10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tarps

10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tarps

Backpacking tarps are a great camping option if you want to 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.

Here are the top 10 ultralight backpacking tarps we recommend:

Make / ModelTypeMaterialWeightPrice
Gossamer Gear Twinn TarpCatenary CutSil/PU Nylon9.5 oz$149
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat TarpFlat TarpDyneema DCF8.85 oz$365
Mountain Laurel Designs Grace DuoCatenary CutDyneema DCF6.25 oz$295
REI Quarter Dome SL TarpFlat TarpPU Polyester12 oz$149
Hilleberg Tarp 5Catenary CutSilnylon11.3 oz$175
Paria Outdoors Sanctuary Sil Tarp 10' x 7/5' Tapered CutCatenary CutSil/PU Nylon10.0 oz$75
Big Agnes Onyx UL TarpFlat TarpSil/PU Nylon8.1 oz$279
Zpacks 8.5' x 10' Flat TarpFlat TarpDyneema DCF6.5 oz$275
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.

1. 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 pitch. 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 Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Gossamer Gear

2. 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 and 8’6″ x 8’6″ model (8.85 oz) and one that’s 8′ x 10′ in size (9.75 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 is many different ways.  The tarp comes outfitted with line locks and cordage and the ridgeline is factory sealed.

Check for the latest price at:
Hyperlite Mountain Gear

3. 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 Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Mountain Laurel Designs 

4.REI Quarter Dome SL Tarp

REI Quarter Dome SL Tarp
The REI Quarter Dome SL Tarp is a 111″x 111″ (9.25′ x 9.25′) flat tarp that weighs 12 oz and has five tie-out points per side and on the ridgeline. It’s made with a PU-coated polyester and seam-taped. 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. It includes 8 stakes and 6 quick-attach guylines with tighteners that you can move around as needed. Note: While the tarp is specked at 115″ x 115″, it’s actually 4″ shorter. Nevertheless, it’s still a good basic tarp.

Check for the latest price at:
REI

5. 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 Review.

Check for the latest price at:
Campsaver | Moosejaw 

6. 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-lok adjusters. It’s an excellent tarp at a very affordable price.

Check for the latest price at:
Amazon

7. Big Agnes Onyx Tarp

Big Agnes Onyx Tarp
The Big Agnes Onyx Tarp is an 8.1 oz, 8’6″ x 8’6″ square tarp that’s seam taped and fully outfitted with guy lines and lineloc tensioners out of the box, so you don’t have to buy anything extra to start using it. The tarp also includes a short pole that is useful for pitching the shelter if you don’t carry trekking poles and can also serve as a spreader bar to create more headroom if you use the tarp for two people. This version is made with Sil/PU nylon ripstop, but an even lighter weight 6 oz Dyneema DCF model is also available.  Read our review.

Check for the latest price at:
Moosejaw | Campsaver | OutdoorPlay 

8. 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

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.

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 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 the 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.

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21 comments

  1. Mark Stotesbery

    I would include a tarp from Warbonet Outdoors. The 11’ SuperTarp in Silpoly camo is superb in its strength and weight. It is also nearly invisible. $160

  2. Nice article with a good selection of tarps. That’s all I use, even when I am up high in the Sierra’s. One feature of tarps that is often overlooked is flexibility. I usually sleep on the ground, but if I am going somewhere in the Whites where I may have trouble finding a flat spot, then I’ll bring my lightweight hammock. Many hammockers use an underquilt and an overqiilt. I’ve found I can get by with a less than ideal night’s sleep using my air mattress for my lower insulation and my unzipped sleeping bag às a makeshift quilt. Try that with a tent.

    • That’s not a bad idea actually, provided your hammock has a bug net most of the year.

      • My 8 x 10 tarp is modified with mosquito netting sewn around the edges. When I use it in hammock mode, I pitch it a bit higher and the netting just barely hits the ground. If it is real hilly, then there may be a gap. I probably should have made the netting strips longer. However, the mosquitoes don’t seem to come in under the netting. I fasten the netting closed with little clips. Again, there are small gaps where the hammock comes through the netting, but mosquitoes don’t seem to get in. I also have a Paria 10x7x5 tapered tarp which is too small to use with hammock and it has not been modified with netting. For bug protection with that I use the Paria bug mesh bivy. I am not real happy with my 9-ft Outdoor Vital hammock. It only weighs 13 oz, but I don’t like it because I can’t lay on my side. I’ll have to check your blog to see if you have recommendations for a tarp / hammock combo that provides mosquito protection and allows the user to sleep on their side.

      • Check out the Hammock Gear Wanderlust and its constituent components which can also be purchased separately.
        https://hammockgear.com/the-wanderlust-complete-kit-for-hammock-camping/

  3. Oware makes some great tarps too. I have spent several nights in one of their pyramids on a long approach and was very impressed! Check them out. https://bivysack.com

  4. I hope you can find time to do a full review of that Hammock Gear Wanderlust complete kit.

  5. GG Twinn Tarp specs say 10d, not 7d.

    • I guess they upgraded it. Those guys are always fiddling with their products! I changed it above. Could have sworn I fact-checked that last week, though.

  6. Twenty best might be better considering the number of manufactues that make really good tarps. How about Silpoly that does’t sag (flap in the wind) when wet or have the Dyneena price tag.

  7. Philmont Scout Ranch issues a 12 ft. x 10 ft. nylon dining fly that weighs 35 ounces. Philip (and others), is there a lighter weight tarp in approximately that same size that you would recommend? Thank you!

    • Cooke Custom Sewing in Minnesota makes tarps utilizing 1.1 oz silicone coated nylon. Sil-nylon10 X 12 weighs 22 oz, come with great rope. A trip saver in rainy BWCAW.

  8. I’ve been carrying the Campmor Silnylon Tarp for many years now.. or since they first started selling it somewhere at the end of the 1990’s.. It is 8×10 in size and weighs 13 oz.’s and the best part.. They do not try to rob your pockets like all the others do.. $99.99…. Yup.. Though short on Tie outs I remedy that situation usually with a nice smooth Acorn with the tip cut off and a loop of 300# pd test tarred Catfish Line from Walmart for about $10.00… which is a heck of a lot cheaper than phony Para-cord or the real stuff… Never found a use for that full 500# cord in 40 years of Hiking and Backpacking and found 300# test just as adequate..It can be double or tripled to give you 900# if the need arises.. Back to the Silnylon Tarp. Though I have read claims of little or no stretch in many advertisements I have yet to see pictures of a comparison side by side test in the same field in the same rain storm nor even on tied out an soaked in the advertising they always show neat little nice an taunt neat little tents…or nothing at all.. Just take our word for it…. Not being able to trust the Marketing people of today I’ll stick with my Campmor Trap.. I also use miniture clothes pins from Hobby Lobby and the tiny Black Metal Paper clips to attach the Tarp to my Snugpak Ionosphere Bivy… or the Snugpak Stratosphere, both of which I have been using for the past couple of years……. So you see, there is always an alternative to those Expensive items if you look and Campmor has been my trusted supplier for over 30 years….

  9. Dimensions on the MLD DCF Grace Duo are 8.5×7.5×9.25.

  10. I’m amazed that Cooke Custom Sewing didn’t even get a mention for their superior tarps. They are probably the largest suppliers of tarps to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and northern Canada. Their other products: lean shelters, portage packs, and canoe covers are all highly rated.

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