Backpacking Tarps: How to Choose the Right One (and Where to Find It)

Camping Tarp

Are you looking for information about backpacking tarps? If you are preparing for a backpacking outing that will require you to spend one or more nights in the great outdoors, it's certainly important to pack all of the equipment you need. While not every backpacker includes a tarp on his or her list of must-have items, this piece of equipment might be something that you need. Find out more about what backpacking tarps are used for and get tips for selecting and purchasing one that meets your needs.

Uses for Backpacking Tarps

If you're planning to go on an overnight backcountry camping trip, it's certainly advisable to consider stashing a lightweight camp tarp in your backpack if it is possible for you to do so. If you like to sleep under the stars, placing a tarp on the ground beneath your sleeping bag can help keep you dry and keep the bag from getting dirty or becoming damaged from rocks, twigs and other potentially harmful items. You can also use a tarp to fashion an overhead shelter rather than carrying a tent when you go backpacking.

While it's possible to find lightweight tents designed for backcountry use, many outdoor enthusiasts prefer the convenience of using a tarp instead. Lightweight backpacking tents allow for complete enclosure while tarps provide only overhead and partial coverage. However, tarps tend to be much lighter and easier to set up and break down than tents. If you will not be camping during extreme weather conditions that necessitate full shelter, a tarp just might be your best choice.

Choosing the Best Backpacking Tarps

If you are looking for a tarp to use when you are camping in the backcountry, it's important to choose one that is designed for that purpose. Backpacking tarps are not the same as the standard tarps that can be purchased at home improvement stores to protect open areas and items from the elements. Standard tarps are heavier than backpacking tarps and they do not come with the accessories needed to create a sleeping shelter.

When looking for a backpacking tarp, choose one that is made from durable fabric that is lightweight and that includes stakes and bungee cords. The stakes and bungee cords are necessary in order to set up the tarp as an overhead shelter. Pay close attention to what size the tarp is when it is folded or rolled, as you'll want to be certain to select one that can easily be stashed in your backpack along with the other camping gear you will need to carry during backcountry excursions.

Compare the dimensions of the tarp to the size of your backpack to confirm if the size is appropriate before purchasing. If you are visiting local stores during your shopping efforts, consider taking your backpack with you. Physically placing the folded tarp inside your pack can help you get a realistic understanding of what size tarp is the best option for your needs.

Where to Find Tarps Appropriate for Backpacking

Kelty Tarp
Kelty Tarp

You can purchase backpacking tarps from local stores that carry hiking and camping equipment. A number of outdoor retailers also carry these types of tarps, as well as other types of backpacking supplies and equipment.

A few places that you may want to check when shopping for the best deal on a quality tarp include:

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