In any bugout or survival situation it is vitally important to protect yourself from the elements. Without some type of shelter, rain, snow, freezing temperatures can easily make a bad situation even worse. And can literally be the difference between living and dying. In cold wet conditions life-threatening hypothermia can set in within minutes.
Having a shelter you can set up quickly when weather conditions change is a key to survival. While there are a number of shelter options none are as inexpensive and simple as a plain tarp. They are cheap, can be set up quickly in a variety of configurations and can provide instant shelter against the elements.
The tarp shown in the picture I picked up on sale for under $5. A 5 x 7 would be the minimum size you would want. A better size would be 8 x10. Setting it up in a lean to configuration allows you to have part of the tarp under you while providing protection above. I strung two bungee cords between two trees. I staked out the corners with additional bungee cords. I used a tent pole as the bottom back support but a long branch would work just as well. You can use cheap tent pegs and cord or rope instead of bungee cords. Or you can just cut a few sticks to hold things in place. One of the advantages of this configuration is you can also tuck a inexpensive survival blanket between the bottom support and top providing you with a reflective surface for a fire or your own body heat. It took me under 5 minutes to set up this shelter. In a pouring rain that advantage may be life saving.
Simple tarps can be useful in a number of survival situations and picking up a few won’t break the bank. While lightweight tents may provide more enclosed shelter the cost and ease of setup of a tarp makes it a must have for every bug out bag and survival kit.