Rushed for time? Our top pick for the best camping tarp is the REDCAMP Multi-purpose Tarp and Hammock Rain Fly.
When it comes to camping gear, there’s nothing more versatile than a tarp.
Having the right tarp with you when you need it can be a lifesaver (well, maybe a trip-saver!) – but having the wrong one can be a nightmare.
Be it camping, backpacking, or thru-hiking, here are the best tarps on the market today:
- Best Overall Camping Tarp: REDCAMP Multi-purpose Tarp and Hammock Rain Fly
- Best Budget Ground Sheet: Amazon Basics Waterproof Camping Tarp
- Best for Ultralight Backpackers: MSR Thru-Hiker Wing Canopy Camping Shelter
- Best for Backpackers and Trekkers: Kelty Noah’s Tarp Sun Shelter
- Best for Casual Campers: KALINCO Tent Tarp
- Best Diamond Shaped Tarp: Foxelli Rain Tarp – Hammock Rain Fly
Best Camping Tarp: Our Top Choices
REDCAMP Multipurpose Tarp and Hammock Rain Fly
Type: Multi-purpose| Size(s): 10 x 10, 10 x 12 ft | Packed Size: 10 x 5 in | Weight: 1.8 lbs | Material: 210T polyester ripstop PU2000mm
This is honestly the best bang for your buck you can get in a lightweight camping tarp.
Perfect for hammock campers, using as a rain fly over your tent, or a groundsheet if needed.
I love REDCAMP products. They are high quality and affordable. This tarp kit is no different.
It includes 6 lightweight aluminum stakes, and 6 guy lines to help tie down the tarp. Basically everything you need to set up your tarp and relax.
- Can be used for various purposes including covering a tent, as a standalone shelter, groundsheet, or hammock fly
- Comes with 6 high-quality aluminum stakes, and 6 guy lines
- Waterproof 210T ripstop polyester
- Lightweight at only 1.8 lbs for the entire kit
- Budget friendly and a 1 Year Limited Warranty
- 10 x 10 ft may not be big enough to cover bigger tents
Best for: Backpackers, Hammock Campers, and Car Campers looking for a quick and easy setup.
Kelty Noah’s Tarp Sun Shelter
Type: Shelter/Rainfly | Size(s): 9 x9, 12 x 12, 16 x 16 ft | Packed Size: 12 x 10 x 3 in | Weight: 2 lbs 9 oz | Material: 68D polyester, fully taped seam construction
Available in sizes from 9’ x 9’ up to 16’ x 16’, the Kelty Noah’s sun shelter ranges from less than 2lbs for the smallest in the range to 5.7lbs for the largest, making it perfect as a lightweight option to stuff in your bag for trekking.
As with all shaped tarps, this isn’t a great choice for heavy weather conditions where the wind will make it tough to anchor the shelter well. It’s coated polyester construction means this tarp is better suited for use as a shelter than a general-purpose covering.
Unlike some other tarps mentioned here, the Kelty Noah’s Sun Shelter doesn’t include tent poles which means you’ll have to pay a little more if you want this shelter to stand alone.
As the name suggests, it’s suitable for both UV protection as well as rain and the range of sizes makes it a versatile option for group trips.
- Range of sizes means there’s an option to cover most requirements
- Lightweight construction makes it easy to carry in a pack
- Suitable for use as a sun shelter
- Water resistant material will keep you dry in light to moderate rain
- Tent poles not included, so you’ll need to grab these separately (if you need them)
- Polyester material isn’t durable enough for use as a ground sheet or general purpose tarp
Best for: beginners hiking on easy terrains, looking for an easy option for shelter.
Amazon Basics Waterproof Camping Tarp
This polyethylene tarp from Amazon’s Basics range is rip stop and completely blocks moisture. While this means it can be prone to condensation in colder weather, it also makes this tarp a solid choice for use as a groundsheet or gear cover, and can even be used around the home.
It’s all-rounder qualities do however mean that it falls down against Silnylon tarps on weight, and the size it’ll fold up to.
Amazon has such confidence in its durability they even offer a 12 month guarantee against it, so your money is safe for the first year at least!
- Extremely affordable – great for people on a budget
- Fully waterproof construction
- Large area coverage makes it well suited for use as a groundsheet or shelter
- Durable material means this tarp should survive many trips
- No poles or ropes included with the tarp
- Bulky material means this will take up a lot of space in your pack when hiking
Best for: the “utility” tarp you take camping with the family, “just in case” you need one.
KALINCO 10X10FT/10X15FT Tent Tarp
At first glance the Kalinco tent tarp looks every bit as solid as the premium offering by Sanctuary, and at less than half the price it’s good value.
At 2.5 lbs it isn’t the lightest tarp in this review and I have always found taped seams to be unreliable over time, but it’s impossible to overlook this shelter at the price.
I think this tarp sits in a sweet spot between the top quality offerings like the Sanctuary Siltarp, and budget competitors like the Amazon Basics waterproof tarp.
I don’t think this tarp would last with heavy, regular use (and the 60 day, defect-only warranty also confirms this) but for the occasional camper who wants a waterproof shelter without a huge investment, the Kalino tent tarp could be a shrewd choice.
- Budget price will make this very appealing
- Kit includes pegs and guy lines for complete shelter set up
- Compact size when folded suits use trekking and hiking
- 60 day defect warranty will let you test it on the trail
- Taped seams can let water in over time with heavy use
- Not the lightest tarp, and its square design could make setup awkward for inexperienced campers.
Best for: those looking for a square shelter on a budget.
MSR Thru-Hiker Wing Canopy Camping Shelter
This tarp from MSR is another lightweight offering, designed to be tucked into a pack for convenience on the trail.
Unfortunately, the Thru-Hiker doesn’t include any of the extras you’ll need to pitch your shelter – poles or ropes (depending on your preference and terrain) and pegs are all extras.
The Xtreme Shield waterproof coating is a flagship product from MSR who have been manufacturing high quality trail gear for over 50 years, and you can be certain that this tarp will keep you dry in the wild.
Available in 70 or 100 square foot options, the MSR Thru-Hiker is a solid choice, but I think more people will be drawn in by the brand than the product itself, especially when compared to some of the other options here.
- Ultralight, 9” x 4” packed design means you’ll barely notice this tarp in your bag
- Versatile design can be used with ropes or tent poles
- Xtreme Shield from MSR has been tested and shown to last longer than other waterproof coatings
- 3 year manufacturer’s warranty will allow plenty of testing in the wild to prove durability
- To get the full benefit of this tarp, you’ll need extras from the manufacturer (all sold separately)
- No ropes, poles, pegs included
Best for: experienced trekkers who already have plenty of gear, but are looking to replace their shelter tarp only.
Foxelli Rain Tarp – Hammock Rain Fly
The Foxelli Rain Tarp kit includes guy line ropes and stakes so everything you need to set up camp is in one pack, and the full kit weighs only 18 ounces which makes it perfect for shelter on backpacking trips.
At 18.2 oz, you’re getting as lightweight of a tarp kit as you can for the money. The value is tremendous.
Coming in two designs, you can choose either the diamond or the rectangular shaped.
- Lightweight construction makes it perfect for carrying on the trail
- 120 day, no questions asked policy, and one year warranty means this should be the last tarp you ever invest in!
- Kit includes everything you’ll need to set up the shelter
- Comes in two shapes: diamond and rectangular
- The tarp itself weighs 15 oz, so even if you planned on ditching the guy lines and stakes you aren’t shedding that much weight.
Best for: budget backpackers looking for a lightweight tarp shelter option.
Camping Tarps: A Buyer’s Guide
The best camping tarp for you depends a lot on how you plan to use it.
If you’re looking for a utility tarp to keep your gear dry while setting up you’ll prioritize size and durability.
If you’re looking for a tarp shelter or a tarp to hang above your tent on overnight treks then a lightweight, waterproof tarp will serve you better.
So let’s take a look at different tarp features and why they matter to you.
In a nutshell, is your tarp flat or shaped?
It doesn’t sound like much, but buying the wrong shaped tarp could cost you a bunch of money unnecessarily or give you a real headache when you come to using it in the wild, especially depending on the tarp shelter configuration you are planning for.
A flat tarp is the ultimate utility tarp. These can be used as ground sheets, shelters, weather covers – they’ll work for pretty much any use.
Flat tarps tend to be a bit cheaper than shaped tarps and make a great “just-in-case” option to throw in when taking a trip.
They can also be set up in a variety of shapes depending on the terrain and the weather (they’re great for use in high winds, where they can be pitched lower to the ground).
While they’re a great all-rounder, they do come with a few downsides. They can be a bit trickier to set up for beginners (don’t worry, it comes with practice!) and they are usually heavier than a shaped tarp, on account of using more material.
Shaped tarps are easier to set up, and tend to be lighter because the tailored shape trims out material that’s not needed.
As you’d expect from a product that requires more precise manufacturing, shaped tarps tend to be more expensive. Because of this it doesn’t make sense to pick a shaped tarp for all-round use, unless their lightweight features are your top priority.
Material & Durability
These two properties are two sides of the same coin, and there’s always a balance to strike. Unfortunately, the perfect (lightweight, bulletproof and completely waterproof) tarp doesn’t exist!
Let’s take a look at a few of the most common tarp materials:
Super lightweight and very compact, polyester tarps are treated with a waterproof coating to make sure they stay dry underneath.
Being a synthetic material, they’re not naturally breathable which means they can be prone to condensation forming on the underside of the tarp.
Similar to polyester, Silnylon is silicone-coated nylon.
Very lightweight, these tarps are ideal for backpacking and they are compact when folded, maximizing the space in your pack.
Thanks to the way these tarps are made, they are prone to leaking at the seams which means they’re not well suited to heavy weather conditions, but they fare perfectly fine in light rain, or acting as a sun shade.
Although durability varies across manufacturers, these tend not to be suitable for heavy-duty use, as they rip more easily than other materials.
Polyethylene is incredibly durable, and this factor alone makes it a great choice for a utility tarp.
Although very strong and resistant to both water and abrasion, these tarps are heavier and take up more space than polyester or silnylon alternatives.
You probably wouldn’t want one of these taking up precious space and weight on your back hiking, but they’re a great option to throw in the truck for family camping trips, when you’ve got the luxury of being able to pack “just-in-case” items.
You never know when you might need an emergency cover/shelter/groundsheet!
Tarp Size & Packed Size
It’s tempting to take the “big is better” approach and go for maximum tarp for your buck. The trouble is, your tarp needs to fit your needs.
If you’re trying to pitch a 20 ft tarp in the woods, chances are you’re going to end up with a lot of spare material and spend the night wishing you’d bought something a little more compact.
On the flip-side, if you go for the cheapest option without checking the details, you could end up with the whole family trying to keep dry under a large handkerchief.
The way you’ll use the tarp will influence the size you need – if you’re choosing a weather cover or groundsheet tarp, you can be flexible and fold up any excess without too many problems.
If you’re buying a tarp for shelter, it pays to give some thought to where you’ll be pitching and how much room you’ll need inside because once you’re on the trail it’s too late to change!
For one person to sleep under, 9 ft x 9 ft is ideal with anything smaller bordering on uncomfortable.
If you’re looking for a group shelter, you’ll need to consider the number of people and how the tarp will be pitched before choosing your perfect size.
And lastly, is the packed size. If you are backpacking or carrying your tarp you also want to make sure it can pack up small.
Weatherproofing of tarps relates closely to the material you choose.
Polyethylene tarps are usually close to fully waterproof and can be reliably laid down on wet ground, or pitched to keep the area inside dry. This is a popular material choice for groundsheets in particular, combining waterproof qualities with strong durability and rip-resistance.
Silnylon and coated polyester tarps tend to be water-resistant – suitable for use in the wet, but not reliable in heavier weather. The manufacturing process also makes them prone to leaking along the seam stitching.
That being said, these still make a popular choice for backpackers and hikers because they’re light, fold up small and protect against the worst of the elements.
Another potentially critical component of your camping tarp is going to be the weight.
This is especially important if you are backpacking, hammock camping, or going to be trekking with your tarp a long distance.
If you are backpacking, you are going to want a much lighter tarp shelter in the 12-18 oz realm.
But if you are car camping, well you probably don’t care as much and you can look at the heavier and more durable options.
A tarp with additional features? That is right!
Many tarps these days come with guy lines and stakes.
This is especially helpful in making it as easy as possible to put up and stake down your tarp if you are using it as a rain shelter, or rain fly.
Several of the tarps we’ve listed come with everything including a carry bag to put the tap into and to use as a compression sack to easily pack up your tarp and associated gear.
Should I put a tarp under my tent when camping?
Ground cover is always a good thing to have, as it keeps your tent bottom dry and protects it from abrasive terrain. A tent footprint is the best option as it’s shaped like a tent, but a tarp is a good alternative.
How big should a tarp be for camping?
The precise answer depends on how you plan on using the tarp. If you’re making an A-frame shelter over your tent, it should be about 4 feet bigger than your tent floor.
If you are using it as a ground cover, then it should be at least the same size as the base of your tent, but you can always use a bigger tarp and fold it underneath your tent if it is too big.
What kind of tarp do you use camping?
A camping tarp needs to be both weather and water-resistant, or else it basically loses its purpose.
It should also be large enough to make a shelter with or cover the base of your tent (if you’re using it as a ground cover).
How do I choose a camping tarp?
That depends on your needs. If you’re backpacking, then weight and packability are your most important characteristics. If you’re camping in bad weather, it’s important that your tarp is completely waterproof. It also needs to be an adequate size to cover your tent.
Do you need a tarp for hammock camping?
Unless you’re camping in hot summer weather under the clear sky, you’ll absolutely need a tarp to keep your hammock protected from the elements.
But it’s also good to have one even in sunny weather, as it protects both you and the hammock from UV exposure.
How do you hang a tarp for rain camping?
That depends on the direction it’s raining. An A-frame is typically best for rainy weather, as it keeps you dry from two sides.
But if it’s also windy, the A-frame tarp tent shelter configuration also provides you with the most cover.
There’s plenty to be excited about in these tarps, and without realizing it at the time I’ve probably picked out an option that’ll work for anyone.
In terms of the best pick, I can’t move past the REDCAMP Multi-purpose Tarp and Hammock Rain Fly.
Ultralight, versatile and it comes with a lifetime warranty. This isn’t going to suit a novice but if you know what you’re doing, this should be the last tarp you’ll ever need to buy.
It’s not a small investment to make but if you’re looking for a quality tarp that includes everything you’ll need to set up camp in the pack, that shouldn’t put you off.