A tarp is an essential piece of gear for just about any camper.
Tarps are versatile enough to be used as a simple A-frame tarp tent to just cover your sleeping bag or bivy sack, to create an awning in your campsite, or for more complicated bushcraft buildings. They can even be handy to (and I say this from personal experience) provide additional cover when you discover that your tent has a leak in the middle of a rainstorm.
These are all important jobs, so this guide will tell you all about the best camping tarps so you can choose the right one for your next camping trip.
Best Camping Tarps
- Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp
- Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Rain Tarp
- Aqua Quest Defender Tarp
- MSR Thru-Hiker 100 Wing Canopy Shelter
- Kelty Noah’s Tarp
1. Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp
Weighing just 10.5oz, the Sea to Summit Escapist tarp is the lightest tarp on this list and our favorite minimalist and backpacking tarp. In fact, this ultralight tarp can compress down to the size of a water bottle, making it perfect for those who want to travel with the least weight possible.
This two person tarp gives 10 x 10 feet of protection, which makes it one of the best hiking tarps for couples with gear. Although large, the tent is easy to set-up thanks to eight tie-out points with cord adjusters so you can easily modify the tension of the cords, even from under the tarp.
The Escapist is made from waterproof-treated 15 denier Ultra-Sil Nano material to make it weather-resistant despite its low weight, so it will have no problem with severe wind and rain. For protection from bugs, you can pair the Escapist Tarp with the Sea to Summit Escapist Inner Bug Tent.
2. Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Rain Tarp
ENO may market the ProFly Rain Tarp as a rain fly for their hammocks, but it can also stand on its own as a shelter.
At 22 ounces, the ENO ProFly is much heavier than the Escapist despite the ProFly’s smaller size. It’s still light enough to be very portable, however, and is less than half the price of the Escapist. In fact, it’s one of the most affordable tarps on our list.
It has six tie-out points, each with tensioners for easy length and tension adjustment, just like the Escapist. The fly is made out of 7- denier ripstop nylon and has a 1000mm PU coating. It comes with a stuff sack for convenient storage.
If you do plan to use the ProFly as a hammock tarp, you may want to opt for a mosquito net to provide bug protection as well.
3. Aqua Quest Defender Tarp
This next pick may not be a lightweight tarp, but it is heavy-duty enough to stand up to rough weather conditions. The Aqua Quest Defender Tarp is larger and heavier than the other tarps on this list, but thanks to the 70 denier nylon, TPU coating, taped seams, and reinforced coating, you’ll have a hard time finding a tarp with better durability and waterproofing than this one.
Available in four different sizes and in camo and olive drab colors, this tarp is equally at home with bushcraft in the backcountry or as a multipurpose tarp for car camping trips.
The Defender has plenty of reinforced webbing loops to use as attachment points rather than grommets, which require a hole in the tent and can rust. They can be found both along the edges and in a line along the center of the tarp. The largest size also has two more strips of loops going perpendicular to that center line and positioned to divide the tarp into thirds for additional versatility.
If the Aqua Quest Defender sounds awesome, but you want something that’s lighter, check out the Aqua Quest Guide SilNylon Tarp. The Aqua Quest Guide is made from thinner, more lightweight material, but has a silicone coating to give it a 5,000mm waterproof rating.
Aqua Quest provides a lifetime warranty on all their products.
4. MSR Thru-Hiker 100 Wing Canopy Shelter
The MSR Thru-Hiker is a great option for backpacking or for hikers to carry as an emergency shelter.
It has 10 tie-out points for excellent stability and the two points at the ridgeline are designed to be able to use trekking poles as a support. That’s very handy for places without a lot of stable trees or other objects that you can use to give your tent some height. The four corner lines feature tension-locks.
This tarp covers 100 square feet (though there’s also a smaller 70 square foot version). Despite this large size, the tarp weighs only 16 ounces. It’s crafted from 20D ripstop nylon that has 1,200mm waterproof coating.
If you want to keep the bugs out, you may also want to purchase the MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House to go with it. If you’re planning on constructing a tarp shelter, an MSR Universal Footprint can be used as a groundsheet, either with or without the Mesh House.
5. Kelty Noah’s Tarp
Last up is the Kelty Noah’s Tarp. This high-quality tarp is larger than most of the other tents on this list, measuring 12×12 (though there are also 9×9 and even 16×16 versions). That allows for a total floor area of 144 square feet, providing enough room for up to 16 people underneath.
The diagonal ridgeline is of the Noah’s Tarp is unusual, but allows you to set up the tarp using just four of the attachment points. Speaking of attachment points, this tarp has a total of 19, including attached corner guy lines and three attachment points along the ridgeline (if you don’t count the corner points).
The Noah’s Tarp is made from 68 denier polyurethane with fully taped seams to provide protection from wind and rain.
For fast and easy set up without trees or similar, the Kelty Staff Poles are a great way to give your tarp some height without adding a lot of bulk and weight.
Final Thoughts on the Best Camping Tarps
Tarps are a necessity for backpackers, bushcrafters, and car campers alike, but all of these situations have different requirements for a tarp. Fortunately, whichever category you fall into, there’s a camping tarp in this guide that’s perfect for you.