15 Best Camping Tarps in 2024 – Waterproof Rain Tarps

Last Updated on 27/08/2023

What are the Best Camping Tarps for Backpacking?

If you enjoy wild camping and getting closer to nature, then a good 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 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.

The main benefits of camping tarps are that they are lightweight and easily packable, unlike most tents which are often heavy and bulky. They keep the rain off you like any high-end tent would and can be set up to block the wind without making you feel boxed in or claustrophobic. A groundsheet can be used for the base, and hiking poles can be used to create an easy camping tarp shelter.

A common reason for needing a rain tarp is that you plan on camping with a hammock. If you sleep in a hammock and need a roof over your head, then a waterproof tarp, a rope, and two guy lines are all you need to create a shelter between two trees. Until you start camping, you don’t realize how useful a large piece of waterproof material can be. This guide is designed to save you time and money by recommending only the best camping tarps.

Best Tarps for Camping


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 available in a medium as well as the large version featured here. The Escapist medium weighs just 300 grams and will just about squeeze two people under it when set up low to the ground. The larger model we prefer is far more comfortable and square-shaped for more shelter options.

As well as the Escapist Tarp, you can also get an Escapist Groundsheet (165 g) and Escapist Ultra-Mesh Bug Tent (385 g) to go underneath and sleep in total comfort. It should be said that this shelter does also require two hiking poles or similar for it to work but seeing that it is aimed at hikers, this shouldn’t be an issue for most.

The eight tie-out points are all designed to hold the tip of a hiking pole and also come with reflective guylines with cord adjusters pre-attached. They are made of a special material called Hypalon™ which is a chlorosulfonated polyethylene (CSPE) synthetic rubber (CSM) noted for its resistance to things that would perish PVC a similar PVC coating. Basically, it is tough as nails and durable for years.

VERDICT: 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 hiking, thanks to its size, shape, and weight.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


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 the Abisko tarp.

There are 14 reinforced attachment loops, including two central points, which makes using an A-frame setup really fast and easy to achieve. Because the material is more durable than other lightweight tarps, it can be used as a windbreak or as a tent accessory to extend your porch or have an undercover kitchen area.

VERDICT: At just 500 grams and the same size as the Sea To Summit Escapist, the extra 60 grams might be worth it for the toughness of the 40 D Triple Rip Silnylon. The Abisko isn’t noticeably heavier, but it is noticeably tougher, so depending on which feature is more important, you can take your pick. Along with a hammock, lines, and stakes, you can still have an all-in-one shelter for well under 1,000 grams.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


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.

There are six reinforced attachment points which, along with the hexagonal shape, do somewhat limit the ways in which it can be set up. That being said, it is very good at what it is designed to do, which is provide amazing weatherproofing when camping in a hammock. The Hex Rainfly is also available in a 70 D Polyester version which is obviously tougher and weighs in at 756 grams.

VERDICT: Overall, the Hennessy Hammock Hex Rainfly is a great tarp for hammock campers and can be used as a ground shelter if needed. If you like the look of this tarp, then you should definitely check out their hammock range, as their all-in-one systems are some of the best.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


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 30 D 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. Made by a very reputable and ethical outdoor brand, the Siltarp 2 isn’t quite a square but can be set up in just as many ways.

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. As seen in the picture, you can use two hiking poles to create an open shelter with a windbreak at the back as well as any number of A-frame variations,

VERDICT: This camping tarp is an excellent choice for backpackers who don’t want to carry a tent around and don’t mind the wind on their faces.

 

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


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 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 nowhere near as tough and durable as others and is almost see-through.

VERDICT: Long-distance hikers and ultralight backpackers who are always looking to shave a few grams off their pack weight will struggle to find a shelter in the world that weighs less than this does. As you can see in the picture, it can be used with a hammock or, as you can imagine, on the ground as well. Still, because this material is so thin, you will always be worried about damaging it, which is not a quality we normally look for in outdoor gear.

$225+

 


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, and the Terra Nova’s Stormtex material is the same stuff they use on their tents and is very reliable.

VERDICT: We love the solid eyelets at first, but we do wonder how the material will hold them in place after years of use. The main issue we have with the Adventure Tarp 1 is that it is not very wide, so you better know how to make a good shelter and tuck your backpack in close. There is a larger version available for couples, but for people looking for a small tarp as possible then this is a great value option and is very compact.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


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. As you can see in the picture, these extra attachment points really give this tarp a tautness that others struggle to achieve. This makes it a great choice for strong winds, snow, and heavy downpours.

VERDICT: 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. Another thing we like about this camp tarp is that it is slightly larger than 3 x 3 meters which makes it a very generous cover for shelter building.

$115 - $140

 


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. we like the fact that these attachment points extend beyond the waterproof material so as to minimize strain on the fabric. Designers over at Aquaquest also suggest that it is quieter than other tarps, but we doubt anyone is actually going to measure the difference.

The thing that stands out most about this rain flysheet is that it is possibly the most waterproof camping tarp on the list. 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.

The central attachment point is something we believe all tarps should have when done correctly with reinforcements, as it improves your shelter by a vast amount. It allows you to keep guy lines on the outside of the shelter to avoid drips and creepy crawlies from running in while you sleep.

VERDICT: Overall, we think this is one of the best camping tarps for long trips because even though it is slightly heavier than others, it should stay waterproof for a lot longer with more use.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


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. This might be an issue for some people, but it works perfectly well diagonally and helps keep the overall weight down.

CONCLUSION: At just 397 grams and a whopping 3.6 meters long, this large camping tarp is lightweight and ideal for hammock campers or 2 people and their gear. While the size of this tarp is impressive, the lack of attachment points means that unless you have perfect shelter-making conditions or are using a hammock, getting even tautness can be tricky in mild wind, let alone a gust. Still, if you want a long tarp to sleep under and cover your gear or even a bike with, then this won’t let you down.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


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 70 D 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 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.

The heavy-duty 70 D ripstop nylon is tougher and more durable than the lightweight tarps above but is also kind of narrow if you like a flat roof or lean-to shelter. The bright green version was upgraded in 2019 to a more low-key color range of dark olive green, navy, and grey, which blend into natural surroundings a bit better.

VERDICT: This camping tarp is best for hammock shelters and won’t tear if you pitch it in thick brush and it rubs against a few shrubs.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


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 68 D 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 a secondary use, unlike tent poles.

VERDICT: Even the small 9 x 9 ft Kielty Noahs Tarp has 14 reinforced attachment points which make it easier to adjust angles if the wind changes direction or tautness if the rain picks up. At nearly 700 grams, this isn’t the lightest camping tarp, but the 68 D polyester material is durable and flexible. It doesn’t have a hydrostatic head rating, but it does have reports of poor waterproof performance which is a worry for some, but if you pitch it correctly, you won’t have a problem.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


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 190 T 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 ridgeline, 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.

VERDICT: Having lived in the UK for most of my life, the DD Tarp has been part of my kit for the last 10 – 15 years or so, and it never lets me down. The popularity of the DD Tarp has seen it grow to become an international brand that is now widely available in America. No, it isn’t the lightest, but it is a super reliable and adaptable tarp for any kind of wild camping and is built to last instead of being uber-light. Read our full review here…

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


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 it has poppers down the side to transform it into a bivvy bag in a survival situation.

VERDICT: Snugpak is a brand often used with personal military equipment because it focuses on making the most hard-wearing and reliable gear out there. Even if it rains for two weeks solid, this tarp will keep doing its job and keeping you dry. The large, square shape of this tarp makes pitching any kind of shelter easy, and once it’s up, you can feel comfortable spreading out.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


Chill Gorilla 10×10 Rain Fly

Chill Gorilla 10x10 Rain Fly

 

  • WEIGHT: 22.4 oz / 635 g
  • SIZE: 10 x 10 ft / 3 x 3 m
  • MATERIAL: Polyurethane-treated 210 T ripstop nylon
  • PACK SIZE: 12 x 4 in / 30 x 10 cm

The Chill Gorilla 10×10 Rain Fly has got a lot of good reviews since its release for its super durable material and simple but effective design. The square shape means you can set it up any number of ways, including diagonally for a hammock or as an A-frame tent-style shelter. With 9 attachment holes, you can get good tension across all areas of the tarp to decrease flapping in the wind and deflect rain easier.

VERDICT: The Chill Gorilla Rain Fly comes with 4 tent stakes, six guy lines, and a stuff sack which brings the total weight up to 860 grams but means you don’t have to purchase them separately. The 2000PU rating means you will always stay dry when sleeping under this, and I wouldn’t be afraid of using one side of the tarp as a groundsheet if I had to.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


OneTigris FORTIFLY Tent Tarp

Chill Gorilla 10x10 Rain Fly
  • WEIGHT: 36 oz / 1,015 g
  • SIZE: 8.2 x 9.2 ft / 2.5 x 2.8 m
  • MATERIAL: 20D Silicon Coated Nylon Fabric
  • PACK SIZE: 11.8 x 4 in / 30 x 10 cm

The OneTigris FORTIFLY Tent Tarp is the only rain fly on this list that is designed to be set up and used in just one way but can be used on the ground or raised as a hammock tarp. Because of the shape, it suits two hiking poles very well, as the guyline can be tensioned at each end, and all the edges can be pegged down securely. The 20D Nylon fabric has a waterproof rating of 2,000 mm which will always keep you dry if pitched at an angle.

There are 3 attachment points down each side which can be pegged to the ground or used with guy lines. Each end of the Tent Tarp has an adjustable tension guy line which gives it a protective shape. This angled shape blocks wind but especially rain, from coming in at either end on a blustery night. The packaged weight includes ten plastic tent stakes, six guy lines, and a stuff sack to keep it all in.

VERDICT: Again, not one of the most compact camping tarps, but the shape makes this shelter so awesome it belongs on this list.

Outdoor Gear Reviews

 


Honorable Mention: Equinox Egret Tarp

Guide to Waterproof Camping Tarps

Weight

One of the major draws to tarp camping is the reduction in pack weight by eliminating heavy tents and poles. There are tarps in our guide ranging from a couple of hundred grams to close to 1 kg. You have to decide whether you want something small and lightweight or large and heavy-duty before you start looking at the weights. If you are unsure about this, It is often a good idea to go for something in the midweight range that will likely have a good balance of weight and durability.

Size

Having a large tarp is a great resource that can be worked with in many different ways, but it isn’t always necessary. For long-term camping trips, a 3 x 3-meter tarp is the perfect size for 1 – 2 people, but you can get away with much smaller ones. Depending on how you plan to pitch your tarp shelter, you can use something as small as 4 x 7 feet if you are trying to go ultralightweight. That will work for lean-to shelters, but if you want a pitched roof, then you will need something a little bigger.

Camping Tarp Shapes

© Derek Hansen @ The Ultimate Hang

Shape

The image of hammock camping tarps above shows just how many different shapes and sizes that are available and how they go from lighter to heavier. Personally, I like to have a square rainfly so that it can be pitched in lots of different ways, including diagonal and rectangular for hammock camping.

Material

The material your rain flysheet is made from is the biggest factor in both weight and durability. The most lightweight tarps for camping are made from cuben fiber which is the least durable fabric, albeit very waterproof. The heavier options like the DD Hammock Tarp are far more rugged and durable, making them suitable for having a campfire under (with caution).

Ripstop nylon and polyester are the best material for tarps because they don’t tear and so can withstand the pressure of being tied down in strong winds. Tarp tents are like giant sails if the wind comes in at the wrong angle, so you had best make sure the material is tough enough to be secured with strong tent pegs.

Waterproofing

The polyester and nylon base fabric are tough and durable but not waterproof, so you will notice that most camping tarps have a durable water-repellant treatment on one side. This is commonly a polyurethane or silicone coating that is 100% waterproof. This creates a barrier to keep you dry, and water should just bead straight off. The better camping tarp brands often test their material for waterproofness and provide the details in the form of a HH rating.

Pack Size

Along with the weight of your waterproof tarp, the pack size is another huge benefit that helps keep your load light on hiking and backpacking trips. The smaller and lighter the tarp and material is, the better it will pack into a small backpack. Most of the tarps I use will fold down to the size of a 1-liter water bottle (and often much smaller). We included the dimensions of all the tarps we recommended to hopefully help you save time looking.

Attachment Loops

This is an important feature for rain tarps because it affects how many different ways you can set up your shelter. The more attachment loops you have, the more ways you can set up your shelter and also make it more secure when pegging it down. A central ridgeline loop is a big benefit as a central line can run through this instead of under the material. It is only a minor thing, but the attachment loops do add more weight, so you may see the lightest options do not have many to spare.

Using A Tarp With A Hammock

If you prefer to sleep in a hammock, oversleeping 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 Tarpaulin 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 for your solo tent.

Tents Vs. Tarps

Best Camping Tarps For Hiking

Setting up a tarp shelter is easy and can be done in a multitude of ways to work with the environment you are camping in instead of struggling to find the perfect square of flat ground for your tent. The open-air freedom you get from sleeping outside disappears inside the walls of a tent. Combine your tarp with a bug net and sleeping mat or hammock, and you have no excuses not to get rid of the tent really.

The difference between sleeping in a tent and sleeping in a tarp shelter are two different things, and they both have their pros and cons. Because this post is intended to be a guide for the best camping tarps, we will look at the pros and cons of using a tarp vs a tent:

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 with a slight breeze on your face 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 2 poles or tie-off points to support the roof. 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 cover you get from a tarp is far larger than the inside of any 1 – 4 person tent, so you are able to be more productive without boxing yourself in. But the best part about camping with a tarp is that the best rain tarps weigh just a fraction of what tents do. Tarp shelters are so much better for cooking under, and you can even have a small fire under one if you raise it high enough.

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.

The Downside to Camping Tarps

Talking about the upsides is 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 had packed the tent instead. The bugs (mainly biting insects) in some places or at certain times of the year 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 the wind can blow right through you at night, and the rain can find a way in. Most tarps rely upon you carrying two hiking poles for the supports, but if you don’t have them, then you need to be prepared.

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 through a lot of campsites on my hikes, it is surprising how many cannot accommodate a tarp shelter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Best Camping Tarps For Backpacking

What Kind of Tarps and Rain Sheets 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 lawnmower 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 buy 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 that 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 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 the groundsheet. 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.

Can You Make a Tent out Of 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 that 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.

How Long Should My Tarp Ridgeline Be?

For practical reasons, your ridgeline should be at least double to triple the size of your tarp so that you can choose two trees that are far apart to create the ridgeline. If you are using hiking poles to create the props, then you don’t even need a ridgeline. Instead, you are better off with shorter lines called “guy lines” and pegs.

Do You Need Guy Lines with A Tarp?

You don’t need to take any guylines with your tarp unless you are hammock camping, but they always help with whatever design you choose to build. Guy lines enable you to set your roof much higher off the ground, which is what you need in a camp kitchen or communal area with a small fire. As well as guylines you should also pack 4 – 6 pegs to secure the corners and any guy lines.

How to Seal the Seems on A Tarpaulin?

Most tarps in this guide will already be seam-sealed, but if they are not then, I highly recommend you take care of this before camping. You can use special silicones to achieve this and just paint it on with a brush like in the video below. This makes any stitching and seams watertight so that they don’t leak drips of water at night. Check out TarpTents video below:

Should You Put a Tarp Under Your Tent?

Can you use a tarp as a tent footprint? You should only do this if you really need to. Tarps are designed to be used as roofs, not floors, and so they are not durable enough to withstand sharp surfaces. You can and should use a tent footprint, though. Tent footprints are designed specifically to sit under your tent and protect it from rough ground and block moisture.

 


Thanks for reading our list of the 15 best camping tarps and lightweight hiking shelters.

 
Gear Assistant
Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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