Best Lightweight Tarps for Hiking


MSR Thru Hiker 70 Wing

MSR Thru Hiker 70 Wing

A tarp is basically a sheet of waterproof fabric that can form a decent shelter when attached with guylines to trees, trekking poles, rocks or any other stabile things. Tarps are by far the lightest portable shelters; a high-quality tarp that can form a shelter for one to two persons can weigh as little as 300 grams. Tarps can also be used with additional modular components such as inner bug nets, groundsheets, bivy sacks and hammocks. These components can be brought along on a hiking trip if the conditions require them as tarps in general can’t be completely sealed. A bug net, for example, comes in handy in warm weather to prevent the mosquitoes from entering the shelter while a bivy sack will protect you in heavy rain against horizontally blowing precipitation. You might think that it is much simpler to just bring a tent, but using a tarp with modular components allow you to pack according to the conditions and reduce the weight of your backpack by leaving unnecessary things behind. Tarps are also inexpensive and very versatile. However, some skills are required to efficiently pitch the tarp, which is why tarps are not recommended for those who are new to camping out in the wild. How to set up and secure the tarp greatly depends on the terrain, but in general sparse woods are the best place to set up a tarp shelter because trees can be used to suspend and secure it. A tarp should be also pitched according to the weather; for example in stormy conditions a tarp should be pitched lower to the ground for better protection against rain and wind while in warm weather it can be pitched higher up for better ventilation. In order to efficiently use a tarp as a shelter you should also know some basic knots. However, with a little experience you can make a great tarp shelter basically anywhere.

In this review we selected and reviewed the best lightweight tarps for hiking. We were especially looking for modular lightweight products that offer great performance in various weather conditions.

If you are undecided between getting a tarp, bivy sack or a hiking tent, also check our selections of the Best Bivy Sacks for Hiking and Best Lightweight Hiking Tents. As for the comfort inside the portable shelter of your choice, we have also made reviews of the Best Sleeping Pads, Best Summer Sleeping Bags and Best 3-Season Lightweight Sleeping Bags.

1. Buying a Tarp – What is important?

Weight:

Hikers usually decide to use tarps instead of tents in order to reduce the overall weight that has to be carried on a trip as lightweight equipment allows you to hike faster and delay the exhaustion. Therefore, a tarp should be significantly lighter than a tent. High-quality tarps that can form a shelter for two persons weigh as little as 300 grams while high-quality two-person tents weigh in average around 1.5 kilograms as seen in our list of the best lightweight hiking tents.

Packed Size:

Well-packable equipment allows you to save space in the backpack for other essentials. Tarps in general take very little space in the backpack – less than bivy sacks or tents. In this selection we only included tarps that are very small when folded and stored in a stuff sack.

Unfolded Size:

The bigger the tarp, the larger area it will cover and shield from rain and wind. Tarp shelters also allow you to increase the covered area by decreasing the internal height (A pitch). However, if you decrease the internal height too much you will have problems using modular parts such as inner bug nets and bivy sacks. Nevertheless, the tarp size should be also selected according to the terrain where the shelter will be set up and number of persons that will sleep in it.

Material:

Tarps are usually made of durable nylon – the same material as tents’ canopies are made of. The nylon fabric is usually impregnated with silicone or coated with polyurethane in order to offer good water- and wind-resistance. Many manufacturers also use ripstop technology (e.g. the fabric is reinforced with interwoven threads) to prevent the fabric from tearing. Tarps are not breathable but you seldom have condensation issues with a tarp shelter as the very construction is usually well-ventilated. However, in rainy weather you should make sure that no part of your sleeping bag is in direct contact with the tarp as the heat from the sleeping bag can cause condensation to be formed on the tarp and make the sleeping bag moist.

Attachment Points:

Most tarps have six attachment points or more, depending on the tarp’s size and design. There is usually one attachment point close to the each of the four corners (stake loops) while two additional attachment points are located on the sides in the middle. The attachment points in the middle allow you to suspend the tarp so that it forms a shelter in the traditional A shape.  These two attachment points can usually hold the tip of a trekking pole or a stick, so that you can easily suspend the tarp even if there are no trees around.  If these two attachment points are not trekking pole compatible you will need trees or other high elements around to suspend the tarp with guylines. Another four attachment points (stake loops) are used to fasten the tarp to the ground with stakes. However, keep in mind that a tarp can also be set up in other forms than the A pitch if the terrain allows/requires.

2. The Best Tarps for Hiking Review

The Best Lightweight Tarps for Hiking

The Best Lightweight Tarps for Hiking

  1. Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp
  2. MSR Thru Hiker 70 Wing
  3. Rab Element Solo Shelter
  4. Kelty Upslope Tarp
  5. Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Sil Rain Tarp

Comparison

Feature/Product Sea to Summit Escapist TarpMSR Thru Hiker 70 WingRab Element Solo ShelterKelty Upslope Tarp Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Sil Rain Tarp
Material15D Nylon 20D Ripstop Nylon Cordura 40D Nylon 15D Ripstop Nylon
Weight 11 oz. (M) 16 oz. (L)13 oz. 11 oz. 1 lb. 6 oz. 16 oz.
Weight (Metric) 300 g (M) 440 g (L) 380 g310 g 620 g 453 g
Size (Length/ Width)102 x 102 in. (M); 120 x 120 in. (L)114 x 102 in. 86 x 39/31 in. (inner dimensions) 78 x 68 in. (inner dimensions)126 x 76 in.
Size -
Metric (Length/ Width)
260 x 260 cm (M); 305 x 305 cm (L)290 x 260 cm 220 x 100/80 cm (inside dimensions) 198 x 173 cm (inside dimensions)320 x 193 cm
Packed Size7.5 x 3.0 in. (M); 9.1 x 3.0 in. (L) 9.1 x 3.9 in. 7.9 x 3.1 in.7.9 x 4.3 in.8.7 x 4.7 in.
Packed Size (Metric)19 x 7.6 cm (M); 23 x 7.6 cm (L) 23 x 10 cm 20 x 8 cm 20 x 11 cm 22 x 12 cm
Modular Components from ManufacturerEscapist Groundsheed, Bug Tent, Bug Net Mesh House 2 Element 1 Bug Tent, Element 1 Ground ClothKelty TN2 TraiLogic Tent (as vestibule) ENO hammock
Season 4 (if used with appropriate components)4 (if used with appropriate components)4 (if used to cover a snow cave) 4 (if used with appropriate components)4 (if used with appropriate components)
Trekking Poles CompatibleYesYesYesYes No
Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp

Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp

1. Sea to Summit Escapist Tarp

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking
  • Emergency shelter

The Sea to Summit Escapist tarp is due to its functionality and low weight very popular among hikers and backpackers. It is the smallest (when packed) and lightest (per m2) product in this review. The tarp is made of 15-denier polyurethane-coated and silicone-impregnated nylon. Therefore, it offers great protection against wind and rain. The material is rather thin but as it is equipped with reinforced corners (210D nylon) it offers decent durability.  The tarp has eight attachment points (with cord adjusters); the two in the middle can also hold the tip of a trekking pole if you are staying in areas without trees. The many attachment points also give you great freedom when it comes to pitching the tarp. The Sea to Summit Escapist is available in two different sizes; M which measures 260 x 260 cm and size L which measures 305 x 305 cm. Both sizes are designed to accommodate two persons but the largest one offers more space for the gear. Sea to Summit also offers modular components, such as the Escapist Groundsheet, Inner Bug Tent and Bug Net, that can be used together with this tarp. All modular components work best with the Escapist tarp in size L. The Sea to Summit Escapist tarp is best for those who want a superlight minimalistic shelter for their hiking adventures.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Packed size
  • Attachment points
  • Trekking pole compatible attachment points
  • Modular components

Cons:

  • /

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

Best Buy!

Also available at:

REI

Video

MSR Thru Hiker 70 Wing

MSR Thru Hiker 70 Wing

2. MSR Thru Hiker 70 Wing

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking
  • Emergency shelter

The MSR Thru Hiker 70 Wing tarp is another very popular shelter among hikers and backpackers. In comparison to the Sea to Summit Escapist tarp it is slightly heavier per m2 but on the other hand it is also made of a tougher and more durable material (20D polyurethane coated and silicone impregnated ripstop nylon). The tarp is equipped with six attachment points that are compatible with trekking poles for easy set up. Alternatively, you can suspend the tarp from trees. The MSR Thru Hiker 70 Wing tarp measures 290 x 260 cm and is thus somewhere in-between sizes M and L of the Sea to Summit Escapist tarp. MSR states that is suitable for two to three persons. However, with three persons in the shelter, the gear will most likely have to be left outside. The tarp can be used together with the MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House 2 or 3 for added protection and comfort. The MSR Thru Hiker 70 Wing is best for those who want a functional and light shelter for various hiking trips.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Trekking pole compatible attachment points
  • Compatible with MSR Thru-Hiker Mesh House

Cons:

  • /

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

Best Buy!

Also available at:

Backcountry | Campsaver

Video

Rab Element Solo Shelter

Rab Element Solo Shelter

3. Rab Element Solo Shelter

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking
  • Emergency shelter

The Rab Element Solo is an extremely minimalistic and light tarp shelter (it weighs merely 310 grams) that offers great functionality. Unlike the Sea to Summit Escapist and the MSR Thru Hiker 70 Wing, the Rab Element Solo can only accommodate one person as it is significantly smaller. The tarp also doesn’t have a conventional rectangle/square shape which makes its internal height lower in one end when it’s pitched. This design, however, increases rain and wind protection to some extent. The Rab Element Solo tarp uses a silicone-coated Cordura fabric which is highly valued for its strength and durability. It also features two attachment points with guylines and four stake loops. The attachment points can also hold trekking poles in order to suspend the fabric and make the set up easier in areas without trees. The tarp is compatible with the Element Solo Bug Tent which has a floor made of 40-denier nylon and upper part made of breathable mesh. The Rab Element Solo is best for those who often hike alone and want a minimalistic but very functional and reliable shelter.

 

Pros:

  • Durability
  • Weight
  • Packed size
  • Compatible with Element Solo Bug Tent

Cons:

  • /

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

 

Kelty Upslope Tarp

Kelty Upslope Tarp

4. Kelty Upslope Tarp

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking
  • Emergency shelter

The Kelty Upslope is a budget tarp that offers great functionality for the price. The tarp is made of durable 40-denier silicone impregnated nylon which offers great protection against natural phenomena. However, because the fabric is very robust, the Kelty Upslope is also heavier than the tarps listed above – it weighs no less than 620 grams. The tarp can be secured with four stakes (adjustable stake loops) and suspended with 3 guylines and two trekking poles in case that the surroundings don’t allow you to attach the peak guylines to trees or other high points. The Kelty Upslope has guyline storage pockets for easier handling and faster set up. The tarp can be also used as a vestibule for Kelty’s TN2 TraiLogic Tent. All in all the Kelty Upslope tarp is a great option for the price – especially if you don’t mind carrying a few hundred grams more.

 

Pros:

  • Price
  • Easy to set up
  • Trekking pole compatible attachment points

Cons:

  • Weight

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

Best Buy!

Also available at:

Backcountry | Campsaver

 

Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Sil Rain Tarp

Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Sil Rain Tarp

5. Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Sil Rain Tarp

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking
  • Emergency shelter

The Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Sil is a budget tarp that offers great performance for the price. The tarp is primarily designed to be used with an ENO hammock but you can also use it as a substitute for a tent. That is, as long as you have trees around your camping place as the Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly tarp, unlike the other products in this review, can’t be suspended with trekking poles. The tarp is made of polyurethane coated 15-denier ripstop nylon and thus offers great weather protection as well as durability. It is equipped with six attachment points which allow you to easily secure the tarp. The Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Sil is best for those who don’t hike and camp out above the tree line as it requires trees to be suspended. The tarp offers great performance for the price.

 

Pros:

  • Price
  • Compatible with ENO hammock

Cons:

  • Attachment points not compatible with trekking poles

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

Video

 

3. The most attractive product in the review

Which product do you prefer?
Cast your vote to see the results of this poll!

 

You may also like…

Did you find this post interesting?


Follow us on social media...



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *