13 Best Camping Tarps For Backpacking

13 Best Camping Tarps For Backpacking

13 Best Camping Tarps

Best Camping Tarps For Backpacking

If you enjoy wild camping and getting closer to nature then a camping tarp is an essential bit of kit. With the right skills, there is no end to the different ways in which you can create a tarp shelter. The best camping tarps for backpacking are lightweight, tough, and have multiple secure eyelets to fasten them down with. Whether you use a tent to sleep in or not, a tarp is always a good thing to keep in your backpack on camping trips.

Tents Vs. Tarps

Best Camping Tarps For Hiking

Sleeping in a tent and sleeping in a tarp shelter that you made yourself are two very different things and they both have their pros and cons.

PROS:

  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Packable
  • Reliable
  • Flexible and adaptive
  • Works with hammock
  • Can sleep next to the fire

CONS:

  • Bugs
  • Harsh weather can be challenging with a small tarp
  • Skill needed
  • Extra effort to find materials
  • Less ‘secure’ to leave bags in unattended

Benefits of Camping Tarps

Waking up in a shelter that you made yourself is a satisfying feeling that just can’t be obtained in a tent. The flexible and adaptive nature of tarps means you can camp anywhere you like with just a few scavenged/fashioned items. You can make the roof as high, low, slanted or domed as you like, and without a groundsheet to get muddy, you don’t have to take your boots off to walk around.

The sheltered area you can gain from a tarp is far larger than the inside of any 1 – 6 person tent and so you are able to be more productive without limiting yourself to a tent. But the best part is that tarps weigh just a fraction of what tents do.

Without the 4 walls and zippered closing, you lose the claustrophobic feeling of being in a tent and start to feel closer to nature and more in tune with your surroundings. The freedom to pitch where you like is compounded by the lightweight and packable design of camping tarps. Because there are no tent poles to carry with a rain tarp, you can easily tuck it inside your pack without taking up much space.

Downside to Camping Tarps

Talking about the upsides are all well and good but what about the issues you have to deal with when sleeping under a waterproof tarp?

I will admit that there have been times that I have been in under my camping tarp without a bug net, wishing that I packed the tent instead. The bugs (mainly biting insects) in some places or at certain times of years can be far worse than you ever expected and unless you pack a separate bug net you should come to terms with the fact that you will be bitten.

Aside from the bugs, things like wind and rain can become an issue when camping with a tarp. If your shelter is not secured down properly or not pitched in the correct way then wind can blow right through you at night and the rain can find a way in.

If you do have the skills to build a decent shelter out of a camping tarp then you are not out of the woods yet. Quite often you may need to gather some simple materials to either support or secure parts of your structure – this can be hard when you are in arid landscapes or above the treeline. It is also worth noting that having passed a lot of campsites on my hikes, it is surprising how many cannot accommodate a tarp shelter.

Best Camping Tarps For Backpacking

What kind of Tarps are there?

You can get camping tarps in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and materials and they all suit different people and scenarios. Canvas tarps are heavy, dated and typically used for circus tents etc. Those big blue tarps you see on farms or use to cover your lawn mower are ok in emergencies but not ideal for hiking and backpacking. The best camping tarps are made from super waterproof but incredibly lightweight material that doesn’t take up much space in your backpack.

Tarps for hunting and fishing are usually built with a bit more ruggedness (and camo print) but typically weigh more and don’t pack down as small as backpacking tarps. You can ponchos that double up as a tarp (which will be looked at in more detail in the near future) as well as rectangles, squares, and hexagonal designs which are meant to be set up in a specific way/s. They all have their merits, but I personally prefer a square design so that I can use it diagonally with a hammock as well as an A-frame ground shelter.

What Size Tarp Do you need for 1 person?

This is up for debate but if you are looking for the most lightweight camping tarp then the smaller the better. I would go no smaller than a 1.6 meters wide and 2 meters long tarp for one person or 2m x 2m if you opt for a square. The problem with such a small size is that it does limit your shelter designs to just a roof whereas with a larger tarp you can often create walls and a small area of ground sheet. The ideal size tarp for me is 3m x 3m which is also big enough for an extra person and their bags or me and my bike.

Pitching a Tarp

There are literally dozens of ways to pitch a tarp as you can see in the diagram below, but if you are new to wild camping then learning a basic A-frame ridgeline is all you need to get started. Watch some videos on youtube and experiment in your garden until you have learned the standard A-frame and lean-to shelters, then have a go at something more complex. Master the basics first though.

how to pitch a camping tarp in different ways

how to pitch a camping tarp in different ways

What Else Do You Need For Tarp Camping?

As well as the tarp and stuff sack you are going to need a few extra materials to create a basic shelter. These are mainly cordage, pegs, and potentially a support pole. Arguably these can all be made from natural materials and do not need to be carried but that is more of a survival mindset than a convenient one. I like to carry 4 titanium tent pegs, a 5-meter length of paracord for the ridgeline, and 4 x 2-meter lengths of paracord to tie out the corners on a raised shelter. If I am thru-hiking a trail then I will take 1-2 hiking poles which make the perfect support for a tarp shelter. It should go without saying that I always use a sleeping pad to get me off the ground.

Using A Tarp With A Hammock

If you prefer to sleep in a hammock over sleeping on the ground then you will almost certainly need to erect a rain fly sheet above, unless you can say with certainty that there will not be rain. Diagonal or square tarps that can be made diagonal are the best shapes for hammock shelters. If you are using a small rectangular tarp then you may be better with a parallel roof that is not too high above the hammock. Hiking and backpacking with a tarp and hammock combination is my favorite way to go as they both pack down small and don’t add as much weight as a tent.

Using A Tarp Over Your Tent

If you are heading somewhere with particularly bad weather or do not trust the waterproofness of your tent, then a tarp can be an easy fix to help keep you dry. By placing a tarp over the top of a cheap tent you can effectively increase the waterproofing to 100% – but that is not what tarps are made for. If you still want to sleep in a tent after reading this review of the best camping tarps then at least consider a tarp to create an extended porch on your tent ;).

13 Best Camping Tarps for Backpacking


Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp

Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp

 

WEIGHT: 15.5 oz / 440 g

SIZE: Large 10 x 10 ft / 3 x 3 m

MATERIAL: 15 Denier Sil/PU coated Nylon

PACK SIZE: 13 x 10 x 4 in / 33 x 25 x 10 cm

The Sea to Summit Escapist Waterproof Tarp is lightweight, tough, easy to pitch, and large enough for more than 1 person and their gear. True to their colors, the Escapist is currently only available in bright yellow which may not be a problem for backpackers but wild campers might opt for something with a bit more stealth. There is no denying though, that this is one of the best camping tarps for backpacking thanks to its size, shape, and weight.

Camping Hiking Outdoors - Gear Assistant

 


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Fjallraven Abisko Tarp

Fjallraven Abisko Tarp

 

WEIGHT: 17.6 oz / 500 g

SIZE: 10 x 10 ft / 3 x 3 m

MATERIAL: 40D TripleRip Sil/Sil 3000mm 100 % Polyamide outer, 15D Ripstop DWR 100% Polyamide inner

PACK SIZE: 5 x 8 x 14 in / 13 x 20 x 35 cm

The Fjallraven Abisko Tarp is made from a super tough TripleRip Sil Polymide which is nice and lightweight but as tough as any other tarp on the market. One of the biggest worries with the super light materials is that they will rip and tear with ease but you don’t have to worry about that with this tarp. Along with a hammock, lines, and stakes, you can have an all in one shelter bed for well under 1,000 grams.

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Hennessy Hammock Hex Rainfly

Hennessy Hammock Hex Silnylon 30D Rainfly

 

WEIGHT: 18 oz / 495 g

SIZE: 9 x 11.6 ft / 2.7 x 3.5 m

MATERIAL: 30D High Tenacity 66 Silnylon Ripstop Nylon

PACK SIZE: 3 x 10 in / 8 x 20 cm

The Hennessy Hammock Hex Rainfly is designed with hammock campers in mind but can be used as a ground shelter just as well. Made from 30D Silnylon with an asymmetrical hexagonal shape, it is wide enough for 2 people and does an excellent job of stopping wind and rain. With two attachment points on each side and one at the back and front, there is also a pouch on each corner to stow your lines.

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Rab Siltarp 2

Rab Siltarp 2

WEIGHT: 13.9oz / 393 g

SIZE: 8 x 10 ft / 2.5 x 3 m

MATERIAL: Silicone Sil-Coat impregnated 30d ripstop Cordura

PACK SIZE: 3 x 12 x 4 in / 7 x 30 x 10 cm

The Rab Siltarp 2 is a compact and super light rain shelter for 1 – 3 people that is 100% waterproof and very durable for such thin material. The 14 reinforced attachment points give you plenty of options when it comes to tieing down the edges and the central loop helps keep the roof fully taught. An excellent choice for backpackers who don’t want to carry a tent around and don’t mind the wind on their face.

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Hammock Gear Cuben Fiber Hex Tarp

Hammock Gear Cuben Fiber Hex Tarp

WEIGHT: 4.75 oz / 135 g

SIZE: 10 ft ridge / 3 m ridge

MATERIAL: Dyneema aka Cuben Fiber

The Hammock Gear Cuben Fiber Hex Tarp is made from the high-performance, non-woven, and ridiculously lightweight Dyneema fabric. When you compare this to pretty much all the other hammocks on this list it is without a doubt the most lightweight tarp for camping. The sacrifices you have to make for such a weight saving are that the material is not as tough and durable as others and is almost see through.

$225+

 


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Terra Nova Adventure Tarp 1

Terra Nova Adventure Tarp 1

 

WEIGHT: 13 oz / 367 g

SIZE: 4.6 x 7.9 ft / 1.4 x 2.4 m

MATERIAL: Stormtex P4000 poly fabric

PACK SIZE: 3.1 x 15.7 in / 8 x 40 cm

The Terra Nova Adventure Tarp 1 is a compact and lightweight one person rain fly sheet built for solo campers and minimalists. The Poly 4000mm hydrostatic head will keep you dry in heavy downpours but it is not very wide so you better know how to make a good shelter. There is a larger version available but for people looking for a small a tarp as possible then this is probably the best in its class for the price.

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Warbonnet Mamajamba Tarp

Warbonnet Mamajamba tarp

WEIGHT: 13.5 oz / 383 g

SIZE: 10 x 11 ft / 3 x 3.3 m

MATERIAL: 30D Ripstop Polyester with Silicone coating

The Warbonnet Mamajamba is an ultra-lightweight camping tarp from a brand that lightweight hikers go mad for. The 6 attachment points all extend out slightly to give it a curved rectangle shape that works very well to block out bad weather. There are also some notches to add structural ribs for extra support. With a 2000mm hydrostatic head and the options of Nylon and Polyester, you can get this tarp in a variety of colors including camo on their website.

$115 - $140

 


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Aqua Quest Guide Tarp Square 10 x 10 ft

AquaQuest Guide Camping Tarp

 

WEIGHT: 24 oz / 680 g

SIZE: 10 x 10 ft / 3 x 3 m

MATERIAL: 40D RipStop Nylon fabric with non-toxic dual Silicone & PU coating

PACK SIZE: 12 x 5.5 x 2.25 in / Compressed: 5.25 x 4.75 x 3.5 in

The Aqua Quest Guide is a high-quality camping tarp that is 100% waterproof, lightweight, packable and easy to pitch with 17 reinforced webbing loops. The hydrostatic resistance of 20,000 mm and heat taped seams make sure that you stay dry in the heaviest downpours. With a combination of Thermoplastic PolyUrethane and Silicone or DWR, the material on this tarp is strong enough to hold a 66 ft vertical column of water before leaking.

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Yukon Outfitters Walkabout Rainfly

Yukon Outdoors Walkabout Rainfly

 

WEIGHT: 14 oz / 397 g

SIZE: 11ft 10 x 9ft 4 diagonally / 3.6 x 2.8 m

MATERIAL: 190T polyester with PU coating

PACK SIZE: Roughly the size of a 2-liter water bottle

The Yukon Outfitters Walkabout Rainfly is a super lightweight tarp that is big enough for any hammock and most shelter designs. Stakes and hi-vis reflective guy lines are included but there are only 4 attachment points, which might be an issue for some people, but works perfectly well diagonally and helps keep the overall weight down.

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ENO Pro Fly Rain Tarp

ENO Pro Fly

 

WEIGHT: 22 oz / 625 g

SIZE: 10.5 x 6.3 ft / 3.2 x 1.9 m

MATERIALPU Coated Ripstop Nylon Taffeta

PACK SIZE: 7 x 5 in / 18 x 13 cm

The ENO Pro Fly Rain Tarp has just 6 attachment points and follows a similar hexagonal shape to the Hennesy Hammock Hex. If you have one of Eagle’s Nest Outfitters Hammocks then you know that they are a really cool and trustworthy brand, this tarp is the perfect addition to your gear. The streamlined shape helps it deflect wind and rain while keeping you and your hammock/bedding dry.

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Kelty Noahs Tarp

Kelty Noahs Tarp

 

WEIGHT: 24 oz / 680 g

SIZE: 9 x 9 ft / 2.7 x 2.7 m

MATERIAL: PU Coated Polyester Taffeta

PACK SIZE: 10 x 9 x 3 in / 25 x 23 x 7.5 cm

The Kelty Noahs Tarp comes in 3 different sizes but for 1 –  2 people, the smallest 9 x 9 ft model should be sufficient and weighs the least. The adjustable poles are not included but can be bought separately if you want them. That being said, 2 hiking poles will work very well with this tarp shelter and have multiple uses, unlike tent poles.

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DD Hammocks Tarp 3 x 3 m

DD Hammocks Camping Tarp

 

WEIGHT: 27.8 oz / 790 g

SIZE: 10 x 10 ft / 3 x 3 m

MATERIAL: PU Coated Polyester

PACK SIZE: 7.5 x  4.3 x 3.1 in / 19 x 11 x 8 cm

The DD Hammocks Tarp 3 x 3 m has an amazing 19 reinforced attachment points, including 3 across the ridge line, which makes shelter building so much easier and open to creativity. With a hydrostatic head of 3000mm, the water just rolls right off and the material is tough enough to stay waterproof and undamaged for a very long time. Super reliable and adaptable tarp for any kind of wild camping.

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Snugpak Pro Force All Weather Shelter

Snugpak Pro Force All weather shelter

 

WEIGHT: 26.5 oz / 750 g

SIZE: 10 x 10 ft / 3 x 3 m

MATERIAL: 210T Polyester Rip-Stop PU and ANTI-UV SPF30

PACK SIZE: 4.7 x 9.4 in / 12 x 24 cm

The Snugpak Pro Force All Weather Shelter is designed by military veterans and outdoorsmen to protect you all year round. There are plenty of attachment loops including three down the spine to make sure whatever kind of shelter you build, you can always have a taught roof. A cool feature about this tarp is that has poppers down the side to transform it into a bivvy bag in a survival situation.

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Honorable Mention: Equinox Egret Tarp

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