A tarp tent is a single wall tent that has walls, bug netting, and a floor but is significantly lighter weight because it combines the rain fly and inner tent into a single wall instead of two different layers. As an example, the one person Tarptent Rainbow, shown here, only weighs 2 pounds 2 ounces and has a large bathtub floor, a mesh inner tent, a large vestibule area than can be rolled open to help eliminate internal condensation, or closed to provide additional rain protection and privacy.
Beside its lighter weight, one of the chief advantages of a single wall tent is that it sets up very quickly in the rain because the entire tent pitches as a complete unit, and you don’t have to stand there trying to clip on the ran fly while the inner tent is drenched in a downpour.
In addition, some tarp tents, like the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo be pitched using hiking poles instead of having to carry additional tent poles. Saving weight by using items you already carry for multiple purposes like this is one of the hallmarks of lightweight backpacking.
Tarp tents come in many different shapes and sizes ranging from domes like the Rainbow to Half Pyramids like the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo which has a bathtub floor like the other tents, shown here. It’s fully integrated with the sides of the tent and not a separate unit, so it slides into place automatically when you pitch the tent.
If you own a heavier double walled tent today and you’re looking to reduce the weight of your gear list, I usually recommend that people make the transition to a tarp tent first, instead of a tarp, because there’s less of a learning curve involved and there’s little functional difference between a single wall and a double wall shelter. Personally, switching to a Six Moons Lunar Solo tarp tent was an easy transition for me to make and one I benefited from immediately. If you’re used to sleeping in a tent, getting used to sleeping under a tarp without any walls, floor or bug netting is a much more difficult transition and takes a lot longer to become comfortable with.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.