Sailors made use tarps on cargo ships. They would wrap the material around their goods to protect them from the water, wind, and other weathering elements. While these were not called tarps at the time, many believe this is where they originated, and since that time, these handy accessories have evolved into very functional products that are available in a variety of types and materials, designed specifically for various tasks.
Many use tarps to store or protect other items. Weather resistant styles are used outside to cover expensive items such as vehicles, farm and garden equipment, campers, motorcycles, trailers, grills, and patio furniture. Many of these are also UV resistant, making them ideal for protecting items that may discolor with lengthened exposure to sunlight.
While cotton was the first material used to create these, few are actually now made from this fabric. Many are now created from more durable materials such as polyethylene, known as the polytarp, which can withstand years of exposure to the elements. These are also available in a variety of colors.
A number of business fields use these items on a daily basis. Farmers need tarps to cover fertilizer, hay, and protect plants from harsh weather. Contractors use them to cover materials and equipment, and many trucking companies use them to secure the cargo that is carried in the back of their trucks.
Others will use tarps as temporary shelters or canopies. Many have found them essential items for camping, and others have made use of these to create temporary shelters when none other was readily available. They are durable and inexpensive, making them ideal for a number of uses.