Ultimate Guide to Ultralight Tarps for Lightweight Backpacking

The 10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tarps

Backpacking tarps are a great camping option if you want to significantly reduce the weight of your backpacking gear while experiencing a deeper connection with nature by sleeping under a shelter without walls. Backpack tarps come in two basic varieties: shaped, chain-cut tarps with curved sides to reduce weight and flapping in the wind, and square, flat tarps with 90-degree corners that can be set up in many different configurations, their uses but requires more skill. Floor sleepers typically sleep in bivvy bags under such tarps to protect against insects, along with a waterproof groundsheet, Tyvek sheeting, or plastic window film.

Here are the 10 best ultralight backpacking tarps we recommend:

While pyramid tarps are technically tarps, most people use them with an inner tent like a double-wall tent, which is why we cover them in a separate gear guide and primer. The same goes for hammock tarps, which are typically much larger and heavier than the tarps used by ultralight floor sleepers.

1. Hyperlite Mountain Flat Tarp

Flat tarpaulin from Hyperlite Mountain Gear
The flat tarp from Hyperlite Mountain Gear is a flat tarp with 90 degree corners that can be set up in many different ways or “shapes” depending on weather conditions. It is available in two sizes: an 8’6″ x 8’6″ (8.85 oz) model and an 8′ x 10′ (9.74 oz) model in white or spruce green Dyneema DCF. It is equipped with 16 tie-downs around the perimeter and 4 tie-downs on the inside, so you can attach it to the ground or nearby vegetation in many different ways. The tarp is equipped with line locks and the ridge line is factory sealed. 10 guy ropes are included, but you have to attach them yourself.

Shop at Hyperlite

2. Zpacks 8.5′ x 10′ flat tarp

Zpacks 8.5
The Zpacks 8.5′ x 10′ flat tarp is a 6.5 oz Dyneema DCF Tarp that is every minimalist’s dream. It has 16 attachment points, five per side, including two on the ridge line and four in the middle. All tie-downs are reinforced and the ridge line is sealed, however the tarp does not come with line locks or pre-cut guy lines. This is intentional. On a tarp this size they would just clutter things up and add extra weight. It is better to build exactly what you need when building.

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3. Gossamer Gear Twinn Tarp

The Gossamer Gear Twinn Tarp is a 9.5-ounce, two-person tarp made from high-strength 10D nylon and factory-taped with seams. It is a chain-cut tarp with a curved ridge line and edges, with two attachment points on the side walls and insect net loops on the two ends. For quick setup, the tarpaulin is equipped with adjustable line locks and cordage. If you’ve never used a backpacking tarp before, this one is a good place to start because it’s so easy to set up. Read our review of the Gossamer Gear Twinn Tarp.

Shop at Gossamer Gear

4. Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo Tarp

Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo Tarp

The Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo Tarp is a tapered, chain-cut two-person tarp made from Dyneema DCF measuring 9.5′ x 7.5′ x 9.5′ (front x back x ridge length). It offers plenty of space for spreading out or for use in conjunction with a hanging insect bivouac, also available from MLD. It has 8 line tensioners, 3 on each side, and an internal hook on the ridegline. The Grace Duo is available in several qualities of Dyneema DCF and Silnylon in different weights and price ranges. Read our MLD Grace Duo review.

Shop at MLD

5. Hammock Gear Traverse Tarp

Hammock Gear Traverse Tarpaulin

The Hammock Gear Traverse Tarp is a 9.5″ x 9.5″ Silpoly tarp (13.7 ounces) that is good for ground use. This tarp features 14 edge attachments, 2 ridgeline attachments and 2 panel extensions (one on each side) for endless setup possibilities. We like it because it’s perfectly square and can be configured in a variety of different pitches tailored to different terrain and weather conditions. If you are looking for a tarp with a size and price suitable for serious experimentation, then this is the one for you. The tarpaulin comes with a SilPoly stuff sack and seam sealer to seal the seams. Guy ropes are not included.

Shop at Hammock Gear

6. Hilleberg tarpaulin 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 those that conform to surrounding vegetation. In addition to its unusual shape, it is made of a super strong, triple-coated Silnylon fabric that is three times more waterproof (5000mm) than most backpacking tents. The Tarp 5 is equipped with metal rings at each guy point, line tensioners and rope. Read our review of the Hilleberg Tarp 5.

Shop at MooseJaw

7. Paria Outdoors Sanctuary Sil Tarp

Santuary Sil Trap
The 10′ x 7/5′ tapered Sanctuary Sil Tarp from Paria Outdoor is a 10 oz Sil/PU coated one-person tarpaulin with a hydrostatic head rating of 5000 mm, which is better waterproof than most tents. The ridge line is seam-welded and comes with 12 circumferential attachment loops and 12 reflective Dyneema guy lines with Micro Line Lock adjusters. It is an excellent tarpaulin at a very affordable price. Read the SectionHiker review.

Shop at Paria Outdoors

8. Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar

MLD Trailstar

The Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar is a 5-sided cut tarp that is a cross between a shaped tarp and a pyramid, giving it incredible versatility in terms of ventilation and wind resistance. Although it can accommodate up to three people, most people use it as a sole shelter, with or without an inner nest. It is available in Silnylon or DCF and weighs 12 – 15 ounces. Read our Trailstar review.

Shop at MLD

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. Because it is designed for two people, it can be set up at different heights and widths as the front doors are split, providing more storm protection or ventilation and head height as needed. A closed back wall provides additional weather protection. Although the SplitWing is made of siliconized nylon on both sides, no seam sealing is required as it uses a double-needle felled seam that does not leak. Although you can buy it individually, a modular inner tent and an additional vestibule are also available as part SplitWing package. Read our Splitwing bundle review.

Shop at SlingFin

10. Warbonnet MiniFly

Warbonnet Minifly
The Warbonnet MiniFly is a hexagonal tarpaulin with catenary cut and front and rear half doors that can be used for ground or hammock camping. The half doors can be left open for air circulation or closed to form a mini spout to prevent rain from splashing back. It weighs 13 ounces, measures 132″ x 91″, and has 4 corner attachment points, 4 door attachment points, and 2 ridge line attachment points. The tarpaulin is also available in Silnylon or Silpoly. Read our Minifly review.

Shop at Warbonnet

Important considerations

Tarp Types: Flat Tarps vs. Chain Tarps

Flat tarps have 90 degree corners with flat sides and are shaped like squares or rectangles. They can be set up at a variety of different angles with a focus on views, air circulation or weather protection. Chain tarps have curved sides and ridge lines, reducing the amount of fabric required to make them and reducing their weight. However, this limits the variety of setup options and often limits them to a simple A-frame setup. Chain-cut tarpaulins are also quieter in the wind because the fabric is stretched more tightly. Some overhead line tarpaulins are also tapered, meaning one end is wider than the other. This is also a weight-saving measure.


Tarpaulins are available in different fabrics that give them different properties.

  • Tarpaulins made with Dyneema DCF are very light and have very little stretch. However, this can limit the number of configuration options and limit their ability to deal with uneven ground or obstructing vegetation. Dyneema DCF tarpaulins do not need to be seam sealed and are very waterproof. However, they are bulky and take up more space in a backpack.
  • Tarpaulins made from siliconized nylon (Silnylon) or siliconized polyester (Silpoly) usually need to be seam-sealed to prevent them from leaking when it rains. They work well as flat tarps because they have some stretch, which can be useful when setting up in different patterns.
  • Tarpaulins coated with polyurethane (PU) or silicone/PU are usually seam-glued and do not need to be sealed.

One and two person tarpaulins

Most people prefer using two-person tarps instead of one-person tarps, even when camping alone, because it gives them more space to keep their gear protected from the rain and within easy reach.

Knot tying and guy ropes

Most chain tarpaulins are equipped with integrated line tensioners, which eliminate the need to tie knots. When it comes to flat tarps, different people have different preferences. For larger square or rectangular tarps, fixed guylines can add unnecessary weight and clutter, and many people prefer not to attach guylines until they set up their tarp. Some knowledge of knots can be helpful or the use of knot writing devices such as: Figure 9s.

Insect protection and splash protection

Most tarp users sleep in bivouacs or larger insect bivouacs to protect themselves from insects and other creepy crawlies. Bivouac bags also provide additional rain protection from what is known as “splashback,” when rain bounces off the ground on the sides of the tarp but bounces back underneath and gets your gear wet.


While many bivvy bag bases are waterproof, it’s convenient to sleep on a groundsheet so you can spread your gear around you at night. Most ultralight backpackers Use a sheet of Tyvek, Polycryo plastic sheets (sold by Gossamer Gear), Insulating film for plastic windowsor even one Dyneema DCF groundsheetalthough the latter is quite expensive compared to other alternatives.

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