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Tarp Tidbits: Choosing The Right Tarp Size For Camping


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Alysia Godfrey



When it comes to camping, having the right equipment is essential for a successful and enjoyable experience. One often overlooked but incredibly crucial piece of gear is a tarp. A tarp provides protection from the elements, creates additional shelter, and can serve multiple purposes in a campsite.


However, choosing the right tarp size for camping can be a daunting task. Selecting a tarp that is too small may leave you exposed to rain and wind, while opting for one that is too large could result in unnecessary weight and bulk. To ensure you make the right decision, there are several factors to consider when determining the ideal tarp size for your camping needs.


By taking into account the number of campers, the intended use of the tarp, and the environmental conditions, you can ensure that you have the perfect tarp size to meet your camping requirements. Whether you’re planning a solo adventure or embarking on a family camping trip, choosing the right tarp size is crucial for a comfortable and protected outdoor experience.


In this article, we will explore the factors to consider when choosing a tarp size for camping, the common tarp sizes available, and the features to look out for. Additionally, we’ll provide tips for properly setting up and securing your tarp to maximize its effectiveness. So, let’s dive in and discover the tidbits of choosing the right tarp size for your camping adventures!


Factors to Consider when Choosing a Tarp Size for Camping

When selecting a tarp size for your camping trip, there are several important factors to consider. These factors will help you determine the appropriate dimensions that will provide adequate coverage and meet your specific needs. Let’s take a closer look at these factors:

  1. Number of Campers: The number of people in your camping party plays a significant role in determining the size of the tarp you’ll need. If you’re camping alone or with a partner, a smaller tarp may be sufficient to cover your sleeping area and provide shelter. However, if you have a larger group, it’s essential to choose a tarp that can accommodate everyone and provide enough space for sleeping, cooking, and communal activities.
  2. Intended Use: Consider how you plan to use the tarp during your camping trip. Are you looking to create a centralized gathering area, protect your camping gear, or provide additional shelter for sleeping? Depending on your intended use, you may require a larger or smaller tarp. For example, if you’re planning to set up a communal cooking area, a bigger tarp will be necessary to cover cooking equipment and provide sufficient space for food preparation.
  3. Environmental Conditions: The weather and environmental conditions in your camping destination should also influence your choice of tarp size. If you’re expecting heavy rainfall or high winds, opting for a larger tarp can provide better protection against the elements. Additionally, if you’re camping in an area prone to bugs or pests, a larger tarp can create a more enclosed space to keep them at bay.
  4. Portability: Another factor to consider is the portability of the tarp. If you’re planning on backpacking or hiking to your campsite, a lightweight and compact tarp will be more suitable. However, if you’re traveling by car or have a base camp set up, you may have the freedom to choose a larger tarp without worrying about weight or size constraints.

By taking these factors into account, you can make an informed decision when selecting the right tarp size for your camping adventures. Remember, it’s better to have a slightly larger tarp than a smaller one, as you can always adjust and secure the excess material to meet your needs. Now that we’ve explored the essential factors let’s move on to the next section to discover the common tarp sizes available for camping.


Common Tarp Sizes for Camping

When it comes to tarp sizes for camping, there are several standard dimensions that are widely available and commonly used by outdoor enthusiasts. Understanding these common sizes will help you make an informed decision and narrow down your options. Here are some of the most commonly used tarp sizes for camping:

  • 6 ft x 8 ft: This smaller size tarp is perfect for solo campers or as a groundsheet to keep your gear dry. It provides enough coverage for a single sleeping area but might not offer much space for additional activities.
  • 8 ft x 10 ft: A versatile size, the 8 ft x 10 ft tarp is suitable for 1-2 campers. It offers better coverage and can accommodate a small cooking area or provide protection for camping gear. This size strikes a good balance between portability and functionality.
  • 10 ft x 12 ft: Offering more coverage, the 10 ft x 12 ft tarp is ideal for 2-4 campers. It provides enough space to create a communal gathering area, shelter cooking equipment, or cover a larger sleeping area.
  • 12 ft x 16 ft: This larger tarp size can comfortably accommodate 4-6 campers. It provides ample space for multiple activities, such as cooking, dining, and relaxing. Additionally, the extra coverage can help shield camping gear from the elements.
  • 16 ft x 20 ft: The 16 ft x 20 ft tarp size is suitable for larger groups or those who desire extra space. It can create a spacious communal area and provide adequate coverage for multiple uses. However, keep in mind that this size is less portable and may require more effort to set up and carry.

These are just a few examples of the common tarp sizes available for camping. It’s important to remember that specific manufacturers may offer variations of these sizes, and custom-sized tarps can be made to fit your unique camping requirements.


Now that you have a better understanding of the common tarp sizes, let’s move on to the next section where we’ll explore the features to look out for when choosing a tarp for camping.


Tarp Features to Look Out for

When choosing a tarp for camping, it’s important to consider the features that will enhance its functionality and durability. These features will ensure that your tarp can withstand outdoor conditions and provide reliable protection. Here are some essential features to look out for:

  1. Material: The material of the tarp plays a significant role in its performance. Opt for a tarp made from durable and weather-resistant materials such as polyethylene or ripstop nylon. These materials are waterproof, UV-resistant, and can withstand wear and tear.
  2. Reinforced Edges and Corners: Look for tarps with reinforced edges and corners that are double-stitched or have additional layers of material. This feature adds strength and durability to the tarp and prevents tearing or fraying at critical areas.
  3. Grommets: Grommets are metal rings or eyelets embedded in the tarp, allowing for easy attachment and securement. Ensure that the tarp has an adequate number of grommets strategically placed along the edges, allowing for versatile and secure tie-down options.
  4. Pitched Shape: Some tarps come with a pitched shape, meaning they are designed to be set up as a shelter using trekking poles or other supports. These tarps offer more aerodynamic and efficient rainwater runoff, making them ideal for extended camping trips or areas with frequent rainfall.
  5. UV Protection: If you’re camping in sunny locations, consider a tarp with UV protection. This feature helps prevent the degradation of the tarp due to prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays and ensures prolonged durability.
  6. Lightweight and Compact: If you prioritize portability, look for tarps that are lightweight and compact. These tarps are easier to carry, pack, and set up, making them perfect for backpacking or hiking adventures.

By considering these features, you can choose a tarp that will provide long-lasting performance and meet your specific camping needs. It’s essential to carefully assess the features that are important to you and select a tarp that offers the optimal combination of functionality, durability, and ease of use.


Next, let’s move on to the section where we’ll discuss tips for properly setting up and securing your tarp to maximize its effectiveness during your camping trip.


Tips for Properly Setting Up and Securing a Tarp

Setting up and securing your tarp correctly is essential to maximize its effectiveness and ensure it provides optimal protection. Follow these tips to properly set up and secure your tarp during your camping trip:

  1. Select a suitable location: Look for a flat and level area to set up your tarp. Clear any debris or sharp objects that could damage the tarp or cause discomfort.
  2. Inspect the tarp: Before setting up, inspect the tarp for any damage or weak spots. It’s essential to identify any tears, holes, or fraying in the fabric to address them before use.
  3. Use guy lines or cords: Attach guy lines or cords to the grommets on the tarp’s edges. These lines will provide additional support, improve stability, and help prevent sagging or flapping in the wind.
  4. Set up a ridge line: If using a pitched tarp setup, set up a ridge line between two anchor points. This will provide a sturdy base for attaching the tarp and keep it taut and stable.
  5. Consider the wind direction: Position your tarp in a way that minimizes exposure to the prevailing wind direction. This will help prevent wind from blowing rain or debris underneath the tarp and ensure better protection.
  6. Angle for water runoff: If setting up a pitched tarp, ensure that it is sloped to encourage proper water runoff. This will prevent water from pooling on the tarp and potentially causing leaks or damage.
  7. Secure the tarp tightly: Use stakes or rocks to secure the corners and edges of the tarp. Tightly secure the guy lines as well to keep the tarp secure during windy conditions.
  8. Consider additional waterproofing: If you anticipate heavy rainfall or want extra waterproofing, apply seam sealer or a waterproofing spray to the tarp. This will enhance its water resistance and ensure better protection from the rain.

Following these tips will help you set up and secure your tarp properly, providing effective protection against the elements and creating a comfortable camping environment.


Now that we’ve explored the factors to consider when choosing a tarp size, the common tarp sizes available for camping, the essential features to look for, and the tips for proper setup, you’re well-equipped to make an informed decision and maximize the utility of your tarp on your next camping adventure.



Choosing the right tarp size for camping is essential to ensure your comfort, protection, and overall enjoyment of the outdoors. By considering factors such as the number of campers, the intended use, environmental conditions, and portability, you can determine the appropriate tarp size that meets your specific needs.


Common tarp sizes for camping include 6 ft x 8 ft for solo campers, 8 ft x 10 ft for 1-2 campers, 10 ft x 12 ft for 2-4 campers, 12 ft x 16 ft for 4-6 campers, and 16 ft x 20 ft for larger groups. However, it’s important to remember that these are just general guidelines, and custom-sized tarps can be made to fit your unique requirements.


When selecting a tarp, be sure to consider important features such as the material, reinforced edges and corners, grommets, pitched shape, UV protection, and portability. These features will contribute to the durability, functionality, and longevity of your tarp.


Properly setting up and securing your tarp is crucial to its effectiveness. Consider factors such as location, tarp inspection, the use of guy lines or cords, ridge line setup (if applicable), wind direction, water runoff, and tightness of the tarp to ensure optimal performance and protection.


Remember, a tarp is a versatile piece of camping equipment that can provide shelter, protection, and convenience in various outdoor situations. By selecting the right tarp size and taking the necessary steps for proper setup, you can create a comfortable and protected outdoor space for your camping adventures.


So, next time you embark on a camping trip, don’t forget to carefully choose the right tarp size and utilize these tips to ensure an enjoyable and stress-free outdoor experience.