Why Are Tarps Blue, and What 5 Other Colors Mean

By Emma
why are tarps blue

This is our analysis on “why are tarps blue?”

Whenever someone mentions the word tarp, it automatically conjures up an image of a blue, grommeted, available everywhere tarp. Blue tarps have long been the go-to tarp for many purposes, but why are they blue?

Researching blue tarps does not give a clear-cut answer to such a question, and believe me, I’ve spent hours pouring over articles!

Tarps are blue as a means of identification based upon an informal color-coding system. The blue color typically indicates a tarp made of coated polyethylene that is typically waterproof, stretch resistant, UV resistant, and tear-resistant. Blue tarps can vary widely in weight and size, requiring a careful investigation to determine the best use for one.

Why Are tarps blue? 

Blue tarps have long enjoyed popularity as the tarp of choice in part due to their affordability and availability.

But what are blue tarps meant to be used for? Their popularity does not rest solely on their price point and obtainability.

Blue tarps are typically intended for everyday, all-purpose use. These tarps are waterproof, low stretch, tear-resistant, and UV protected. 

These features point to a clear purpose; blue tarps are meant for outdoor protective use.

This makes these tarps makes them ideal for construction projects and camping. 

Campers are perhaps the most creative blue tarp consumers. Campers use blue tarps to create barriers under their tents, add additional waterproof covering over the top of their tents, and help block the wind!

Camping and construction are both activities that people engage in year-round, creating the ideal market for the blue tarp to continue to be a mainstay of affordability and accessibility.

What About Tarps of Other Colors? 

While blue tarps are the most popular of all tarps, they aren’t the only variety. There are many other colors of tarps that come in various materials and thicknesses with different intended use.

Some other colors of tarps may also have very similar features to blue tarps, such as UV resistance, water resistance, and tear resistance.

The reason these tarps haven’t gained the same popularity as their blue counterparts may be a bit of a mystery; however, there are a few intuitive clues we can use.

The color-coding system with tarps is unofficial and more of a convention than a rule. The guidelines below are those that many manufacturers and consumers have agreed to based upon a mix of modern-day perceptions and basic science.

  • Clear tarps are a great protective option that allows full sunlight. These are sometimes used to provide outdoor spaces with more protection from the elements without sacrificing a view or sun. Clear tarps are an excellent option for farmers or gardeners.
  • Silver tarps are an excellent light reflective option, similar to a white tarp. These are great for when you need some extra protection from the heat of a full sun location.
  • Black tarps absorb and retain heat, making them a good choice when you need warmth. Black tarps are often used as a means to heat a pool affordably and efficiently utilizing the sun.
  • Camo tarps are an excellent option for when you want to blend in. Blending in can be useful when hunting, or when you’re camping and don’t want to disrupt wildlife around you with abrasive tent colors.
  • Red tarps tend to be extra durable. They are similar to orange tarps in that the colors symbolize stop or proceed with caution. These can be used to alert others that you’re covering a hole in the ground or an area that needs extra care and attention when approaching.

Buying Guide: What to Look For in a Blue Tarp 

When you’re shopping for a blue tarp, it’s essential to evaluate your camping needs before picking up any old blue tarp from the store.

Will you be using this for everyday camping purposes, such as lining the bottom of your tent to keep it from getting wet?

Do you intend to camp in more extreme conditions, such as heavy rain? 

There are quite a few variables within the blue tarp market, making it even more important to know what you need and carefully read packages before buying.

  • Size is an important factor to consider when buying a blue tarp. Blue tarps come in a wide range of sizes, so it’s essential to know how you’ll use it. Knowing your tent’s size is crucial to ensure you get a tarp that will provide full coverage for under or over your tent.
  • Tarp thickness is another important variable to consider when purchasing a blue tarp. Tarp thickness is measured in mils, with higher numbers meaning thicker tarps. This number can vary dramatically with blue tarps. 

If you’re using your tarp for regular camping and want it to last through a variety of climates and weather, it’s a good idea to choose a thicker tarp.

  • Grommets can vary significantly in both amount and whether they are rustproof. If you have a specific purpose in mind, the total number of grommets per tarp is worth considering before purchasing. 

Not all blue tarps offer rust-resistant grommets, so be sure to check the packaging to ensure your tarp can withstand many seasons of camping.

  • Weatherproof blue tarps exist and are worth investigating if you plan on camping in a wide range of temperatures. Weatherproofed tarps tend to have different weaves or laminations to make them extra durable and resistant to cracking in extreme temperatures. 

The tarp must specify it’s weatherproof or intended for temperature extremes, as not all blue tarps are meant to be used in a variety of climates.

Blue tarps are all-purpose, waterproof, UV resistant, and tear-resistant, making them ideal for various uses. Blue tarps are highly affordable and widely available, making them popular for campers, contractors, and home project enthusiasts. 

Blue tarps are an excellent option to cover a diverse range of camping needs and are worth considering as an addition to your gear!

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My name is Emma, and I’m a city dweller who jumps on every opportunity to get out and enjoy nature! I’ve gone on a number of car camping and backpacking trips over the past few years. I created this site to inspire others to get outside and to make the process easier for you.