The Different Types of Tarps

blue-water-droplets_210771For most people there’s not much to a tarp. It’s big and blue and that’s the end of it. However, you should never underestimate the importance of a good tarp. There are different types of tarps, and what you’re going to use yours for dictates the type that you should get. Whether you’re using it for shelter, shade, or storage, tarps have tons of practical uses.

The most common type of tarp is definitely the previously mentioned big blue standard. It’s the cheap, affordable, and readily available option. They’re typically a ripstop polyethylene which makes them waterproof and tear resistant. Most of the time they will have brass grommets so they can be tied down and secured.

The big blue is the tarp that you buy against your better judgement because you know you’ll have to replace it in a year, but you buy it anyway because it’s under ten dollars. These work great if you’re car camping or if you’re wanting a bit of extra protection from the elements without breaking the bank.

It’s becoming popular to carry an extra blue tarp to use in emergency situations. When storm clouds roll in without warning, that extra tarp can be repurposed as a rain poncho orĀ  used for waterproofing backpacks.

If you hand an ultralight backpacker one of those blue polyethylene tarps, they will probably hand it back with a look of disgust and try their luck against thunderstorms. The main problem with polyethylene tarps apart from durability is that they are relatively heavy and bulky.

Many backpackers have started using super lightweight ripstop nylon tarps. They are lighter, more compact, and more durable than the cheaper polyethylene tarps. However since they are better quality, ripstop nylon tarps are also going to be more expensive. These tarps are going to be used primarily for shelter. Since they are roughly 5 times more expensive than those big blues, you wouldn’t want to cut them up to fashion ponchos.

Canvas is another popular material for tarps. Canvas tarps are heavy duty and offer the most protection of these three materials. They are by far the most durable and offer excellent protection from UV rays. Canvas tarps are also the best option for shelters in cold weather since they offer more insulation that other tarp materials.

While the tarps themselves resist water they aren’t 100% waterproof like nylon and polyethylene tarps. However, canvas can be treated with waterproofing sprays or waxes which will make them waterproof.

Despite the advantages of protection and durability, canvas tarps do have their disadvantages. They are very heavy and they take up a lot of space. This rules them out for backpackers. Also, canvas tarps are going to be even more expensive than ripstip nylon tarps.

Think about how you’re going to use your tarp before you purchase one. There are different kinds of tarps that have different advantages and disadvantages. We carry plenty of tarps here at Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters; stop by and see what we’ve got if it’s time for you to choose a tarp!

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