Why Are Tarps Traditionally Blue?

Blue tarp

When asked about the color of a tarp, most people would probably name a blue one. This is not surprising, because blue is the most pervasive color of the tarp. You can see them everywhere – on stacks of crops in farm fields or hooped over roofs when reparation works are being done. Nevertheless, tarps can be found in many colors. 

This may make you wonder whether there is a code relating to certain colored tarps. What does a tarp color signify and why are the blue ones so ubiquitous? There is no specific answer to these questions and tarps or tarpaulins are one of those products that work, regardless of their color.

There are no government regulations or industry guidelines determining what different tarp colors should represent. Moreover, the tarp color doesn’t seem to have any decisive effect on their setup and versatility. Blue tarps are typically the lowest grade (thread denier, sheet thickness, and so on), and therefore the most affordable ones which may explain their enormous popularity.

Our article provides details on different tarp colors and explains the reasons behind the popularity of blue ones.

Table of Contents

Tarp Facts

Nowadays, the market seems to be overflowed with different types of tarpaulins, such as mesh sunshades, ground covers, truck tarps, poly tarps, canvas tarps, and so on. They are widely used on campgrounds, construction sites, campgrounds, or flatbeds. Depending on their purpose, they may vary in weave patterns and feature sets. Color, as well. 

Color coding is used by some tarp manufacturers and each color seems to be signifying something. What makes potential buyers confused is that these companies are using different (internal) color-coding systems. You can find a red-colored tarp aimed to cover dangerous materials. On the other hand, some companies sell their red-colored tarps as a means to increase visibility. Or because they prefer the color.

The Amazing Popularity of Blue Tarps

Although generally considered basic pieces of gear, blue tarpaulins have become widely popular for their affordability and versatility. To the point of becoming symbolic.

No piece of gear is as symbolic of this fact as the plain blue tarps. Since they were first introduced to the market, blue tarps have been considered a symbol of a camper’s bag. They come in different sizes and reinforced edges.

How Can Blue Tarps Be Used on Camping Trips

The incredible versatility of blue tarps is reflected in their wide range of application: 

  • Camping Bad Wrap – a bite crunchy for ideal rest, they provide additional protection to your camping bad, especially if you’re napping outside. They’re sure to protect your sleeping bag from getting wet and keep the sweat from wicking away moisture. 
  • Emergency Tents – if you’re camping in the rain or find yourself in a dust storm, you can easily save the day by stretching out a rope between two trees, put some weight on the edges, and hang your blue tarpaulin over. If you have a solid amount of blue tarps, you can assemble a triangular tubular tent that will keep the rain out, preventing it from pooling back into your tent.
  • Ground Cloth – you can lay down a blue tarp on the tent floor before you set up your camping tent. It will protect you from the moisture underneath, keep the bugs away and help you maintain the order and cleanliness of your tent. It just needs to be a bit smaller than the tent’s floor area, so that rain cannot pool in. 
  • Sleeping Bag Wrap – Being a bit too crunchy, blue tarps are not ideal to sleep on. However, they may be a great solution if you’re sleeping outside or in a leaky tent. You can just wrap a tarp around your sleeping bag as an extra layer or add a tarp to a bivy sack. But you should definitely avoid them in extreme heat because the tarp will prevent your sweat from evaporating. It’ll leave you sticky and probably in a bad mood.
  • Shade and Shelter – In case you need to improvise a shelter, blue tarps are quick to set up, especially if you fancy the one-sided lean-to. And if you have an extra piece of tarpaulin, you can create a floor. This may be handy if you opt for an open-air camp and prefer sleeping outside, whereby providing a certain degree of protection. On the other hand, you can set it up to protect you from sunlight during the day and redirect the breeze towards you. It can also be used as a windbreak.
  • Sunshade, heat reflector – you can easily develop a blue tarp into an uneven shelter which can be a great solution for keeping you warm, especially if situated comparable to the pit fire. It’s also a great way to experience under the stars, but also to protect you from harmful UV rays.
  • Impermanent Shelter – UV rays may be harmful to your skin, which is why you should utilize a tarp for cover and still enjoy being outdoors. You can also use a solicit canvas and turn it into a teepee for your children. Or spread it over your plants using a work tarp.
  • Kid’s play area – Your terrace can be an ideal playground for your children. Using squares of wood, reused materials, and blue tarps, you can develop a structure where your children can have lots of fun in the open air.
  • Cover Tool – tarps are a great tool to conceal your things from miscreants while camping, climbing, or hiking. Especially those with similar shading as the earth. And if you stick branches or leaves on it, you’ll have a perfect hiding place. 
  • Excursion/picnic covering – there’s no reason your picnic idea should be compromised. A blue tarp can be easily turned into a picnic blanket or table covering. They are waterproof and facilitate tidying up and food spills.

Blue tarps used for camping

We only listed a few of the awesome uses for blue tarps. What you should know is that they are all-purpose tarps that could come in handy in a variety of situations in your home, outdoors and for numerous applications across industries.

The versatility of blue tarps notwithstanding, you should familiarize yourself with the main types of tarps, materials they are typically manufactured from, and their specific purposes.

Tarp Materials

The growing demand for tarpaulin sheets is mainly due to their waterproof characteristic. Derived from two words, tarp (tarred canvas) and palling (fabric), this enduring and flexible product can be found in different colors and may vary in thickness. Technological advancements have enabled constant improvements of tarpaulins to fit different requirements of a large number of customers.

Tarps are traditionally made of nylon, polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene, or canvas, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

  • Mesh Tarps – manufactured from breathable materials. They come with grommets at their edges allowing you to tie them down and double-stitched hems. They come in different colors and sizes. For example, green-colored mesh tarps can be seen in tennis courts, golf courses, or as a part of a garden setting. Given their construction, they provide less protection from wind than other tarps. However, they are a good choice for hauling sand or gravel in a truck, covering pools or lightweight trucks, or protecting plants from sunlight.
  • Poly Tarps – manufactured from polyethylene and both low-density and high-density forms. Light duty poly tarpaulins are lighter in weight, with a lower mesh count and poly coating, whereas high duty tarps have a heavier mesh count and poly coating and are heavier. Poly tarpaulins are used as truck bed liners, for the protection of wood flooring in gyms, as a temporary shelter or to seal a leak in your roof. 
  • Vinyl Tarps – These are basically poly tarps coated, tempered, or laminated with vinyl. They are thicker than other tarps and are highly resistant to mildew, grease, abrasion, and acid. Vinyl tarps can be used in the awning, as windscreens in marine and for marine covers, as roof leak diverters, salvage covers, and so on.
  • Heavy-Duty Tarps – manufactured from high-grade, durable materials, these tarpaulins are mainly used in the industrial and agricultural sector due to their ability to withstand tough conditions. Heavy-duty tarps are used to protect vehicles and boats, outdoor equipment, heavy-duty cargo, a building, or a construction site.
  • Canvas Tarps – made of breathable materials, usually with a wax coating and a water-resistant layer. Given their strength and robustness, it’s no wonder canvas tarps are used as a protection from the wind, water, mildew, and UV rays, as ground covers, in agricultural applications and construction industry, and so on. Canvas tarps are waterproof, but still can absorb paint and prevent leakage. 
  • Polyester Tarps – typically coated with a polyurethane layer, these tarps are waterproof, provide shelter from the sun, and can be used for temporary shelters.
  • Rip-stop Tarps – also known as cotton-poly tarps, these tarps are synthetic tarps that have qualities of both polyester and natural fibers of cotton. They are 100% waterproof.

Tarp Color: What Does It Signify?

Tarpaulins come in a wide assortment of colors to meet your needs. While there may not be a strict set of rules defined by industry leaders, different tarp colors have found their use in specific industries or for specific purposes.  

You may find yourself wondering whether yellow tarps are better than blue tarps or whether black ones are worse than white ones. There are a variety of choices coming with each manufacturer, but generally, it’s not the tarp color you should be concerned with.

Even an old tarp is likely to help you get work done. However, if you need more details on the features and qualities of different tarpaulins, you should contact the manufacturer, or check their website for more information.

  • Blue Tarps – blue (but also green and brown) tarpaulins are widely used for consumer and light industrial work. They seem to be the tarps of choice for roofers, construction workers, contractors, landscapers, and farmers. Easily found and very popular.
  • Yellow, orange, and red tarps – mainly used to increase visibility to dangerous areas or to visually prioritize certain materials. They warn people of hard materials underneath.
  • White and silver tarps – used as sunshades or makeshift tent canopies, because they’re better at reflecting sunlight than absorbing it. White tarpaulins are considered the best color to reflect heat.
  • Black and dark gray tarps – unlike white tarps, these are better at absorbing sunlight which is why they are used in situations when you need to keep objects cool, without the snow-blinding effect. 

Types of Tarps Based on Specific Purposes

Based on your specific needs, you should learn about the specifications of a tarp before you decide to purchase it. Here is the list of tarps classified in accordance with their specific purposes:

  • Blue Tarps – water-resistant, durable, and affordable. They come with reinforced edges and can be found in different sizes.
  • Black Mesh Tarps – suitable for outdoor structures and protection of nurseries and gardens from wind, frost, and sun.
  • Fence Tarps – used on construction sites and to provide privacy.
  • Flame Retardant tarps – treated with special chemicals to make them resistant to fire. These tarpaulins can even slow down the fire.
  • Insulated Tarps – used as insulation from cold and heat, these tarps come with a polyurethane exterior.
  • Pool Tarps – waterproof tarps used to prevent leaves and debris from getting into the poof, thereby keeping them clean.
  • Sports Tarps – large tarpaulins used to cover sports fields.
  • Truck Tarps – heavy-duty, waterproof tarps, mainly used on flatbed trailers.
  • UV-protected tarps – used to protect you from the harmful UV rays of the sun. They come in a range of colors.

A couple of decades ago, water-resistant tarps were mostly olive drab and cotton-based, but the increased demand for waterproof tarps signified the shift towards heavy-duty synthetics. Vinyl tarps could be found in many colors and, whereas neoprene tarps were only available in black/black or silver/black. More recently, polyethylene (poly) tarps have been introduced to the market, most of them started color-coordinated by quality. 

Blue tarps are typically the lowest grade and the most affordable ones. But a simple, yet incredibly versatile, blue tarp from a hardware store which is usually the simplest and least expensive piece of gear often turns out to be a downright camping essential.

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