A crucial part to any hammock camping adventure is finding the best hammock rain fly, or tarp. To that end, we’ve compiled the essential tarp characteristics to think about when purchasing, along with a list of our top tarp choices. For those of you in a rush, jump straight to our handy table below to check out the essentials.
|Chill Gorilla||Square||10’x10′||1lbs 6oz||PU Treated|
|Kelty Noah||Square||12’x12′||2lbs 10oz||68D Polyester||$69.95|
|ENO ProFly||Rectangular||10’6″x6’4″||1lb 6oz||PU Treated|
|10’6″x9’3″||1lb 6oz||PU Treated|
|AquaQuest||Rectangle||9’6″x6’7″||2lbs 11oz||TPU Treated|
|ENO Housefly||4-Season||10’8″x8’10”||1lb 11oz||PU Treated|
|Free Soldier||Rectangle||9’10″x10’6″||–||PU Treated Polyester||$44.99|
|DD Superlight||Rectangle||9’9.5″x9’6″||1lb||PU Treated|
|Cuben Fiber||Rectangle||7’x9′||5.2oz||Cuben Fiber||$235.00|
If you’ve ever taken a stroll through a hardware store, or even just a quick look on the internet, then you already know that tarps come in all shapes and sizes. Let’s first tackle the latter, and try to narrow the field to make it easier for you to know the tarp size that will best suit your hammock.
The critical piece of information that you need at this junction is the overall size of your hammock, particularly its total length. You’ll need this because your tarp should extend approximately 8-12in beyond the edge of you hammock on each side. Or in other words, your tarp should be about 1.5-2 feet longer than your hammock.
Remember that your hammock is hung with some sag, and will sag even more when you put your weight into it. So consider this in your calculations when comparing tarps. Having a tarp that extends beyond this 12in number is by no means a crime however, it simply means that you might be lugging a little more tarp weight than you need to.
The next items to consider when selecting tarp sizes are your personal preferences and the weather you expect to encounter. If you’re in the ultralight hiker club and prefer to not carry a single ounce more than you need to, then you may tend to lean towards a smaller sized hammock tarp that will only keep your hammock dry, and nothing more.
If, on the other hand, you prefer to have some space to yourself, or a little privacy when changing clothes, then it’s perfectly acceptable to aim for a larger tarp to achieve these goals.
It’s at this point that we recommend considering the weather you’re heading into. If it’s looking like serious rain and wind on the horizon, a larger tarp that can be securely fastened and reach almost to the ground is an excellent choice. If the weather is mild, you have many more options and can go smaller and lighter or larger and heavier depending on your personal preference. Just remember to get those 8-12 inches of coverage over the end of your hammock!
As we alluded to above, the overall weight of your tarp can play a significant role in your decision making process. This becomes particularly important if you’re backpacking for your trip. In this case, every single ounce can potentially make a difference, so choose your tarp wisely! Take the time to read the specs for any tarp that you’re considering and think about how that weight will influence the overall weight of your pack.
As you undoubtedly already know, the larger the tarp you purchase, the more weight to contend with. This brings us straight back to the concept of researching ahead of time, and knowing what size tarp will work for you.
Going out for a few days in the dry season with no cold or rain forecast? In that case you likely won’t need a hefty 4-season expedition tarp to fully enclose your hammock. On the flip side, if there’s some unsavory weather predicted, consider upping the size of the tarp to ensure you don’t wake up with a wet hammock.
In addition to the obvious size influence, you should also consider the tarp material when thinking about the weight you’ll be lugging down the trail. There is a wide range of different tarp materials out there, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Principle amongst these is the overall weight of the material, and it’s up to you to determine if it’ll be an advantage or disadvantage for you.
Packing Size Considerations
As all of us who have completed any amount of backpacking know, your pack isn’t a bottomless ‘Mary Poppins’ Purse’. You have a finite amount of space to allocate for all the gear for your trip, and unfortunately, that includes your tarp.
Therefore consider how compact your tarp packs down and factor that into your decision making process. Maybe you don’t have enough space for a palace of a tarp, and will need to get by with a smaller version.
Please remember to think about how small YOU can pack down your tarp, and not the factory vacuum sealed miniscule size that many of these tarps are delivered in. Because, as we all know, you’ll never be able to pack it down that small again.
We mentioned earlier that the top tarps on the market are constructed of different materials, but let’s take a closer look at what these materials are, and the affects they can have on your tarp.
The most basic tarp material you’ll find on the market is Polyethylene. This is the material that those bulky tarps in the hardware store are made of, and they are just that; bulky. The woven polyethylene plastic is waterproof and fairly durable, but if you’ve ever had to work with one of these before, you are well aware that they are heavy and cumbersome.
Additionally, this type of tarp is also distinctly ‘crinkly’. Meaning that at any time when the wind is over a faint whisper, you’ll hear this tarp whipping and crinkling, which can definitely spoil the mood (or your sleep) very quickly.
The redeeming side to polyethylene is that it is reasonably cheap and readily accessible. Meaning that if you’re in a pinch, or have a very tight budget, then this might work out for you. We suggest, however, that if you’re looking to switch into hammock camping as a lifestyle change, take the time to research and invest in a higher quality material.
A slight step up from polyethylene is a Coated Polyester tarp. The primary version of this type of tarp comes as vinyl coated polyester, and is the typical ‘plastic like’ sheet that you often see outdoor workers using. It is traditionally a little lighter than the polyethylene, as well as a little less bulky. Its common use outside the camping world also means that this material is cheaper than many of the specialty tarps that we’re about to cover.
Nylon is a term you’ll hear bantered about for almost any aspect of camping. From tents to hammocks, nylon is often the material of choice for its light weight and durable construction. Well, tarps are no exception as we take a look at Silnylon.
This material is formed from an effective combination of silicone and nylon that yields an exceptionally lightweight, yet fully waterproof, tarp. The varying thicknesses of this material also gives you options in terms of durability, weight, and sun protection. The thinner silnylon tarps will be incredibly lightweight, yet offer minimal sun shade (as they can be thin enough to let light through) and durability. On the other side are the thicker tarps that are more durable and provide adequate shade, but are a little heavier.
If you like the idea of lightweight nylon, but you’re on the hunt for a material that will be slightly more durable than the silnylon, then take a look at Ripstop Nylon. This is created by weaving nylon threads in a special pattern that naturally inhibits punctures from becoming major tears. The tarp is then given a waterproof coating and is ready for use. You’ll find this type of tarp typically a little stronger than silnylon, but consequently it is often slightly heavier. Just remember that waterproofing coating can degrade over time with sun exposure, so be prepared to reapply a water-proofer if this happens.
Perhaps you’re looking to up your game in the tarp department? Then take a close look at Cuben Fiber. This material is also made from polyethylene just like the cheap hardware tarps mentioned above. In this case, however, the tarps are solid sheets, instead of being woven, and are fabricated from an ultra-high molecular weight version of polyethylene.
This results in an incredibly strong tarp that can hold up to just about anything. What’s more, the tarp is fully waterproof and is also very lightweight, yet another departure from its woven cousins in the hardware store. In fact, many competition racing catamaran’s use this exact same material for their sails.
The downside? Cuben is extremely expensive and is therefore a significant investment in your hammock camping future. So make sure you plan on putting it to good use before purchasing!
Tarp Shapes and Pitching Methods
As much as we’d love to say, ‘here is the single best tarp shape out there’, we just can’t do it. There are many different shape variations that each have their own strengths, so it’s once again important to consider your unique camping wants and priorities. We’ll cover a few of the standard shapes here, along with the pitching options for each one.
Starting with the basics, we have the typical rectangular tarp. This is the standard tarp shape that you can buy almost anywhere, especially if you’re planning to go with budget friendly polyethylene or coated polyester.
The setup for this tarp is also refreshingly straightforward. Simply hang the tarp so that the ridgeline of your hammock is running straight done the middle, lengthwise. Then stake the corners, and at intervals along the edge, to get the tarp as taut as possible. You always have the option to raise one end with sticks or hiking poles in order to enter ‘porch mode’, or keep the ends close to ground in ‘closed mode’.
While setup is fairly easy, this tarp shape does have a few drawbacks. Most notably, it tends to be a little bigger than you really need for most camping trips. You’ll undoubtedly cover your entire hammock plus a good deal of ground, but this in turn means you have a lot of extra hammock material to pack, carry, and try to get taut. Rectangular tarps consequently tend to be heavier and prove harder to evenly stake; sometimes resulting is a creased tarp that whips in the wind.
Another common tarp shape in the field is the diamond. This is in essence just a square tarp that is even easier to set up than the rectangle.
Simply place the tarp on the ridgeline such that the line is going from corner to corner across the tarp, making it seem like a diamond from above. You should then have only two corners going down towards to ground. Now pull these corners taut and stake them, and that’s it!
Now the diamond is on the almost opposite end of the spectrum from rectangular tarps in that it offers very minimal coverage, but in turn saves a great deal on weight. With that in mind, if you’re looking at minimal rain interference or inclement weather, than this might be the ideal choice for you. It’ll handle a light drizzle or similarly marginal weather. But if you’re looking at heavy rain plus a little bit of wind, then we advise looking for a more protective option.
If a blend of the rectangular and diamond shapes sounds more suitable for your trip, then certainly cast an eye over to hexagonal tarps.
This shape essentially takes a rectangular tarp, and adds angled cuts to transform it into a six-sided tarp. This cuts down on the excess bulk and weight that plagues the rectangular shape, while adding material to the skimpy coverage provided by the diamond shape. The result is a shape that is often the perfect balance of useful coverage and weight.
To set up, simply run the ridgeline lengthwise along the longest portion of the tarp dead-center. The leaves two corners/anchor-points per side. Stake these anchor-points (four total), and your tarp is ready for action. The hex tarp shape also cuts down on the headache of getting an even and taut setup that you often experience with the rectangular setup. Here it is simply four points, which makes it easy to get a nice, even, cover.
When you’re determined not to let any type of weather stand in between you and your hammock camping adventure, then it’s time to invest in a 4-season tarp. These tarps are specially designed to give the most complete level of coverage, and therefore insulation, that can make hammock camping in winter a breeze.
These tarps are similar to the standard rectangular shape above. However, they have special flaps, usually with seams, that are designed to be folded across the head and foot of the tarp to form doors. This turns the tarp into essentially a suspended tent, with your hammock in the middle. The result is a fortress in the closed ‘winter mode’ that will trap warm air inside, and keep harsh weather out.
These specialty tarps with come with comprehensive instructions for proper setup. But in essence you will set them up similar to a rectangular tarp, leaving the tarp flap free. Once the tarp is secured in place, you will fold the flaps across the head and foot of the tarp, and secure in place.
Now that we’ve covered the essential elements to look out for in a tarp, let’s dive into our list of the best hammock rain tarps on the market. We’ll start with our budget-friendly options, and then progressively work our way up to the big boys in the 4-season department.
Best Hammock Tarps for Camping
Chill Gorilla has put an incredible amount of effort into creating a top-notch tarp to fill just about any role. This square design is spacious enough to easily protect your entire hammock, and durable enough to take the hard punishment of the open trail.
The polyurethane treated ripstop nylon combines the lightweight benefits of nylon, the durability of the ripstop design, and the water protection of polyurethane into a perfect weather protection tool. What’s more, the tarp and gear itself can be protected in a handy rain-proof gear bag that’s provided with your purchase.
- Very budget friendly
- Excellent coverage
- Multiple tie-down points for setup versatility
- Stakes seem underpowered
- Grommets need reinforcing
All and all, we believe that this is the perfect purchase for someone just branching into the world of hammock camping, and isn’t yet ready for a larger tarp investment.
We’ve therefore named it as our budget friendly tarp. The tarp itself is very durable and will keep you protected from wind and rain. We’re especially fond of the large number of tie-down points that in turn gives you some extra versatility in your setup, but remember to get everything nice and taut to keep it from whipping in the wind.
Just keep in mind that the grommets and stakes may need some reinforcement or replacement down the road, and you’ll be good to go!
First impression of the Kelty Noah? Size. At 12 by 12 feet, the Noah gives you all the space you need to fully protect yourself, your hammock, all your gear, and then some! With this size comes versatility. It’s designed to be setup in the diamond configuration covered above, but you can easily open up one side for a large porch configuration, or seriously batten down the hatches for some weather. No matter your preference, the space under this tarp gives you options!
The coated polyester material itself is reliably waterproof, and the taped seam construction makes it virtually impervious to water seep-through during long rains. The tarp also comes with its own guy lines and tensioners, making it easier to secure and tighten in one fell swoop.
- Excellent surface area coverage
- Guy lines come with tensioners/adjusters
- A little heavy for a backpacking tarp
- Doesn’t work well in a rectangular fashion setup
The Kelty Noah is by and large a solid purchase for those looking for excellent coverage area at a reasonable price.
For those rocking double hammocks, or carrying a lot of gear, or simply want more space to themselves, then this tarp will suit your needs perfectly.
The waterproofing is absolute, the setup is straightforward, and the included guy lines keep everything nice and taut.
But be aware that this tarp is on the heavy side at 2lbs 10oz, which can be a little hefty for toting in a pack for days on end. But if the coverage area is a high-priority for you, then rock on.
When you’re looking for the perfect middle-ground between ultra-lightweight and fortress-like tarps, the Eno Profly may be an excellent option. The rectangular shape offers ample coverage for your hammock plus some gear, while the 6 tie down anchors makes it easy to tighten into position.
The tarp itself is constructed from 70-Denier ripstop nylon. This same material is often used as the floor layer to backpacking tents, so you can rest assured that it will stand up to the tough trail. The polyurethane coating is in turn exceptionally waterproof, keeping you nice and dry in your hammock.
- Exceptionally waterproof
- Straightforward setup with only 4 ground attach points
- Tensioners sometimes don’t stay in place
- Shorter width can leave sides a little exposed to serious weather
We therefore wholeheartedly recommend the Eno Profly for any hikers looking for a solid midrange tarp. Not too small, but not huge either. Not light as a feather, but also not heavy.
This tarp hits the sweet spot for most backpackers or adventurers to keep you comfortable and protected from the elements, and therefore keep you chasing those thrills.
Like the idea of the Eno Profly, but want just a little more space under the tarp? Easy fix! Just upgrade to the Dryfly version. This tarp offers all the usual refinements that comes with its little brother, the Profly, but just takes the sizing up a notch.
The width of this tarp is a full 3 feet longer than the smaller version, and the larger size comes with two additional anchor points, bringing the total anchor count up to eight. While this does mean there is a tiny bit more setup, the extra coverage makes up for it quickly.
The tarp is constructed from the same 70D material as the smaller version, with identical rain proof coatings. The durability and water proofing are therefore phenomenal, and make this tarp the idea refuge when the winds begin howling.
- Exceptionally waterproof
- Easy Setup
- Extra material only added to width, leaving length potentially short
The ENO Dryfly is another excellent midrange tarp that we recommend for folks that want a little bit more coverage than what the ENO Profly above can offer.
The two tarps are nearly identical in all other aspects, and even have the same price. So if you’re on the fence about whether to choose the larger option, we wholeheartedly recommend that you do.
The extra space is nothing but a benefit, and will add that much more protection from the elements on your trip.
AquaQuest presents an all-around reliable rectangular tarp that fits into the hammock camping world very nicely. With a heavily reinforced seam running lengthwise down the middle of the tarp, it is designed to be deployed in the classic rectangular format that we covered above.
But with a whopping 21 different webbing loops, you have anchor points wherever you could possibly need them, and then some! The oversized loops on all four corners also support using hiking poles if you need to for any reason.
AquaQuest is also very proud, and rightly so, of their tarp’s waterproofing rating. The Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) coating yields a hydrostatic resistance of 20,000mm. Which means that the material can suspend 20,000mm of water above it before any moisture will seep through, and take it from us, that’s a lot!
This tarp will stand fast in the heaviest rains you can imagine and keep you dry as a bone.
The reinforced stitching and durable taped seams rounds off this ensemble to produce a well-rounded tarp that takes extreme whether protection very seriously.
- Budget Friendly
- Excellent Waterproofing Rating
- On the smaller side hammock tarps
- Heavier for such a small size
This small size also leads into the second notable characteristic for this tarp. As we all know from backpacking, we don’t get anything for free. In this case, the extreme waterproofing and durability comes at the price of weight.
This particular tarp is surprisingly heavy for its small size, coming in at 2lbs 11oz. This is definitely something to consider if you have a multiday trip ahead of you, but may be entirely worth it if you see rain on the horizon.
We therefore recommend this tarp for the folks that are comfortable with a smaller tarp and determined to hammock camp through heavy rain and with impunity.
The TPU coating will undoubtedly keep you and your hammock dry through anything, but make sure you know how to properly set up the tarp to give yourself ideal coverage, as the smaller size leaves little margin for error.
Don’t want winter to keep you from enjoying your hammock outdoors? No problem, the ENO Housefly is specially designed for you.
The unique shape of the tarp will provide an impenetrable bunker for your hammock once the doors are secured, and you can be sure of a waterproof hammock experience.
The waterproofness is provided by a dual silnylon and PU coating that work in tandem to minimize any moisture intrusion.
This heavyweight waterproofing luckily doesn’t weigh you down one bit as ENO opted for a thin 30D material thickness, minimizing the bulkiness and weight of this tarp.
- Low weight for a 4-season tarp
- Exceptional waterproofing
- No staking hardware included
- Thin material feels a little delicate for heavy duty use
Apart from wishing that ENO included some staking hardware with the tarp, we find the Housefly a very attractive tarp for the adventurous all-season hiker.
Remember that the tarp setup will help maximize heat retention inside the tarp, but it is not insulated with such thin material. So if you’re heading out into the cold, please remember to have a hammock layering/insulation system in mind!
Another excellent tarp option when heading boldly into 4-season camping is the waterproof tarp by Free Soldier. The combination of setup versatility and waterproofing makes this tarp a formidable shelter when the weather turns nasty.
The tarp is a standard rectangular shape, but the abundance of attachment points, especially around the head and foot, make it easy to modify the setup shape for any situation.
The corners of the rectangle can easily be fold inward to create doors in harsh or cold weather, while the PU coating will do its part to keep any moisture out.
- Many different setup options
- Heavy duty material seems robust
- Heavy for a backpacking tarp
Overall, this tarp is an excellent choice of those of you forging into some cold weather and need complete weather protection.
We’d recommend it for shorter backpacking trips due to its higher weight, but the range of options provided by the many anchor points make this an excellent rainfly for hammocks in those situations where you need to be inventive to get proper coverage.
DD Superlight Tarp – Best Price/Quality
For the ultra-lightweight hikers out there, we have the perfect hammock rain fly to suit your needs, the DD Superlight. Weighing in at only 16 oz, this tarp is exceptionally light for a hard day of hiking.
Yet, it is also adequately spacious to give you plenty of room for your hammock and gear.
The rectangular tarp comes festooned with 19 different attach points, giving you the versatility to set up wherever you need to and keep the entire tarp nice and tight.
DD thankfully gets you on your way by including four pegs and guy lines with the tarp for a very basic starting point, but you’ll probably want to get a few more for a more complete setup.
- Pegs, guy lines, and stuff sack included
- Very lightweight for such a spacious tarp
- 3000mm Hydrostatic Rating is lower than other tarp but still enough
The lower water resistance rating, however, is the price a standard ultra-lightweight tarp pays to save weight; and in that department, we have no complaints.
The DD Superlight Tarp makes an ideal tarp for those of you counting every ounce in your pack, and shedding all non-essentials.
Not weighed down with cushy frills or extraneous space, this strictly business tarp will keep you on the move.
Zpacks Cuben Fiber Tarp– Editor’s Choice
Do you want one of the best tarps that money can buy? Then look no further than the Dyneema Tarp, courtesy of Zpacks. This tarp is constructed from the Cuben/Dyneema fiber that we covered earlier, and it sure lives up to the hype.
The Dyneema material is completely waterproof, so you can set up your shelter confidently in the face of even the worst downpours. What’s more, the material is incredibly strong. Meaning that it will hold up to everything and anything that the trail can throw at it.
Remember that this is the same material that ship’s sails are constructed from, so you can bet it’s going to last. These two qualities, combined with it’s incredible low weight, pushes this item high on the list for best hammock rain fly.
- Entirely Waterproof
- Incredibly Lightweight
- A little smaller than we’d prefer
- Very expensive for a tarp
The only drawback that we’ve seen is it’s slightly petite size. At only 9’ long, it can sometimes be tricky to finesse the tarp into just the right spot to provide complete coverage for a larger hammock.
All things considered, we are very impressed with the excellent performance of this tarp and consider it amongst the best hammock tarps together with the DD superlight on the market.
We’ve therefore awarded it our editor’s choice label, and can confidently recommend it for almost anyone on a hammock camping adventure.
There you go folks! We’ve covered the top tarps from budget, to 4-season, to ultra-light, and everything in-between. You now have all the information you need to pick out just the right one for you and your adventures!
Have fun and stay safe, eh?