Picking the right tent tarp size for camping is a lot like choosing the perfect bed size for a good night’s sleep. Why bother getting one if it doesn’t fit? While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, I can tell you that “the bigger, the better” usually works well in this case.
You definitely don’t want to get a brand new tarp only to find out it’s too small for your tent or so big that it’s difficult to carry. So it’s important to calculate correct tent tarp size for camping.
I’ve had my fair share of experiences with various tarp sizes, and I’ve put together this article to serve as your go-to guide for finding the ideal tent tarp size.
So how do you calculate the correct tent tarp size for camping? To find the right size, you’ll want to choose a tarp that’s slightly larger than your tent. If you’re camping solo, a 6×8 sq. ft tarp should be enough to cover your tent. For a bit more space, an 8×10 sq. ft tarp can accommodate cooking, sleeping, and even pets. This size works well for groups of 3-4 people, too.
Apart from the number of people, there are plenty of other factors that can make your tarp size go wrong. Factors like finished and cut sizes, windy or rainy weather, or purpose of use.
In this article, we are going to discuss tarp size calculation in detail so that you can make the best choice while selecting your tent tarp size for camping.
What Size Tarp for Camping?
Choosing the correct tent tarp size is an important decision that shouldn’t be left to chance. You have to consider factors before you can choose the dimensions that fit your need.
Let’s discuss the factors that will influence your sizing calculations.
Tarp configuration refers to how you set up your tarp to provide shelter and protection at your campsite.
The configuration you choose can have a significant impact on the size of the tarp you need. Here are a few common tarp configurations to consider:
- A-Frame: This classic setup resembles an A-shaped structure, providing a simple and effective shelter from rain and sun. With this configuration, the tarp size should be slightly larger than your tent’s footprint to ensure complete coverage.
- Lean-To: In a lean-to configuration, one edge of the tarp is tied to a higher point (like a tree or pole), while the other edge slopes down and is secured to the ground or lower points. This setup offers a more open shelter, allowing you to enjoy the surroundings while still being protected. You’ll need a tarp that’s large enough to cover your tent and living area while factoring in the angle at which the tarp is set up.
- Diamond: The diamond configuration involves suspending the tarp from a single central point and securing the corners to the ground. This creates a pyramid-like shelter, which can be easily adjusted for more or less coverage. In this case, you’ll need a tarp with enough surface area to cover your tent and provide ample protection when draped at an angle.
The below table will give you a general rule-of-thumb calculation for selecting the correct tarp size for each of these configurations and the number of people camping with you.
|Number of Person||A-Frame Tarp Size||Lean-To Tarp Size||Diamond Tarp Size|
|1 (Solo)||6×8 sq. ft||7×9 sq. ft||8×8 sq. ft|
|2||8×10 sq. ft||10×12 sq. ft||10×10 sq. ft|
|3-4||10×12 sq. ft||12×14 sq. ft||12×12 sq. ft|
|5-6||12×16 sq. ft||14×18 sq. ft||14×14 sq. ft|
|7-8||14×20 sq. ft||16×20 sq. ft||16×16 sq. ft|
These tarp sizes are general recommendations and may vary based on factors such as tent dimensions, individual preferences, and camping gear.
It’s always a good idea to consider your specific needs and adjust the tarp size accordingly.
If you go up in size, you won’t face any issues apart from a slightly increased luggage weight and cost. But if you select a smaller size than you need, you might end up drenched in the rain.
Finished & cut size
The next factor to consider when selecting the ideal tent tarp size is the difference between “finished size” and “cut size.” Understanding these terms will help you make a more informed decision when purchasing a tarp for your camping trip.
Cut Size: The cut size refers to the original dimensions of the tarp material before it has been hemmed, seamed, or otherwise modified during production.
This measurement is typically larger than the finished size, as some material is lost during the process of finishing the tarp.
Finished Size: The finished size refers to the actual dimensions of a tarp once it has been completed, including the hems and seams.
This is the measurement you’ll use to determine if the tarp will provide sufficient coverage for your tent and camping needs.
Manufacturers usually list the finished size on the product label or packaging.
When shopping for a tent tarp, it’s crucial to pay attention to the finished size rather than the cut size. This will ensure that you choose a tarp with the correct dimensions to provide adequate coverage and protection for your camping setup.
Keep in mind that the finished size can vary slightly among manufacturers due to differences in production processes, so it’s always a good idea to double-check the specific measurements before making a purchase.
Weather conditions play a crucial role in selecting the right tent tarp size for your camping trip.
Considering the various elements you may encounter outdoors will help you choose a tarp that provides adequate protection and ensures a comfortable experience.
- Rain: If you expect rain during your camping trip, it’s essential to have a tarp large enough to cover your tent and create a dry space for cooking, relaxing, or storing gear. In wet conditions, opt for a slightly larger tarp size than you would under clear skies to ensure proper runoff and prevent water from pooling around your tent.
- Wind: A well-secured tarp can provide a much-needed windbreak when camping in windy areas. However, a larger tarp may catch more wind and become difficult to manage. Choose a tarp size that balances the need for coverage with the ease of securing it against strong gusts. Additionally, consider a configuration that offers better wind protection, like an A-frame or lean-to.
- Sun: If you’re camping in a sunny location, a tarp can provide shade and help keep your tent cool. In this case, choose a tarp size that’s large enough to create a shaded area for resting, cooking, or lounging during the hottest parts of the day. A lean-to or diamond configuration can be particularly effective for creating shade while allowing ventilation.
- Snow: Camping in snowy conditions requires a tarp that can withstand the weight of snow accumulation and provide insulation to keep your tent warm. Choose a larger tarp size to ensure your tent is well-covered, and select a configuration like an A-frame or diamond that sheds snow effectively. Remember to consider the strength and durability of the tarp material for snowy conditions.
Taking weather conditions into account when selecting a tent tarp size will help you stay prepared and comfortable during your camping trip, no matter what Mother Nature throws your way.
Number of people
Another important factor to consider when choosing the right tent tarp size is the number of people in your camping group.
The size of your tarp should not only accommodate your tent but also provide enough space for the campers to cook comfortably, relax, and store gear (especially if your tent doesn’t have its own vestibule)
Here’s a general guide on how to select a tent tarp size based on the number of people:
- Solo camper: For a single person, a tarp measuring 6×8 sq. ft or 8×10 sq. ft should provide sufficient coverage for a small tent and a modest area for cooking and relaxing. This size works well with most tarp configurations.
- 2-3 people: For a small group, a tarp measuring 8×10 sq. ft or 10×12 sq. ft is usually adequate to cover a medium-sized tent and create a comfortable communal space. A larger tarp may be required if you have additional gear or need more room for activities.
- 4-6 people: A tarp measuring 10×12 sq. ft or 12×16 sq. ft is recommended for a larger group. This size provides ample coverage for larger tents and creates a spacious common area for group activities, cooking, and gear storage.
- 7 or more people: For big groups, you may need to consider tarps measuring 14×20 sq. ft or larger, depending on the size of your tents and the desired communal space. You might also consider using multiple tarps to create separate cooking, sleeping, and relaxing areas.
If you are going to use a tarp under your tent, you will have to take that into consideration as well. I have written a detailed guide if you need a tarp under tent if you want to read further.
How to Choose a Camping Tarp?
Now that you have a better idea of what you need the tarp for and how many people will be using it, its time to calculate the correct tarp dimensions so that you can buy one that perfectly fits your requirement.
Keep in mind the mantra – the bigger, the better.
On your camping trip, you will need extra space to keep your accessories, utensils, backpacks, and lots of other stuff. A tarp that only covers your tent may not provide enough room for a person to camp comfortably.
A camping tarp should allow a person to get shelter and enjoy his camping time as well.
To simplify this, the best way to calculate the correct tarp size is that you must have more than 20-30 sq. ft area per person. This estimation takes into account the space needed for covering the tent, as well as providing a comfortable area for cooking, relaxing, and storing gear.
So, if you are buying a tarp for 2 – 3 persons, your total coverage area should be more than 80 sq. ft.
Once you calculate your minimum tarp area in sq. ft, check your available options in the market and get the one that is one step bigger than your minimum size (remember – the bigger, the better)
Commonly available tent tarp sizes
|Group Size||Suggested Tarp Size(s)||Recommended Tarps|
|1 (Solo)||6×8 sq. ft, 8×10 sq. ft||Dry Top Tarp|
|2-3 people||8×10 sq. ft, 10×12 sq. ft||Sunnydaze Tarp|
|3-4 people||10×12 sq. ft, 12×14 sq. ft||Tekton Silver Tarp|
|5-6 people||12×16 sq. ft, 14×18 sq. ft||Ktop Tarp|
|7+ people||14×20 sq. ft, 16×20 sq. ft, or larger||Xpose|
Apart from pitching a tarp to sit under and relax, cook, or even sleep, tarps are also used as rainfly to cover tents from harsh weather conditions like snow, rain, or even scorching sun.
A tarp used as a rainfly to waterproof a tent needs to cover the tent’s top and sidewalls depending on the function.
Common Mistakes While Choosing Camping Tarp
Not Considering Tarp Configuration
One common mistake is overlooking the importance of tarp configuration when selecting a size. Different configurations, such as A-frame, lean-to, or diamond, require different tarp sizes to provide adequate coverage and protection. Always consider your desired tarp setup before making a purchase.
Ignoring Weather Conditions
Another mistake is not taking weather conditions into account. Choose a tarp that is suitable for the expected weather on your camping trip, whether it’s rain, wind, sun, or snow. This will ensure that you’re well-prepared and comfortable throughout your adventure.
Focusing on Cut Size Instead of Finished Size
Failing to differentiate between cut size and finished size can lead to an improperly sized tarp. Remember that the finished size is the actual dimension of the completed tarp, whereas the cut size refers to the raw material dimensions before hemming and seaming. Always pay attention to the finished size when choosing a tarp.
Neglecting Material and Durability
Opting for a tarp based solely on size and not considering its material and durability can result in a disappointing experience. Select a tarp made from a strong, durable, and weather-resistant material that will withstand the elements and last for many camping trips.
Material type and material weight measured in grams per square meter (GSM) are important aspects of tarp selection. (see GSM chart for tarpaulin)
Tarp size has much to do with the material and GSM you choose. Buying a large, heavy-duty canvas tarp just for coverage will not only be a waste of money but also will be too much on your backpack.
Canvas tarps are usually heavier as compared to hydrophobic tarps. If you need a tarp for tent coverage, you should choose a larger poly-tarp in size, and it won’t be too difficult to carry.
Not Accounting for the Number of People and Gear
Forgetting to consider the number of people in your group and the amount of gear you’ll have can lead to an undersized tarp.
Make sure to choose a tarp size that accommodates your tent, provides sufficient space for cooking and relaxing, and offers enough room for your camping equipment.
By being aware of these common mistakes and keeping them in mind when selecting a camping tarp, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision and ensure a comfortable and enjoyable outdoor experience.
Prioritizing Budget Over Size
It’s tempting to choose a smaller, cheaper tarp to save money, but this decision may leave you with inadequate shelter.
Investing a bit more in a larger tarp provides a more comfortable space, especially if you’re camping without a tent or need additional coverage for your tent during inclement weather.
Balancing Ventilation and Coverage
Considering ventilation versus coverage is crucial when choosing a tarp size.
Ask yourself if you prefer a high-pitched or low-pitched tarp setup, as this decision will affect your required tarp size. By planning your tarp configuration in advance, you’ll be better equipped to choose the appropriate size for your camping needs.
There are common mistakes that campers make while buying their first tarp for the wild. The tarp is usually considered by people who keep moving on their trip. Pitching a whole tent can be difficult and time-consuming for them.
Acing the first tarp you buy as a beginner is nearly impossible. This two-dimensional ‘tent’ has numerous sizes, materials, and weight availability.
Buying the one that works perfectly for all your trips can be a daunting job. However, one learns through his own experiences.
The best way to do that is to consider the size of all the three-dimensional products you wish to fit in, and this will provide you with a rough idea of the one you need.
How big should tarp be under tent?
The tarp under your tent, also known as a footprint or groundsheet, should be slightly smaller than the dimensions of your tent floor. It’s generally recommended to have a tarp that is about 2-4 inches smaller than your tent’s dimensions on each side to provide adequate protection while preventing water accumulation.
What is the best tarp size for 6 person tent?
As a general guideline, a tarp measuring 12×16 sq. ft or 14×18 sq. ft should provide ample coverage for most 6-person tents and create a comfortable space for cooking, relaxing, and storing gear.
Should tarp be larger than tent?
When using a tarp as a rainfly or sunshade above your tent, it’s generally recommended that the tarp be larger than the tent. A larger tarp will provide better coverage and protection from rain, sun, and wind, as well as create a dry or shaded area around the tent for cooking, relaxing, and storing gear.
How to put a tarp over a tent?
To put a tarp over a tent, first select an appropriate tarp size and configuration to provide adequate coverage. Then, use poles, guylines, and stakes to secure the tarp above your tent, ensuring it is taut and angled to allow for proper water runoff and ventilation. Make sure the tarp is well-anchored to withstand wind and other weather conditions.
Recommended Camping Gears: I have compiled a list of my favourite camping gear in one place. The selection is based on my own personal experience using them for many years camping as well as feedback from fellow campers. Check them out on my Recommended Camping Gears page