Zpacks 8.5' x 10' Flat Tarp Review

We tested the Zpacks 8.5' x 10' Flat Tarp and this is our verdict.

January 05, 2024
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Zpacks’ 8.5' x 10' DCF tarp is versatile, durable, lightweight, and easy to use. I don’t find myself often having to really even think about setting it up. Once you get into the habit of picking a good campsite, their tarp almost sets itself up. The pack-up in the morning is nice and easy and doesn’t expose those cold hands to the dewy morning for too long, as this tarp is extremely easy to tuck away to dry out later on a lunch break.

Product Overview

Zpacks 8.5' x 10' Flat Tarp

Price: $399

zpacks-flat-tarp
Pros

✅ Lightweight

✅ Durable

✅ Easy to pack away

✅ Quick drying

Cons

❌ Exposed to wildlife

❌ Limited ability to set up if not carrying trekking poles

❌ Lack of privacy

KEY SPECS
  • Size: 8.5' x 10' (2.6 m x 3 m)
  • Weight: 6.5 oz (184 g)
  • Material: .55 oz/sqyd Standard Dyneema® Composite Fabric
  • Tensile Strength: 63 lb/in (552 N/5cm)
  • Puncture Strength: 1.8 lb (8 N)
  • Water Resistance: 15,000 mmH₂O
  • Tie Outs: 4 corner tie-outs, 2 ridge line tie-outs, 3 evenly spaced tie-outs on each long side, 2-panel tie-outs on each wall
  • 50ft of 2.0mm Yellow Z-Line cord 1.7 oz (49 g) and 2 Mini-D Carabiners 0.1 oz (2.8 g) ea come standard with their flat tarps but are not included in the listed weight

8,000 miles on my Zpacks Tarp and it’s still going; a little worse for wear but has stood up to the elements nonetheless. I started hiking long-distance trails last year and have been using this trimmed-down tarp for the lion’s share of the past 10,000 miles. I’d always been interested in the idea of tarping but just hadn’t given it a shot. So, I figured now was as good a time as any to go for it. I’ve yet to even use it to its full potential, and I still love it!

To see reviews on other tarp shelters, check out our Best Ultralight Tarp Shelters and Configurations post.


Performance Test Results

How We Tested:

To test my new tarp out, I brought it, as well as a hammock I’d already had, with me on my thru-hike of the Ocean to Lake Trail (a 63-mile spur of the Florida Trail that starts at the Atlantic Ocean and ends at Lake Okeechobee in Port Mayaca) in both mine and Zpacks’ backyard, down in South Florida.

I brought the hammock just in case I didn’t like the tarp. I then did the same thing when I began my NOBO through the Florida National Scenic Trail in 2022, and it turned out that I absolutely loved it!

zpacks flat tarp beside a tree

The 8.5' x 10' Flat Tarp retails at $399.

Ease of use and setup

The simplicity of this little piece of DCF and its ease of use, had me forgetting completely about my hammock (Note: I wound up not even using my hammock after about two weeks). Its rectangular construction made it really versatile but also sturdy in weather.

I only brought six of their bright yellow guy lines and have yet to carry trekking poles, so the setups had to be, at times, inspired by the terrain and conditions. The neon yellow guy lines were super tough and have yet to snap, fray, or otherwise give up the ghost; and their bright yellow sheen really helped me to avoid tripping over them in the pre-dawn hours.

zpacks flat tarp close-up

A view from the inside of the tarp.

Versatility

There are 16 total tie-outs but I’ve yet to need that many, its versatility has come in super handy. Honestly, I usually only use about six of them and never really felt the need to get back up and tie out more.

One of the worst nights of mosquitoes I’ve ever experienced though, was on a canal walk on the FT where there were absolutely zero things to tie a tarp or hammock to, and I didn’t carry any trekking poles. I blame myself, not the tarp (I have been known to use sticks and branches as support, however; sometimes there just aren’t options).

On a couple of occasions, I was able to utilize its single-walled slopes to collect rainwater and top off my cold-soaked dinner and still have enough for late-night sippin’. I never really had any issues with condensation, even with it being single-walled. I think that the ridiculous amount of airflow you get with this piece of gear carries away a lot of that moisture l, and I always woke up dry and comfy.

setting up zpacks flat tarp with a table

Weather-resistance

All of those miles, minus the 310-mile-long Superior Hiking Trail, in Minnesota, were in the humidity of the Eastern United States (most in the southeast) and this tarp was both big enough and diverse enough to be able to handle the elements. I even was able to flip it upside down to string a guy line through the upper tie-outs, to create a makeshift clothesline, to attempt to dry out some gear, while I slept.

That airflow does come with a drawback though, and this goes for tarping in general. These types of shelters don’t provide much privacy. If you're with other hikers/campers, you can always just go a little further away or, if in a pinch, try and angle your pitch to give you a little greater sense of seclusion.

zpacks flat tarp close-up

One disadvantage of using tarp shelters is that they do not offer much privacy.

Weight and Durability

The weight was right for me too, coming in at 6.5oz (184 g). The simplicity is subtle. The tie-outs always held their tension. And the ease of packing it up in the wee hours of the morning, well, it couldn’t have gone any smoother.

Another perk of such a simple and durable piece of gear is that, when it does get wet, it’ll dry in no time; I’m talking 10 minutes in a light breeze. Yeah, after that many miles in such a short amount of time, it started to form a couple of pinprick holes in the material, but even those were hardly noticeable, even in the heaviest downpours.

zpacks flat tarp at night

My tarp set up at night.

Comfort

I’d say that I was a little nervous the first few times that I used my tarp in a heavy downpour, but I always managed to stay dry. Plus, if you just need it to keep dew, or even a light rain, off of you and your gear, I have been able to fit two hikers beneath it safe and sound.

The only reason I switched to a tent for the last 1,600 miles of my Eastern Continental Trail hike this year, was because Newfoundland, Canada isn’t known for having very many trees and because getting my tent shipped to me internationally would’ve been a kind of headache that I didn’t want to have to deal with.

Overall, I’m very happy with my Zpacks 8.5’ x 10’ (2.6 m x 3 m) DCF Tarp and will surely be using it again in the future, but only after a little TLC and some time off trail, so it can recover.

zpacks flat tarp
Jason

About Jason "Out & About” Tompkins

Jason grew up in South Florida, betwixt beach and swamp.  He started backpacking last year, in January 2022.

He has hiked around 10,000 miles of trails since then.  His proudest moments were stringing together a series of trails in 2022, totaling 2,200 miles, creating a route that he named The Carolinian. The other high-water mark for him, was completing the Eastern Continental Trail in 2023 (a 5,700ish mile-long route).  

Currently he is living, working, and training in Death Valley National Park, California for his next year’s adventures on the Arizona and Pacific Crest Trails 

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.

Stoveless Backpacking Meals
  • 650-Calorie Fuel
  • No Cooking
  • No Cleaning