9 Best Tarp Shelters and Tarp Shelter Configurations

See how the best tarp shelters performed in our tests & read our tarp shelter configurations guide.

Updated on November 19th, 2022
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We tested the best tarp shelters on the market today. Read on to see how they performed, which one is best for you.

BONUS:  Find the Tarp Shelter Configurations Guide at the bottom of this post. We've put together this guide to help you understand the different tarp tent configurations and find the one that's right for you. 


Best Tarp Shelters

The best tarp shelters are:

MODEL PRICE Weight Dimensions Packed Size Tie-Outs Material Shape Score
1. Mountain Laurel Designs: Monk Flat Tarp $110 4-8oz 5 x 9ft - 14 20D Pro Silnyon Rectangle 9/10
2. Z Packs: 8.5' X 10' Flat Tarp $349 7.1oz 8.5 x 10ft - 16 0.55 Oz/SQYD Standard Dyneema Rectangle 9/10
3. Hyperlite Mountain Gear: Flat Tarp $399 9.7oz 8 x 10ft 6.5 x 5.5 x 3.5in 16 DCF8 Dyneema Rectangle 8/10
4. Rab: Siltarp $85-$135 8.3oz (1P) 7.9 x 4.9ft 8.7 x 5.5in 16 Cordura 30D Siliconised Nylon With PU Coated Back Rectangle 8/10
5. REI: Quarter Dome $179 12oz 9.5 x 9.5ft 4.5 x 9 in 8 Polyurethane-Coated Ripstop Nylon Rectangle 8/10
6. MSR: Thru-Hiker 70 Wing $189.95 12oz 9.5 x 9.5ft 9 x 4.5in 7 20D Ripstop Nylon 1200mm Xtreme Shield Rectangle 8/10
7. Sea to Summit: Escapist Tarp Shelter $219-$239 10.5oz (Medium) 8ft. 6in. x 6ft. 6in. 3 x 7.5in 8 Waterproof 15D Ultra-Sil Nano Nylon Rectangle 8/10
8. Six Moon Designs: Gatewood Cape $155 11oz 35²ft 10 x 8 x 1.5in 6 15D Silicone Coated Nylon Hexagon 7/10
9. Outdoor Vitals Delano Ultralight Backpacking Tarp $129.97 14oz 11ft x 6ft 6in 9 x 4.5in 6 15D Ripstop Nylon Diamond 7/10

Best Overall Tarp Shelter for One:

Mountain Laurel Designs: Monk Flat Tarp

Price: $110

See on Mountain Laurel Designs
mountain laurel designs monk flat tarp shelter


✅ Inexpensive

✅ Lightweight

✅ Large one-person tarp


❌ Less durable


  • Weight: 4-8 oz (0.25-0.5 lbs)
  • Dimensions: 5 x 9 ft
  • Packed Size: -
  • Tie-Outs: 14
  • Material: 20D Pro Silnyon
  • Shape: Rectangle

The Mountain Laurel Designs Monk Flat Tarp is a seamless, rectangular-shaped flat tarp sized for one person. At $110, we find the price to be one of the best on our list. Which we think is amazing given the larger size (for one) and the incredible lightweight. We found the 14 tie-outs along with the size to make this fairly versatile too.

Our biggest concern is the durability of this tarp shelter. The 20D Silnylon is a little on the thin side. Given the combination of low prices and excellent features, the Mountain Laurel Designs Monk Flat Tarp is our pick for the best overall tarp shelter for one person.

Best Overall Tarp Shelter for Two:

Z Packs: 8.5' X 10' Flat Tarp

Price: $349

See on Z Packs
Z Packs ultralight flat tarp shelter


✅ Ultralight

✅ Versatile

✅ Large

✅ Durable


❌ Expensive


  • Weight: 7.1 oz (0.44 lbs)
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 10 ft
  • Packed Size: -
  • Tie-Outs: 16
  • Material: 0.55 Oz/Sqyd Standard Dyneema
  • Shape: Rectangle

The Zpacks Dyneema tarp is an ultralight backpacker's dream. We love that it’s waterproof, weighs less than 8 ounces, and is plenty big enough to keep you covered when the weather turns rough. The tarp is made from thinner 0.55 oz/sq yd Standard Dyneema, which we find to be plenty durable. We also love that it has 16 different tie-outs - four on the corner, two for the ridgeline, three on each long side, and two on each wall.

Price is our only concern with this tarp, it’s the second most expensive on our list. It's hard to top the Z-Packs Flat Tarp, making it our best overall tarp shelter for two people.

Most Durable and Versatile Tarp Shelter:

Hyperlite Mountain Gear: Flat Tarp

Price: $399

See on Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Hyperlite Mountain Gear: Flat Tarp


✅ Ultralight

✅ Versatile

✅ Durable


❌ Expensive


  • Weight: 9.7 oz (0.61 lbs)
  • Dimensions: 8 x 10 ft
  • Packed Size: 6.5 x 5.5 x 3.5 in
  • Tie-Outs: 16
  • Material: DCF8 Dyneema
  • Shape: Rectangle

If you want a waterproof, durable, and versatile tarp, then look no further than the Hyperlite Mountain Gear flat tarp. The DCF8 Dyneema fabric is thicker than the Z Packs making it the most durable tarp shelter on our list. It does make it slightly heavier than that Z Packs though.

We find it to be incredibly versatile, with 16 tie-outs and the decent size allows for multiple configurations. You can even add an Echo mesh insert for added protection from rain and bugs. Really. the only gripe we have is the price. At $400 it’s the most expensive tarp shelter on our list.

Best Budget Tarp Shelter:

Rab: Siltarp

Price: $85-$135

1-person 2-person
rab siltarp ultralight tarp shelter


✅ Inexpensive

✅ Lightweight


❌ Less versatile


  • Weight: 8.3 oz (1P) (0.52 lbs)
  • Dimensions: 7.9 x 4.9 ft
  • Packed Size: 8.7 x 5.5 in
  • Tie-Outs: 16
  • Material: Cordura 30D Siliconised Nylon With PU Coated Back
  • Shape: Rectangle

The Rab Siltarp is a no-frills rectangular tarp with reinforced corner and center guyline points. We like that the basic design keeps the price down, making it the least expensive on our list. The 8.3-ounce weight is impressive given the low price tag. Though it has 16 tie-outs, the small size makes this less versatile than we would have liked. If you’re after a solid budget buy the Rab Siltarp is our pick.

Largest Tarp Shelter:

MSR: Thru-Hiker 70 Wing

Price: $189.95

See on MSR GEAR See on REI
MSR Thru-hiker 70 Wing ultralight tarp shelter


✅ Largest overall tarp shelter

✅ Inexpensive 2-person tarp


❌ Heavier

❌ Less durable


  • Weight: 12 oz  (0.75 lbs)
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 9.5 ft
  • Packed Size: 9 x 4.5 in
  • Tie-Outs: 7
  • Material: 20D Ripstop Nylon 1200mm Xtreme Shield
  • Shape: Rectangle

The MSR thru-hiker 70 Wing’s size, the largest on our list, makes it great for two people. It even works alone as a fast-pitch tent that protects from wind, rain, and other inclement weather. For a more robust tent setup, the MSR pairs well with the Thru-Hiker Mesh house which provides a ground cloth and mesh bug protection.

While the $190 price tag is by no means the cheapest overall, it is much cheaper than ultralight darlings like the Z-Packs and the Hyperlight. At 12 ounces, we wish it was a little bit lighter. And we find the 20D fabric lacks some of the durability we would hope for. If you need a large tarp, the MSR Thru-Hiker 70 Wing is our pick.

Best Tarp for Hammock Setups:

Outdoor Vitals: Delano Ultralight Backpacking Tarp

Price: $129.97

Outdoor Vitals Delano Ultralight Backpacking Tarp


✅ Inexpensive

✅ Durable

✅ Great for hammock setups


❌ Heavy

❌ Not as versatile as others


  • Weight: 14 oz (0.88 lbs)
  • Dimensions: 11 ft x 6 ft 6in
  • Packed Size: 9 x 4.5 in
  • Tie-Outs: 6
  • Material: 15D Ripstop Nylon
  • Shape: Diamond

The Delano Ultralight Backpack Tarp has a diamond cut and 11-foot length, the longest on our list, making it ideal for hammock setups. The total area of this tarp straddles a one and two-person tarp.

We find it less versatile than other models we reviewed, but that doesn’t come as a shock as this is designed for covering a hammock. We loved the price, it’s the second least expensive tarp on our making a decent buy, especially for those looking for a tarp for a hammock setup.

The Other Noteworthy Models

REI: Quarter Dome

Price: $179

REI quarter dome ultralight tarp shelter


✅ Large size

✅ Versatile

✅ Inexpensive 2-person tarp


❌ Heavier option


  • Weight: 12 oz (0.75 lbs)
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 9.5 ft
  • Packed Size: 4.5 x 9 in
  • Tie-Outs: 8
  • Material: Polyurethane-Coated Ripstop Nylon
  • Shape: Rectangle

REI’s Quarter Dome tarp is another large 2-person tarp. We like the square, symmetric cut that makes it easy to pitch it in an A-Frame, C-Fly, or similar configuration. We found it to be a versatile tarp with loop lash points along the edges, reinforced corner grommets, and quick-attach guylines that make it easy to get a tight pitch. We don’t like the 12-ounce weight, the second heaviest on our list. The $180 price tag is the cheapest 2-person option on our list.

Sea to Summit: Escapist Tarp Shelter

Price: $219-$239

Sea to Summit Escapist ultralight tarp shelter


✅ Largest single-person tarp


❌ Less durable

❌ Expensive


  • Weight: 10.5 oz (Medium) (0.66 lbs)
  • Dimensions: 8 ft. 6 in. x 6 ft. 6 in.
  • Packed Size: 3 x 7.5 in
  • Tie-Outs: 8
  • Material: Waterproof 15D Ultra-Sil Nano Nylon
  • Shape: Rectangle

Sea to Summit's Escapist Tarp Shelter keeps the weight down thanks to its lightweight 15D silnylon fabric. However, we find this fabric to be less durable than thicker, more robust options.

We like that it’s a large size for a single-person tarp shelter, the largest on our list. Along with its large size, it has eight tie-out points making it decently versatile. Our biggest disappointment with this tarp shelter is the price. It’s the third most expensive on our list.

Six Moon Designs: Gatewood Cape

Price: $155

See on MOOSEJAW See on Six Moon Designs
six moon designs ultralight tarp shelter - gatewood cape


✅ Inexpensive

✅ Works as a rain jacket


❌ Not as durable or versatile

❌ Heaviest one-person option


  • Weight: 11 oz (0.69 lbs)
  • Dimensions: 35² ft
  • Packed Size: 10 X 8 X 1.5 in
  • Tie-Outs: 6
  • Material: 15D Silicone Coated Nylon
  • Shape: Hexagon

We find the Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape is a unique design that works as a pyramid tarp shelter and also a rain jacket. Being the smallest shelter on our list it's not the roomiest. We’re surprised that this weighs what it does given its small size. It’s the heaviest one-person tarp shelter we reviewed.

The small size makes it less versatile than other options and the 15D silnylon fabric makes it less durable. We like that as a rain jacket, the cape provides a good balance between protection from the rain and ventilation, kind of like a large poncho.

Key Factors To Consider When Choosing


Material is the biggest factor when it comes to a tarp’s price. Nylon tarps are the least expensive while premium tarps are made with ultralight Dyneema fabric. Size can also affect the price. Smaller tarps use less material which can make them less expensive.

Tarp shelters that provide the greatest value:

Affordable tarp shelters:

Premium tarp shelters (most expensive):


The main reason to carry a tarp shelter is to go ultralight. By cutting out the tent body and mesh, tarps can be very lightweight. Look for tarp shelters that are under 1 lb.

The lightest tarp shelters:


What is a good size tarp to use for a shelter? A good size tarp to use for a shelter is an 8-by-10 tarp for two people and a 6-by-8 for one. You want to ensure that you leave an adequate surface area to cover your person. This is especially important in harsh weather conditions, where you might need to allocate more material to walls.

The largest tarp shelters for one:

The largest tarp shelters for two:

Other Things to Consider



Ensure the tarp includes tie-out points on the edges for guylines and trekking pole tips. There should be a minimum of four tie-out points, one for each corner (the more the better). The best tarps will have tie-points on the corners, along the edge, and even in the middle The more tie-out points, the more options you will have for pitching.



  • Dyneema: Formerly Cuben Fiber, Dyneema is a lightweight and waterproof material that is extremely strong and durable for its weight. It doesn't stretch or sag though (good and bad), so getting the perfect pitch is difficult. You can't 'cheat' by stretching the fabric to compensate for a ridgeline that is a bit too slack. Dyneema shelters are generally double the price.

  • Silnylon: another common fabric used to make tarps. It is a rugged fabric often used on the floor and rainfly of a tent. It is cheaper than Dyneema which makes it attractive to those on a budget. Unlike Dyneema which is a stiff fabric, Silnylon is flexible and compresses down to fit into the small nooks and crannies in a pack. Its Achilles heel is water - the material absorbs water when it rains and can sag.



There are three common shapes used by tarp manufacturers - rectangular, diamond-shaped, and hexagonal. There is no right or wrong shape; the style you choose depends on your individual needs.

  • Rectangle: The rectangular tarp is your standard Walmart tarp usually with three or so tie-outs per side. This style of tarp tends to be bulkier than other style tarps, but it is very versatile and can be pitched in a variety of different configurations.

  • Diamond: A diamond tarp is a square tarp that is designed to be hung diagonally on a ridgeline with one tie-out per side. It is limited in how it can be pitched and provides less overall coverage than a rectangle tarp. It is ideal for summer backpacking where you want maximum ventilation. It also works very well over a hammock.

  • Hexagonal: Last but not least is the hexagonal tarp which falls in between the diagonal and the rectangular tarp. The hexagonal shape offers less protection than a rectangular tarp but more protection than a diamond. It is lighter than a rectangular tarp because the hexagonal cut saves on fabric. It requires two tie-outs per side.


Durability comes down to material and material thickness. Dyneema is strong and durable. Nylon is less durable, but still a strong fabric. In general, the thicker the material the more durable the tarp.


A tarp can be pitched in several ways, making it a versatile piece of gear for a shelter, a dry common area at camp, and a multi-functional piece of gear in an emergency. Larger tarps will be more versatile. A basic rectangle shape is more versatile than a diamond or hexagon shape.


A big plus to carrying a tarp is packability. Without poles and a body, a tarp will pack down much smaller than a tent. Smaller, thinner tarps pack down the smallest. Larger, thicker tarps take up more space.

ultralight tarp shelter with fire© WildCamp Scotland

Tarp Shelter Configurations

There are many different ways to pitch a tarp. We chose ten of the most common tarp shelter configurations and provided an overview of each one below.


As its name implies, the stealth tarp is a low-profile setup ideal for stealth camping. It is moderately difficult to pitch because it requires a ridgeline, three paracord prusik loops, and a rectangle tarp with lots of tie-out points. Once pitched, it holds up well against the elements thanks to the groundsheet. Don't expect luxury accommodation though, as it can be cramped inside the shelter.

the steahlth tarp shelter configuration


The Tipi tarp is a cross between the stealth setup and the typical A-frame configuration. It has a bit more headroom than a stealth setup, but you lose some legroom.

There is ample airflow in a tipi tarp so you will have few issues with condensation. This openness also means you won't have as much protection from the elements.

The tipi design is easy to set up, requiring just a ridgeline that attaches to one tie-out point on the tarp and a few stakes to secure the sides and back.

the tipi ultralight tarp shelter configurations


The classic A-frame is one of the quickest and easiest ways to configure a tarp. It uses a ridgeline to support the center of the tarp, and stakes on the side to create the triangular shape of the letter A. The A-frame extends the tarp to its maximum width allowing you to fit two or more people and their gear. Because of its steep-pitched sides, it does provide ample protection against the wind and rain.

the a-frame ultralight tarp shelter configurations


The lean-to tarp takes the basic design of the A-frame and cuts it in half. Instead of staking out both sides, the lean-to only secures one side of the tarp to the ground. The other side of the tarp folds over the ridgeline and is held taut using guylines.

Like the A-frame, the lean-to is easy to pitch, but it is very open. You can fit a lot of people underneath the tarp and can cook or use a fire, but you are very exposed to the elements. Use this configuration only when the conditions are favorable.

the lean-to ultralight tarp shelter configurations


The tarp tent is ideal when you can't set up a ridgeline but still need a secure shelter. The shelter uses a center pole for support which is convenient but reduces the interior space. It is great in inclement weather, but it is difficult and time-consuming to pitch so you'll need to practice this one at home.

the tarp tent ultralight tarp shelter configurations


The headspace configuration provides plenty of space for a small group. You can even cook underneath it or have a small fire. It is super fast to set up requiring just a tree as an attachment point and a few guylines or stakes to secure the corners. The headspace is very open to the elements, but the quick setup means you can adjust the angle and direction of the pitch with ease.

the headpsace or plough point ultralight tarp shelter configurations


The bunker is a low shelter that wraps you in your tarp along three sides. It uses a tree-to-tree ridgeline or a pole to pitch the front of the tarp off the ground and a stake to secure the back of the tarp to the ground. A handful of guylines around the sides stretch the tarp out, and several stakes fasten it down to the ground.

It provides plenty of protection from the elements but can be short on space. It is moderately challenging to pitch as well.

the bunker ultralight tarp shelter configurations


The diamond tarp setup is a popular shelter style for hammocks. You can use a dedicated diamond tarp or a rectangular tarp that is folded into a square. This configuration uses a ridgeline and two guylines on each side to hang the tarp securely over the hammock. It provides ample protection from the wind and rain and is relatively easy to pitch.

the diamond ultralight tarp shelter configurations


When pitched, the C Fly wedge looks like - you guessed it - the letter C! The tarp shelter resembles the basic lean-to shelter with an extra fold at the bottom to provide a ground cloth. It's not a complicated shelter to build, but it requires a lot of hardware including a tree-to-tree ridgeline, up to six stakes, and two additional guylines. It protects from the wind and rain on one side while remaining open on the other.

the c-fly wedge ultralight tarp shelter configurations


There are a wide variety of pyramid shelters available today and for a good reason - their design makes them extremely wind and water-resistant. They are outstanding shelters in exposed areas where there is little to no vegetation. A mini-mid is a small version of a traditional pyramid that can stand up to five feet high.

All pyramid shelters use a single trekking pole in the middle to create headroom space and four solid sidewalls that extend to the ground. They require a fair amount of room to set up because of their broad base, but the extra protection they provide is worth their larger footprint.

They are roomy on the inside, but the single-door construction found on most pyramid tarps makes it challenging when you have more than one person.

the mini-mid ultralight tarp shelter configurations

Setting Up a Tarp Shelter

Before you hit the trail with an ultralight tarp, you should spend some time learning how to set it up. Pitching an ultralight tarp is not as easy as a tent - you have to get all the lines tensioned correctly or the tarp will collapse. You also have to angle the tarp correctly so it protects you from the driving rain or a stiff breeze. It takes practice, more practice, and some more practice.

WHAT YOU NEED TO SET UP: Make sure you have the necessary supplies before you pitch your tarp. At the bare minimum, you’ll need -

1. Trees. Ideally two trees for support. Hiking poles or paddles (if packrafting) work as well.
2. Paracord. For the ridgeline(s).
3. Anchors. A rock or stakes to secure the guylines to the ground.

ALSO, KNOW YOUR KNOTS: To secure the tarp, you'll need to brush up on your knot tying. The knots you use should be easy to tie, easy to untie, and strong enough not to slip under tension.

a. Bowline: (for anchors) hands down the most useful knot. Provides a fixed loop at the end of your rope.
b. Trucker's hitch: (for tension) allows you to add or release tension while you secure a ridgeline or a guyline.
c. Adjustable Prusik knot: (for trees) lets you attach your tent to the ridgeline.
d. Taut-line hitch: (for any tie-out) ideal for guylines. It’s adjustable and won’t slip when it is under tension.

All these knots are explained and illustrated in the following post - How to Tie Knots: 11 Essential Knots for the Outdoors.

ultralight tarp shelter with fireThe Bowline Knot | © Centre for Life, Newcastle

When To Use Tarp Shelters

Ultralight tarp shelters are at the pinnacle of minimalist backpacking. They are simple in design and only require a handful of gear to get set up. Tarps also are among the lightest shelters you can stuff into your pack. However, they can be challenging to pitch correctly.

There are four shelter scenarios where people typically use tarp shelters:

1. Ultralight: some ultralight hikers ditch their tent and replace it with a tarp. This helps long-distance hikers considerably reduce their pack weight.

2. Plan B: some backpackers carry a tarp as a Plan B emergency shelter and only use it when they can’t reach a shelter or conditions are terrible for cowboy camping. 

3. Hammocks: to protect themselves from the wind and rain, people sleeping in hammocks may hang a tarp above their hammocks. Several hammock tent manufacturers include tarps in their designs. 

4. Survival: some survivalists and preppers like to understand bushcraft fundamentals and tarp designs in the case of a doomsday scenario.

Pros & Cons of Tarp Shelters

Is a tarp better than a tent? Carrying a tarp can be better than a tent when you want to go ultralight and in climates with mild weather. But ultralight tarps are not for everyone. Before you ditch your tent and jump on the ultralight tarp bandwagon, you should consider the pros and cons of this shelter system.


  • Lightweight
  • Cheaper than a tent
  • The open design makes you feel closer to nature
  • Allows fresh air to circulate and reduce condensation
  • Some configurations will enable you to cook/make a fire while still protected
  • Customizable with many sizes, shapes, and ways to pitch a tarp


  • No protection from bugs unless you carry an inner mesh tent
  • Exposure to rain and wind if not pitched properly
  • Less stable than a similar freestanding tent
  • Can be difficult and time-consuming to pitch properly

ultralight tarp shelter configurations© Mitch Barrie (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Justin Sprecher photo

About Justin Sprecher

Justin is a thru-hiker and writer with a passion for wild backcountry. He's thru-hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail, LASHed the Great Divide Trail and Arizona Trail, and clocked up 1,000s of miles on long-distance trails around the world.

About Greenbelly

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

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