Camping Tarps or otherwise known as Tarp Tents, are the true outdoor specialists most sought after gear.
Using a traditional style shelter can make us feel more at one with nature, with the open-air style and more importantly they utilize top quality protective materials. In most cases much more than a pole, instant, air or even pop up tent.
With the seemingly unlimited amount of ways to hang and pitch, its often a way to show off our camping prowess and ability. Much like tying knots, there are various methods and uses for pitching a tarp, that requires varying skill levels.
This can be a big attraction for those who want more from their camping trip than just popping a tent up and staking it down. We want to feel we have built the shelter ourselves, with our own 2 hands, with minimal help.
Not only this, there are some solid pros to using a tarp over a traditional tent that really can’t be ignored, which we look at in today’s article. If you are a backpacker or a remote camper, then you will probably already be aware of the benefits.
Today we are going to look at the most versatile, durable and best value models on the market.
8 Best Tarps for Camping Reviewed
1. Aqua Quest Defender
A large tarp with a durable build that has received numerous positive reviews from happy customers. Let’s find out what exactly it is that makes this one a winner.
With an insane hydrostatic resistance of 20,000mm, it can rival even Gore-Tex products for a fraction of the price. With a rating like this, there is no question, it is an impossibility that rain can penetrate the fabric, so you can be carefree and relax underneath even during the wildest of rainfalls and enjoy the moment.
The 70D ripstop nylon which has been designed to resist tears, rips, and to stay strong when in strong wind. The nylon has been coated with a Heavy TPU finish and the seams have been heat taped and strengthened with reinforced stitching.
It has 24 webbing loops integrated along the tarp, this allows for endless positioning and customization options. There is a loop centered in the middle of the tarp too for peaking the hub or for pole inserts for example. With this many set up options, searching endlessly for the perfect environment isn’t necessary.
Great value comes in the form of a ‘Camo Kit’ which has a free stuff sack, cords, and stakes which is a steal at $100-120. The packed size is around 16 x 8 x 5 inches and when it’s pitched and stretched out it will cover around 13 x 10 feet.
- Great Value Bundle
- Camoflague Design
- 70D Ripstop Nylon
- 20,000mm Water Rating
Related Article: Tarp Shelter Configurations
2. Chill Gorilla Fortress
A self-proclaimed ‘fortress’ from Chill Gorilla is an excellent, ultralight camping tarp that can be used in any and all outdoor scenarios. With a solid green color theme, free bundle package and warranty it’s definitely worth a look under our Tent Hub microscope.
A 30D ripstop SilNylon fabric enables it to be very lightweight while also maintaining strength. Having a natural resilience to tears, rips, and punctures, it fares very well in the harsh outdoor conditions for extended periods of time. The waterproof rating is way above standard also, coming in at 8000mm.
A new and improved fortress 2, which has double the amount of side pull tie-outs. This is a safety precaution at best but also allows you to ‘cross anchor’ the tie-outs, giving a firm and secure setup but without over-tightening the cords.
Doors and Value
They also have built-in doors integrated into the SilNylon fabric, which can be either folded underneath the sides or outside the rain fly. Like the Aqua Quest model, this also comes in a bungle package, with a free carry or stuff bag, 4 tent stakes and 6 guy lines.
- Lightweight 1.9lbs
- Value Package
- Built-In Doors
- 8000mm Water Rating
3. Aqua Quest Guide Tarp
A superb 2nd choice for an ultralight camping tarp, there are some similarities to the Defender, but also some key differences.
Weighing a modest 1.9 pounds in total it’s a ghost in your gear. The size is small and compact, in the packed form is around 12 x 6 x 3 in inches which is smaller than the Defender model. It can be compressed further to around 6 x 6 x 3.5 in inches, for easy storage.
Environmentally friendly due to the non-toxic dual silicone material used, that has been protectively coated with PU. Utilizing the RipStop fabric like the Defender, although 40D as opposed to the 70D. The seams have been heat sealed for added water protection and the stitching is reinforced to avoid frays, rips, and tears along the lining. All 17 webbing loops have been reinforced for additional strength.
Hydrostatic Head Rating
With an off the charts rating of 20,000mm you can bet your mortgage that not a single droplet of water will penetrate the fabric, even during the harshest of rainfall or monsoon.
- 3 Color and Design Choices
- 20,000mm Water Rating
- Environmentally Friendly
4. ENO ProFly Tarp
Next up is from Eagle Nest Outfitters with their well-received ProFly rain tarp. It has become a best seller on many e-commerce platforms and has won the Amazons Choice award. The positive customer reviews speak volumes to the practicality and performance of this lightweight, durable and waterproof tarp tent.
The ProFly has been manufactured with a 210D RipStop nylon material that has been treated with polyurethane. This strengthens the material and also adds waterproofing properties.
Featuring 6 points to connect from it can be attached to nearby points to shelter you from rain and incoming bad weather. Popularly used as a hammock shelter tarp for this reason, however, it can also be used as a camping tarp due to its durability and waterproofing properties.
Measurements and Weight
Its measurements are 10.6 x 6.4 in feet and its super lightweight, weighing only around 22 ounces. Makes a great addition to ultra-lightweight camping enthusiasts. Slightly smaller than the other models but still holding its own with excellent material, waterproof properties and build design.
They also have a ProFlyXL model which is 2 feet longer and 3 feet wider than the ProFly.
All features and quality are still maintaining the same high standard as the ProFly, we just thought you may want to be aware of a larger, newer model on the market before purchasing this compact version. For solo tarp camping and a more modest approach, the ProFly is sufficient for the majority of cases.
- Ultralight Weight 22 Ounces
- 5 Color Choices
5. Kelty Noah Tarp
Super-strong, waterproof and in 4 different size options, it’s definitely worth a look. This is the updated newer version and comes in various sizes in the Kelty 9, 12, 16 and 20 feet models.
We’ve researched and found that the newer model has an 800mm hydrostatic rating, as opposed to the older 450mm rating. It’s worth mentioning in our experience, that the white camping tarp also performed very well under heavy rain.
Well, they have four sizes in 2 color themes. The solid green tarp comes in 9 and 12 feet models and the packed weight is from 2lbs-2.9lbs. The tarp alone is of course much lighter ranging from 1.11lbs-2.3lbs, the 9 feet is clearly an ultralight tarp.
The tarp comes with a roll-top stuff bag that is pretty easy to use and fits nicely into a backpack. They have manufactured all sizes with fully taped seams and they have attached guy-lines for securing onto trees. There are also storage pockets that are pretty unique for a tarp and is very useful for storing those small, important items.
- 4 Size Choices
- Improved Hydro Rating
- Storage Pockets
6. Free Soldier Tarp
A great economical option for first-time tarp campers. In a rustic solid brown color and respectable waterproofing properties, it has become a best seller on Amazon and has been met with positive responses.
Made with a 190T RipStop fabric which is predominantly polyester, allowing it to retain a lightweight while also keeping strong waterproofing properties. The PU coating applied to the material keeps it dry during even harsh weather.
It’s quite a big tarp at 118 x 126 in inches, yet because of the Polyester material, it stays light at 2.10lbs. In addition, because of the large cover, it’s perfect to use with your hammock.
You can also use it on the beach due to its UV protective properties, up against a palm tree on the perimeter of the beach for example. You could also use it during your picnic as a groundsheet that is waterproof or pitches it above your family for sun protection.
- Large Coverage
7. Aqua Quest Safari
The Safari model is another excellent example of a top camping tarp. With numerous webbing loops for configurations also using quality materials with waterproof properties.
With 20,000mm Hydrostatic Resistance you can rest assured no water will penetrate through the fabric. Due to the double coating of Polyurethane and additionally silicone, it is extremely well protected and as tough as a canopy.
Compressed down to a size of 5 x 5 x 2 it is easily stored in its stuff sack and just as easily carried along the trail weighing at roughly 2lbs, its ultra-light.
Manufactured with 19 reinforced webbing loops, a multitude of setups are possible. That’s 2 more than the Guide but 5 less than the Defender.
Utilizing a 70D Nylon fabric it’s very durable and resistant to tearing giving the solid coating, it will also work well to protect against abrasions that often occur out in the wild.
- 20,000mm Hyrdostatic Head Rating
- 70D Nylon Fabric
- 19 Webbing Loops
8. Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp
A premium quality tarp from Sea to Summit has gained popularity among outdoor enthusiasts. The Escapist has a variety of functions and features, let’s look closer.
Produced with a 15 Denier Sil material which has been PU coated to create excellent waterproofing properties, keeping you dry even in harsh weather conditions.
Additionally, the seams have all been tape sealed for extra strength and resistance. The corners have also been reinforced with cord locks, retaining stability. Guy lines can also be attached and adjustable for versatility in configuration.
8 Hypalon and reinforced points which are used for tie-outs to fix and secure the tarp in place, utilizing the bar tack stitching method to strengthen the piece.
A trekking pole can be used to prop up the tarp and configure a tarp tent when necessary, there is also an additional footprint and inner mesh, however they are sold separately.
- Premium Model
- 15 Denier Sil Fabric
- Double PU Coated
Why Should I Use a Tarp Tent?
Backpacking or Camping with a tarp allows you to get into remote areas that are not easily accessible or inaccessible via other forms of transportation. How much you have to carry depends on the terrain, weather, and how comfortable you like to be while traveling in the wild. You can go a long distance on two feet and you can go a lot farther by carrying less weight.
Tents have developed over the years to become lighter and therefore more efficient to carry. Traditional backpackers and campers are interested in traveling farther in shorter amounts of time and often rely on their gear to give them an edge in order to accomplish this.
In recent years, backpacking tarp tents have gained popularity because they are lighter than traditional backpacking shelters. Thus, allowing hikers to have lighter packs and be able to walk further distances. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to using them.
Before you decide on what tarp tent you need for a camping trip it is important to understand the terrain and potential weather that you may encounter. Although tarp shelters are light and repel water well, they are not as strong in the wind. 3 season and 4 season tents are going to withstand winds far better than a tarp tent. Traditional tents are better in stronger elements because they generally have a pole structure to support the tent and guy lines to secure it to the ground.
Things to Consider before Tarp Camping
It can be difficult to forecast wind conditions but researching an area on a map, talking to other people that have traveled in the same area, and looking at the weather report can be a great resource. If you are looking at a map of the area that you will be traveling through, ask yourself the following questions.
Will I be hiking in high elevations?
Higher elevations tend to have fewer shrubs and smaller trees, therefore offering fewer places to find refuge if you encounter bad weather. If you are hiking in lower elevations, along rivers or streams, or in valleys then you most likely will be hiking through thicker brush. As a general rule, it is good to stay low when bad weather hits.
Are natural features present?
Will you be hiking or camping in mountainous or rocky terrain? Although hiking on rocky terrain can be difficult, large rock features can offer protection from the elements. Plus, smaller rocks can be great anchors for setting up your tent or building small rock wind walls.
Tarp vs Tent
Here we will look at all the pros and cons of Camping Tarps, allowing us to make an informed comparison with traditional pole tents.
Camping Tarp Pros
Obviously, they are going to be lightweight because they are made with less material. Most tarps do not have tent poles and this significantly reduces their overall weight as well. The total weight is the largest benefit of camping with a tarp. The beauty of this is when you start hiking or backpacking, it’s nearly weightless so you won’t feel the burden. For this reason, you can feel free to buy the largest tarp tent on the market and it’s likely to only weigh a few grams more than a standard one, neither will take up much space or weight.
They tend to be compact since they are made with a small amount of material. Since there is not a lot of material that is used they are easily packed. This allows more space to be utilized in your pack for other things such as food. Simply roll them up and stuff them in similar to the size of a pair of pants, you would never see this level of compactness in any kind of tent, traditional or otherwise.
Tarp tents often benefit from a much higher water rating than pole tents. Most have Hydrostatic Ratings of up to 20,000mm. This is unheard of in traditional tents and rain will not be able to penetrate that level of protection, period.
They can be very spacious depending on how big you get. Some can be confining if they have a center pole that supports the tent. While models that do not need any poles, cover more open space. Meaning more shelter for you and your gear.
I don’t know if you have seen the price of the top tier backpacking tents these days, but they are astronomical. You could get an insanely good quality tarp for a cheaper price that would last you much longer and have a whole host of cool features to boot.
The most traditional activity to be done while camping is to make a fire. Embrace your inner caveman (or woman) and create man’s red flower. However, if you are sitting close to your backpacking tent, you will be aware of the risk of a small ember sailing loose and burning a hole through your nice $400 ultra-light tent. This is not a problem with tarps, they can be attached at a height that avoids any embers and sparks. Imagine chilling next to the fire without a care in the world, you’re starting to get the idea of why these are so popular.
A well-positioned tarp can make excellent shelter for gear and friends alike, with wide coverage you can sit your camping group all inside comfortably. Play a game of cards while you’re waiting for the rain to subside or store all your backpacks and gear while you take a wander, confidently knowing they are safe. You could also use it as additional privacy when using your camping toilet or camping shower.
Most double as groundsheets due to their waterproof properties, this is also an option you can utilize when needed. We also suggest maybe taking a groundsheet as well to layer underneath. Additionally, it’s easy to create a canopy or awning off your vehicle.
They are just fun to use. The beauty of tarps lies in the versatility of their set up. They can be configured in various ways, forming different shapes and angles. Contouring to the environment and bending into position, this can be really interesting and challenging when deciding the best possible angle to pitch. You can also combine it with your trusty hammock.
Camping Tarp Cons
Vulnerable In Windy Conditions
Although there are many advantages to tarps when camping, they are weakest when set-up in windy conditions. It can be difficult to secure in windy conditions because of their light material and non-existent pole structure.
Difficult To Set-Up
With the seemingly infinite configurations, they are not for the faint-hearted. Only die-hard campers need to apply. The level of difficulty lowers if you have more people to help you. Tents that have poles make it a lot easier to set-up the body but tarp tents are more difficult because they have to be attached to appropriate natural features. When compared to some modern tents like pop-ups, inflatables, and instant tents, you can see why some casual campers veer away from tarps.
No Bug Net
If you are not comfortable with bugs and other creepy crawlers than you may not want to sleep under a tarp. Generally, they will not have a bug net or enclosure included. You will need to buy an additional or create a makeshift one using mesh material. Most pole tents will have a body that acts as an enclosure and keeps the bugs out, additionally meshed windows. If things that crawl and slitter do not bother you then this will not be an issue.
Easy To Damage
Now, this mainly applies to cheaper, temporary use models. As they are used with lesser quality materials, to support an economical and affordable price. However, when you put some money into it and get a quality camping tarp, then it’s a different ball game as they utilize durable RipStop.
As you can see the pros far outweigh the cons.
Camping tarps allow you to get back to basics and enjoy a simplistic camping style that doesn’t need a lot of fuss or hassle. It is not for everyone and some of the cons may be a deal-breaker, however for others once you’ve gone tarp, you will never go back.
The freedom involved resonates with a lot of people for good reason and often symbolizes the meaning of getting outdoors and being one with nature.
So why not give it a go?