TOP GEAR PICKS

Best Tarp: Keep Your Recreation Simple

tarp-tent-nature
John C. Porter
Written by John C. Porter

A tarpaulin (tarp) might appear to be a simple very basic piece of camping and backpacking equipment, old fashioned almost, however, they can prove to be extremely useful in many situations.  There are certainly some features that distinguish the best tarp from a not so useful piece of fabric.

Likewise the best camping tarp and the best backpacking tarp will have specialized features that are advantageous for each activity possibly suiting one more than the other. Sometimes it is relief to keep life as simple as possible and get back to basics, living close to nature when one can.

Using a tarp for basic shelter against the sun, wind or rain is about as simple as one can use in an open environment. You will still be able to attune all your senses to the sights and sounds yet be protected just enough to enjoy, especially in warmer climates.

Product NameWeightFabricDimensionsColorPrice
Kelty Noah’s1.5 lbPolyester167.7 x 100.4 inOrangeCheck price on Amazon
Vinqliq1.5 lbPolyester108 x 108 inLight GrayCheck price on Amazon
Eagles Nest Outfitters1.25 lbNylon Taffeta141 x 141 inNavyCheck price on Amazon
Eastern Ridge1.25 lbPolyester96 x 124 inDeep Green, Forest GreenCheck price on Amazon
UST BASE Tube1.75 lbPolyester35 x 40 x 35 inOrangeCheck price on Amazon
Himal Waterproof1.6 lbNylon118 x 115 inBlue, GreenCheck price on Amazon
W-UpBird1.86 lbDacron120 x 120 inArmy Green, BlueCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider

Check out the important features of a tarp, as well as some disadvantages so you can make an educated choice. A useful tarp can be utilized in many ways, either on its own or in conjunction with other gear.

Weight

Having a light weight tarp can be helpful when you are going uphill, and it will put less stress on the body, just like other light weight gear. A heavy tarp can be harder to set up because the weight can make it droop down. Overall, the light weight makes it easier to carry, use, and set up.

Dimensions

The dimensions of your tarp are going to be dependent on how much space you need covered. For example, if you are hiking or camping with several people, having a larger tarp can mean more protection from the elements for your entire crew, versus just one or two people.

group of hikers under tarp

If the weather is bad, you can store your gear under it as well. Really, you should take into account how much space you need to keep dry and how many people will be using the one tarp. Buying two tarps may also be a better option at times.

Portability

Most tarps, especially if they are lighter in weight, are easy to carry. Many come with stuff sacks so you can attach them to your backpack or simply stuff them inside and go. Even if your tarp comes with straps and poles, those are usually very packable and easy to take with you.

Durability

When you find yourself in inclement weather, you are going to want a durable tarp that will stand up to wind, rain and even some snow.

tarp in snow

Your tarp should be strong enough to withstand the weather, and keep your items dry. This can be true whether camping or simply covering some equipment.

Insulation

Tarps do not offer much in the way of insulation, so using them for added warmth is not the best idea. You can, however, sleep under a tarp if weather permits. Otherwise, tarps are just used for added protection, not warmth.

Knowledge

Tarps require some extra skill to give the best options for efficient use. Outdoor knowledge is an advantage to know how to read wind and natural drainage and surroundings as the best place and method to set up your tarp. Check out overhanging branches that may fall, which flat areas will remain dry, taking advantage of natural windbreaks, and so on.

Knowledge of how to tie secure yet easily untied knots is also one skill any tarp user should master. There will be nothing worse than trying to rig up a tarp in rough weather if the tarp is flapping all over the place while you get soaked or a corner coming loose in the middle of the night. It would pay to actually do some practice sessions before leaving home.

Top Product Reviews

So, let’s look at some examples of the best tarps available on the market today. Check all the features and make your decision based on how a certain product, or products, fit your needs.

Kelty Noah’s Tarp

Kelty Noah's Tarp Shelter

Price: $60 – $180

Sizes: 9 x 9 feet, 12 x 12 feet, 16 x 16 feet

Colors: Light gray

Fabric: Polyester

Weight: 1 lb 8 oz; 2 lbs; 3 lbs 10 oz

Specific features: Lightweight, three sizes, square shape, waterproof, 4 point grommets, extra tab attachments, pegs and ropes included, lightweight carry bag

Best use: Camping, backpacking

Description: This lightweight tarp, available in three sizes, is accordingly suitable for 1, 2 , or 3 plus people. The Kelty Noah’s Tarp is lightweight, simple square shape and provides excellent protection from the elements in most situations.

It has lots of attachment options around the tarp edge as well diagonally across the center. Included in the purchase are: aluminum pegs, two ropes and a handy lightweight carry pouch. It is well reinforced along the hems, across the diagonals and around the grommets.

This is the type of tarp one can easily carry in a backpack or leave stowed in a car, for a rainy emergency. The storage bag is also large enough to hold other items, like a well packed hammock so you could have a total bed and shelter in one easy carry bag.

Users like this tarp shelter because it is reinforced, has taped seams so water can’t get in, and its water resistant. Not only that, but you can take it anywhere, for camping, backpacking, music festivals and more!

PROS:

  • Holds up in storms
  • Can be used as a second roof over a tent
  • Light in weight

CONS:

  • Cat-cut is hard to keep even on the ground
  • Stakes that are included aren’t the best
  • Needs more tie outs

Related: This tent does not come with poles, so you might consider the Kelty Adjustable Pole which are about $35 and are made with aluminum.

Check the price on Amazon

Vinqliq Tarp

VINQLIQ tarp

Price: Approx. $45

Size: 167.7 x 100.4 inches

Color: Orange

Fabric: 210T PU-coated waterproof Ripstop Polyester

Weight: 1 ½ lb

Specific features: Pentagonal shape, lightweight, waterproof, stakes and guy lines included, carry bag

Best use: Camping, backpacking

Description: This one size paneled tarp is fabricated in a pentagonal shape which could accommodate up to 4 people as a shelter while out camping.

The Vinqliq Mulitipurpose Tarp is very lightweight for its size and packs away in its own carry sack with dimensions of 4 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches for convenient packing.

The purchase includes 7 stakes and 6 guy lines. The durable polyester fabric is waterproof rated 5000+mm for extra heavy duty protection.

With its pentagonal shape it is quickly erected against trees or awning pole for instant shelter. This tarp can be easily adjusted for high or low ground and highly for use as extra shelter for cooking or communal use while camping.

Users like this tarp because of the large shape, the fact that is is light and waterproof, and that it is easy to install using poles and rods. Plus, the tarp is made with ripstop polyester and its tear proof, and sun proof!

PROS:

  • Affordable
  • Waterproof and strong
  • Easy to set up

CONS:

  • One color
  • One size

Related: Consider the VINQLIQ Outdoor Groundsheet that is good for keeping you and your things off of the dirty ground and a great addition to your tarp.

Check the price on Amazon

Eagles Nest Outfitters Tarp

ENO Eagles Nest

Price: Approx. $55

Size: 141 x 141 in

Color: Navy

Fabric: PU coated Nylon Taffeta

Weight: 1.25 lb

Package size: 3.3 x 4.8 x 10.5 inches

Specific features: Extra large square shape, 4 point connection, durable fabric, sealed seams

Best use: Camping

Description: This Eagles Nest Outfitters Tarp is extra large square shaped tarp fabricated in extra durable fabric for large group shelters. It has sealed seams and is made with 4 reinforced connection points for fast attachment and installation.

This tarp is made of ripstop nylon that is treated with polyurethane, so it can keep water at bay. It is easy to set up and use and has 4 guy points yet still covers a huge area with ease. Not only that, but you can tote this tarp anywhere, as it is light in weight, at only 22 oz and has a stuff sack that is already built inside of it.

You can use it for various reasons, not just for camping. Many users have kept equipment dry like lawn mowers with this tarp. Plus, you can use it to cover your hammock, patio furniture, and use it at festivals, too!

PROS:

  • Affordable
  • PU treated nylon
  • Many uses, easily transported

CONS:

  • One color
  • No stakes included

Related: If you want to use this tarp over your hammock, but don’t have all the parts you need, consider the ENO Eagles Nest Outfitters – Atlas Hammock Suspension System which is about $30 and easily adjusts with the two straps.

Check the price on Amazon

Eastern Ridge Tarp

Eastern Ridge Camping Tarp

Price: $35 – $45

Size: 96 x 124 inches

Color: Deep green, forest green

Fabric: 190T Polyester

Weight: 1.25 lb

Specific features: Lightweight, reinforced tab connections,  4 pegs, 6 guylines and 2 Dyneema ridgelines, limited edition S-shape gear clip carabiner, carry bag

Best use: Camping, backpacking

Description: This simple square shaped tarp in two green option colors is versatile for most camping or hiking shelters. Eastern Ridge Tarp is suitable for hammock camping, extra shade or shelter with versatile options for erection configurations.

It has tab attachments as opposed to grommets to ensure fabric strength is not compromised. Kit comes with a pegs, guy ropes and ridge lines so no extra purchases needed. Stuff sack is also included for easy packing. Good value for money.

This shelter comes in a Deep Green or Blue color and can be used literally anywhere. The easy set up has 4 guy lines and four stakes to get you all set up. This product has a 100% guarantee, so there is no harm in trying it out!

From the beach to camping, this tarp shelter will definitely come in handy when you need it to, especially in wet weather conditions.

PROS:

  • Compact
  • Affordable
  • Easy set up

CONS:

  • Thread can come apart, may have to cut

Related: Make sure you have some of the Rated Wiregate Carabiners which come in a 4 pack and cost under $15.

Check the price on Amazon

UST BASE Tube Tarp

UST BASE Tube tarp

Price: Approx. $32

Size: 84 x 120 inches

Color: Orange

Weight: 1lb 12 oz

Specific features: lightweight, compact, zips to tube tent,  flame retardant, safety orange color, aluminized one side, stuff sack, guy lines, steel stakes

Best use: Backpacking, camping

Description: This tarp has a rectangular shape with tab attachments for reinforced fabric strength and can be pitched with an external ridge line for better waterproofing. The orange color is useful for emergency situation visibility and the reverse side is reflective.

UST BASE Tube Tarp is an excellent tarp to have for deeper expedition situations with its light weight and compact pack. It can also be used as a ground sheet, tent fly or thermal blanket. The edges can also be zipped together to form a tube tent with dimensions 40”per side x 7 feet long, measuring 35 inches high at the apex.

Users like this tube tarp because of the price, the reflective signaling and the fact that it is flame retardant. Plus, it is easy to see with the orange color and includes the stakes and stuff sack. Overall, users would recommend it to friends and those in the market.

PROS:

  • Flame retardant
  • Affordable
  • Has reflective signaling

CONS:

  • May be too small for some
  • You may want to seal the seams before use

Related: Consider the TEKTON 6268 Tarp Clips which cost about $8 and will lock down to hold your tarp.

Check the price on Amazon

Himal Waterproof Tarp

Himal Waterproof Tarp

Price: $23 – $40

Size: 118 x 115 inches; 157 x 118 inches

Color: Blue

Fabric:  190T Parachute Nylon

Weight: 1.6 lbs: 2.2 lbs

Specific features: 2 sizes, durable fabric, waterproof, reinforced grommets, 8 tent pegs, 2 x 8m rope,  4 x 3m rope, tarp carry bag, rope carry bag, repair patch and glue,  user manual

Best use: Camping, backpacking

Description:  This versatile tarp has a catenary cut curved shaped edges and six guy points with reinforced grommets for a very streamlined shape which help for stability and strength when secured in rough weather.

The Himal Waterproof Tarp can also be secured with an external ridge line for extra strength and waterproofing. This tarp is suitable for use with most hammock camping or as a versatile camp shelter.

You can take this tarp anywhere with the travel case and included items, as it packs up nicely and is ready for use at any time. It is big enough to keep equipment, hammocks, and other things or people dry during wet weather.

There is a lifetime limited warranty and the tent is great for harsh, wet weather and will shed water with ease. You can find this durable and strong tent in Green and Blue colors that will stand out and are easy to see.

PROS:

  • Lightweight and can be taken anywhere
  • AFfordable
  • Multiple uses

CONS:

  • Stakes are not strong
  • Eyelets can be misshapen

Related: If you use this tarp for your hammock, you could look into the Unigear Hammock Bug Net which is made of polyester and no-see-um netting, and you will have no worries about bugs!

Check the price on Amazon

W-UpBird Tarp

W-UpBird Tarp

Price: Approx. $31

Size: 10 x 10 feet

Color: Army green, blue

Fabric: 210T Dacron

Weight: 1.86 lb

Specific features: Large size, waterproof,  sealed reinforced center seam, grommets fitted into reinforced corner tabs, durable, 8 nylon ropes with adjusters, 8 aluminum stakes, carry bag

Best use: Camping, backpacking

Description: This larger square shaped tarp is versatile for many uses while camping and backpacking including sleeping in a hammock, cooking area, communal living. This W-UpBird Tarp covers a lot of bases literally and is durable enough for use as a ground cover, picnic rug as well as the normal tent fly or shelters.

This tent is made of 201T Dacron with means that it will shed water and stay strong over a long period of time. It does come with 8 nylon ropes that have adjusters, as well as 8 stakes made of aluminum and a carrying bag to store everything when you take it down.

You can make shelter for virtually anything with this 10 x 10 feet tarp, and if you use it for yourself, you will surely stay dry! Users like this tarp because it sheds water, comes with everything you need, and is listed at an affordable price.

PROS:

  • Durable
  • Water shedding
  • Affordable

CONS:

  • Not fully waterproof
  • Smells strange upon arrival

Related: If you want to add new tent stakes, consider the Sportneer 10x Tent Stakes which cost about $11 and are made of aluminum alloy.

Check the price on Amazon

Concluding Thoughts

From the above list you can see there are variables between what might be considered best tarps offering different features for each environment. If you have a large group and are more likely to be using a tarp for casual shelter while out picnicking or moving between easily accessible campsites, weight and packing space will not be so important.

tarp for group

Kelty Noah’s Shelter Tarp, Himal Tarp or the 10 x 10 FT Camping, Outdoor Travel tarp may suit your purposes. In situations where the weather is often inclement and you need to consider how quickly the tarp can secured to form good shelter, something like the VINQLIQ Pentagon Outdoor Tarp might be the best choice for a backpacking or camping tarp.

However, should you be purchasing for extra shelter for your snowline tent, then you will need to consider how much extra weight you are prepared to lug on your back. In those situations you should also be considering extra safety measures so emergency shelter like the Ultimate Survival Technologies BASE Tube Tarp 1.0 might be the best backing tarp for you.

Whichever tarp you finally decide to purchase, make sure you check everything when you purchase it to ensure the package is complete and decide if you need to add anything to make the tarp more useful.

Tarp and a mattress

Practice how you want to use it preferably with different options for different situations so that you are not caught out by any sudden cold shower. And whatever you do, get out and enjoy the outdoors – don’t let the weather stop you.

If you liked our article, feel free to share it with your friends, and if you have any suggestions how to improve it and add something that we have missed, leave a comment in the comments section below. We are always glad to see what our readers think about our articles.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John C. Porter
John C. Porter

John is passionate about hiking long distances. His record is over 65 miles in one day with backpacking gear. John hiked over 10 thousand miles, tried over 100 hiking shoes and visited 56 countries so far. His favourite hiking route is West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

  • Kenny Stewart

    Hey, does anyone know if the Kelty Noah’s Tarp Shelter is really waterproof? I had one before (a different brand) but it was not waterproof yet I had expected it to be. Now I am hesitant to get one without secondary confirmation. I learned my lesson last time.

  • John C. Porter

    The Kelty Tarp IS waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about buying a lemon again Kenny! Products that I have reviewed here are all from trusted manufacturers and are the best brands in the market. So, don’t have any qualms about buying this tarp – it does what it says. 🙂

  • Mackenzie Hill

    I need a new tarp and I am thinking about getting the Ultimate Survival tarp but its size will not be enough for my intended purpose. The 84 – 120 inches mentioned here is half of what I need. Do they have on that is twice this size or can I buy two of these and zip them together to make one big tent.

    • John C. Porter

      Hi there! There are other bigger tarps on the list that you would want to consider. You didn’t mention the size that you need but it would be cost effective if you go for the bigger tarp than getting 2 Ultimate Survival tarps.

  • Peter Adams

    We were on the beach during a hot afternoon last summer and we saw a group of girls sheltered under the Vinqliq Mulitipurpose Tarp and I knew I needed one, not only for the beach but also for hiking and camping. I like that it is easy to set up and it is also very light and its own carry sack so I will not have to add a lot of weight on my bag pack.

    • John C. Porter

      We agree. Thanks for posting!

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