A tarp is a must-have for camping. But if you’re looking to buy a tarp for your camping trip, you are probably wondering: “What size tarp do I need for camping?”

The fact of the matter is that there is such a thing as the “right size” when it comes to choosing a tarp for camping. Without it, you can’t expect perfect performance. The necessity or emergency uses of a tarp in different sorts of camping are probably not unknown to you I think. But do you concern yourself about what size tarp for camping you should choose?

Well, even though there is such a thing as the right size for you, it naturally depends on a number of different factors. You need to consider several facts and only then can you decide what size you require. So, to figure out the right tarp size, let’s dig into this article.

4 Considering Facts to Find the Right Size Tarp

As far as I remembered there wasn’t much rain during my camping in Georgia. We took the tarp to place under the tent, but the rain forced us to place it as a rain shelter. But the issue? It couldn’t cover the tent fully and worked as the worst shelter! All tarps aren’t able to support you in all kinds of circumstances.

So, before buying a tarp, measuring everything and dealing with a few questions is important. Okay, now let’s know the facts that you should keep in mind to determine the tarp size.

1. Type of Camping

You know, camping is sorted into many categories. The most common and popular forms are:

Yeah, the thing that you should first look at is the type of camping you plan to go on.

It matters a lot. What happens when you will place it under a tent? You need to have a tarp that will cover the whole tent, for both under or above use. And the length and width of your tarp need to increase for car camping.

Again, the needs will be different when you will use it above the hammock.

So, before going for any size, first think of the way you want to camp.

2. The purpose and usage areas

Surprisingly the tarp has so many different usage areas that you might not have thought about before. So, what are the main necessities of a tarp?

Rain and Sun protector: The most common use is as a protective shelter from sun, snow, rain, and so on. For that, you have to keep up your tent or hammock. In this term, the size depends on the full area in which you place your bed.

Ground proof: Another usual use of the tarp is on the ground. It is used to keep the bottom of the tent away from moisture and water and insulate. To keep your tent or bed ground water-free and comfortable, a tarp serves superbly. Here, the size should take a little bit larger than your bed dimension.

Shade and shelter: Sometimes, tarps can be used as shades or shelters. On an outdoor trip, it’s not wise to open the tent all the time. And on this situation, you will need to stay in the shade where the tarp can do so. Again, in summer, it will allow you to chill with the members under the tarp. For that, you don’t need a big one.

As a Windbreaker: One of the common tasks that you do while staying in nature is a windbreak. Pleasingly, tarps play an excellent role as windbreakers here.

On Campfire and Kitchen: Cooking and campfires are to be expected when camping. To cook, you need shelter. On the other hand, during bad weather, you can still enjoy a campfire just by placing a weather-protective tarp above. In those conditions, a normal size tarp is much okay.

So, for which purpose you want to buy a tarp, it can be really helpful and important to determine the size.

3. Number of Members

Members mean those people who are camping with you. Number measurement is one of the essential facts to determine your needs.

On a trip, you can go with your friends, with family or even alone too. And the number of participants will affect which type of bed (tent, hammock, etc) you basically require. 

And that fact directly impacts the size of your tarp. If you stay single, then obviously you need a small one where more members mean more space to cover.

4. Carrying and Maintenance

On the last point, what should you also remember for a perfect size camping tarp? Well, I keep the maintenance and transport facility in here as it is just as important as the previous points.

The weight of the tarp is largely related to the carrying section. Simply, more weight means more hassle to carry. That is not a problem if you have a car. But when you are backpacking or hiking, having a heavy tarp can add a lot of weight to your trip and make it much more difficult than it needs to be. That said, pay attention to the weight of the tarp. And naturally, the larger the tarp, the greater the weight.

Furthermore, cleaning and storage will be more of a struggle when you have a large tarp.

In fact, it’s completely up to you on which factor you will give more priority.

What Size Tarp for Camping: Tent, Car, and Hammock

Don’t know which type of camping tarp you are searching for? Let’s discuss the sizing matter in three categories. I hope our effort won’t fail to answer which size you need. Okay then, let’s continue.

For Tent

The tent is one where tarps are used most. Here, it comes with different uses.

You may want to keep it under or over the tent. Furthermore, you may camp with family, friends, or even single. So, in every aspect, you need to deal with different types of sizes. So, how big of a tarp do you need for camping? Now, it’s time to know all about tents and tarps.

This is a commonly asked question: “Do I need larger tarps than my tent?”

Yes and no, both exist in this question. 

For Under Tent: Campers use an under-tent tarp to keep it dry, clean, water-free, and insulated also. So, in this view, what size should it be?

The calculation is related to the floor size of your tent. Suppose, your tent bed measurement is 10’ then it’s the wrong way to go as same as this size. For a perfect setup, a 7-12 inches larger tarp than the floor is an ideal choice.

For example, the 9’ x 7’ (family tent) floor needs a 10’ x 8’ tarp. And if you have 7.7′ x 3.2′ then go for an 8’ x 4’ size.

For Over Tent: Usually, a tarp over the tent is placed for shade, rain shelter, windbreaker, and so on. To determine the size, you can follow this little trick:

Try to select a size about 3/4 feet larger in both width and height than the tent. 

If you are single and have a tent floor of 7.7′ x 3.2′ then 10’ x 6’ will be suitable for you. Again, with the 9’ x 7’ family tent, the tarp measurement will be 13’ x 11’.

However, we created a poll over the best sizes of tarps for tent camping. And we found that 10′ x 10′ and 10′ x 8′ got more votes as the best tarp to use for a two or three-person tent. Additionally, 10′ x 12′ also got more votes where you can camp with more people.

Size Chart for Tent Tarp

By the way, some outdoor lovers prefer a little smaller tarp in very hot weather than previous because of making an easy way of ventilation. 

So, that’s all about how and what sizes are best suited for your tent. 

For Car Camping

Camping in the car is one of the popular ways to stay in nature. There have been so many controversies on sizing the tarp for it. Some prefer small while some say big will be the best. So, what is the best tarp size for camping in the car?

Well, from my own experience, along with expert opinions, 12’ x 12’ is the perfect dimension in this regard. With that size, you will be able to cover the shelter from rain, a picnic table, or an empty room. Many use the 10’ x 10’, which seems bad as rain protectors and in space to me. With a tiny vehicle and as a single it is okay to use this size.

By the way, if you want to camp with large members and need more space, then we recommend 15’ x 15’. This is because, in this big size you won’t be worried about rain, space for cooking, for a table and also for the camping chair. All of the necessary things you can do under this large coverage. However, you require more maintenance to deal with large sizes. But it’s not a major problem at all.

Size Chart for Car Camping Tarp

For Hammock

Depending on different factors, there exist several sizes of hammock tarps. So, which size will suit you the most?

Before mentioning the sizes, let’s talk about some basic terms on a tarp while using a hammock.

Two types of shelter for this type of camping are:

  • Diamond/ A-symmetric: Those are quite the same in size. But a diamond has a square and provides more shelter whereas A-symmetric is rectangular.
  • Hexagon: It means it has 6 sides (hexagonal)

Another vital term that you should calculate for the tarp is the ridgeline. Ridgeline is the measurement between two parts of the hammock.

Basically, the size of the rainfly is largely associated with your height and hammock size.

For diamond/A-Sym: First, check for the ridgeline, and based on it choose the tarp where it is longer than the ridgeline up to 6 inches on both sides.

For family, if your hammock and ridgeline length are serially 13’ and 11.2’ then the tarp size should be 12’ x 12’. It will be covered more areas as well as protection in many circumstances. Again, for a single 11’ hammock with an 8.6’ line, you have to go for the 7’ x 7’.

For Hexagon: In this sector, the calculations are the same as in the above discussion. For this, you need to be 6 inches longer than the line. Now, for 13’ and 11.3’, the dimension should be 9’ x 11.8’. And for 8 it will be 7.7’ x 10’.

Size Chart for Hammock Tarp

In verdict, the sizes aren’t fixed for all. It is related to your hammock size, ridgeline, and your height. Including your own preferences. We just show you the formula and now it’s up to you to calculate to find out the perfect size.

What are the benefits of using tarps when camping?

Tarps are a useful tool for camping due to their:

  • Ability to provide protection from the elements (such as rain, wind, or sun)
  • Versatility in creating a makeshift shelter, shade, or windbreak
  • Lightweight and compact design, making them suitable for backpackers or those seeking to travel lightly
  • Cost-effectiveness compared to tents
  • Ease of setup with various configurations available
  • Durability in rough weather
  • Suitability for use in various camping settings including backcountry and car camping.

Recommended tarp sizes for different purposes

Tarp Size (in feet)Recommended Use
8×10Solo camping, emergency shelter
10×12Lightweight camping for 2 people
10×15Camping for 2-3 people
12×16Camping for 3-4 people
14×16Camping for 4-6 people
16×20Large group camping, picnic shelter

Note: These are general recommendations and the size of the tarp will depend on the specific needs and preferences of the user. It’s always a good idea to have a slightly larger tarp than what you think you need, as this will give you more options for setup and provide extra coverage if needed.


Are tarps 100% waterproof?

No, tarps are not 100% waterproof. This is because most tarps are made from polyethylene, which is a type of plastic material. Although polyethylene is highly water resistant, it does not provide complete, waterproof protection because the material is not completely impermeable.

Water can still seep through, especially if the tarp is exposed to heavy rain or if there are holes or tears in the fabric. Tarps also come in different grades, which can affect their waterproofness. The lower the grade, the more likely it is that the tarp will be less waterproof.

For example, a light-duty tarp may provide some protection from light rain, but it will not be able to provide complete waterproof protection. On the other hand, a heavy-duty tarp may be able to provide more complete waterproof protection, but it may also be more expensive. In addition, the way a tarp is used can also affect its waterproofness.

For example, if the tarp is not securely attached to the ground or other objects, it could be vulnerable to wind and rain, allowing water to seep in. If the tarp is not adequately taut, water can also pool on the fabric, which can lead to leakage.

Overall, tarps are not 100% waterproof, however, they can provide a good level of protection from light rain, wind, and other elements. If you need complete waterproof protection, you should look for a higher-grade tarp that is properly secured and tensioned.

Should a tarp go under a tent?

Whether or not a tarp should go under a tent largely depends on the type of terrain, weather conditions, and the type of tent being used. Generally speaking, a tarp can be a great addition to any camping setup and is especially useful in areas with rocky or damp ground.

When setting up a tent, the tarp should be laid down first, which will provide a barrier between the tent floor and the ground. This will help keep out moisture and provide additional insulation. Additionally, a tarp can provide extra protection from the elements, such as wind, rain, and sun.

If the ground is particularly rocky or uneven, a tarp can also be used to even out the ground and provide additional cushioning. In areas with a lot of rainfall, a tarp can also be used to create a waterproof barrier around the tent.

This is especially important for tents with a single wall or those made with lightweight materials, as these types of tents may not be as waterproof as those constructed from heavier materials. Finally, a tarp can provide extra space to store gear and other items when camping, allowing campers to keep their items off the ground and out of the elements

In conclusion, a tarp can be a great addition to any camping setup, as it will provide a barrier between the tent floor and the ground, as well as additional protection from the elements. Additionally, a tarp can be used to even out uneven ground and provide extra space to store gear.

How thick a tarp do I need?

The thickness of the tarp you need will depend on the purpose for which you plan to use it. If you plan to use it for camping, then you will want a thicker tarp for protection from the elements. If you are looking for a tarp to cover a patio or other area, then you may only need a light weight tarp. When considering the thickness, also think about the material.

A tarp made from heavy-duty vinyl or canvas will be more durable than a tarp made from a lightweight plastic. A heavier material will also be able to withstand more wear and tear, and will last longer. Thinner tarps are usually more affordable, and they are easier to store and transport. They can also be more easily cut to fit your specific needs.

However, they may not be as durable as thicker tarps. In general, you should choose a thickness that is appropriate for your intended use. If you are looking for a tarp for camping, then you should look for a tarp that is at least 10 millimeters thick.

If you are looking for a tarp for a patio, then a lighter-weight tarp might be sufficient. If you plan to use it for a roof, then you will need a tarp that is at least 20 millimeters thick. Overall, the thickness of the tarp you need will depend on the purpose for which you plan to use it. Consider the material and the intended use, and choose a thickness that is appropriate. If you are unsure, it is best to err on the side of caution and choose a thicker tarp.


I’m pretty sure, you are now thinking about why you need to go through so much hassle just for the size of a tarp. But it’s extremely necessary to confirm the right size to ensure a great camping experience. And whilst you may think it is difficult, it is actually not. 

We provide you with all the formulas, sorts, charts, and sizes, from which you can easily find out the best tarp for you. We hope, now there is no confusion about good size tarp for camping.

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