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Best Dimensions for a 1 Person Backpacking Tarp

Rectangular Tarp pitched with a fallen tree as a back wall
Rectangular Tarp pitched with a fallen tree as a back wall

If you crave a deep connection with the wilderness, there’s nothing more intimate than sleeping under a square or rectangular tarp.

Pitching a tarp takes more thought than setting up a tent because you need to consider what the best setup or “shape” will be for the night and whether it needs to be wind or weather resistant, the slope and composition of the ground and whether you’ll be swamped if it rains, or whether it’s safe (widow-makers) or desirable to tie your shelter to a nearby tree for support.

But, once you’re settled, you can tune into your surroundings, the noises that the wind makes in the trees, and the coming and goings of small creatures, because you don’t have any walls to shut them out.

Square Tarp Pitch which is good as a wind break
Good as a wind break and a built-in ground sheet

Contrast this to a tent or even a shaped tarp, which delineates the inside from the outside, giving you a little bubble to hide in so you can block out the night sounds, weather, and the wind. Its bathtub floor will keep you dry if it rains and its poles won’t be bowed by the wind. It’s designed to keep the wilderness outside, not let it in.

Tarp Shapes and Sizes

Flat tarps that have 90 degree corners and are square or rectangular, are the best if your intent is to adapt your shelter to the environment around you because they can be folded into many different shapes, called pitches. They differ from shaped tarps, like pyramids and their variants, that can only be pitched one way and in one shape.

See also: What are the Differences between Flat Tarps and Shaped Tarps?

Some people like rectangular flat tarps better and some like square ones.

I fall into the square tarp camp, because its easier for me to visualize different pitches in my mind with a square tarp rather than a rectangular one, which has two sides with different lengths. Check out Macpherson’s Tarp Pitches, for a theoretical enumeration of tarp shapes that can be made with rectangular and square tarps. The number of tarp shapes possible grows infinitely if you incorporate organic elements from the landscape into your pitches.

Adapting the pitch to the surroundings
Adapting the pitch to the surroundings

Plans for a 1 Person Square Tarp

Sizing and Square Footage

What are the perfect dimensions and features for a square backpacking and camping tarp? I’ve pondered that question for several years and decided that a 9 x 9 foot tarp is the perfect size for 1 person. I can tell you from experience that an 8.5 x 8.5 foot tarp is a bit too small and a 10 x 10 is enormously oversized.

Think about it like this. If you’re 6 feet tall and you pitch an A-frame with an 8 x 8 foot tarp, it only leaves 1 foot at each end to protect yourself from rain. Increasing this to 9 x 9 feet, adds another 6″, which is a 50% increase in endpoint coverage that will keep you significantly drier. At 10 feet per side, the area of the tarp is 100 square feet, which is too much fabric to wrestle with.

Guyout Points

But size isn’t everything, when it comes to flat tarps. It’s also very important to place guyout points in the right places so that you can fold the tarp or tie it up in a wide variety of ways. The guyout points must be symmetric to be a true square tarp, otherwise you can only create the same pitches as a rectangular tarp.

9 x 9 Tarp Design - Guyout Points and Dimensions
9 x 9 Tarp Design – Guyout Points and Dimensions

You’d think that it would easy to create a tarp from a single piece of fabric that has these dimensions, but reality tends to be more complicated because fabrics are only available in certain sizes. This usually requires the placement of a seam to join two pieces of fabric, which should be equidistant from the two opposite edges, as shown above. While this will still give the tarp an element of “handedness” because it will want to drape a certain way, having symmetric guyouts provides a way to counter this tendency.

Interior Attachment Points

It’s important to place glove hooks or small webbing loops in the inside of a flat (or shaped) tarp so you can hang things like a bug bivy or an inner tent inside. Companies that don’t provide any interior attachment points on the underside of a tarp, impose a high inconvenience factor on their customers.

For example, if you had to tie your bug bivy to a trekking pole on the end of your tarp (to keep the netting off your face), you’d have to tie a drip line to the bug bivy line, to divert rain from dripping down it onto your face. That’s unnecessary.

9 x 9 Tarp Design - Interior Attachment Points
9 x 9 Tarp Design – Interior Attachment Points

On a 9 x 9 tarp, the best location for such internal attachments is on the center point and 3 feet out in either direction along the center seam. This provides adequate space for a tall person to hang bug netting or an inner tent, as well as a shorter person, with elastic cordage or adjustable knots.

Line-Locs vs Webbing

The final detail on a flat tarp are the guyout points themselves, and the choice between using line-loc connectors, plastic loops, or webbing loops, along with a way to reinforce their attachment points so they don’t rip out under tension.

Several guyout connector treatments
Several guyout connector treatments

When pitching a flat tarp, you don’t need to attach cords to each guyout point every time you pitch it, and it would be silly to weigh down the tarp with extra line-locs and cord that you may never use. A more flexible approach is to add webbing loops or plastic loops to the webbing so you can add cordage to the points of the tarp that need to be tied out for a given pitch. Some basic knowledge of friction knots is required, so that you can tension your tie-outs without requiring a line-loc.

Reinforcement for the guyout points is also required, so the guyout webbing won’t rip out under tension. This usually requires adding a second layer of fabric or reinforcing material around the attachment point to prevent the fabric from tearing.

Another Ad Hoc Pitch using a Square Tarp
Another Ad Hoc Pitch using a Square Tarp

Who Makes This Tarp?

I don’t know if anyone makes this tarp. I drew up these plans about two years ago when a company expressed interest in making this shelter into a product, but never moved forward with it. Let’s face it, pitching a flat tarp and adapting it to its surroundings is an old-school skill that few backpackers want to bother with. It is a technically challenging and fun skill however, if you are so inclined, and perfect for stealth camping in dense forest, where the spots required by larger shelters are often unavailable.


  1. I was happy to read this post Philip because about a week ago I put in an order at Borah Gear for my first silnylon tarp in that configuration, only difference is 3 outside ridgeline tie-outs instead of 1.

    I came across your site about a month ago and have been enjoying your writing a lot.

    • If you’re going to have a tarp made, it’s best to do it in silnylon so you can test the design, before having it made in cuben fiber to reduce the weight. Cuben first can lead to very expensive mistakes. (more for the benefit of others..)

      I’m curious about how you decided that a 9 x 9 was the right size. Care to elaborate?

      • I had the use of a cuben 8.5 square flat tarp for a while, and wanted a little more room when pitching it in this modified pyramid for windy weather:
        Since John West at Borah Gear has a good reputation and does tarps in the 9′ x 9′ size and will do custom tie-outs, and after a few helpful emails from John, I decided on a tarp like the one you’ve described here, and mainly for the reasons you’ve given. I plan on using it with a myog netting insert and maybe a simple 4 oz. myog cuben/Momentum90 bivy.

  2. A few other benefits and detriments to tarps.

    For UL people, tarps are lighter, perhaps the lightest, form of shelter. A 9×9 tarp will often weigh something under 1 pound in silnylon or 7-9oz in cuben.

    Only three basic pitches are really needed: Lean-to, Diamond, Half-Pyramid. Most others are a variation (often by necessity) of these. There are also low and high pitches, with low pitches providing good to excellent storm resistance and high pitches very roomy to sleep under. Closed pitches can also be a lot warmer than open pitches.

    Bugs can be a problem since it is rare to have any bug netting on a tarp. A small piece of about 6×6 bug netting can be clipped over your head/arms. Of course, you should get in the habit of shaking out your boots to prevent scorpions from getting in them.

    Tarps are small to carry. I usually roll mine up fairly tightly and put it in my 3 cup(~750ml) pot. Saving space often means a smaller (and lighter) pack.

    Using smaller stakes with shock absorbers means lighter weight. Often I just tie off to a tree, but on the ground, I use just 6 stakes, even in an open field. Some pitches, such as the half pyramid, require only 3-4 stakes. Gossamer Gear has directions for using shock absorbers but I just use hair ties.

  3. If your looking for someone who can make this check out Bearpaw Wilderness Designs:

  4. My choice for a Tarp depends upon the Time of Year, the length of the trip, and whether the Weather is going to be unpredictable or just Mountain Weather which has it’s own schedule.. My favorite that I always carry even in my Day Packs is a 4×8 Sportmans Blanket, Olive Drab on one side and Aluminumized on the other Side. It has built in Grommets on all 4 corners. I even carry one in my DayPack when I visit the Zoo or Disneyland. I’ve used this one in the Desert and the high Chapparell and High Desert of So. California and the Southwestern Deserts since they first came on the Market mostly for Shade from the Sun. Rain was really not an issue and the Aluminum side was a good heat reflector.

    For the Mountain regions of High Sierra’s and the Adirondacks I carried a 5×8 Canvas for many years and when it came unto the Market a 10×10 Nylon, then a 10×10 Sil-Nylon and here in the South I occasionally carry a 8×10 Plastic Camo Tarp from Wal-Mart which I can fold in half similar in style to one of the pictures above so I have ground Protection which you really need down here in the South if your not in a Tent..

    The Sil-Nylon and Nylon tend to get holes in them when I fold them in half where one side shelters me from above and one side on the ground, especially if I cannot scoop up enough dead leaves to place under the tarp to sleep on which acts as an insulator and cushion….

    Then again which Tarp I bring depends on whether or not I bring a Tent and how big the tent is? A Two or Four Man Eureka Timberline without a Vestibule or the SnugPak Bivy Tent and or the Outdoor Research Bivy Bag dictate which Tarp I bring.

    I definitely would bring the 4×8 and 10×10 Sil-Nylon if I am going to be sleeping in a Bivy..Though those who are minimialists or UL’s will scream at that idea and say it negates the concept, I reply with, I’d rather be dry than wet and fearing Hyperthermia than chance death by being a purist, safety first. I’m to old to be careless just for the sake of it. I gave up causes years ago when I found that causes only benefit a tiny group of people or just ONE selfish self centered person!

    On all my Tarps I continue to use my smooth 4 inch found on the ground Stick and Para-Cord securing system which puts almost no tension or stress on the Gromments nor the Material what so ever and have yet in my life time had a Tarp tear on me at the corners and or get loose it the wind! Instead of resisting and fighting the wind, the concept causes it to just float in the air and sort of go with the flow instead of fighting it. Unlike all the other contraptions out there on the Market. Balls and Gator Clips etc. etc.

    So which Tarp to bring? Depends on the trip and the persons individual needs!

    Now this leads into Sleeping bags…If I am in the High Sierra’s I really don’t worry about the bugs that much as in Mosquito’s since I generally sleep in a Tent. Snow at those altitudes can arrive in the middle of Summer and has in past for me on a couple of trips. My days of being a brash throw fear to wind days are over.. You don’t spit into the wind and you don’t mess around with the Long Ranger and you don’t mess around with Mother Nature…etc. etc.

    If in the East and South, I have a sleeping Bag from Snug-Pak rated down to 30 which has a Zip in or Zip Off Mosquito netting that Covers the face. To keep the bugs off the Netting I apply some Repellent to the netting. No bites yet…

    Which then leads into the world of carrying those lightweight Mosquito Net type Shelters which you would place your Tarp over in the Rain which means you should have just brought at tent in the first place.

    • Eddie,

      Would you please elaborate on your “smooth 4 inch found on the ground stick and para-Cord securing system which puts almost no tension or stress on the gromments”? I’m curious since I use a tarp quite often and I’m always trying to refine my techniques.

      My tarp is 8′ x 10′ so I guess it “averages” about 9′ x 9′. I bought it from some early riser in the Boston area who writes a hiking blog…

      • “A way” he may be describing is to push a loop through the grommet and roll it into a lark’s head knot. Then push the small stick into the loops as an hold fast. The tension on the line will hold the stick in place. Under high winds the stick will break (sacrifice) and the loop will pull through thus saving the grommet.

  5. That Bearpaw website just made it onto my wishlist…. Cooke Custom Sewing also has some nice tarps, (but no 9x9s). I especially like their tieout loops, though they don’t have the “quadrant center” tieout that you want. I have 2 of their 10x12s, and you are correct, they are a overly-large for making a ground shelter (my primary use is with a hammock, short-axis as ridgeline).

  6. I have a tarp made out of cordura which is an interesting and more durable alternative to silnylon. I think Gossamer gear has started using it as a tarp material as well.

    • Philip- is your tarp made out out of 20D cordura (what Gossamer Gear uses)? I’m very interested in getting something custom made out or this in a 9×9′ or 9.5×9.5′, it would be both fairly light & durable…great for me and for demo’s to the boy scout leaders I’m working with to lighten their loads. Tx, Tim H, Edmonds, WA

      • No, it’s a JRB Tarp from the dawn of time. I have no idea what Gossamer Gear uses. I doubt GG will ever make a square tarp. They were the company that asked me for the plans but they never moved forward and I lost interest in pursuing the project. I think any silnylon tarp will work for your purposes, and be perfectly durable too.

        • Thanks, I just asked Ggear if they would make a custom tarp and got the negative reply back (quickly, lol)…I’ll look into sources for 20 D and see if I can get some fabric and then look for someone to sew up something custom…might try a cheaper fabric first to see how it works out. Cheers and safe hiking, Tim

        • They don’t make their own gear anymore. It’s all made in Vietnam and shipped over by container ship,

        • Thanks! Yes, I know a lot of their gear is no longer made in the US- and that is something I’m looking for in this tarp, even if it costs more, lol :-) I’m going to try Bearpaw Wilderness Designs, Oware and Cooke Custom Sewing…great article! Cheers

        • Cooke Custom Sewing are really nice to work with. They expedited a tarp for a friend because we were close to our trek date. And “custom” is part of their name.

  7. I’m sure that Cooke Custom Sewing (Tundra Tarps) would be glad to stitch that up for you. They already have lots of tie-outs.

    I especially like their “quad loop” that can catch the top of a trekking pole or paddle for a secure center pole.

    At the bottom of this page, click on “Tarp Construction Details” to see exactly where they put the tie-out loops.

  8. A seamstress friend of mine down in Raleigh North Carolina is making me this chart currently. we are using silpoly2 from

  9. Oware makes exactly what you want, with the exception of a geometrically central tie-out. They’ve been producing tarps and other equipment for a whole long time.

    See the “FlatTarp2.5 9×9” at×9-1TarpFlat-25-9×9.htm

    Specs: 30d silnylon fabric, 16 oz. Price includes a stuffsack and shipping in the USA. Cost is $115.00.

    You can get the 21st tie-out for an extra $4.

    • Thanks for the find Dave. I’m not looking for one, but others might. Have you ever bought anything from Oware?

      • Several years back, when I first started using a hammock, I quickly found that a standard sleeping pad, at 20″ wide, was a bit sketchy, considering the way a hammock wraps around a person. Oware was selling some wide closed cell foam. I bought a chunk.

        That’s about it. I ordered, they delivered.

        Today I ordered the 9×9 tarp. I’d been meaning to make one, but the time required to attach all the tie-outs makes paying for it reasonable, considering that the season is almost on us, and all I have to do now is seam seal it and go.

        I did notice in passing that the proprietor, David Olsen, has been in business since 1986. His blog is at

        • I always though the oware website was a bit sketchy, but I’ve totally changed my mind about them after reading David Olsen’s blog. This is a guy I can relate to!

  10. Sketchy, sort of off to the side somewhere. You visit the site and kind of wonder if this guy’s really in business or not. Very plain. Definitely not in-your-face, high-octane, mega-decibel-loud or flashy.

    He just does stuff.

    I ordered a tarp yesterday and got notification today that it’s been shipped. Prior to that I got both a receipt and an order confirmation. This is a completely different experience from last year when I bought a MacCat tarp.

    If I need anything else only one of these outfits will get my business.

  11. Do your feelings on size change for people under 5’6”? I used a 5×8 for a while and was thinking of moving up to 8×8 to learn more pitches. I didn’t find the 5×8 cramped. 9×9 just “seems” big.

  12. If you need a tie-out where one does not exist, use a Sierra Designs Grip Clip. They could be lighter, but they are pretty danged handy. At $13 for four of them, they are worth a shot.

  13. My 9’4″ Sq silpoly2 tarp came in from my seamstress in Carolina. It seems to be everything I was hoping. With 9-7″ aluminum gutter spikes for stakes and what I had for guys, the weight was right at 20 ounces bagged… at about the size of a can of B&M baked beans.

    In response to Spelt:
    Even though you’re smallish at 5’6, because the weight/pack-size can be so minimal with these lightweight tarps I think the trade up of all the extra square footage in a 9 x 9 as opposed to an 8 x 8 is really worthwhile when the weather forces you to be “inside”. That extra foot gives you a lot more room for your gear and comfort.

    To Walter:
    Shelter-Systems sells the Grip-Clips at 20 for $30 shipped…much better deal.

    • Thanks, great news about the Shelter Systems Grip Clips! I could not find them on the official Sierra Designs website, so I was worried that they were limited to existing stock.

    • It can vary from pitch to pitch. Under a typical A-frame or “Pup” tent style pitch close to a couple trees, you can be entirely sheltered from rain (even in a wind storm) with a 7′ length. In a more open field set up with trekking poles, you’ll not fare so well.

      In some cases, a 9′ tarp will not give you enough room to stay dry. Think a 30mph wind, rain and hail flying into your tarp near vertically.

      So, it comes down to defeating winds, pretty much regardless of direction, and, providing enough ventilation to avoid condensation. Defeating winds usually involves a three sided structure. This often means some kind of low support, usually a stick, about 16″ high. That means some sort of reinforced patch about 24″ in or so, and, a tie off of some kind so it doesn’t fall out when the wind lifts the tarp. This is where the foot of my bag goes and where I anticipate the main winds will be coming from. Often out of the north-west in the ADK’s, but hills, mountains and valleys will influence this a lot. Avoid ridges, staying 25- 50′ below one. But this can mean a reversal of the main winds as it eddies over the ridge. Choose a slight mound or raised section of ground. Condensation is not a serious problem because you have a LOT of ventilation.

      The door way is usually best held up with a staff. Usually, about 43-50″ high. If weather moves in, you can use your rain jacket over the staff and tie the arms to the loops on the sides, pretty much sealing off the upper 2′ against winds. This will not be waterproof, and, you really don’t care. Water will just run off and down rather than being sprayed in in a 30mph wind. Also, using three sided shelters will create an air pocket that will drop the winds to nearly nothing. The tarp WILL lift, so staking down tightly is the way to go. Do not forget that rain and hail will still carry through. The rain jacket will catch the vast majority of this. (You might need some heavy items in the pockets, your stove & fuel, water bottles, etc.)

      OK, You have a wind tight shelter and fairly water resistant. Water will generally spray about a 45 degree angle from an edge under average conditions. I highly recommend beaks and a reduced doorway to avoid this. You can skip the rain jacket in the middle of the night, too. Edges, front and rear. In a three sided pitch, only the door needs to be worried about. Assuming you set up your tarp with a rain jacket or beaks, all you have to worry about is a ~2′ door gap. This will try to blow in about 2′, or roughly the same height it is. That’s fine. If you are 6′ with a 9′ tarp and assuming your foot is only a foot from the end, then you have two feet of clear space in all except the worst of wind storms.

      How well does this work? Well, it works great. Except for winter. Snow just sort’a drifts in. But, chances are you would not use a tarp in winter. I have ridden through near misses by tornadoes and “gustnadoes”. Trees came down all around me a couple times. I was afraid I would be flattened. But the bag was dry, I was dry and even my pack (used as padding) was dry. I needed a change of underwear ‘cuz a tree came down less than 30’ from my tarp, once. That and the pounding rain on the tarp is LOUD. Bring earplugs.

  14. Phil, in regards to the second photo in this post, is the tarp and floor all one, or are they two separate tarps? If the tarp and ground sheet are all one, who makes this setup?

  15. I’ve had an Oware 9×9 tarp for three years. I bought it when I decided to get back into backpacking after many years. I had never done tarp camping before so I don’t have anything to compare against as far as quality. What I can say is that it seems to be holding up very well in the hands of a newcomer to tarp camping. I thought about getting an 8×8 tarp but I’m 6’6″ and I realized 8×8 just isn’t enough fabric to cover me. This thread just made me go measure my tarp. It’s 106″x107″ so it’s a little shy of 9×9. That inch or two is in the hems and center seam. All in all, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy from Oware again. I just looked at their website and if you think it’s minimal now you should have seen it three years ago. It was really bare bones.

  16. Well, I was rather gratified when I found this thread. I found this page doing a google search re the best tarp size for one person in order to confirm my choice(s) on a recent purchase. I am new to tarp use. This fall I purchased a 5’x7′ poncho by Mil-Tec on Amazon to take on a ten day backpacking trip. The main reason was for the possibility of hiking between campsites in the rain, but the the weather remained sunny until the last night. However, I did use the tarp as a wind break at our cooking areas, and also took shelter under it on that last rainy night as a lounging area. I did have a 3 person four season tent as my primary shelter (Hilleberg Nammatj 3) for myself and my two Kuvasz dogs. I was very impressed at how useful the poncho was. So I decided that it was time to buy a proper tarp.

    Last night I purchased a ‘Flat Tarp 2.5′ from Oware. I found out about them quite by accident about a week ago while viewing a YouTube video on tarp setups.I was rather unsure about what to buy, and what add-ons to select. That is why this article was nice to find, because my final configuration was identical to the tarp recommended here. At my request Dave added 3 inner loops with clips. Two loops were placed 18″ in from the end of the ridge line, and one in the center–tarp size is 9’x9’.The tarp has 16 perimeter tie outs which I wanted in order to be able to disperse the load in high winds or snow. It also has 4 side pullouts as stock setup, and I had Dave add a center pullout on the ridge line. My main reservation was the size. I had experimented with an 8’x10′ configuration using an old cut down $10. poly tarp, and liked it. So I was uncertain about losing one foot on the long side, but Oware did not currently have an 8’x10′ size in the 30D sil-nylon that I wanted to use.

    I am 5’8″ inches tall, and it sounds like this size should be adequate. However, I do need space for my two Kuvaszok (large white livestock guardian dogs) as well. I am not a gram counter re my setup. I like to be comfortable, and more importantly, safe. When enjoying the outdoors I am willing to take a weight penalty to achieve that. My uses for this tarp will be to pitch in the woods on my property, to take on day hikes year round, and also to take on my backpacking trips on which I will also continue to use the Nammatj 3 tent as well. I am looking forward to getting the Oware tarp in a few days time. I got a nice deal–Dave had some ‘seconds’ which merely may have a few very faint streaks from the silicone coating. I bought one of those for a total cost of $109. My impression as to whether these ‘seconds’ are available is that it is kind of kind of hit and miss, and the only color he had them in was black. Not for everyone, but I saw some black tarps online that looked nice, and my Mil-Tec poncho is also black. (scroll to the bottom for pics)

    Dave Olsen was very helpful to deal with, and I red some very positive comments online about his gear. This from ‘Backpacking Light’–“Oware produces some of the best-designed and fully featured flat tarps on the market. Oware tarps also have the highest quality construction of the tarps we reviewed….”
    See review here:

    Also, a longer user review here:

  17. I finally picked up my Oware Flat Tarp 2.5 mentioned above. It arrivved in something like 3 days, but because of my distance from the shipping depot it took me a while to get there. I also ordered some ‘Bluewaster Niteline accessory cord’ in 3mm size (polysester sheath with nylon core). I have two 50′ lengths, and am wondering what would be the best lengths to divide it into to allow a wide range of configurations in set up. Any suggestions from experienced tarp users would be appreciated.

  18. In addition to my question re cord lengths–I intend to use ‘line locks’, as seen in the link below, attached to each piece of line. Also I will be adding a permanent loop at one end for looping over tent pegs. On the other end I will be using a plastic clip on the other end (as seen in the next link) to enable me to easily switch my line(s) between tie outs easily.

  19. A bit late to this party but hey, great post! I’m researching tarps for use in Scotland, which as you know very well is a wet and windy place. Wonder if you can advise me on a good size for primarily solo and occasionally 2 person use? I’m only 5’7″ and my wife is 5’4″. Do you think we could get away with an 8.5×8.5 in Scotland, or would 8×9,9×9,8×9.5 or even 8×19 be advisable? Trouble is, the bigger sizes, though perfect for two, are getting a bit large and heavy for solo use. The only way around that is a cuben tarp. Any thoughts on cuben tarps? Bear Paw does slightly cheaper cuben tarps.

    • I wouldn’t advise a flat tarp for Scotland. Too windy. Get a pyramid.

      • or a TRAILSTAR !!!! a five sided bombproof shelter same wt as a 8′ x 10′ tarp

        • Colin Ibbotson has tarped in Scottish winters, but he’s amazing. I’m not sure if he’s insanely competent or competently insane. He’s had to re-pitch the tarp in the middle of the night, and has built custom tarps. Because the weather broke the other tarps.

          I haven’t camped in Scotland, but I’d go big and solid. I’ve been happy with my MLD pyramid in 40 mph winds and hail, but I’d ask locals before I took it to Scotland.

          Ideas like “too large” or “too heavy” are not useful. Think “right for the conditions”. Everything you carry addresses a risk. If it is too light or fragile to counter that risk, then it is not useful gear.

  20. Thanks for the feedback – I have a Trailstar! It’s my main shelter and I love it, rock solid in the wind and really versatile in the number of pitches. The tarp would be more for lower elevation camping in the valleys, for when I want to really travel very light, or for when I go hiking in southern mainland Europe. The MLD mids and Trailstars are very popular amongst the lightweight backpackers here in the UK. I think tarps are more popular with the bushcrafting community, who mostly camp below the treeline.
    Anyway, I think I’ll continue to investigate. As I’m looking for something significantly lighter than the Trailstar, it’s going to be cuben I think.

    • I hooe you had a good trip and learned to pitch a flat tarp as a pyramid. It so very versatile. I learned a lot from “Papa Hiker” on You tube.
      Happy trails! : )

  21. i know this is an old post but BearPawd makes this exact tarp as you describe.

    i may have to play with a 9×9 and see how it compares to a 10×10. i have a 10×10 and i can agree it’s a bit to manage but when you consider your only cutting 1ft off each side it’s really not that much material. your only reducing your total material loss by 23.5% which isn’t that much really…. saving around 2oz in weight and maybe $10 on cost…. but each to his own… i think i like having the extra material for gear and space…

    if i go with a 10×10 sil tarp, stakes, cordage and bug net i’m around 2lbs if i go with a tarptent notch i’m around 1lb 14oz so only a difference of a couple oz…. yes you can go to cuben fiber but then your talking a least doubling your cost…..

  22. I just looked this article up again after viewing Warbonnet’s Ground Tarp.

    I came back because I recalled reading Philip liking a 9×9 but finding it to be a unicorn. While not precisely what he described, Warbonnet’s Ground Tarp is 9′ long by 9.5′ wide. It a modified flat tarp. It’s designed to be setup A-frame style but is made with doors. I love my 10×10 but it I were in the market for a new ground tarp I’d give very serious thought to this. Surprised I don’t see more activity on these things.

  23. in the little paperback book “Lighten UP” here is a drawing of a 10′ X 10′ tarp on p. 13 that is in “storm mode. THAT configuration is my ideal flat tarp pitch.

    But you need a tarp with lots of tie-out points for this setup.

  24. Yama Gear now has a custom flat tarp building page.

    I’m wondering as this original post is about 5 years old. did you ever get this tarp and are there any recommendations that you would change from your original post?

  25. John at Borah gear doesn’t do it as a stock item but if you ask him he routinely makes 9×9 by request and will gladly customize as well.

    I’m saving my money now and will probably will have him make me one

  26. This is always a really interesting column.

    I have been looking into a tarp/bivy combination and based on this review have 3 questions that I hope you could answer:
    1) DD tarps has an inexpensive and reasonably light 3mx3m tarp that is close to your design layout but not quite. Could you comment on their approach.
    2) Are the current generation of 0.9 Silpoly’s rugged enough for the backwoods?
    3) What do suggest as the optimal size for a rectangular tarp. Your A-frame argument would suggest it could have a smaller total area. And if one wants to go for a DCF tarp, one side is limited to about 8.5 ft. How about 8.5 x 9.5 with an area close to your 9×9?

    • 1) You’ll have to provide me with a link to the product in question.
      2) This chart will answer most of your questions. You should also be asking about hydrostatic head (waterproofness)
      I’d suggest contacting Rip Stop by the Roll if you have fabric questions. They are most helpful.
      3) I’m not a student of rectangular tarps. The size you need probably depends on what you want it for. The problem with DCF squarish tarps is that they don’t stretch. Makes it hard to do anything with them except an A-frame. Also, if its not perfectly square, you’ll pull your hair out in frustration. Symmetry is worth it.

  27. Philip have you seen the new Slingfin NFT (“nice flat tarp”)? Very close to what you want, would be cool to see a Section Hiker review of the NFT.

    • The problem is that it’s not a flat tarp, even though they say it is. It has catenary cut sides which eliminates its symmetry. Be definition it’s not a rectangular tarp or a square tarp. I’m actually disappointed that they say its a flat tarp. They might as well say it’s a cow.

  28. I used to have a rectangular tarp but when I bought my Lanshan One XL tent it became obsolete. My Lanshan can easily become a tarp, I can just take out the mesh liner, which takes a couple of minutes, and my tent is now a tarp.

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