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Best Backpacking Tarps of 2021 For Your Adventures

Do you have an outdoor trip planned? Do you need a backpacking tarp that can cater to all your sheltering needs? Read on to find the best backpacking tarp for your needs.

Your trip into the wild can’t be the same without a reliable shelter to keep you dry and safe during those trying moments.

When you want to pack light, enjoy a deep connection with nature, and still remain safe from nature’s harsh elements, then ultralight tarps are top on the list of options to settle for. They’re not only lightweight and cost way less than tents, but also functional and provide you with a more splendid view and feel of the wild.

We’ve created this guide to help you find the best backpacking tarp that money can buy.

If you like to jump ahead to our top pick of the best backpacking tarps out there, then check out our star of the list- the [amazon link=”B01771ZTD2″ title=”Aqua Quest Guide tarp” /]. It’s both lightweight and super-efficient. You can also check out our runner-ups, the [amazon link=”B07PQVWP1D” title=”MIER outdoors rain fly” /], and the [amazon link=”B07VBJH5HV” title=”Aqua Quest Defender” /].

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Quick Answer: These are the Best Backpacking Tarps of 2021 For Your Adventures

[amazon fields="B01771ZTD2" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Aqua Quest Guide Tarp

Best Overall Backpacking Tarp

[amazon fields="B01771ZTD2" value="button" button_text="CHECK PRICE" /]
[amazon fields="B07PQVWP1D" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

MIER Outdoor Ultralight Waterproof

Best Waterproof Lightweight Tarp

[amazon fields="B07PQVWP1D" value="button" button_text="CHECK PRICE" /]
[amazon fields="B07VBJH5HV" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Aqua Quest Defender Tarp

Best For Rainy Weather Conditions

[amazon fields="B07VBJH5HV" value="button" button_text="CHECK PRICE" /]
[amazon fields="B07FZV9S3X" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Pys Hammock Rain Fly

Best Lightweight Rain Fly Tarp

[amazon fields="B07FZV9S3X" value="button" button_text="CHECK PRICE" /]
[amazon fields="B074BTJMHJ" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Rain Fly EVOLUTION Hammock Tarp

Best Value For Money

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[amazon fields="B07HVMM7KP" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

WildVenture Rain Fly Tent Tarp

A Versatile Camping Tarp

[amazon fields="B07HVMM7KP" value="button" button_text="CHECK PRICE" /]
[amazon fields="B07FTGZX7Y" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

REDCAMP Waterproof Camping Tarp

Best for Tent Footprint

[amazon fields="B07FTGZX7Y" value="button" button_text="CHECK PRICE" /]
[amazon fields="B07RWB9H2Y" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Bearhard 3000mm Waterproof Camping Tarp

Affordable Heavy-Duty Camping Tarp

[amazon fields="B07RWB9H2Y" value="button" button_text="CHECK PRICE" /]
[amazon fields="B07C3PWWX7" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Gold Armor Rain Fly Hammock Tarp

Best Heavy-Duty Tarp

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[amazon fields="B074B26ZCP" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Foxelli Rain Tarp

Best for Asymmetrical Hammocks

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The Best Backpacking Tarps of 2021 For Your Adventures Reviewed

~ Best Overall Backpacking Tarp ~

Aqua Quest Guide Tarp

[amazon fields="B01771ZTD2" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Aqua Quest Guide Tarp

Star Rating
5/5
[amazon fields="B01771ZTD2" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

Pros

Cons

The [amazon link=”B01771ZTD2″ title=”Aqua Quest” /] comes with a simplified look that compliments its lightweight nature.

This backpacking tarp is made from 40D nylon webbings in a ripstop pattern and coated with silicone and polyurethane, making it a very tight waterproof tarp for the most challenging situations.

This camping tarp has a water-resistant rating of 5000 mm. It weighs between 0.9 to 3.1 lbs depending on the size you go for.

It’s also very compact when folded. Hence, giving you the chance to place it even in the smallest paces.

The Aqua Quest ultralightweight waterproof tarp comes in roomy proportions of various sizes to meet your camping needs when it comes to size.

You can get an Aqua Quest waterproof tarp from 10x7ft to 20x13ft, which is more than enough to fit from two campers up. However, you don’t have a lot of color variants to choose from.

As a flat tarp with 13-21 tie-out loops in all the strategic points, there is enough room for you to come up with a pitching configuration that matches your needs.

Tech Specs:

  • Weight: 0.9 – 3.1 lbs
  • Material: 40D Nylon and 5000mm PU + Silicone coating
  • Size (LxW): 10x7ft / 10x10ft / 13x10ft / 20x13ft
[amazon fields="B01771ZTD2" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

~ Best Waterproof Lightweight Tarp ~

MIER Outdoor Ultralight Waterproof

[amazon fields="B07PQVWP1D" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

MIER Outdoor Ultralight Waterproof

Star Rating
4.7/5
[amazon fields="B07PQVWP1D" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

Pros

Cons

The [amazon link=”B07PQVWP1D” title=”MIER outdoor ultralight backpacking tarp” /] is made from the right materials to provide excellent protection from nature’s harsh elements.

This lightweight waterproof tarp comes with a 40D nylon fabric, a ripstop pattern, silicone coating, and polyurethane coating.

With this, it provides excellent resistance against over 5000mm water pressure. It also provides adequate protection from a heavy gust of wind, snow, UV rays, and more.

You can surely use this bad boy for your long camping, hiking, and backpacking trips through the wild.

Despite its loads of coating, this tarp shelter leans on the light side. Coming at just 1.54 lbs and compact size of 38x14cm, you can bring this rugged flat tarp along with you even in the most space crucial moments.

The MIER waterproof tarp also presents you with loads of opportunities to pitch it right as the mood and moment require.

This escapist tarp houses over 19 tie loops in the right locations to enable you to mount it as you like with its flat tarp design and nylon fabric;

You can pitch this shelter across uneven grounds, hammocks, tents, bivy sacks, or as a mat, covering, and shade.

When it comes to color and size, MIER hasn’t provided its customers with lots of options. You’re stocked with just two colors – black and gray. You’re also stuck with two sizes – 16x10ft and 10.5x10ft.

This doesn’t give backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts enough chances to pick the tarp that truly fits their needs. However, you get enough room for you, your gear, and your companion in both sizes, depending on what setup you have in mind.

Tech Specs:

  • Weight: 1.54 lbs
  • Material: 40D Nylon fabric and 5000mm PU
  • Size (LxW): 16x10ft / 10.5x10ft.
[amazon fields="B07PQVWP1D" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

~ Best For Rainy Weather Conditions ~

Aqua Quest Defender Tarp

[amazon fields="B07VBJH5HV" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Aqua Quest Defender Tarp

Star Rating
4.9/5
[amazon fields="B07VBJH5HV" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

Pros

Cons

The [amazon link=”B07VBJH5HV” title=”Aqua Quest Defender tarp” /] comes with a superior build and strategic colors. This backpacking tarp is made with 70D Nylon fabric woven in a ripstop pattern.

It houses a heavy TPU coating, DWR upper layer, reinforced stitches, and heat taped seams.

All these attributes make this tarp a reliable tarp shelter to count on during extreme weather conditions.

However, this also makes it a heavy backpacking tarp to bring along on a short trip, except there is a forecast for severe weather conditions.

Being made from nylon, a flat tarp, and housing 19-37 webbed, reinforced tie-out loops, this backpacking tent gives you ample opportunity to pitch your tent tarp the way you want it across your tent.

It’s also roomy at 10x7ft, 10x10ft, 13x10ft, and 15x15ft. Whether you’re going for a long trip in the wilderness with your pet, a companion, or a group of friends, the Aqua Quest Defender provides you with enough top-line coverage to keep you, your gears, and sojourners safe.

While it’s roomy and highly customizable to fit your desired pitch pattern, it’s also susceptible to wear if stretched too much.

This lies on its 20000mm coat rating. Hence, it’s best to use it as a shade for your car, a rain fly for your tent, a shelter for hammock camping, and a tent shelter within its normal range.

Tech Specs:

  • Weight: 2.4 – 7.2 lbs
  • Material: 70D Nylon and Heavy TPU coating + DWR layer
  • Size (LxW): 10×7 / 10×10 / 13×10 / 15×15
[amazon fields="B07VBJH5HV" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

~ Best Lightweight Rain Fly Tarp ~

Pys Hammock Rain Fly

[amazon fields="B07FZV9S3X" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Pys Hammock Rain Fly

Star Rating
4/5
[amazon fields="B07FZV9S3X" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

Pros

Cons

The [amazon link=”B07FZV9S3X” title=”Pys Hammock Rain Fly” /] is a sleeping bag tarp that you can bring along with you without even knowing, weighing only about 33 ounces.

This backpacking tent tarp has rich tones and a fashionable appeal to it.

You get a large 10x10ft of 210T polyester taffeta fabric in a ripstop pattern to protect you, your backpacking gear, and your companion. There are no other available sizes at the time of writing this.

However, this comes with a 2000mm polyurethane coating and a thermal barrier inner layer to keep you and your valuables safe from harsh UV rays, winds, rains, and dust.

The Pys Rain Fly tarp is available in two different designs. You can get one in a flat design or catenary design. Both have pretty much the same features aside from their shapes, cost, and color.

When it comes to pitching, this ultralight tent tarp comes with nine tie-out loops.

One at the very center of the tarp gives you enough room to experiment with various pitching patterns.

But being polyester, you won’t get much stretch out of this to set it up on uneven grounds.

Its flat shape and strategically placed loops make it the perfect shelter for all kinds of hammocks.

You can also use this ultralight tarp as a tent awning or shade. It comes with a quick setup locking mechanism that removes the guest works and saves you time when it counts.

Tech Specs:

  • Weight: 33 ounces
  • Material: Polyester and 2000mm Polyurethane coating.
  • Size (LxW): 10×10 ft
[amazon fields="B07FZV9S3X" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

~ Best Value For Money ~

Rain Fly EVOLUTION Hammock Tarp

[amazon fields="B074BTJMHJ" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Rain Fly EVOLUTION Hammock Tarp

Star Rating
4.2/5
[amazon fields="B074BTJMHJ" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

Pros

Cons

[amazon link=”B074BTJMHJ” title=”Rain Fly Evolution” /] is a very aesthetic pleasing catenary tarp to come across. It’s available in a whole slew of colors.

This backpacking tarp is made from heavy-duty 210T nylon in a ripstop woven pattern. It also comes with a 2000mm PU coating to ensure efficient protection from nature’s harsh hands.

With this catenary cut tarp, you can protect yourself, your backpacking gear, and your companion from a heavy downpour, strong UV rays, intense snow, wind, and more. This is thanks to its quality materials, coating, and roomy design.

The Rain Fly escapist tarp comes in two strategic sizes and lots of colors. You can either go for the 12x10ft or 10x10ft. Both of which give you enough room to set up your tarp as a shade, tarp tent, car shelter, hammock rain fly, blanket, mat, and more.

However, being a catenary tarp and housing few strategically placed loops and a grommet, this tarp leaves you with little room to pitch it in the pattern of your choice. But that just means that you won’t be able to set this up on uneven ground very well.

This waterproof tarp weighs about 1.49 lbs only. This might not be the lightest tarp on our list, but it also means that this bad boy can tag along during those moments when every space and weight counts.

You also get reflective paracords to aid you in finding your shelter during dark hours.

Tech Specs:

  • Material: 210T nylon RipStop with 2000mm PU coating
  • Size (LxW): 12x10ft /10x10ft
  • Weight: 1.49 Pounds
[amazon fields="B074BTJMHJ" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

~ A Versatile Camping Tarp ~

WildVenture Rain Fly Tent Tarp

[amazon fields="B07HVMM7KP" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

WildVenture Rain Fly Tent Tarp

Star Rating
4.3/5
[amazon fields="B07HVMM7KP" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

Pros

Cons

When you’re after a backpacking tarp, you can mount perfectly in any position you like; the [amazon link=”B07HVMM7KP” title=”WildVenture Rain Fly tarp” /] is worth your consideration.

This backpacking shelter comes with a huge 25 tie-cut loops, with one at the very center to allow your creative genius to come out and play.

It’s made with 210T polyester fabric woven in a ripstop pattern and coated with polyurethane. This gives it a 2000mm rating against water pressure.

With this, you can adequately protect yourself, your companion, and your gear from the rays of the sun, wind, and rain. However, it won’t provide the ultra protection you require in heavy to extreme weather conditions or rainfall.

Thanks to its flat nylon design, you can stretch this waterproof tarp to give you the security you need when camping on uneven ground. It weighs about 2 lbs. And why this doesn’t lean on the lightweight side of things, it gives you a thick and tough fabric to improve your protection from the elements, mainly when you mount it as a tent.

There is no much room for picking the right color and size for your journey and need when it comes to the WildVenture waterproof tarp. This is because you only get three vibrant and unique colors and two sizes to choose from.

However, both colors and sizes fit different use cases. You will find the proper tarp shelter for your journey from white to black and 9.8×9.3 ft to 13×13 ft sizes.

Tech Specs:

  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Material: Nylon and 2000mm PU coating
  • Size (LxW): 13×13 / 9.8′ x 9.3′
[amazon fields="B07HVMM7KP" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

~ Best for Tent Footprint ~

REDCAMP Waterproof Camping Tarp

[amazon fields="B07FTGZX7Y" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

REDCAMP Waterproof Camping Tarp

Star Rating
4/5
[amazon fields="B07FTGZX7Y" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

Pros

Cons

The [amazon link=”B07FTGZX7Y” title=”Redcamp waterproof camping tarp” /] is a considerably large tarp with a refined outlook.

This tarp is made from 210d oxford polyester woven in a ripstop pattern. It also houses a PU(polyurethane) coating with a waterproof rating of 1000 mm.

The Redcamp provides adequate protection from the sun’s harsh rays, the wind’s brute force, and the rain’s pressure.

However, it’s best to use Redcamp lightweight waterproof tarp for light trips and situations where there will be only light to mild heavy rainfalls.

Due to its limited number of strategically placed loops, you can’t set this up in many configurations. You’re left using this ultralight tarp as an excellent option for shades, tent footprint, covering, or mat.

As regards weight, the Redcamp waterproof tarp comes light at just 12.8 ounces. It also folds into a very compact size of 6″x4″x0.5″, making it a great option to bring along when you’re packing light.

You don’t get a lot of colors for this tarp. This lies heavily on its use-case as a tent footprint. But you’re stuck with a lovely gray hue that does an excellent job in obscuring dirt.

When it comes to the grommet, Redcamp has fitted its tent tarp with metal grommets. While this does a good job keeping everything together, it’s susceptible to rust and wears and tear as time goes on.

Tech Specs:

  • Weight: 0.8 lbs
  • Material: 210d Ripstop Oxford polyester and 1000mm Polyurethane coating
  • Sizes (LxW): 82″ X 82″ / 36″x83″ / 55″x83″ / 71″x83″ / 95″x83″
[amazon fields="B07FTGZX7Y" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

~ Affordable Heavy-Duty Camping Tarp ~

Bearhard 3000mm Waterproof Camping Tarp

[amazon fields="B07RWB9H2Y" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Bearhard 3000mm Waterproof Camping Tarp

Star Rating
4.3/5
[amazon fields="B07RWB9H2Y" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

Pros

Cons

Coming at 2lb weight and at an affordable price, the [amazon link=”B07RWB9H2Y” title=”Bearhard waterproof camping tarp” /] is a reasonable budget, heavy-duty tarp to consider for your long trips.

This tarp is made from 210T polyester fabric and 3000mm PU aluminized laminate coating. It also has a ripstop woven pattern and does well in harsh winds, rain, and other weather conditions.

This tent tarp also comes in an asymmetrical design and lots of strategically placed tie-out loops to provide you with the needed room to try out various pitching patterns. However, due to its lack of center ridge loops and polyester fabric, your creativity is significantly limited.

Regarding sizes, the Bearhead backpacking tent tarp comes in two roomy sizes of 10x12ft and 10x10ft. This provides both a single camper and a group of four or more enough space to keep themselves and their belongings safe from the weather.

It doesn’t come in a lot of colors. But Bearhead has designed this tarp in four hues that are both practical and compelling to behold.

Due to its design and limitations, you can use this heavy-duty tarp excellently to protect yourself, gears, and companions from UV lights and other natural elements as a hammock rain fly, tent footprint, a tent, a mat, and a shade.

Just double-check the stakes to ensure they don’t fail you in the wild.

Tech Specs:

  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Material: 210T polyester fabric and 3000mm PU aluminized lamination
  • Size (LxW): 10×12 / 10ftx10ft
[amazon fields="B07RWB9H2Y" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

~ Best Heavy-Duty Tarp ~

Gold Armor Rain Fly Hammock Tarp

[amazon fields="B07C3PWWX7" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Gold Armor Rain Fly Hammock Tarp

Star Rating
4.1/5
[amazon fields="B07C3PWWX7" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

Pros

Cons

The [amazon link=”B07C3PWWX7″ title=”Gold Armor Rainfly” /] comes in various interestingly dark hues and commendable build.

This heavy-duty backpacking tarp is made with woven polyester in a ripstop pattern and coated with polyurethane.

With this combination alone, you get a pretty waterproof tarp set to serve you for a long time.

A DWR (direct water repellant) upper layer has been applied to this tarp to improve its toughness against water.

In total, it has a 5000 mm rating and is ready to see you through the harshest weather conditions.

Weight-wise, the Golden Armour camping tarp is a bit on the high side at 2.35 lbs, but that is a reasonable weight given it’s a heavy-duty lightweight tarp.

This tarp is also roomy, starting off at a 10ft x 8 ft size. With this, you and your gears or partner could enjoy the protection it brings during those rainy moments.

You can use this tarp in countless pitching positions.

The square design and 33 tie-out loops allow you to pitch it as a tent, a hammock tarp, a shelter across your sleeping bag, a shade for your tent, or even use it for your tent footprint.

However, due to its polyester material, you don’t get really firm and commendable pitching on uneven grounds, and your pitches are limited to the size of the tarp.

Tech Specs:

  • Weight: 2.35 lbs
  • Material: Polyester and 5000mm Polyurethane coating
  • Size (LxW): 12ft x10ft / 10ft x 10 ft / 10ft x 8ft
[amazon fields="B07C3PWWX7" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

~ Best for Asymmetrical Hammocks ~

Foxelli Rain Tarp

[amazon fields="B074B26ZCP" value="thumb" image_size="large" image_class="amzimg"]

Foxelli Rain Tarp

Star Rating
3.5/5
[amazon fields="B074B26ZCP" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

Pros

Cons

The [amazon link=”B074B26ZCP” title=”Foxeli Rain backpacking tarp” /] comes with a diamond design and overall size that allows it to provide excellent coverage to many hammocks, including the asymmetrical hammocks.

It’s made from 210D polyester in a woven ripstop pattern and improved with 3000mm PU coating.

This hammock tarp comes loaded with the right features to keep you, your hammock, and gear dry during heavy rain pour.

You only get four grommets and loops to play with when setting up your tarp. This doesn’t make it a great backpacking tarp for a tarp tent.

It still allows it to perform exceptionally as a shade, tent shelter, and hammock rain fly against heavy snow, wind, and light to medium-heavy downpour.

This diamond-shaped tarp shelter is relatively lightweight at 1.1 lbs when it comes to weight. Making it an easy addition to your backpacking accessories.

You get little to no option picking the right size and color for you. Because Foxeli Rain only provides this tarp in 11.8×9.2ft size and gray color.

The Foxeli Rain features help you cut tarp setup time and avoid changing location due to the distance between trees.

This hammock tarp has an extended 12ft reflective guy line, which also doubles as a tracer during dark hours. However, you might need to buy metal stakes as its stakes are made of plastic.

Tech Specs:

  • Weight: 1.1 lbs
  • Material: Rip-stop 210D Polyester PU3000mm
  • Size: 11.8×9.2ft
[amazon fields="B074B26ZCP" value="button" button_text="CHECK LATEST PRICE" /]

How to choose the best backpacking tarp for you

It’s easy to believe that all tarps are the same, and it’s just a matter of color and size. While that is also on the table, you need to consider lots of features before identifying the right one for you.

What type of tarp is best for you?

There are two major types of backpacking tarps, and four in total, they are:

  • Flat/rectangular tarps like the Aqua Quest Guide
  • Catenary/hexagonal tarps like the Rain Fly EVOLUTION
  • Asymmetrical tarps like the Bearhead 3000mm
  • And square tarps

Flat and catenary tarps are the most preferred for different use cases.

If you’re looking for more room to experiment with various pitches with your camping tarp, then the flat tarp gives you way more room to do so.

This type of shelter houses a 90-degree angle to its edges and flat sides. It’s heavier due to having more tarp setup options to give more protection and enhanced airflow.

For lesser flapping noise and weight, a catenary cut tarp is a great option.

This type of tarp shelter owns curved edges and ridgelines, which reduce the amount of material needed to provide complete protection.

What material should you pick for your tarp tent?

Tarps also come in various materials. Each material has its benefits and demerits it attributes to your tarp camping needs. Hence, you must understand what these are to know what works for you.

Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF)

Also called Cuben Fiber, this material is made from ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene. In case you aren’t familiar with this, this is similar to what your hardware store tarp is made from.

DCF has higher strength and low-weight performance material, meaning it’s exceptionally light and highly resilient. This makes Cuben Fiber the best viable option when you’re after a fully waterproof hammock tarp for your outdoor experience.

However, its nature limits it from allowing you to pitch it on uneven grounds or in various patterns. Cuben Fiber is also bulky and occupies more space in your backpack.

PU Nylon

This backpacking tarp material is made of nylon and polyurethane coating. The extra layer helps improve the waterproofing quality of your tarp. Usually, the nylon is woven before being coated and seam-taped.

When looking for a perfect tarp tent for the ultralight backpacker, stretchy and cheaper than its alternatives, the PU Nylon material fits the bill.

It provides you with a commendable waterproof feature and the room to pitch your tarp in varying configurations.

Silinylon or Silipoly

As the name suggests, Silinylon or Silipoly is a fine combination between nylon or polyester strands and silicon. It comes in various thicknesses so that you can go for something thin or something thick.

Though Silinylon comes in various woven patterns, you will often find one with a ripstop design. This fabric is stretchy, waterproof, and seam coated after weaving. This makes it the top choice for flat tarps so that you can experiment with various pitching patterns.

Suppose you’re looking for a relatively durable flat tarp material that’s also lightweight and waterproof. In that case, Silinylon is worth your consideration.

What tarp size should you go for?

At this point, you’re already familiar with the idea that backpacking tarps come in various sizes. You can find those that are too small to be functional and too wide to be necessary.

You need to start by asking yourself how many people are camping together and how much space you need?

If you’re camping in a tent, then you should ensure the size you go for is bigger than the widest portion of your tent and at least 2 feet extended from your tent on all angles.

The same rule applies to your hammock.

When camping alone, a 9×9 foot tarp size is the most preferred. It gives you enough room for you and your gears and enough extension to dissuade the rain from coming in.

If you’re traveling with a partner, your preferred ultralight shelter should be up to 60 square feet or more, like the Aqua Quest Guide, to provide the complete protection you need.

As a rule of thumb, always go for a tarp that’s a bit larger than your actual need to cater to other necessities like your cooking area, gear, and even rear wall.

Is a backpacking tarp meant for you?

Ironically, tarps are not meant for you at all times. What does this mean? If you’re new to backpacking or hiking, then chances are you won’t be going deep into the wilderness or countryside.

A good tarp setup can give you all the weather protection you need.

Whether tarps are a necessity for you or not, rest on how far you will be going, what you’re sleeping in (a tent or bivy sack), the space you have, and the kind of feeling or view you want while in your shelter.

When it comes to functionality, tarps serve a lot of purposes in improving your convenience.

Placing them strategically across the top of your tent can limit the chances of inside condensation, improve protection from rain, UV light, and harsh winds, and carve out a sheltered region for your cooking area.

You can also cut it to size to form a tent footprint to keep your tent warm and your feet dry. To better preserve your tent’s lifespan, you can place a tarp like the Golden Armor rain fly as a ground cover before pitching your tent.

This should also work for your bivy sacks if you choose to lie on the woods floor.

However, it’s good to note that the terrain of your campsite will determine how you lay your backpacking tarp as your ground cover.

How waterproof should your tarp be?

Should your ultralight tarpaulin be water-resistant, lightweight waterproof, or heavy-duty? This is another thing to consider when picking out a tarp for your backpacking activities.

Just as tarps come in various sizes and shapes, they also come in varying waterproofing. Your kind of backpacking activity and the purpose of buying a tarp will determine which one is best for you.

Suppose you’re going for a brief wilderness trip in an area forecasted to have little or no rainfalls. In that case, a water-resistant backpacking tarp might be ideal for you.

A tarp tent keeps you safe from moisture and condensation. But in the off chance of a heavy downpour, it won’t be able to protect you and your backpacking gear.

Like Pys Rain Fly, lightweight waterproof tarps are a better option to go for when you want to take a longer and lighter trip into the countryside.

It weighs between few ounces to a pound and provides you with enough space to pack the equipment you need for your journey and the required protection from harsh weather,

However, being lightweight, it doesn’t come with the toughness and thickness of heavy-duty waterproof tarps like the Aqua Quest Defender.

The latter is heavier and bulkier, weighing a few pounds up and able to withstand the harshest weather and keep you safe in the remote possibility you get stranded in the wild.

A good heavy-duty and lightweight backpacking tarp is made from quality materials like nylon, Dyneema, or polyester and is coated with either polyurethane or silicone for added durability and waterproofing. Some might come with double coatings, as seen in MIER Outdoor and Aqua Quest Guide.

What is the recommended waterproofing rating for tarps?

Whereas you should expect different water-resisting performance from a water-resistant tarp to a heavy-duty waterproof tarp, how effective each tarp is in repelling water is equally tied to their rating.

Before we jump into the recommended mm rating for your tarp, it’s good to understand what a waterproofing rating means. Mm(millimeter of water) symbolizes the amount of pressure your tarp has to go through to allow three drops of water to slip through.

In reality, it means if you see a tarp with a 1500 mm rating, that tarp will withstand 1500 mm of water pressure.

The higher the number, the harder it takes for water to slip through. However, you don’t need a significantly higher waterproofing number to get protection from the harshest weather.

This is more accurate for backpacking tarps. This is because these tarps are usually hung over your tent or bivy sack without touching the ground. They are not exposed to the same amount of pressure a rigid shelter like your tent would.

You should also note that the higher the mm rating of your tarp, the heavier it becomes, the more rigid it becomes, and the more susceptible it’s to wear and tear.

This is why a higher mm rating starting from 10,000 to 20,000 mm is best for static shelters like your tent. These shelters see more pressure from the rain.

Hence, when picking out a shelter tarp, you don’t plan on using it as a tent footprint or shade. Settle for a rating around 1000 mm to 5000 mm like the Aqua Quest Guide.

Other things to watch out for?

Tie-out loops

Depending on the design type of your preferred tarp, you might need a lot of tie-out loops for varied pitching positions, like in the case of the Gold Armor rain fly, WildVenture rain fly, and Aqua Quest tarps.

Always look out for tarps with at least nine tie-out loops, or loops at each corner, very center of the tarp, and one at each side’s center edge.

Ripstop patterns

Ripstop patterns, mostly when weaved by nylon or its quality alternative, provides you with a tarp of higher durability and waterproofing performance. An excellent example of such tarps is the Aqua Quest Defender.

Coatings

While quality tarp fabrics provide good water-repelling ability, a more desirable tarp would pair its material with a durable waterproofing coating.

Silicon and polyurethane (PU) are great coats you should watch out for during your buying decision.

A more advanced coating found on fewer tarps like the Aqua Quest Defender is the TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane), which provides even more robust protection and durability.

Grommet

It’s easy to visualize tarps with metal loops as a superior alternative to one with different loop material. However, in reality, backpacking tarps with webbing tie-out loops, like that of the Aqua Quest Guide and Defender tarps, provide superior performance and durability.

This alternative doesn’t rust with time, add significant weight to your tarp tent’s overall weight, or encourage onward damage.

Weight

The weight of your backpacking tarp is also essential to you if you’re someone who always packs heavy and can’t handle the extra weight.

Tarps weight vary from few ounces to pounds depending on the use-case – resistant, lightweight, or heavy-duty. So, go for what works best for you. Just ensure you’re buying quality.

Overview

If you’re purchasing your tarp from a physical store, you should take time to examine your item.

  • Does it look like quality?
  • Are the seams adequately sealed?
  • Are the loops smoothly and firmly attached?
  • Are there any loose strands to worry about?

Warranty

The reason you’re purchasing a tarp shelter isn’t just to keep you safe from UV rays but also to resist harsh weather.

Your tarp is likely to get damaged when met with weather stronger than its impregnable force.

For this reason, it’s good to know your camping tarp is covered.

Some companies will provide as little as 90 days returns to lifetime warranty like the Bearhead 3000mm.

Conclusion: What is the best backpacking tarp for your needs?

Figuring out which camping tarp evenly balances the essential features a backpacking tarp is supposed to own hasn’t been easy.

Many strong competitors like the [amazon link=”B07PQVWP1D” title=”MIER outdoors rain fly” /] and the [amazon link=”B07VBJH5HV” title=”Aqua Quest Defender” /] tarps, which also sit as the first and second runner up, respectively.

However, the [amazon link=”B01771ZTD2″ title=”Aqua Quest Guide” /] tarp proved to be the right man for the title. It brought together the merits of both runner-up tarps, providing key features like lifetime warranty, superior material, superior coating, lightweight-ness, and compactness.

It also gives you room to make lots of choices and comes in a flexible fabric.

In a nutshell, it ticks all the right boxes as a backpacking tarp to provide you with an excellent camping experience.

Jason Miller

Jason Miller

Hi there, my name is Jason and I am the creator and editor of this site. My activities include hiking, skiing, mountain biking, camping, and backpacking. I'm also a keen nature photographer. I like to get outdoors and then write about it. I created this site to help people find the right gear so they enjoy their outdoor pursuits that much more.

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