My father was the Boyscout leader when I was a child, and even though I was a little boy, there were times that we were able to go with the troop on camping trips.
I remember one in particular, was a Boyscout Jamboree, and there were tents and campsites set up as far as we could see. Our tent was one of the troops’ tents and I remember it was green like an Army tent, the floor of the tent was made out of tarp, not like today’s tents with just the basic tent material as a bottom. It was great! The floor stayed dry during the numerous thunderstorms we experienced that week.
That experience helped me determine that every camper package should include at least one tarp. I ALWAYS put a tarp down on the ground beneath my tent now, and roll the excess tarp up and under the tent to create a barrier from any water on the ground so that the floor of the tent doesn’t get wet.
I did say “at least” one tarp, because there are many other reasons to have tarps with you while camping. One of which is shade, you can tie tarps to tree limbs to create a lean-to effect for shade on hot days or shelter from rain on wet days.
A tarp could also be used for warmth, just throw one over your sleeping bags on a cold night and help keep the whole family warm.
Now I always have another tarp when camping that I use to create a bathroom, yes you could just go in the woods, but I prefer privacy as do many others and I believe it is a cleanlier way to take care of “business” without leaving a mess for others. I take a five gallon bucket, tarp and string. I find a good tree with branches above my head I weave the string through the tarp and tie to four different branches creating an enclosure, place the bucket inside the enclosure and “Wahlah!”, outdoor potty! Note: take a lid for the bucket and dispose of properly when you leave the campsite, no fuss, no mess!
Another good use for tarps would be for picnic tables, you just throw it over the table and if you spill something you can easily wipe it off instead of a tablecloth that would require cleaning in a washer.
I would recommend having at least four lightweight tarps on any camping trip, even if you don’t use all of them they are not heavy to carry and can be easily folded and stored away neatly. Tarps are a MUST! Don’t leave home without one.