It always pays to be prepared when you’re venturing into the great outdoors and a camping tarp is one of the most useful extras that you can take along with you. They give you extra weather protection, work as a ground mat for cooking and hanging out on, become a makeshift shelter, give a roof to your hammock, the options are endless.
You might think ‘god not another thing to add to my packing’, especially if you’re doing a multi-day backpacking trip, but don’t worry. Tarps are exceptionally light and pack down very small and the extra weight is well worth it for the huge amounts of advantages a camping tarp brings your outdoor experience. It’s even worth it just for peace of mind, knowing that no matter what the elements throw at you, you have another layer of protection.
Of course, not all camping tarps are made equal and there are hundreds to choose from. Enter our handy review. We have taken some of the best camping tarps around and dived into the details around durability, weatherproofing, weight, size, and more. Keep on reading to find the best camping tarps for your next trip into the wilderness.
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Best On A Budget
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The Aqua Quest Guide Tarp comes in 4 different sizes and a few different colors to suit any of your outdoor needs, whether it’s camo for hunting or a large size for great coverage, this camping tarp has got your back.
The tarp is made from 40D ripstop nylon and is pretty durable for such a thin fabric when used correctly. The low Denier count does make the tarp vulnerable to rips from accidental damage, like catching a sharp branch, but it is also what makes it so light.
Weight just 1.7lbs with 130 sq ft of coverage, you get a lot of shelter in a very light package. It also packs down to a mere 6 x 6 x 3.5 inches, when combined with the low weight makes it ideal for any backpacking trip.
It’s also pretty great at handling adverse weather conditions. All the joins feature reinforced stitching and the seams are all heat taped to make sure no water gets in. The nylon is coated with dual coatings of non-toxic Polyurethane & Silicone giving it a water resistance rating of 20,000mm, which is incredibly high.
The tarp comes with 17 tie points, that’s a lot, and it makes this camping tarp incredibly versatile and you’ll be able to rig it how you like.
Overall it’s a pretty awesome camping tarp, a little more expensive than others but it’s worth it for the quality.
The ENO ProFly Rain Tarp is another solid camping tarp to add to the mix. It only comes in one size though, so you will have to find the dimensions useful. They are pretty large at 10.64 x 6.4 ft and should match most camping needs.
This camping tarp is made from 210D ripstop nylon, a much high Denier rating than all the other tarps in the review. This makes it exceptionally heavy-duty, durable and resistant to abrasion and rips from branches or sharp stones on the ground. It also means that it could be used as a multi-purpose tarp in a number of other situations.
Despite using such a high D rating, the tarp is light 1lb 6 oz and comes in a handy stuff sack. It’ll add barely any weight to your pack and the stuff sack has a grab line sop you can pull it out of your pack easily.
The nylon is also treated with a polyurethane coating to add some waterproofing and make it a little bit more durable. The tarp will not leak no matter the weather but it is not 100% waterproof and some water does seem to bead through.
The only downside to this tarp is that there are only 6 connection points, unlike others that have up to 19. 6 is probably enough for most situations but a few more would make it a lot more versatile.
The Kelty Noah’s Tarp Sun Shelter is rated as a day tarp rather than an overnight tarp. We aren’t sure why they have rated it this way as the materials stack up to most other tarps.
The lack of information around weatherproofing made us think it needs some sunlight to keep you dry, but this just isn’t the case.
The camping tarp is made from 68D polyester. Again a little thin on the denier count, making the Kelty Noah’s Tarp a tad fragile when it comes to accidental damage but it’s the low D-count that makes the tarp so light and portable.
At 2 lbs 9 oz. with a packed size of 12 x 10 x 3 inches, this camping tarp will squeeze into any backpack. The seams are all sealed and double stitched, making this tarp exceptionally durable and it doesn’t leak.
The fabric is waterproofed to 800mm and does exceptionally well in heavy rain but the wind is a bit of an issue. Some have experienced some rips when the tarp is exposed to heavy winds.
Overall an awesome tarp that’ll keep you dry and safe from the weather. Some have complained it’s a little oddly shaped and hard to set-up but it’s actually not, just ignore the picture with the poles (not included), and you string it up like any other.
Similar to the Aqua Quest Guide Tarp, the Aqua Quest Safari Tarp is a little heavier and more durable while still retaining the excellent build quality and waterproofing Aqua Quest delivers.
The Aqua Quest Safari Tarp is made from 70D ripstop nylon, which adds 30D worth of thickness and thus durability compared to the AQ Guide Tarp. That extra 30D will make it quite a bit more resistant to accidental scratches, rips, and sharp ground.
Like most Aqua Quest tarps, the nylon is then coated with polyurethane and silicone to give it an insane waterproof rating of 20,000mm, making the tarp pretty much 100% waterproof. No amount of rain should be able to break through this guy.
While using thicker nylon, the Aqua Quest Safari tarp still has a small enough weight and packed size to slip into your backpack without you noticing. It also comes with a huge 19 webbing loops, giving you hundred of hanging options to create the ideal shelter you are after.
Overall an awesome camping tarp that can do it all. It is a little more expensive than others but it’s still of great value considering the quality.
The Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp is the camping tarp of dreams if you’re an ultralight kind of camper. And, as with all ultralight gear, it’s pretty delicate and expensive but incredibly fit for purpose.
The Escapist camping tarp is made from 15D Ultra-Sil Nano. This is incredibly thin, and it’s thanks to this that the tarp is so light. But, it does make it delicate. It is still durable while being used properly but any kind of accidents are likely to put a rip in it.
Despite being quite thin, the 15D Ultra-Sil Nano does a good job in heavy rain. The double-stitched, heat-sealed seams combined with the material ensure no leaks and will keep you dry and protected from the elements.
Weighing just 10.5 oz. the Esapcist camping tarp is incredibly light and ideal for backpacking. You will barely even notice it’s there, and you’ll love having it when you really need it.
It works well with a trekking pole to create a tent-like structure and the 8 tie points also make it easy to put up in most situations. It would be nice to see a few more tie points on it but 8 should suffice for many people’s needs.
Overall an awesome ultra-light camping tarp that is ideal for backpackers.
The Aqua Quest Defender Tarp is the king of the Aqua Quest tarps in the review. The Defender takes everything to a new level, from the price to the number of ties, it outranks both the Safari and Guide camping tarps.
The defender is made from 70D ripstop nylon making it pretty durable and resistant to any rips or wear. It uses the same D-count as the Safari but a bit more than the Guide. The nylon is put together exceptionally well, using reinforced stitching and heat taped seams in order to ensure longevity (along with the lifetime guarantee) and no leaks.
The nylon is treated with both a heavy TPU (polyurethane) and a DWR (durable water-repellent) coating to give the tarp a 20,000mm waterproof rating – which means it is very water resistant. This is a lot, as we previously mentioned and no amount of heavy rain short of a typhoon is going to get through that.
The defender comes with 21 tie points for any rigging situation and also includes storage pockets plus lantern loop, both not often included in tarps. This means you can almost have the full tent experience just from a tent tarp, how awesome is that.
There isn’t much wrong with the defender, the only gripe to be found is that the loops seem to follow the width and not the length, making it harder to set-up long ways over a hammock.
Otherwise, this is a pretty incredible tarp that is amazingly priced for the quality you’re getting.
The Free Soldier Waterproof Portable Tarp is the answer to anyone out there who is looking for a tarp on a budget. You might have to do a few little mod-cons to it but once done, you’ll end up with a long-lasting camping tarp that is incredibly affordable.
The Free Soldier is made from 210T ripstop polyester making it one of the most resistant to any accidental rips or wear and tear. The polyester also features a polyurethane coating to bring it up to a 2500mm waterproof rating. 2500mm is solid and will hold off any water from getting through the fabric.
The camping tarp while being a bit thicker still only weighs 2.10 lbs and packs down pretty small, making it a great budget candidate for backpacking as well.
The tarp is compatible with a trekking pole to give it a tent-like structure and comes with a whopping 19 guy lines plus 5 grommets, so you can rig it in any way that suits you best.
As with most budget items, there is a catch. Some people have experienced leaks through the seams, while others haven’t. Also, the switching could do with some re-inforcing. It’s worth sealing it and reinforcing it yourself, and you’ll still end up spending less compared to any other tarp.
Overall an awesome budget tarp that with some extra love will become a tarp for life.
The Chill Gorilla Fortress 2 Camping Tarp is almost a hybrid between a tent and a camping tarp. This caping tarp comes with something none of the others have, doors! There are 4 doors on the Fortress, so you can fully enclose yourself when that adverse weather comes in, and their inclusion is part of the reason it’s rated for 4-season use.
The Fortress 2 is made from 30D ripstop sil-nylon and is excellent at standing up to any wear and tear the outdoors might throw at it. It is a little thinner than others in terms of the D-count and accidental damage could rip it quite easily.
It comes with an 8000mm waterproof rating which is more than water-resistant enough to keep any heavy rainfall out. The only place you might find a leak is along the seams and it’s advised to seal these yourself once you receive the tarp.
This isn’t ideal when you consider the price and the 4 season rating, it should have reliable seams out of the box. In terms of weight and packed size, it’s pretty light at 1.3lbs and will easily be fit into your backpack.
The tarp does come with guys lines, stakes, a lot of tie point for versatility though, and if you receive one that’s properly sealed, it is a great deal.
Is your tarp there as a backup? Will it just be a groundsheet? Is it for shade or your main form of shelter? All the questions are important to ask yourself and once answered will give rise to the kind of tarp you need.
The right answer is of course ‘all of the above’. If you want to carry a multi-purpose tarp along, why not get a tarp that does it all and will last, as you never know what the elements might throw at you.
All the tarps in the review are made to handle being your main form of shelter and you’ll be able to use them for pretty much anything you can think of. Some of them are a little thin though, especially the ultralight ones and it’s not advisable to use them as a groundsheet as they may rip.
How big do you need your tarp to be? This depends on its purpose, of course. If it’s to cover your hammock then you don’t want one that’s too big but if it’s to make a mess area for the whole family, you’ll want it to cover a large area.
At the bottom of every tarp in the review are its dimensions and these are worth noting. Some of the taros come in one size while others come in a range of sizes, so you could scale up or down if you like a particular one, depending on your needs
All of the camping tarps in this article are made from either ripstop nylon or polyester. Whether it’s nylon or polyester, they are described with a denier rating like 70D. Denier refers to the thickness of the weave and the higher the number, the thicker the fabric, and thus the more durable and heavy it is.
The D-count in the review ranges from 15-270D, and the difference between them is quite large. Low D materials are ideal for backpacking as they bring the weight down, while high-d materials can take a beating. Pick the right d-count for your needs, whether it’s light and delicate or a bit heavier and tough, or somewhere in the middle.
The best camping tarp for ultralight enthusiasts is the Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp. This camping tarp weighs just over 10 oz. while still doing a great job of providing you with weather protection and shelter when you need it. As with all ultralight products, it is a little delicate and expensive, but it has to be in order to be so light. If you’re looking for the best ultralight camping tarp around, this is it.
The best multi-purpose camping tarp is the Aqua Quest Defender Tarp. This tarp is durable, pretty much water-proof, light, packs down small, and is affordable. It sounds too good to be true, but it doesn’t stop there, it also comes with awesome extra features like some lantern hanging loops and storage pockets. The Defender is pretty hard to beat when it comes down to it.
The best camping tarp if you’re on a budget is the Free Soldier Waterproof Portable Tarp. For under $40, you get a durable, well-designed tarp that is excellent in the weather. You might need to do a little bit of maintenance initially but after this, you’ll have an excellent tarp that is ideal for everything from backpacking to car camping.