Let’s face it, lugging around a heavy tent and all its trappings can literally be a pain in the back for any hiker! Switching from a tent to a tarp is a brilliant way of cutting down on weight. But out of all the options on the market, would you be confident in selecting the best backpacking tarp?

A tarp is a great way of getting closer to nature, but it will also expose you to the elements. To prevent an uncomfortable night’s sleep it’s important that you make the right choice to suit your preferred style of backpacking!

Here at The Adventure Junkies, we’ve done the hard work for you and selected the best 10 backpacking tarps available on the market.

For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: 

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QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST BACKPACKING TARPS 

1. ENO HOUSEFLY 

2. SEA TO SUMMIT ESCAPIST

3. MSR RENDEZVOUS 120 WING

4. W-UPBIRD

5. MSR THRU HIKER 100 WING 

6. RAB SILTARP 2 

7. ENO PROFLY XL SIL 

8. AQUA QUEST GUIDE TARP

9. YUEDGE

10. REI CO-OP CAMP 9 

 

 

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BACKPACKING TARPS REVIEWS

ENO HOUSEFLY

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Backpackers wanting a light weight tarp that can shelter up to three people

MATERIAL: Silnylon

SIZE: 105 sq ft

WEIGHT: 25 oz (0.7 kg)

PROS: Overlapping doors for extra weather protection, generous size

CONS: Limited attachment points

 

 

 

SEA TO SUMMIT ESCAPIST

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Backpackers needing an extremely light weight, high quality tarp that can accommodate two people comfortably

MATERIAL: Silnylon

SIZE: 97 sq ft

WEIGHT: 13 oz (0.4 kg)

PROS: Very high quality, very light weight, good size, can be paired with insect-proof inner

CONS: None

 

 

 

MSR RENDEZVOUS 120 WING

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Backpackers wanting a very large ‘shaped’ tarp with excellent stability

MATERIAL: Silnylon

SIZE: 120 sq ft

WEIGHT: 56 oz (1.6 kg)

PROS: Excellent stability in high winds, very large

CONS: Very heavy

 

 

 

W-UPBIRD

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Backpackers needing a large tarp with multiple attachment points

MATERIAL: Polyester

SIZE: 100 sq ft

WEIGHT: 30 oz (0.8 kg)

PROS: Good number of attachment points, large

CONS: Poor durability, waterproofing not as good as silnylon options

 

 

 

MSR THRU HIKER 100 WING

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST FOR: Backpackers looking for a high quality tarp for two people

MATERIAL: Silnylon

SIZE: 100 sq ft

WEIGHT: 20 oz (0.6 kg)

PROS: High quality, good size, can be paired with insect-proof mesh house

CONS: None

 

 

 

RAB SILTARP 2

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST FOR: Backpackers that need a tarp of the highest quality with excellent design flexibility

MATERIAL: Silnylon

SIZE: 80 sq ft

WEIGHT: 14 oz (0.4 kg)

PROS: Excellent quality, numerous attachment points, very light weight

CONS: Not as large as other tarps of similar weight

 

 

 

ENO PROFLY XL SIL

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Backpackers needing a very light weight tarp that is also large enough to accommodate up to three people

MATERIAL: Silnylon

SIZE: 119 sq ft

WEIGHT: 16 oz (0.4 kg)

PROS: Very large, light weight, can be paired with insect-proof inner

CONS: Some users report that colors vary from what is advertised

 

 

 

AQUA QUEST GUIDE TARP

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Backpackers wanting the ultimate in comfort and size, with excellent flexibility in attachment

MATERIAL: Silnylon

SIZE: 130 sq ft

WEIGHT: 30 oz (0.8 kg)

PROS: Extremely large, excellent weight for size, very large number of attachment points

CONS: Seams not as strong as other tarps

 

 

 

YUEDGE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Backpackers needing a large tarp with a reflective inner

MATERIAL: Polyester

SIZE: 97 sq ft

WEIGHT: 34 oz (0.9 kg)

PROS: Reflective inner useful in cool conditions

CONS: Heavier than other options, waterproofing not as good as silnylon options

 

 

 

REI CO-OP CAMP 9

Check out the latest price on:
REI

BEST FOR: Backpackers needing a ‘shaped’, light weight budget tarp

MATERIAL: Polyester

SIZE: 81 sq ft

WEIGHT: 29 oz (0.8 kg)

PROS: Good ‘shape’ resulting in a tight pitch

CONS: Smaller than other options at the same price point

 

 

 


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COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST BACKPACKING TARPS

PICTURE
BACKPACKING TARP
BEST USE
MATERIAL
SIZE
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
BACKPACKING TARP
BEST USE
MATERIAL
SIZE
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
Eno Housefly
Overall
Silnylon
105 sq ft
25 oz
$$
4.9
Sea To Summit Escapist
Lightweight
Silnylon
97 sq ft
13 oz
$$$
4.7
MSR Rendezvous 120 Wing
Comfort
Silnylon
120 sq ft
56 oz
$$$
5.0
W-Upbird
Budget
Polyester
100 sq ft
30 oz
$
4.7
MSR Thru Hiker 100 Wing
Overall
Silnylon
100 sq ft
20 oz
$$$
5.0
Rab Siltarp 2
Lightweight
Silnylon
80 sq ft
14 oz
$$
3.5
Eno Profly Xl Sil
Comfort
Silnylon
119 sq ft
26 oz
$$
3.9
Aqua Quest Guide Tarp
Comfort
Silnylon
130 sq ft
30 oz
$$
4.7
Yuedge
Budget
Polyester
97 sq ft
24 oz
$
4.2
REI Co-Op Camp 9
Budget
Polyester
81 sq ft
29 oz
$
3.7

 

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST BACKPACKING TARPS

WEIGHT

If you’re considering to buy a backpacking tarp, it’s likely that you want to cut down on weight. By their nature, tarps are lightweight. However, not all tarps are made the same.

Depending on the material, thickness and size, the weight could vary from as low as 10 ounces up to three pounds or more. When you start getting a tarp that heavy, you may as well be looking at a tent instead!

Lightweight is the goal. Unfortunately, the lighter you go, the more you typically need to pay. If you value ultralight backpacking and the ability to move fast, then this additional investment may be worthwhile.

Meanwhile, if you’re planning on basing yourself in one location for a few nights, then you can probably afford some extra weight.

 

SIZE

A tarp that packs down nice and small will not only keep the weight down, but it will also let you consider either carrying a smaller backpack. Alternatively, if you’re struggling to find room in your larger backpack for all your essentials, then a tiny tarp may be the space-saver you need.

Packed size is important, but you do need to keep in mind the unpacked size as well. Why? Because the larger your tarp, the more room you will have underneath for sleeping space and gear storage.

A larger tarp will also provide you with greater flexibility in construction techniques to cater for all weather conditions. Tarp camping will be exposing you to the elements, so a larger one (in terms of weight and size) is recommended.

For a single person, we recommend a tarp that is around 80 square feet or more, while 100 square feet would be ideal for two people.

 

DESIGN

A well-designed tarp will make all the difference in getting a good night’s sleep! There are three design factors to consider when purchasing a backpacking tarp: the material, shape and functionality.

 

MATERIAL

Modern tarps are generally made of one of three materials, namely, silnylon, silpoly or Cuben.

Silnylon and silpoly consist of a nylon or polyester core coated with silicon to improve the level of waterproofing. Both are both excellent choices for durability, reliability and cost.

Nylon is extremely abrasion resistant, whereas polyester doesn’t “stretch” as much and can be manufactured at lower costs than nylon.

Cuben is like a “synthetic sandwich.” It is made from multiple layers of high-strength synthetic fibers. It offers excellent tensile strength (i.e., it won’t tear easily) and is extremely lightweight. But as you might have expected, the additional complexity significantly increases its price point.

It is also worth considering that Cuben can puncture easily. It isn’t as durable as silnylon or silpoly as well. This is one of those instances where you need to consider whether the weight savings of Cuben justify the additional investment.

You may come across some tarps made of cordura or rip-stop nylon. Both are simply another form of nylon and will typically be coated with a silicon layer to provide waterproofing.

Maintaining and repairing all material types isn’t difficult as most manufacturers provide repair kits that can easily be applied when necessary. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that a simple roll of duct tape is all you need to patch up a Cuben tarp in the middle of the night.

Meanwhile, silnylon or silpoly repairs are more complex as they need a silicon-based adhesive together with patches for both sides.

 

SHAPE

It used to be that you could only get a tarp of the plain old “flat” variety. Square or rectangle was as hard as it got!

Manufacturing techniques have improved and a “shaped” option is now available. What this means is that the tarp has been designed with either a curved ridgeline through the center of the tarp or with curved edges.

This “shaped” design makes it easier to achieve a drum-tight surface when all corners have been strung and pegged, meaning there is no loose fabric that will flap around in the wind.

The disadvantage is that the tarp needs to be strung in the same position every time, removing the incredible flexibility you have with a flat tarp.

If you do decide to stay with the traditional flat tarp, it’s worth considering whether a square or rectangular shape will best suit your needs. Due to its symmetry, a square tarp is more versatile. However, depending on your preferred tarp configuration, you may find a rectangular tarp to be more suitable.

 

FUNCTIONALITY

No matter how small or lightweight, a tarp without attachment points is of no use to anyone!

It is critical to ensure that the tarp you select has enough eyelets around its perimeter to let you construct the tarp in your preferred configuration. While four is the least you need (one per corner), six or eight is preferred.

It isn’t essential but is very handy if the tarp includes one or more “prop points” in the middle to allow it to be propped up from the inside. This will not only create more headroom but will also help keep the walls taut, reducing movement in strong winds and improving drainage.

It is also common now to see tarps offered with a degree of modularity. This means that in addition to the basic waterproof tarp, you may also be able to purchase an inner “net” that is installed underneath the main tarp and can protect against insects.

Similarly, some manufacturers also offer an attachable groundsheet. Essentially, it turns your tarp into a non-freestanding tent! These additions do come with extra weight and cost.

If they sound useful to you though, you should really determine whether a free-standing tent would be more suitable for your needs.

Best Backpacking Tarp - Best Camping Gear – Hiking Gear For Beginners – Backpacking Equipment List for Women, Men and Kids

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