strips together for use as rope to secure your items

63. Car – cover all the items such as suitcases on top of your car to protect from elements

64. Hammock – hang one securely from two trees and make your own hammock for sleeping

65. Bartering – knowing all of the above uses, why not barter with your tarp for something better?



There’s a huge number of uses for plastic sheeting – as you can tell, it’s very versatile. It’s also incredibly light, practical, and simple to clean, which is why we’d consider it an essential product when SHTF.

In more extreme cases, it’s how you’ll find your next meal and help you breathe properly when air outside is contaminated. 

In less intense survival situations, it’s simply a good way to keep things clean from the natural world around you.

We’ve listed 65, but you’re guaranteed to find additional uses for plastic sheeting when facing a situation that requires on-your-feet thinking.

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