10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tarps of 2021

10 Best Ultralight Backpacking Tarps

Backpacking tarps are a great camping option if you want to significantly reduce your backpacking gear weight while experiencing a deeper connection to the outdoors, by sleeping under a shelter without walls. Backpacking tarps come in two basic flavors: shaped, catenary cut tarps that have curved sides to reduce weight and flapping in the wind, and square, flat tarps with 90-degree corners which can be pitched in many different configurations but take more skill to use. Ground sleepers usually sleep in bivy sacks under such tarps for insect protection along with a waterproof groundsheet, a sheet of Tyvek, or plastic window wrap.

Here are the 10 best ultralight backpacking tarps we recommend:

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

1. Hyperlite Mountain Flat Tarp

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp is a flat tarp with 90-degree corners that can be set up in many different ways or “shapes” depending on weather conditions. It’s available in two sizes: an 8’6″ x 8’6″ model (8.85 oz) and one that’s 8′ x 10′ in size (9.74 oz) in white or spruce green Dyneema DCF. It comes with 16 perimeter tie-outs and 4 internal ones so you can lash it to the ground or nearby vegetation in many different ways.  The tarp comes outfitted with line locks and the ridgeline is factory sealed. 10 guylines are included, but you have to attach them yourself.

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear

2. Zpacks 8.5′ x 10′ Flat Tarp

Zpacks 8.5’ x 10’ Tarp
The Zpacks 8.5′ x 10′ Flat Tarp is a 6.5 oz Dyneema DCF Tarp that’s a minimalist’s dream. It comes with 16 tie-outs, five per side, with two on the ridgeline and four mid-panel. All the tie-outs are reinforced and the ridgeline is sealed, but the tarp does not come with line locks or pre-cut on guylines. That’s by design. On a tarp this size, they’d just clutter things up and add excess weight. You’re better off rigging just what you need when you pitch it.

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3. Gossamer Gear Twinn Tarp

The Gossamer Gear Twinn Tarp is a 9.5 oz two-person tarp that’s made with a 10D high tenacity nylon and factory seam-taped. It’s a catenary cut tarp with a curved ridgeline and edges, with two sidewall tie-out points and bug net loops at the two ends. The tarp comes outfitted with adjustable line locks and cordage for a fast setup. If you’ve never used a backpacking tarp before, this is a good one to get started with because it is so easy to set up.  Read our Gossamer Gear Twinn Tarp Review.

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Gossamer Gear

4. Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo Tarp

Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo Tarp
The Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Duo Tarp is a two-person tapered, catenary cut tarp made with Dyneema DCF that’s 9.5′ x 7.5′ x 9.5′ (Front x Rear x Ridge Length.) It has lots of room to spread out with or use in conjunction with a hanging bug bivy, also available from MLD. It comes with 8 line loc tensioners with 3 on each side, and an internal hook on the ridegline. The Grace Duo is available in multiple grades of Dyneema DCF and Silnylon at different weights and price points.  Read our MLD Grace Duo Review.

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Mountain Laurel Designs 

5.Hammock Gear Traverse Tarp

Hammock Gear Traverse Tarp
The Hammock Gear Traverse Tarp is a 9.5′ x 9.5′ silpoly tarp (13.7 oz) that’s well-sized for ground use. This tarp features 14 perimeter tie-outs, 2 ridgeline tie-outs, and 2 panel pullouts (one on each side) for endless setup possibilities.  We like it because it’s perfectly square and can be configured in a wide range of different pitches tailored for varying terrain and weather conditions. If you’re looking for a tarp that’s sized and priced for some serious experimentation, this is it. The tarp ships with a SilPoly stuff sack and seam sealer for waterproofing the stitching. Guylines are not included.

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Hammock Gear

6. Hilleberg Tarp 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 ones that adapt to surrounding vegetation. In addition to its unusual shape, it’s made with a super-strong, tripled coated silnylon fabric that is three times more waterproof (5000 mm) than most backpacking tents. The Tarp 5 comes outfitted with metal rings on each guyout point, line loc tensioners, and cordage.  Read our Hilleberg Tarp 5 Review.

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7. Paria Outdoors Sanctuary Sil Tarp

Santuary Sil Trap

8. Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar

MLD Trailstar
The Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar is a 5-sided catenary cut tarp that’s a cross between a shaped tarp and a pyramid giving it an uncanny versatility in terms of ventilation and wind-worthiness. While it can cover up to three people, most people use it as a solo shelter, with or without an inner nest.  It is available in silnylon or DCF and weighs 12 – 15 oz.  Read our Trailstar Review.

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Mountain Laurel Designs 

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. Sized for two, it can be pitched at different heights and widths because the front doors split, providing more storm protection or ventilation and head height as required. A closed rear wall adds additional weather protection. While it is made with two-sided siliconized nylon, the SplitWing does not require seam sealing because it uses a double-needle lap felled seam which doesn’t leak. While you can purchase it alone, a modular inner tent and added vestibule are also available as part of the SplitWing Bundle. Read our Splitwing Bundle Review.

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10. Yama Mountain Gear Custom Flat Tarps

YamaMtnGear Flat Tarps
Yama Mountain Gear offers the most complete line of custom-made tarps for tarp connoisseurs who want something unique and specially made. Offered in silnylon or silpoly, you can choose where you want to place your perimeter tie-outs, ridgeline tie-outs, panel tie-outs, and hand-loop tie-outs. If you’re a tarp newbie, we recommend that you buy another off-the-shelf tarp to get your feet wet before you go down the custom tarp wormhole. Yama’s quality is legendary, but you’ll have a much better idea of what you want in a tarp after some practical experience.

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Yama Mountain Gear

Key Considerations

Tarp Types: Flat Tarps vs Catenary Cut Tarps

Flat tarps have 90-degree corners with flat sides and are shaped like squares or rectangles. They can be set up in a wide variety of different pitches that emphasize views, airflow, or weather protection. Catenary cut tarps have curved sides and ridgelines which reduce the amount of fabric required to make them and lowers their weight. But this limits the variety of ways they can be set up, often limiting them to a simple A-frame pitch. Catenary cut tarps are also quieter in the wind because the fabric is stretched more tightly. Some catenary cut tarps are also tapered, meaning one end is wider than the other. This is also a weight-saving measure.


Tarps are available in several different fabrics that convey different properties to them.

  • Tarps made with Dyneema DCF are very lightweight and have very little stretch. However, this can limit the number of ways they can be configured and limit their ability to deal with uneven ground or obstructing vegetation. Dyneema DCF tarps do not have to be seam-sealed and they are very waterproof. They are bulky however and take more room to pack in a backpack.
  • Tarps made with Siliconized Nylon (silnylon) or Siliconized Polyester (silpoly) usually have to be seam-sealed so they don’t leak in the rain. They make good flat tarps because they have some stretch, which can be useful when pitching them in different patterns.
  • Tarps coated with Polyurethane (PU) or Silicone/PU are usually seam taped and don’t need to be seam sealed.

One and Two Person Tarps

Most people prefer using two-person tarps instead of one-person tarps, even when camping solo, because they have more room to spread out their gear out of the rain and close at hand.

Knot Tying and Guylines

Most catenary cut tarps come with integrated line loc tensioners that eliminate the need to tie knots. When it comes to flat tarps, different people have different preferences. On larger square or rectangular tarps, having fixed guylines can add unnecessary weight and clutter, and many people prefer to add guylines only when they set up their tarp. There some knowledge of knots can be helpful or the use of knot-typing devices like Figure 9s.

Insect Protection and Splashback

Most tarp users sleep in bivy sacks or larger bug bivies for protection from insects and other creepy crawlers. Bivy sacks also provide added rain protection from what is known as “splashback”, when rain bounces off the ground along the sides of the tarp, but bounces back under it and gets your gear wet.


While many bivy sack bottoms are waterproof, it’s convenient to sleep on top of a groundsheet so you can spread your gear out around you at night. Most ultralight backpackers use a sheet of Tyvek, polycryo plastic sheets (sold by Gossamer Gear), plastic window insulation wrap, or even a Dyneema DCF groundsheet, although the latter is quite expensive compared to other alternatives.

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