The lowly tarp doesn’t get much love on most seasonal “hot new camping gear” lists. Yet, it’s arguably the most versatile and useful tool in any outdoorsmen’s quiver. While camping, it can serve as an outdoor mat, an awning, or a footprint for your camping tent. In a survival situation, it becomes an impromptu shelter, a sleeping bag, or a way to gather rainwater. Most are lightweight, relatively compact, and cheap, which means no man should be without a camping tarp in the backcountry. But, not all tarps are created equal. These are the best tarps for camping in 2021 and beyond.
Sea to Summit’s Escapist Tarp Shelter has long been a favorite tarp amongst hardcore campers in the know. As its name implies, it’s purpose-built to serve as a backcountry shelter. It’s one of the priciest on this list, but it’s incredibly compact, practical, and versatile. Set up correctly, there’s more than enough room underneath for two minimalist campers.
Designed for solo hikers, Rab’s Siltarp1 Shelter is the lightest on this list at just seven ounces. Once pitched with two trekking poles, it offers 40 square feet of ground coverage. The ripstop Cordura fabric is silicone-impregnated, so it’s virtually guaranteed to keep the rain and the wind out. With the included stuff sack, breaking camp is a breeze.
B-Air’s Grizzly Tarp line features a composite construction of polypropylene and polyethylene. That means it’s impervious to the elements, including rot, mildew, mold, water, and tearing. The design features aluminum edge grommets every three feet, so it’s a snap to stake down or secure wherever you need it. It’s also available in a wide range of sizes up to 20’ x 30’ and starts at under $10.
Amazon’s Amazon Basics line has come a long way and now includes a long list of affordable products from socks to throw pillows to camping supplies. The Amazon Basics Waterproof Camping Tarp features a polyethylene construction, so it’s waterproof, durable, and lightweight at just 1.5 pounds. The 8’ x 10’ model is the most compact, or you can upgrade to the 10’ x 12’ option for a bit more room.
The name suggests that Kelty’s Noah’s Tarp might help you survive the flood, and it’s almost that good. This camping-specific tarp boasts a protective 68D polyester construction and fully sealed seams to protect you from the elements. Plus, multiple guy-out points allow for easy setup in almost any terrain.
It might seem ludicrously overpriced at more than $400. But, Snow Peak’s Hexa Ease 1 is actually an integrated tent/tarp system for camping with components designed to work together. Minimalist campers can opt to pack just the tarp as an ultralight, go-anywhere shelter, or add the tent into the mix for a little more backcountry “luxury.”
MSR’s Thru-Hiker Wing is a canopy shelter designed for long-distance hikers who appreciate versatile, ultralight thru-hiking gear. Starting at just 9 x 4 inches, it packs down into even the smallest backpacks. Unfurled, it covers a generous 70 square feet — more than enough room for two sleeping bags. A proprietary Xtreme Shield waterproof coating provides maximum protection that lasts up the three times as long as its competitors.
NC-based Eagles Nest Outfitters has been “doing” camping hammocks since long before they were cool. The brand’s ProFly Rain Trap was designed to pair with their hammock line, but it works great as a standalone minimalist camp shelter, too. The 210D ripstop nylon construction is everything you want in a camping tarp: It’s durable, wear-resistant, waterproof, and lightweight. Six points of contact ensure that it holds fast in even the roughest weather.
Most tarps aren’t meant to be decorative. Outad at least makes an effort by offering its Waterproof Camping Tarp in three colors: Sky Blue, Fruit Green, and Dark Green. The high-density 210D Oxford ripstop polyester construction makes it every bit as durable as its more utilitarian competition. It’s also lightweight and compact when folded but still resistant to everything life on the trail can throw at it.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is among the best in the world at designing premium ultra-light hiking and camping gear. The Echo II Tarp is overdesigned and built extremely tough, so it’s likely the last and only camping tarp/shelter you’ll ever need to buy. The DCF8 Dyneema fabric is waterproof and durable, while taped, bonded, and sealed felled seams keep the rain and weather out in the worst conditions. Just add two trekking poles to the mix, and you have a near-perfect, go-anywhere shelter.
If durability is your ultimate concern, this heavy-duty vinyl tarp from Chicago Canvas & Supply is near-bulletproof. At ten pounds, it’s hardly backpacker-friendly. But what it lacks in portability, it makes up for in military-grade utility. The 20-mil thickness means that it’s virtually impervious to punctures, highly abrasion resistant, and 100% waterproof. Use it to cover your basecamp, your truck, or the roof of your house in a pinch.
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