SPOILER ALERT: Conquerwild named the REI Co-Op Quarter Dome as the best camping tarp!!
When we think of the “classic” camping experience, most people picture a tent in their head. I think many of us forget how useful and versatile camping tarps can be. Not only are canopies strong and lightweight, but they also offer endless possibilities when it comes to the type of shelter you can create.
If you’ve been on the hunt for the best camping tarp on the market, look no further. I’ve rounded up the 6 most efficient products that I could find and reviewed each of them. Here’s what I came up with:
The Products I’ll Be Reviewing:
- REI Co-Op Quarter Dome SL Tarp
- Kelty Waypoint Car Tarp
- Kammok Kuhli Pro Shelter
- MSR Rendezvous Sun Shield 200 Wing Shelter
- ENO Housefly Rain Tarp
- Outdoor Products All Purpose Tarp
REI Co-Op Quarter Dome SL Tarp – Best Camping Tarp Overall
REI Co-Op proves themselves as masters of outdoor equipment with their Quarter Dome SL Tarp. This product is ultra customizable and lightweight enough for most backpackers. It’s got dimensions of 115 inches x 115 inches, making it great for groups of 2. The tarp material’s ultra durable and made from polyurethane-coated ripstop nylon.
Weighing in at just 1 pound 2 ounces, this canopy is super lightweight. It’s great for backpackers and car campers alike. It’s also ultra customizable. The square shape and abundance of reinforced grommets allows for limitless configurations. It’s also seam-sealed to keep wet weather out. To top it off, the tarp also comes with 6 quick-attach guy lines, 8 stakes and a stuff sack.
To Sum It Up:
This product has just about everything you could ask for in a quality camping tarp. It’s got a great size-to-weight ratio, it’s super durable and is super versatile. It’s just the right size and shape so that you can really get creative with configurations. This product easily earns my title of best camping tarp of 2022!
- Reflective guy lines.
- Includes stuff sack.
- 1200mm water resistant.
- Lots of attachment loops.
- Not big enough for groups.
Kelty Waypoint Car Tarp – Best Car Camping Tarp
For those of you who plan on camping close to your car, this tarp from Kelty may be the perfect product for you. It comes with a vehicle attachment that fits on almost all automobiles. When set up, this canopy feels quite large, offering 85 square feet of covered space. The 68D polyester material makes it durable and water-resistant enough to deflect heavy rain and UV rays.
At 8 pounds 5 ounces, this isn’t the most lightweight tarp out there. However, that shouldn’t really matter since it’s designed for car camping. Coming with a 25mm steel pole, the tarp is easy enough for 1 person to set up. Once you’re all done with your camping adventure, Kelty provides you with a really nice shark mouth duffle bag for proper storage.
To Sum It Up:
This car camping tarp leaves little to be desired. It’s easy for beginners to set up and super durable with lots of covered area. If you don’t mind a heavy product, then this tarp is an excellent choice.
- Durable 68D polyester tarp.
- High wear areas are reinforced.
- Includes stakes and guy lines.
- Includes roof rack strap and (almost) universal car attachment.
- Includes shark mouth duffle bag.
- 25mm steel pole isn’t height adjustable.
Kammok Kuhli Pro Shelter – Best Value Camping Tarpaulin
When it comes to versatile and efficient tarps, it’s hard to find a product that’s better than the Kammok Kuhli Pro Shelter. The 15D ripstop nylon material of this tarp is coated with silicone, polyurethane and DWR (durable water repellent), so it’s built to last! It’s also got sealed seams and rubber, reinforced anchor points. The rectangular shape of this tarp also allows for any configuration you’d like. Whether you’re going for the classic A-frame, an awning or an asymmetrical shelter, Kammok makes assembly easy.
The true beauty of this product lies within its details. You get convenient mesh pockets at each anchor point to keep your cord neat. You also get cord hooks and built-in line lock tensioners to make setup simple. On top of that, the tarp’s interior is designed to reflect heat in cold weather. While poles aren’t included with this product, the anchor points are laser cut with a secure opening for pole tips. This adds a level of customization that you don’t get with every other tarp on the market.
To Sum It Up:
This is truly an awesome tarp that works well in all types of weather. It’s super water resistant and built to withstand high winds. It also keeps a great size-to-weight ratio, weighing 1 pound 10 ounces and offering 144 inches x 108 inches of covered space. If you’re okay with a higher price point, this tarp’s excessive features make it a stand out product.
- Easy setup.
- Reinforced anchor points.
- Reflective interior keeps heat in.
- Reflective 3mm cords.
- Includes 4 aluminum stakes.
- Includes abrasion-resistant, Diamond Shell stuff sack.
- Doesn’t include poles.
MSR Rendezvous Sun Shield 200 Wing Shelter – Best Tarp For Camping in Groups
The biggest and (in my opinion) best looking tarp on this list has to be the MSR Rendezvous Sun Shield. Offering 200 feet of coverage, this tarp has UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) 50+, making it perfect for camping in hot weather. Its 7-point design stays taut even throughout strong winds as well. It’s also quite water resistant, made from 68D ripstop polyester and coated with polyurethane/silicone.
While the entire package is 6 pounds 10 ounces, the tarp itself weighs less than half of that. It includes two 7 foot 7 inch poles for support (unfortunately, you can’t adjust their height unless you purchase poles separately). While the unique shape of this tarp can be a bit complicated for beginners, it offers enough space to shelter 8 or more people comfortably.
To Sum It Up:
This product doesn’t offer all-around coverage like the Kammok Kuhli or the ENO Housefly Tarp, but it works incredibly well as a sun shelter. The down side of this tarp comes with its insufficient stakes and its high price point. On the plus side, it offers a huge amount of coverage, deflects UV rays with ease and is a beautiful Amber color.
- 1500mm water resistant.
- UPF 50+ protection.
- Lightweight for its size.
- 200 square feet of coverage.
- Includes carry bag.
- Aluminum poles are non-adjustable.
- Stakes are weak.
ENO Housefly Rain Tarp – Best Waterproof Tarp
The ENO Housefly Rain Tarp walks a thin line between canopy and tent. It’s a super lightweight shelter that’s perfect for hammock camping. Even when it’s pouring outside, this all-encompassing, silicone-coated nylon tarp will keep you dry with ease. Overlapping tent doors also help to keep bad weather out while allowing for easy access.
The most efficient configuration for this tarp seems to be the A-frame, though the possibilities are endless. The unique shape and coverage allows campers to get creative with this one. It offers 128 inches x 106 inches of covered space, leaving plenty of room for both single and double hammocks.
To Sum It Up:
When it comes to bad weather, this tarp is going to do a better job protecting you than most others would. In some ways, it feels more like a tent than it does a canopy. This makes it a great choice for beginner tarp campers who are hesitant about camping in a more exposed fashion.
- Weighs 1 pound 9 ounces.
- Easy setup.
- Durable silicone-impregnated nylon tarp.
- Includes stuff sack.
- Could use some wall pull-outs.
- Doesn’t include stakes.
Outdoor Products All Purpose Tarp – Most Affordable Camping Tarp Shelter
If you’re looking for a trusty last minute tarp, there’s no shame in going with old reliable. This is the most basic rectangular tarp you’ll be able to find, but it gets the job done! It’s made from polyethylene and can be found in 3 different sizes.
Coming in the classic blue color that you probably associate with most tarps, this product ranges in weight from 11 ounces to 2.25 pounds. It also has a grommet at each corner, plus one at the middle.
To Sum It Up:
This is a good tarp for those of you who need some temporary coverage. It would do well covering a fire from rain or blocking the sun’s rays. However, it doesn’t have the durability or coverage of some of the more expensive products on this list.
- Durable, water-resistant polyethylene.
- Comes in 3 sizes (14’ x 12’, 10’ x 8’ and 8’ x 6’).
- Grommets are weak.
What Can You Use A Tarp For?
Tarps (or tarpaulins, as they’re formally known) are some of the most widely used pieces of outdoor equipment. The reason they’re so popular lies in their versatility. When you find a quality tarp, there are dozens of different ways you can use it.
Here are just a few situations where a camping tarp shelter may come in handy:
- Hammock Camping – If regular tent camping is too restrictive for you, set up a hammock and tarp to get a more immersive outdoor experience.
- Car Camping – For those of you who want to camp directly out of your car, there are tarps for that! Certain products are designed to hook up to the back of your vehicle.
- Tailgating/Barbecuing – If you’re not looking to camp, you can still use a tarp as a shelter during a tailgate or barbecue.
- Summertime Shade – When the sun’s rays are too strong, use a UV resistant camping shade tarp to keep cool. You can set up your tarpaulin on the beach or in your backyard on a sunny day.
- Sheltering Your Fire – If you’re camping on a rainy day and need to get a fire going, you can use a tarp to create a dry space. Just be sure that you rig your canopy at least 6 feet above the flames so that it doesn’t burn.
What To Look For In A Camping Tarp Shelter
To the beginner, it may seem like all tarps are made equal. However, anyone who’s had experience with one of these outdoor shelters knows that this isn’t the case. There are lots of different factors to consider before purchasing a tarp.
You’ll need to take your environment, skill level, group size and intended use into consideration before choosing a product. Here are all of the things you’ll need to remember:
Before purchasing your tarp, you should have an idea of what you’ll be using it for. This way, you can choose the right dimensions for you.
Tarps come in a wide range of sizes. Depending on what you plan on covering, you may choose something as small as the 6 foot x 8 foot Outdoor Products Tarp or something as large as the MSR Rendezvous. Either way, be sure to check the dimensions before purchasing. Keep an eye out for the listed “covered space” as well.
You should also take weight into consideration. If you’re backpacking, you’ll want to choose a tarp that is lightweight and easy to transport. In this case, something like the REI Co-Op Quarter Dome Tarp might be the best choice for you as it weighs only 1 pound 2 ounces. If you’re car camping, then you won’t have to worry about weight as much.
Pack size is important to consider as well. How much space does your tarp take up when it’s folded up and ready to transport? Something that’s big and bulky won’t be a great choice for backpacking. Either way, it’s best to choose a product that comes with a convenient stuff sack.
Look For Durable Material
When it comes to finding an efficient tarp, choosing the right material is half the battle. If you want to be shielded from bad weather, your canopy’s fabric needs to reflect that.
The most common tarp fabrics are nylon and polyester. Both are naturally water resistant, though nylon is stronger and more flexible. On the other hand, polyester is more affordable and abrasion-resistant. Other materials like polyurethane and Cuben Fiber work really well too.
Extra coatings on your tarp’s material can help to make it more durable as well. Many products are coated with layers of silicone, polyurethane or other synthetic materials for extra strength.
You should always check the denier rating of your fabric to get a good idea of how strong it is. This is a measurement of the thickness of the material. The higher the rating, the stronger the fabric will be. However, you also need to consider the fact that a high denier rating leads to a heavier tarp. It’s all about finding the right balance for you.
One of the most important aspects of a tarp is its ability to shield you from the elements. Depending on what type of weather you’re expecting, you’ll need to keep an eye out for different qualities.
If you’re using a tarp in the rain, check its hydrostatic head. This is usually measured in millimeters and it represents the amount of water the material can withstand without leaking. Keep an eye out for taped or sealed seams as well. This is vital for water protection.
Also, check to see if your tarp has been coated with a DWR (durable water repellent). If not, you might want to buy your own and apply it before your camping trip. If you need some advice on the best eco-friendly waterproofing spray out there, you can check out this article!
If you’re expecting high winds, then you need to make sure your tarp is super stable. Does it come with its own stakes? If so, you’ll need to make sure they’re strong and hold to the ground well. Steel V or Y-shaped stakes work best. These will help to hold your shelter down when that wind is howling.
Make sure your canopy has UV protection as well. The sun’s rays can wreak havoc on a tarp, especially during the summer months.
Some products, such as the MSR Rendezvous have ultraviolet protection to keep those intense rays from penetrating your tarp. This will help ensure that your product lasts a long time.
The Shape of Your Tarp
A tarp’s shape is going to have a big effect on its functionality. The most common shapes for canopies are square and rectangular. That’s because they’re the most versatile. The simplicity of these shapes will allow you to make more configurations.
If you’re using a tarp for single hammock camping, then it may be best to go with a narrow, rectangular shape. This will offer the best coverage for your body.
Some tarps have more complex shapes, like the 7-point MSR Rendezvous. These tend to work better in windy conditions due to the extra tie-out points. They’re also less likely to cause that obnoxious flapping noise in the wind.
Other tarps, such as the ENO Housefly Rain Tarp, are designed to offer full coverage protection. These provide more of a tent-like feel and will give you a fantastic, low-to-the-ground shelter.
For the simple, 4-sided tarps, here are a few of the configurations you can make:
- Tarp Tent
- Stealth Tarp
- Plow Point
Here’s a great instructional video on how to create a few of these configurations:
Does It Come With Guy Lines or Ridgelines?
Depending on how you plan on setting up your tarp, you’re going to need either guy lines or ridgelines (or both).
Ridgelines are the ropes which your tarp will hang from. Guy lines are designed to secure your tarp to the ground. Check to see if the product you’re choosing includes either of these. If not, you’ll have to buy them separately.
If your tarp does include these ropes, make sure they’re not too thin or short. In general, they should be 2 to 3 times the length of your canopy. They’ll also need tensioners to help tighten the line.
As an added bonus, look for ropes that are reflective. This way, they’ll be easier to see when you’re navigating your campsite at night.
Are There Support Poles?
While not every tarp owner needs them, support poles can be super useful. If you plan on setting up a standalone canopy on the beach or in an open area, they’re essential.
If you’re camping in a wooded area, you can simply use trees as your support system. For those of you who are looking to set up a low-to-the-ground shelter, you can also use trekking poles for support.
Look For Lots of Anchor Points
Anchor points are the loops or holes on your tarp which you’ll thread your lines through. Without them, you’d just have a piece of fabric that sits on the ground.
Your tarp will need at least one at each corner. However, I recommend finding a product that has more than that. The more of these that you have, the more freedom you’ll have when configuring your shelter.
Your anchor points should also be reinforced with some sort of rubber, plastic or metal. This will keep your tarp from ripping when there’s stress put on your lines.
Tarps can be a fantastic alternative to a tent when it comes to camping. These durable sheets of fabric are super versatile and convenient for campers, barbecuers, beach-goers and nature lovers.
Choosing the best tarp for you means looking at your own circumstances and making a careful decision.
When it comes down to it, there’s one camping tarp that stands out above all the rest in my eyes.
My Top Pick Is…
Not only is this the most lightweight tarp on my list, but it’s just about as durable and weather resistant as you could hope for. It also comes with 8 stakes, 6 guy lines and tons of attachment points. This wasn’t a very hard pick for me!