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tarps for camping and hiking

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  • I don't sell any of these nor do I receive any remuneration if you buy them, and I have not personally reviewed all of them, they are listed here to give you perspective
  • nearly all tarps, even heavy extreme ones are subject to tears or holes if contacts a sharp object (eg rock, sharp teeth of a clamp) and placed under tension as with winds


  • tarps have many uses and your choice of tarp will depend upon how you wish to use it:
    • emergency shelter when hiking (you may still need a bivy for warmth and mesh head net for bug protection)
    • use as a ground sheet to reduce risk of water (even if using an enclosed tarp tent)
    • rain / shade protection for your camping shelter (eg. mesh tent, hammock, swag, or no tent)
    • awning to extend from your car or your tent
    • provision of extra protection of your tent during storms (in severe storms you may be better off taking down your tent so it is not damaged and can be set up after the storm has passed)
    • temporary protective cover to assist in recovery and prevent further water issues from damage to house/vehicle/etc after storms
  • light, compact, versatile - as long as you know how to pitch them
  • tarps require use of mosquito nets or a bivvy to keep you from the bugs, but in the desert can be used primarily as a windbreak without a bug net
  • flat tarps in A-frame pitch takes longer to set up than those with catenary cut tarp
  • in storm mode, flat tarps only provide 3 sided protection which can be more problematic compared to pyramidal tarps
  • tarp ponchos can be very useful for some types of hikes and for emergency rain/shelter use
    • they are not good for1):
      • extended wet and windy conditions such as in Tasmania or NZ
      • long alpine trails above the tree line as they are too exposed
      • narrow trails where they are likely to continuously snag on branches
  • nothing short of a concrete bunker is likely to protect you from a tree falling, tornado, cyclone or bushfires - tarps will have minimal or no help to you in these conditions!
  • large hailstones will break your vehicle windows as well as house roof tiling - a light tarp is not likely to protect during the storm but may have a use after the storm has passed
  • tarps need to be well made and expertly set up to withstand very strong winds
  • If you are riding out a lengthy storm underneath a tarp, especially a small tarp, you will want to make sure it is pitched tautly and in an appropriate location.
  • you probably shouldn't be relying upon a tarp shelter when hiking above the tree line in alpine conditions in weather that is not optimal - you may be better off keep walking until you find protection or use a tent designed for those conditions.
  • the smallest tarp for shelters when hiking for most people should be 1.6×2.7m (smaller tarps can be OK for shorter people or when using a bivy)

tarp fabrics

tarps size and minimizing risk of damage

  • the minimum size for most camping uses is a 3m x 3m tarp as you need to allow for the wet zone around the edges in the rain
  • most tarps are subject to damage from:
    • sharp objects - hence avoid dragging them over a load and instead, lift them onto a load and don't drop heavy objects onto a tarp
    • abrasion - avoid placing over sharper objects, and consider rotating tarp
    • UV damage - most will deteriorate over time in the sun, some much more than others, if continuous use is needed, turn tarp over periodically.
    • mildew - don’t roll up or fold tarpaulins when they are wet. This will result in growth of mold and eventual rotting.
    • tears to tie down points
      • Don’t over tighten a tarp when tieing it down.
      • Consider using tarp clips if needing additional tie-down points.
      • for high wind situations consider using tarps with D-rings
      • When used for an awning, always make sure rain or condensation can drain away and not collect in the middle
      • use appropriate tie methods for eyelets
      • ensure number of tie downs are sufficient - consider using tarp clips if needing additional tie-down points
      • ensure a rope is secured OVER a larger tarp to avoid it becoming a parachute and further straining the eyelets
      • ensure all tie down points are actually tied down

tarp as shelter

ultra-light hiking tarps under 500g

  • hiking tarps will TEAR in strong winds if there is contact with sharp edges such as rocks!

superlight hiking tarps under 1kg for 9sqm

heavier car camping tarps

shade awnings for swags or 2P tents


awnings for cars

  • they are at high risk of damage during strong winds and so generally should be taken down before storms or strong winds
  • they are very popular for those who sleep in swags as they provide the rain protection to avoid swags getting soaked

tall 4WD cars

  • there are many side or rear awning systems available
  • most are quite heavy and have attached poles which are quick to set up

standard height cars

  • side awnings can be fitted to most cars with roof rack systems but the low height of these makes them problematic for standing under
  • this can be resolved by using domed awnings - essentially like elevated tent fly systems

domed awnings

australia/tarps.txt · Last modified: 2024/04/11 01:16 by gary1

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