Anyone who’s spent time under the stars knows that there are many different types of tarps with their own strengths, weaknesses, and uses. Tarp camping is a very versatile way to go lightweight while still being able to carry all of your necessary shelter components for whatever environment you may find yourself in. Tarp shelters are good for everything from ultra light backpacking to heavy-duty expeditions. The trick knows which tarp will work best for what use.
I have been using tarps on my trips since 2002 when I first discovered them at TK Adventure. TK had started selling Go Lite before they were popular and was one of the few places that sold Tarp Tents at that time. TK was also one of the first retailers to sell Tarp Tents and Tarp Tent accessories like: Tarp poles, Tarp liners and Tarp over covers.
Tarp camping is a very versatile way to go lightweight while still being able to carry all of your necessary shelter components for whatever environment you may find yourself in. Tarp shelters are good for everything from ultra light backpacking to heavy-duty expeditions. The trick knows which tarp will work best for what use.
What follows is a series of questions that will help you choose the best super heavy-duty tarp for your needs.
What Tarp Do I Need?
The first step in choosing a tarp is identifying the purpose of the tarp.
There are many different types of tarps, each with its own strengths and weaknesses:
- A Backpacker’s Tarp is lightweight and compact, making it ideal for ultralight backpacking. It typically has a low profile and is designed to keep you and your gear dry in light rain or mist.
- A Camp Tarp is larger than a backpacker’s tarp and is designed for general camping purposes. It can be used as a ground cloth, shelter, or windbreak.
- A Hunting Tarp is designed to provide full-coverage shelter for hunters. It is typically large and heavy-duty, with features like grommets and reinforced seams that make it resistant to wind and weather.
- A Survival Tarp is ultra-lightweight and compact, perfect for emergency situations. It is typically made of durable, water-resistant materials that can withstand harsh weather conditions.
Once you have identified the purpose of the tarp, you can begin to narrow down your choices.
What Size Tarp Do I Need?
The size of the tarp is determined by the size of the area that needs to be covered. Tarp sizes can vary from as small as 3′ x 5′ to as large as 20′ x 30′.
When choosing a tarp, it is important to consider the following factors:
- The Size of Your Campsite – If you are camping in a tent, make sure to choose a tarp that is at least the size of your tent. If you are using a hammock, choose a tarp that is at least twice the size of your hammock. Tarp sizes are measured in feet, so to find the measurement for your tarp use this formula: Tarp Length x Tarp Width = Tarp Size
- The Number of People Who Will Be Using the Tarp – If you are camping by yourself, you can typically get away with a smaller tarp than if you were camping with others. To accommodate multiple people under the same tarp, it is best to choose one that is at least six feet longer and six feet wider than the number of people who will be using it. For example, if you are camping with three other people, then choose a tarp that is at least 18′ x 10′.
- The Frequency Use – It’s important to consider how often you will be using the tarp. If you are only using it occasionally, then you can get away with a smaller, lightweight tarp. However, if you plan on using the tarp often, then it is best to choose a larger, more durable tarp.
What Tarp Fabric Do I Need?
The fabric of the tarp is another important consideration.
Tarp fabrics can be made from a variety of materials, each with its own strengths and weaknesses:
- Polyester – Polyester tarps are typically the least expensive and most common type of tarp fabric. They are water-resistant and durable, but they are not as strong or resistant to UV damage as other types of fabric.
- Taffeta – Taffeta tarps are similar to polyester tarps, but they are even stronger and more resistant to UV damage. They also tend to be the least transparent of all tarp fabrics, which can make them useful for keeping items hidden from view. Taffeta is typically used in hunting tarps because it does not reflect light like other types of fabric do.
- Vinyl Coated Taffeta – Tarp fabrics that are made with vinyl are typically thicker and heavier than other types of fabric. While they may not be as water-resistant or durable, these kinds of tarps tend to provide excellent protection against UV rays. Many survival tarps use this type of material due its strength and durability when wet.
When choosing a camping tarp, it is important to first identify the purpose of the tarp. Once you have determined your needs, you can then choose a tarp that is the right size and made from the right fabric. Remember to consider how often you will be using the tarp, as well as the climate and weather conditions where you will be using it. With these things in mind, you can find the perfect camping tarp for your needs.