Updated: Dec 4, 2019
The tarp is probably one of the most valuable pieces of camping gear you will own. When I am car camping, I usually bring 3 with me. One is for laying under my tent as a "foot print" for it. The ground in the Ozarks can be hard and full of sharp rocks in most places. A medium gauge tarp tarp is perfect for this. Some tent companies will provide you with a "foot print" for your tent (usually for an additional cost). They are usually nothing more than the plastic you would use to put on the floor when painting the inside of your house, cut to the match the floor of your tent. Not very sturdy material to lay on jagged ground. A piece of sharp flint or chirp could easily cut through it, possibly cutting into the floor of your tent!
The second tarp I bring is usually much larger than the foot print tarp. It is my Gathering area or dry area tarp. This tarp is slung between trees or mounted on extendable poles with tie-downs. It provides us with shelter from the rain and shade in the warmer months. Also for some strange reason it keeps some of the bugs away while underneath it. I'm not sure why? But you notice the difference as soon as you step out from underneath during the warmer months. You are soon attacked by mosquitos and flies as soon as you step clear of the tarp. When attaching your tarp to trees or stakes in the ground, I mainly use bungee cords instead of rope or 550 cord. Bungee cords won't damage the trees and provides flex during high winds. Just wrap a bungee around a tree (or 2 attached together depending on the girth if the tree) at the height you want your tarp. Then just attach 550 or what ever cordage you are gonna use to hold up your tarp. When attaching to stakes in the ground, add a bungee between the stake and tie-down cordage. The bungees will provide your tarp with the needed give on windy days so that your stakes do not wiggle free. Remember to always drive your stakes in the ground at an angle that is opposite of which way the cordage is pulling. Yes I have seen some knuckleheads out there diving their stakes straight up and down or the wrong direction entirely.If you are having problems driving your stakes into the hard, rocky ground, I have a tip for you. I look for tufts of grass or young hardy weeds growing out of the ground in the area I wish to drive a stake. Once I find a potential green victim, I then aim for the center of the plant and drive my stake. The plants act as guide as where the cracks are in the rocky ground under the soil. The plants root systems grow down searching for water following the path of least resistance. I have you used this technique many, many times and works great! You will still hammer into a rock once in a while.
The third tarp I bring with us, is my all-purpose tarp. I will use this tarp to cover my tent for added weather protection when needed. I have used this extra tarp for many other uses as well. Its been used as an extra shade tarp, wind block, picnic blanket, beach blanket, table cloth, cover for firewood, and a make-shift bathroom for the ladies a few times. So when it comes to camping out here, a tarp is a must in the Ozarks!