An e-mail discussion for the past few days has focused on the durable, tough emergency tarpaulins provided by organizations such as the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and other international aid agencies. You'll find the story behind their development here. They came into widespread use from 1996 onwards - which was the year I first came to the USA on a seven-month mission visit, and ceased wandering around areas where they would be used, so I've never actually seen one 'in the flesh', so to speak.
What sets these tarps apart is that they won't degrade in hot or sunny conditions, and won't weather or fray like the common blue tarps do. They also don't use grommet holes at all; instead, they have heavy-duty ties affixed to them. Here's a video describing them. I don't know whether most of my readers will find it interesting, but given my years of exposure to mission and disaster environments in Africa, I certainly do.
I note that the tarpaulins are described in detail in the Red Cross purchasing guidelines here, at a price of approximately 15 Swiss francs apiece, but that's for agency use only. I've no idea where ordinary folks like you and I can buy them. I'd love to find out, because I keep in touch with folks in Africa with whom I've worked in the past. I'd like to be able to buy them a few from time to time, and ship them over.
Can any of my readers help? Do you know where these can be bought by private citizens, and if so, at what price? If you do, please let us know in Comments. Thanks for your help.