Best Backpacking Tarps: The Ultimate Guide

Best Backpacking Tarps

If you enjoy backpacking, then you know how important it is to have the best backpacking tarp. After all, you don’t want to ruin your trip because of some unpredictable weather. 

A tarp can protect you and help you create a comfortable sleeping pad. It can be used as a backpacking shelter, a groundsheet, or even a makeshift rain poncho. 

The main advantage of camping tarps is that their materials weigh not much more than a tent and they’re easily packed away. Alongside blocking rain, they’re able to protect you from brisk winds. You can easily use a groundsheet for the base and tent poles can be set up to make your tarp for camping.

My top pick is the Hyperlite Mountain Gear because it’s one of the best backpacking tarps for any kind of adventure. It offers unlimited pitching options, flat edges, and can house 1-2 people comfortably. 

If you’re not willing to spend too much on a tarp, then keep reading. In this guide, I will show you some of the top backpacking tarp tents in the market and how to choose the right one for your needs.

Don’t worry, I put all of these to the test before compiling this list. Here’s a quick roundup of everything I found.

Best Backpacking Tarp: At a Glance

Backpacking TarpTop FeaturePrice Point
Hyperlite Mountain GearUnlimited pitching options, very versatile$$$
Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp8 Hypalon reinforced tie-out points, reflective guy lines$$
ZPacks 7×9 TarpFully taped seams, comes with stuff sack$$
Aqua Quest Guide TarpMost waterproof, central attachment point$
REI Co-Op Quarter Dome SLCountless setup options$
Six Moon Designs GatewoodMicro buckles, 360-degree protection$$
Hammock Gear Ground TarpEasy to customize$$$
MLD Grace TarpCuben fiber material, very compact$$
Kammok Kuhli Ultralight8 reinforced guy points$
Big Agnes Onyx UL TarpAdjustable height fir ventilation$$

Top 10 Backpacking Tarps in 2022

1. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp – Best Overall

Best Backpacking Tarps

The minimalist design of this ultralight tarp blew me away. Hyperlite is known to manufacture durable products that last a lifetime. Without a doubt, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Top can be the ultimate backpacking tarp shelter through the inclement weather conditions. 

It weighs 8.85oz and comes with unlimited pitching options which means you can set up almost anywhere. If you’re looking for a way to minimize your equipment while backpacking, then the Hyperlite Flat Trap has to be my top recommendation. 

In fact, not only is this tarp lightweight, but it’s also incredibly sturdy. It has flat edges, square corners, and a non-catenary cut which makes the tarp super versatile. I was able to set it up in harsh wind, rain, and even on terrain. 

The tarp is made with Dyneema Composite Fabric and can easily house 1-2 people. Feel free to use the adjustable poles to set it up depending on your height. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • UV resistant
  • Lightweight tarp
  • Adjustable trekking poles
  • Extremely durable

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Need to buy tent stakes separately 

Buy Now: 

2. Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp – Best for a Premium Experience

Best Backpacking Tarps

The Sea to Summit Escapist is perfect for anyone who’s headed for long camping trips. It’s lightweight, durable, and super compact. 

It weighs only 9.5oz and is made with a seam sealed waterproof ripstop nylon. I tested the waterproof abilities of this tarp under some torrential rain and it’s safe to say that the seam sealing had my back.

I particularly loved how the Escapist tarp is versatile enough to handle any kind of setup. It comes with eight Hypalon and bar-tack reinforced tie-out points that are perfectly distributed. 

The corners have cord line locks and guyout points which means you can adjust them from under the tarp without stepping out in the terrible weather. In fact, the reflective guy lines were incredibly useful and helped me prevent tripping in the night. 

This lightweight tarp comes in two sizes. The large tarp has an inner measurement of 10×10 feet, which is comfortable enough for two backpackers and their gear. The medium size measures about 6×8 feet, which is great for two hikers without any big gear or one hiker with gear. 

If you need extra protection, then the Summit Escapist tarp can easily be pitched using trekking poles or trees. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Lightweight tarp
  • Waterproof
  • Features a cord lock, guy lines, and guyout points for easy setup

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Might be an expensive option

Buy Now: 

3. ZPacks 7×9 Flat Tarp – Best Lightweight Tarp

Best Backpacking Tarps

If you’re looking for the lightest possible option in the market, then the ZPacks is a great piece of gear. It has a minimalist design, weighs only 5.1oz, and takes very little space in your backpack. 

Like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear, the ZPacks is also made with Dyneema Composite fabric which makes it totally waterproof. In my experience, it was incredibly resistant to all harsh weather conditions. Any condensation makes its way down the walls and out of the edges without bothering you at all. 

The best part about ultralight backpacking tarps from ZPacks is that they feature a ridged, taped seam seal, and tie-outs with bonded reinforcements. 

One of the things I enjoyed the most about the Zpacks was that it comes in a compact stuff sack. This made it easy to keep my whole kit safe in one place instead of storing all the parts separately. 

It also comes with a two-year warranty from the manufacturer, so it’s a purchase that gives you peace of mind for no additional cost. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Two-year warranty 
  • Luxuriously spacious
  • 100% waterproof

Reasons to Avoid:

  • High price point

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4. Aqua Quest Guide Tarp – Best for Backpackers on a Budget

Best Backpacking Tarps

If you’re looking for a tarp that doesn’t break the bank, then it doesn’t get any better than the Aqua Quest Guide Tarp.

It weighs 17.6oz, which means it’s incredibly similar to other, more expensive, cottage industry tarps. It’s made using two separate pieces of silicone impregnated ripstop nylon and has five tie-outs along each side. 

I loved how budget-friendly this tarp was, especially because it offers the same value as other high-priced tarps. In fact, the Aqua Quest works well in a majority of situations so it’s suitable for all types of hikers. 

One thing that impressed me the most is how quickly this tarp was delivered to my doorstep. Other luxury tarps took a few weeks to arrive, but the Aqua Quest was readily available, and I received it within two days of ordering. It’s also available at many local hardware shops, so it’s very easy to get your hands on this tarp if you’re in a hurry. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Budget friendly
  • Quick and easy setup
  • Waterproof

Reasons to Avoid:

  • No cat cut ergonomics

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5. REI Co-Op Quarter Dome SL Tarp – Best for Weather Protection

Best Backpacking Tarps

Made with polyurethane-coated ripstop nylon weight, the REI Co-Op Quarter Dome has the most reliable weather protection. 

Among all the tarps I tested, the Co-Op Quarter Dome is the one that came out victorious in protecting me from harsh weather conditions. It has a seam seal and a symmetrical square cut which provides maximum coverage. 

In fact, I also used this tarp as a shed to cook and eat when the weather got bad. It weighs in the middle-range at 12 oz but was still very easy to carry.

I particularly liked the corner grommets which have double-layer reinforcement. This gives the REI Co-Op Quarter Dome SL tarp a sturdy and stable pitch. Also, the several webbing loop lash points made it incredibly easy to set up. 

This tarp also came with six guy lines with tighteners and reflectivity. Stakes were also included in the package, and they even sent a bivy sack to store everything. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Sturdy and durable
  • Double layer reinforced corners
  • Comes with stuff sack

Reasons to Avoid:

  • No tarp poles

Buy Now: 

6. Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape – Best Poncho Tarp

Best Backpacking Tarps

The Gatewood Cape from Six Moon Designs is one of the most popular poncho tarps on the market.

It is made from silnylon, which is a lightweight and waterproof material. The tarp has four corner grommets for staking out and can be used as a groundsheet or hammock. Also, it weighs only 11 oz. 

In fact, it offers a unique combination between an ultralight backpacking tarp and a rain poncho. Not only does it successfully cover the camper, but also keeps your gear dry.

The Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape features micro buckles. These loops and small buckles used to connect the harness to the cape makes it easy to install and uninstall the tarp. Also, the full 360-degree protection allows you to move the tarp to create a hideout regardless of the terrain or weather.

The most impressive feature was the full zippered entrance which gave me full protection and made it easy to enter and exit the tarp. It also has an adjustable vestibule height which gives you the freedom to adjust ventilation without compromising on rain protection. 

You can set it up with tent tarp with trekking poles or stakes, but neither are included in the kit.

Reasons to Buy:

  • Micro buckles
  • Zippered entrance
  • Comes with a lifetime warranty

Reasons to Avoid:

  • No poles or stakes included
  • Not suitable for tall people

Buy Now: 

7. Hammock Gear Dyneema Fiber Flat Ground Tarp – Best for Customization

Best Backpacking Tarps

This 6.28 oz ground tarp can be your companion in the worst of weather conditions. Lightweight tarps are easy to pack, and you don’t need to worry about carrying too much weight. 

No matter how bad the heavy rain the Hammock Gear Ground Tarp will not sag when wet. 

As the name suggests, it’s made with high-quality Dyneema composite fiber. Not only is this ultralight tarp sturdy and durable, but it’s also compact enough to fit inside your smallest backpack. 

Since the tarp has no sewn ridgelines, you don’t need to worry about sealing the tarp. These lightweight backpacking tarps promise zero leaks, even without a seal. 

You can get the Hammock Gear Ground Tarp in two sizes with two different color options. There’s also an additional factor of adding any guy line and guy-out hardware of your preference. Feel free to add a bug net to keep all those creepy crawlers away at night too!

Reasons to Buy:

  • Ultralight option
  • Fully customizable
  • Very durable

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Might be an expensive option

Buy Now: 

8. Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp – Best for Easy Setup

Best Backpacking Tarps

This Mountain Laurel Designs Grace tarp weighs only 5.5 oz, making it a great ultralight tarp for ultralight backpackers. 

When set up, it measures 7×9 feet which is spacious enough for both you and your backpacking gear. The tarp is made using advanced Mylar and Dyneema composite material which makes it sturdy enough for backpacking. 

The secret behind the MLD Grace tarp’s low weight is the Cuben Fiber. It’s an incredible material that is waterproof, lightweight, and incredibly compact. In fact, the cuben fiber layers fold up so small that it only took a minimal amount of space in my backpack. 

The shape of this lightweight tarp makes it very easy to pitch anywhere. You only need three side tie-outs to get the perfect pitch. 

Ultralight tarps like this one might be easy to carry, but they also get damaged pretty quickly. Make sure you carry some extra duct tape in case you need to patch up any holes in an emergency. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Super lightweight
  • Cuben Fiber
  • Easy to pitch

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Can be damaged easily

Buy Now: 

9. Kammok Kuhli Ultralight – Best for Catenary Cut Tarps

Best Backpacking Tarps

If you’ve already heard about the Kuhli Shelter, then the Kuhli Ultralight is just the lighter version of it with a few extra features.

It weighs 14 oz when fully packed, which makes it very easy to carry on your next backpacking trip. If you’re headed for solo tarp camping, then the Kammok Kuhli is perfect. It has a coverage area of 11×7.3 feet with the same versatility and durability as the Kuhli Shelter.

The tarp is made with coated ripstop nylon weight fabric and features reinforced guy points. In fact, I especially loved the knot-free setup and the four included stakes which made it easy to anchor the tarp to the ground or nearby trees.

You get up to eight guy points on this tarp, which means you can customize it in any way you like. I would suggest adding hiking poles or any other flexible poles to set up an A-frame quickly. 

There’s also an included bivy sack, which makes your life easier when you’re packing everything inside one huge backpack.

Reasons to Buy:

  • Quick set up
  • Eight reinforced guy points

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Smaller coverage area

Buy Now: 

10. Big Agnes Onyx UL Tarp – Best for Versatile Backpacking Activities

Best Backpacking Tarps

If you’re looking for a backpacking tarp that you can take along for various activities, then look no further than the Big Agnes Onyx UL Tarp. 

Not only does this tarp feature multiple guy out points, but it also provides maximum coverage regardless of your location, terrain, and weather conditions.

The tarp is made with silicone-treated ripstop nylon which isn’t just waterproof, but also incredibly durable. Despite these awesome features, it only weighs 6 oz. 

In fact, if you’re someone who likes more ventilation space inside their tent, then this is a great option. It comes with a strut pole that fits perfectly into the laser-cut Hypalon tabs in the middle of the tarp to give you more headroom. 

If you’re hiking up the Pacific Crest Trail and forget to carry a trekking pole, then this tarp has you covered. The strut pole doubles as a makeshift trekking pole, which means you don’t have to worry about carrying extra backpacking equipment. 

Reasons to Buy:

  • Multiple guy out points
  • Strut pole doubles as a trekking pole
  • Waterproof

Reasons to Avoid:

  • Took longer to set up than other tarps

Buy Now: 

Buying Guide: How to Find Backpacking Tarps

When you go backpacking, you want to be prepared for any weather conditions. A tarp is a must-have item for your gear list. But with all the different types and sizes of tarps available, how do you choose the best one for your needs?

Here are some things to consider when choosing a backpacking tarp:

  • Size: You’ll need to decide how big of a tarp you need. Do you need something that will cover just your sleeping bag, or do you need a larger tarp shelter for cooking and relaxing as well?
  • Weight: Obviously, the lighter the better when it comes to backpacking gear. But don’t sacrifice durability for weight savings. Choose a tarp made from high-quality materials that won’t tear easily.
  • Shape: Tarps come in all shapes and sizes. You can choose between a poncho tarp or a zippered one, depending on your preference.

For those backpackers who like to weigh all the pros and cons before buying new gear, I have just what you need. Here’s a comprehensive buying guide for every factor you need to consider before buying tarps for backpacking:

1. Material

The first thing you need to consider for a backpacking tarp is the material. In fact, the material of your tarp is what determines the weight too. Apart from that, it also determines how long the tarp will last and how much protection it will offer.

Ultralight tarps are a popular choice amongst backpackers because they’re easier to carry. These lightweight tarps take up minimal space in the backpack and leave room for any other gear that you need to carry. 

Tarps for backpacking are typically made of three different materials:

  • Silpoly
  • Silnylon
  • Cuben Fiber

From this list, SilPoly (or silicon impregnated polyester) is the cheapest option. However, it isn’t very durable when it comes to protecting a hiker against harsh weather. 

SilNylon is a slightly stronger option, but it comes at the cost of being more expensive. Still, it’s important to remember that Nylon is a lightweight material that makes it much easier to pack. Most options on this list feature ripstop Nylon which are seam sealed and have several guy lines. 

Cuben Fiber tarps are the most expensive, but also the lightest tarps in the market. I included the MLD Grace Tarp on my list which is an expensive option for beginner backpackers, but only weighs 5.5 oz – perfect for an ultralight tarp. 

Cuben Fiber is also the most waterproof out of all options. In most cases, the tarps are fused with heat welding which gives them a 100% waterproof seam without any stitching. 

Both Silnylon and Silpoly are waterproof too, but they don’t cost a fortune. In fact, they strike a good balance between weight, price, and functionality for a majority of campers.

2. Size and Weight

If you’re backpacking with a large group of friends, you’ll probably need more area coverage with your tarp if everyone wants to sleep with a roof on their heads. 

For a solo hiker with minimal outdoor gear, even a tarp as small as 7×9 feet can work exceptionally well. Lightweight backpacking tarps are easy to pack, carry, and set up. In fact, some ultralight tarps can give shelter to 1-3 people, depending on which one you buy. 

If you’re tarp camping with another person or carrying a lot of gear, consider checking out my top pick: the Hyperlite Tarp. It can easily house 1-2 people and gives you enough space to keep all your gear protected. 

If you’re a beginner backpacker, then I would recommend going with tarps for backpacking that are slightly bigger. A reasonable option would be 8×10 feet because it won’t expose you to wind or a rainy night. 

If you go larger than a 10×10 feet, make sure you have a reasonable justification for it. In most cases, it’s too hard to find an area that big to pitch a 10×10 feet tent. Other than that, it’ll also take up a lot of valuable room in your backpack. 

No matter what size tarp you choose, it’s important to consider how much space it takes in your backpack when folded. Most tents fold down pretty small, while others can be quite huge. Make sure you pack weight carefully before heading into the backpacking world. 

3. Tarp Design

There are a lot of different ways to set up your tarp, and the design you choose will depend on the conditions you expect to encounter. In general, you’ll want to choose a tarp tent that’s large enough to give you the coverage you need, but not so big that it’s unwieldy or difficult to set up.

There are three main types of tarps: A-frame, pyramid, and flat. 

An A-frame tarp is the simplest and lightest option and works well in fair weather. You can set up the Kammok Kuhli Ultralight with flexible tent poles to get a good A-frame tarp. 

A pyramid tarp is more versatile, as it can be pitched in a variety of ways to provide better protection from the elements. 

A flat tarp is the most versatile option, as it can be configured in many different ways depending on the conditions. 

In fact, the Hyperlite Tarp is a great backpacking tent for tarp camping because it works well in a variety of conditions. In my experience, I didn’t have to worry about finding a specific type of ground material or large area to set it up. It was by far the most versatile tarp shelter that I tested. 

You might also want to consider the type of camping you’ll be doing before making a purchase. 

The lightest tents are good for hammock camping, while some premium tarps will let you enjoy a diverse range of camping experiences. For instance, the Sea to Summit tarp offers great versatility when it comes to camping in rocky areas. 

4. Warranty

When you’re looking for a new backpacking tarp, one of the things you’ll want to consider is the warranty. Some companies offer lifetime warranties, while others only offer a few years of coverage.

If you plan on using your tarp regularly, then a lifetime warranty is a good option. This way, if anything happens to your tarp, you can get it replaced without having to pay for a new one. 

The Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape offers a lifetime warranty which definitely gave me some peace of mind when purchasing it. 

However, if you don’t plan on using your tarp that often, then a shorter warranty might be fine. In this case, you probably won’t need to replace your tarp very often, so a shorter warranty period won’t be as big of a deal.

Some companies also offer money-back guarantees or satisfaction guarantees. Consider these options before deciding on your next tarp for backpacking. 

5. Budget

The last thing you need to consider when buying a backpacking tarp for your hiking and backpacking trips is your budget. Some options on this list might make a dent in your bank account, but others are very budget-friendly.

Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, you can easily find tarps for backpacking that are suitable for you.

My top pick, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear, is available at a mid-range price point but you’ll have to buy tent stakes separately. It’s important to consider what outdoor gear comes with the tarp itself and what additional accessories you need to purchase, like bivy sacks or a hiking pole. 

Some options even include a stuff sack in the kit, which is a great addition. For instance, both the ZPacks 7×9 and the REI Co-Op Quarter Dome SL Tarp came with stuff sacks that made it easy to carry my gear. 

The most budget-friendly option on this list is the Aqua Quest Guide Tarp. Despite the low price point, it still offers the same high-quality materials and essential features that you need in a good backpacking tarp. 

Final Thoughts

You could look at a hundred best backpacking tarps, but the right one for you is one that fits your specific needs. 

There are many different factors to consider when choosing a tarp, such as weight, size, material, and price. The lightest tent might not be the perfect one for you, so it’s important to read gear reviews before tarp camping. 

My top pick is the Hyperlite Mountain Gear. It’s lightweight, durable, and easy to set up. It also has a variety of uses, making it a versatile piece of gear. Whether you’re looking for protection from the elements or a sleeping bag, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear tarp is a great option.

Don’t forget to grab a few essentials like hiking poles, a bug net, and your favorite tarp shelters. 

Whether you’re an experienced hiker or preparing for your first few backpacking adventures, getting your hands on tarp shelters is essential. Once you take a look through my top 10 list, you’re sure to find one that is right for you. 

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