10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tarps

10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tarps

Backpacking tarps are a great camping option if you want to significantly reduce your backpacking gear weight while experiencing a deeper connection to the outdoors, by sleeping under a shelter without walls. Backpacking tarps come in two basic flavors: shaped, catenary cut tarps that have curved sides to reduce weight and flapping in the wind, and square, flat tarps with 90-degree corners which can be pitched in many different configurations but take more skill to use. Ground sleepers usually sleep in bivy sacks under such tarps for insect protection along with a waterproof groundsheet, a sheet of Tyvek, or plastic window wrap.

Here are the 10 best ultralight backpacking tarps we recommend:

Make / ModelTypeMaterialWeightPrice
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat TarpFlat TarpDCF8.85 oz$365
Zpacks 8.5' x 10' Flat TarpFlat TarpDCF6.5 oz$299
Gossamer Gear Twinn TarpCatenary CutSil/PU Nylon9.5 oz$149
Mountain Laurel Designs Grace DuoCatenary CutDCF6.25 oz$295
Hammock Gear The Traverse TarpFlat TarpSilpoly13.7 oz$150
Hilleberg Tarp 5Catenary CutSilnylon11.3 oz$180
Paria Outdoors Sanctuary Sil Tarp TaperedCatenary CutSil/PU Nylon10.0 oz$85
Mountain Laurel Designs TrailstarCatenary CutSilnylon or DCF15.0 oz$230
Slingfin SplitWing UL TarpCatenary CutSil/Sil Nylon7.9 oz$165
Yama Mountain Gear Custom Flat TarpsFlat TarpSilpoly or SilnylonCustomCustom
While pyramid-shaped tarps are technically tarps, most people use them with an inner tent like a double-wall tent, so we cover them in a separate gear guide and primer. The same holds for hammock tarps which are usually much larger and heavier than the tarps used by ultralight ground sleepers.

1. Hyperlite Mountain Flat Tarp

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp is a flat tarp with 90-degree corners that can be set up in many different ways or “shapes” depending on weather conditions. It’s available in two sizes: an 8’6″ x 8’6″ model (8.85 oz) and one that’s 8′ x 10′ in size (9.74 oz) in white or spruce green Dyneema DCF. It comes with 16 perimeter tie-outs and 4 internal ones so you can lash it to the ground or nearby vegetation in many different ways.  The tarp comes outfitted with line locks and the ridgeline is factory sealed. 10 guylines are included, but you have to attach them yourself.

Check for the latest price at:
Hyperlite Mountain Gear

2. Zpacks 8.5′ x 10′ Flat Tarp

Zpacks 8.5’ x 10’ Tarp
The Zpacks 8.5′ x 10′ Flat Tarp is a 6.5 oz Dyneema DCF Tarp that’s a minimalist’s dream. It comes with 16 tie-outs, five per side, with two on the ridgeline and four mid-panel. All the tie-outs are reinforced and the ridgeline is sealed, but the tarp does not come with line locks or pre-cut on guylines. That’s by design. On a tarp this size, they’d just clutter things up and add excess weight. You’re better off rigging just what you need when you pitch it.

Check for the latest price at:
Zpacks.com

3. Gossamer Gear Twinn Tarp

The Gossamer Gear Twinn Tarp is a 9.5 oz two-person tarp that’s made with a 10D high tenacity nylon and factory seam-taped. It’s a catenary cut tarp with a curved ridgeline and edges, with two sidewall tie-out points and bug net loops at the two ends. The tarp comes outfitted with adjustable line locks and cordage for a fast setup. If you’ve never used a backpacking tarp before, this is a good one to get started with because it is so easy to set up.  Read our Gossamer Gear Twinn Tarp Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Gossamer Gear

4. Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo Tarp

Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo Tarp

The Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo Tarp is a two-person tapered, catenary cut tarp made with Dyneema DCF that’s 9.5′ x 7.5′ x 9.5′ (Front x Rear x Ridge Length.) It has lots of room to spread out with or use in conjunction with a hanging bug bivy, also available from MLD. It comes with 8 line loc tensioners with 3 on each side, and an internal hook on the ridegline. The Grace Duo is available in multiple grades of Dyneema DCF and Silnylon at different weights and price points.  Read our MLD Grace Duo Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Mountain Laurel Designs 

5.Hammock Gear Traverse Tarp

Hammock Gear Traverse Tarp

The Hammock Gear Traverse Tarp is a 9.5′ x 9.5′ silpoly tarp (13.7 oz) that’s well-sized for ground use. This tarp features 14 perimeter tie-outs, 2 ridgeline tie-outs, and 2 panel pullouts (one on each side) for endless setup possibilities.  We like it because it’s perfectly square and can be configured in a wide range of different pitches tailored for varying terrain and weather conditions. If you’re looking for a tarp that’s sized and priced for some serious experimentation, this is it. The tarp ships with a SilPoly stuff sack and seam sealer for waterproofing the stitching. Guylines are not included.

Check for the latest price at:
Hammock Gear

6. Hilleberg Tarp 5

Hilleberg Tarp 5

The Hilleberg Tarp 5 is a five-sided tapered tarp (11.3 oz) that can be set up in many different configurations, including ones that adapt to surrounding vegetation. In addition to its unusual shape, it’s made with a super-strong, tripled coated silnylon fabric that is three times more waterproof (5000 mm) than most backpacking tents. The Tarp 5 comes outfitted with metal rings on each guyout point, line loc tensioners, and cordage.  Read our Hilleberg Tarp 5 Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Moosejaw 

7. Paria Outdoors Sanctuary Sil Tarp

Santuary Sil Trap
Paria Outdoor’s Tapered 10′ x 7/5′ Sanctuary Sil Tarp is one person, 10 oz Sil/PU coated one-person tarp with a 5000 mm hydrostatic head, which is a superior waterproof rating better than most tents. The ridgeline is seam-taped and it comes with includes 12 perimeter attachment loops and 12 reflective Dyneema guylines with micro line-lock adjusters. It’s an excellent tarp at a very affordable price. Read the SectionHiker Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Paria Outdoors | Amazon

8. Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar

MLD Trailstar

The Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar is a 5-sided catenary cut tarp that’s a cross between a shaped tarp and a pyramid giving it an uncanny versatility in terms of ventilation and wind-worthiness. While it can cover up to three people, most people use it as a solo shelter, with or without an inner nest.  It is available in silnylon or DCF and weighs 12 – 15 oz.  Read our Trailstar Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Mountain Laurel Designs 

9. SlingFin SplitWing UL Tarp

SlingFin SplitWing
The SlingFin SplitWing UL Tarp adapts the same split door design used in many hammock tarps for ground use. Sized for two, it can be pitched at different heights and widths because the front doors split, providing more storm protection or ventilation and head height as required. A closed rear wall adds additional weather protection. While it is made with two-sided siliconized nylon, the SplitWing does not require seam sealing because it uses a double-needle lap felled seam which doesn’t leak. While you can purchase it alone, a modular inner tent and added vestibule are also available as part of the SplitWing Bundle. Read our Splitwing Bundle Review.

Check for the latest price at:
SlingFin

10. Yama Mountain Gear Custom Flat Tarps

YamaMtnGear Flat Tarps

Yama Mountain Gear offers the most complete line of custom-made tarps for tarp connoisseurs who want something unique and specially made. Offered in silnylon or silpoly, you can choose where you want to place your perimeter tie-outs, ridgeline tie-outs, panel tie-outs, and hand-loop tie-outs. If you’re a tarp newbie, we recommend that you buy another off-the-shelf tarp to get your feet wet before you go down the custom tarp wormhole. Yama’s quality is legendary, but you’ll have a much better idea of what you want in a tarp after some practical experience.

Check for the latest price at:
Yama Mountain Gear

Key Considerations

Tarp Types: Flat Tarps vs Catenary Cut Tarps

Flat tarps have 90-degree corners with flat sides and are shaped like squares or rectangles. They can be set up in a wide variety of different pitches that emphasize views, airflow, or weather protection. Catenary cut tarps have curved sides and ridgelines which reduce the amount of fabric required to make them and lowers their weight. But this limits the variety of ways they can be set up, often limiting them to a simple A-frame pitch. Catenary cut tarps are also quieter in the wind because the fabric is stretched more tightly. Some catenary cut tarps are also tapered, meaning one end is wider than the other. This is also a weight-saving measure.

Fabric/Materials

Tarps are available in several different fabrics that convey different properties to them.

  • Tarps made with Dyneema DCF are very lightweight and have very little stretch. However, this can limit the number of ways they can be configured and limit their ability to deal with uneven ground or obstructing vegetation. Dyneema DCF tarps do not have to be seam-sealed and they are very waterproof. They are bulky however and take more room to pack in a backpack.
  • Tarps made with Siliconized Nylon (silnylon) or Siliconized Polyester (silpoly) usually have to be seam-sealed so they don’t leak in the rain. They make good flat tarps because they have some stretch, which can be useful when pitching them in different patterns.
  • Tarps coated with Polyurethane (PU) or Silicone/PU are usually seam taped and don’t need to be seam sealed.

One and Two Person Tarps

Most people prefer using two-person tarps instead of one-person tarps, even when camping solo, because they have more room to spread out their gear out of the rain and close at hand.

Knot Tying and Guylines

Most catenary cut tarps come with integrated line loc tensioners that eliminate the need to tie knots. When it comes to flat tarps, different people have different preferences. On larger square or rectangular tarps, having fixed guylines can add unnecessary weight and clutter, and many people prefer to add guylines only when they set up their tarp. There some knowledge of knots can be helpful or the use of knot-typing devices like Figure 9s.

Insect Protection and Splashback

Most tarp users sleep in bivy sacks or larger bug bivies for protection from insects and other creepy crawlers. Bivy sacks also provide added rain protection from what is known as “splashback”, when rain bounces off the ground along the sides of the tarp, but bounces back under it and gets your gear wet.

Groundsheets

While many bivy sack bottoms are waterproof, it’s convenient to sleep on top of a groundsheet so you can spread your gear out around you at night. Most ultralight backpackers use a sheet of Tyvek, polycryo plastic sheets (sold by Gossamer Gear), plastic window insulation wrap, or even a Dyneema DCF groundsheet, although the latter is quite expensive compared to other alternatives.

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14 comments

  1. Cool list. The Six Moon Designs Deschutes tarp (dyneema and nylon options) is pretty sweet for someone only carrying one trekking pole. I have the Dyneema version ~ 8 oz. It is a little finicky to setup over a tarp requiring two poles or trees. But for the weight and the versatility when paired with the net tent, I like it a lot.

  2. You should check out bearpawwd.com and John’s various tarps. I own three custom taps, they are well built, he has short build times and whatever you think up here can build it. Thanks for another good heart review.

  3. I use the HQ Journey with doors, weights about 20 oz with snake sleeves

    Also just bought a Onewind with doors, A little heavier at 24ox, but a $80.00 it is a great value and well made. It is unique flat tarp, can be configured in many ways.

    Most lightweight tarp are worthless in bad weather.

  4. I am a hammock camper, but I bought a SplitWing bundle for those times I know there won’t be trees. I’ve not used the tarp alone, but setting up the tarp can’t be that different from setting up the tent & tarp. (I leave the tent attached to the tarp.) It really is an awesome piece of gear.

    I love the tarp that came with the Kammok Mantis UL, but it’s a love/hate relationship. The attached cords mean I can put it up quickly once I find my trees, but it only goes up quickly if I took the time to store the cords very neatly when I stowed the tarp. It takes several minutes, but it’s critical because if I don’t do it the lines are a tangled mess – not something I want to deal with if I’m standing in the rain while trying to set up camp. I think with later models (I got mine through the KickStarter) they put little pockets on the tarp to hold the lines. (Or maybe they did that with the heavier tarp.) Regardless, the tarp is lightweight and I slept snuggly beneath it under a down quilt despite windy, rainy nights.

    • All hammock tarps require careful packing. Your experience isn’t unique. Try getting a mesh snakeskin (tarp sleeve). It makes packing the tarp much easier.

    • If you have bungee cord on tie outs with loops or a larger loop on your tie out (use a bowline knot) attach a cord lock and hand wrap the line and tuck it in the space and cinch the cord lock, will hold tie outs in place. I use #38 bank line it is cheap and strong.

  5. Just curious on your thoughts of the ENO Housefly Tarp. I am looking for a tarp to use while using a hammock and a tent. Thank you

    • People seem to like it and it has doors, which is useful in blowing rain when sleeping in a hammock. I’ve used a bunch of Eno hammock systems and they’re perfectly acceptable, just not that inspiring or lightweight. But for sleeping on the ground for true tarp camping, it’s way too big and ungainly.

      For hammock tarps, look at Hammock Gear’s tarps. Definitely a step up. check out their Journey Tarp. Not too expensive, either

      https://hammockgear.com/the-journey/

    • I have the zpack 8.5×10 tarp used it successfully in several configurations I’ve added some of zpacks extra loop tyeouts and also added some reinforcement patches. It’s worked very well as a shelter, especially if a nearby tree can be employed where I can raise it high enough to put my helinox under it, which my poles can’t really do. Grandpa also used it several days with his warbonnet hammock, setting it up in a diamond fashion and was quite cozy. All in all very useful, that being said the tarp while only weighing 6+ oz, but when adding 10 mini groundhog stakes and guylines, a Borah gear bivy I’m up to 24 oz. Still I’m cutting 8oz off pack weight from my Skyscape trekker tent, and have a way to set up in bad weather.

      • I’m glad that you’re looking out for Grandpa there. I’m a huge tarp proponent – I have two to review this summer and can’t wait to get them out. They really do cut down the bulk of the crap I need to pack and I enjoy the process of setting them up in weird ways.

  6. I cannot believe the prices for a frikkin’ tarp!

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