Should Tarp be Larger than Tent?

Choosing the right tent tarp is more important than you think.

In camping, a tent is one major component or prime essential. The tent helps protect your camping gear and other stuff, so its setting up is critical. Usually, the tarps are placed under the tent, and their importance tends to be neglected.

It is an essential element as it provides extra protection and extends the overall life of the tent. The tarp size is crucial for a tent tarp, and it is decided based on various factors, which will be discussed later in the blog post.

It must be large enough to cover the tent’s footprint. Moreover, the edges of the tent tarp must extend out a few inches beyond the edges of your tent. This prevents the rain from pooling under your tent, which can lead to leaks and a soggy sleeping area.  

In this blog post, we will have a detailed discussion about the purpose of the tent tarp, factors to consider while choosing, and much more, so keep reading to learn more!   

Purpose of the Tarp Under the Tent

Talking about the purpose of the tarp under the tent, it can serve various purposes:

Protection from Moisture

One simple and apparent reason for using a tarp under your tent is that it protects it from moisture.

By using tarps under your tent, the tent floor remains protected from the water as it acts as a barrier between the ground and the tent, preventing any water on the ground from seeping through to the bottom.

Additionally, if it rains while you are on your camping trip, the tarp and your ground cloth will help keep you dry, as you will have extra protection against water.

Protection from Sharp Objects

Another reason for its use is its ability to protect your tent from sharp objects such as rocks and pointy sticks. If ignored, these can cause damage or puncture; this is especially true if you are in an area with lots of debris on the ground.

A cheap tarp is still better than nothing. Don’t neglect it!

Enhanced Comfort

One last reason for using a tarp under the tent is that it can increase your comfort levels by providing an additional insulation layer between your body and the cold ground below.

When camping in a cold area, you need something that can provide warmth, so you take blankets, other warm items, etc. In these cases, you will be even better off if you can get heat from underneath by insulation of the tarp alongside the ground cloth: all will ensure you stay warm and get a good night’s sleep.

Using a tarp under a tent gives you numerous benefits, making your overall camping experience much more enjoyable and comfortable. From protection against moisture and sharp objects to added comfort alongside your ground cloth, you can have all these benefits using a tarp under the tent.

Factors to Look for When Choosing the Right Size Tarp

If you are seeking a tarp size for your tent, you need to consider the following factors to get the right one. 

Tent Footprint Measurements

Tent footprint measurement is necessary when selecting the proper size tarp for your tent. For simple understanding, the tent footprint means the actual area that comes under the tent or, more straightforwardly, the tent size. This area can vary from style to style and from size to size.

When trying to measure a tent footprint accurately, the first step in the process is to remove any guy lines from the perimeter of the tent, making it clean. For those of you new to this term, guy lines are wires used to secure the tarp or rainfly to the ground or connect the walls of your tent.

After their removal, use a measuring tape and measure from one corner of your tent to the opposite corner in both directions. This will provide an appropriate measurement of your tent’s length and width. Moreover, with this measurement, you can get the exact-sized ground cloth if needed.

Allow Extra Space Around Edges for Tent Floor Protection

After taking the tent footprint measurements, the next step is allowing some extra space around the edges. This is important when selecting a tarp size as this provides extra space that helps when additional coverage is needed in case of heavy rain or snow.

Without the extra space around the tent, rain or snow may accumulate around the edges of your tent during inclement weather, damaging your camping gear and the ground cloth. Moreover, as you have extra space, you can easily tie down your tent and secure your tarp properly around the perimeter of your tent.

Adverse weather conditions should not affect your camping trip!

Considerations for Different Tent Shapes or Styles

While selecting the right tarp, you must also look at the styles and shapes available.

For example, if you have a dome-style tent, then the tarp must also be of the same style, as the dome-style tent requires larger tarps than other tents due to its unique shape and design. 

Finally, some waterproof tarp options are available, and you can also opt for them for extra protection.

Recommended tarp sizes vary depending on the number of camping individuals.

1-Person Tents

If you are looking for a one-person tent, you must look for a tarp with a measurement of at least 8′ x 10′. This trap size will provide enough coverage to protect the tent from rain and wind while allowing plenty of room for ventilation and airflow. Moreover, it can also be used for smaller 2-person tents.

2-Person Tents

If you are looking for a 2-person tent, the ideal measurement you must look for should be at least 10′ x 12′. This size will be enough for two-person tents and will provide the required protection for the entire tent and two people inside the tent.

If you are camping where your tent can experience high winds, getting a tent with a large area is highly advised to provide adequate protection.

Family-Sized Tents

You must have a 12′ x 14′ or larger tent tarp for a family-sized tent. This size provides adequate coverage for the entire tent and your family. As you are with your family, this size is enough and won’t make you feel crowded. 

There are various pros and cons of using a tarp size smaller or larger than the recommended one. Check them out below.

Using a Larger Tarp

If you want to opt for a size that is a bit bigger than the recommended tarp size, you can get several advantages and disadvantages:

On the benefits side, it will provide more coverage and protection from the outside.

With a larger tarp, you can cover multiple items or have some extra space for storage due to the excess tarp material, and it can also secure in place better as it has more material to anchor down.

Apart from the pros, a larger tarp size may be a bit heavier and so harder to transport than a smaller one. Also, if you have a limited area supply, finding an area big enough to accommodate your tarp will be difficult, as it may not fit in certain areas or spaces.

Always study your spot before you embark on your next camping trip!

Using a Smaller Tarp

A smaller tarp size than the recommended one also has pros and cons.

On the pros, you will have ease of transport and storage due to its lighter weight and smaller size. Moreover, you can easily fit that in any camping spot, and finding an area suitable for setting up the tarp may be easier.

On the other hand, you may not get enough coverage or protection from the natural elements, such as rain or wind, compared to the recommended size tarp.

Different Tarp Materials and Their Suitability for Specific Camping Conditions

Here are some of the basic tarp types based on their material.

Polyethylene Tarps

Talking about various tarp materials, first on the list, we have polyethylene tarps.

They are the most common type of tarp used for camping: their widespread use is because they are lightweight, waterproof, and durable.

You can get various sizes, and they can be used for ground cover and shelter. They are mostly used in mild weather conditions because they can’t bear extreme temperatures.

Canvas Tarps

The canvas tarps are a touch heavier than polyethylene tarps since they are made of more durable material. Therefore, they can better handle extreme weather conditions.

If you are camping with a higher probability of rain, snow, and wind, you can use canvas tarps, which provide excellent protection from these elements.

They also have a longer lifespan than polyethylene tarps and can be used multiple times without needing to be replaced.

Canvas tarps are great for camping in the winter.

Vinyl Tarps

Vinyl tarps are also a popular option among campers.

They are waterproof tarps that can easily protect against moisture while camping. Moreover, vinyl tarps are also highly resistant to UV rays, so if you have to go to a place where it rains often or is sunny most of the time, this tarp has got you covered.

One thing that might be a factor that can discourage you from buying one is that they are expensive in comparison to the other ones, so these are arguably not the right choice if you are low on budget.

Mesh Tarps

Another type of tarp you can use is a mesh tarp, which is made of a lightweight mesh material.

Air can easily pass through this mesh, and you are protected from the outside elements, such as wind and rain.

Mesh tarps can be used as ground cover or shelter, but one disadvantage is that you will not get insulation through them. So, if you are camping in a cold place, then they are not our recommended option.

Moreover, as they are made of mesh, they can easily wear out if exposed to direct sunlight; only use them in shaded areas or during short-term camping trips. 

Tips for Setting Up and Securing the Tarp for Camping Gear Protection

We close this article with tips for setting up and securing your tarp or ground cloth.

Choose the Right Spot: you first must choose the right spot. Look for a flat, debris-free area, and don’t go for any low-lying area or area close to water sources, as this can increase the risk of flooding. Moreover, the space must be sheltered from wind and rain, such as beneath a tree or next to a large rock formation.

Set Up The Tent First: The next step is setting up the tarp and ensuring the tent is securely placed equal to the tent footprint. Ensure all the stakes are firmly planted into the ground, and all the guy lines tight.

Position The Tarp Properly: After securing the tent, it is time to position the tarp to cover both sides evenly and extend at least 8 feet on each side. You must leave enough slack so it can be pulled tight when staked down.

Secure The Corners and Edges: For a taut pitch, firstly, you must stake down each corner and edge of the tarp using long metal stakes or heavy rocks. In case of extra security cushion, you can use multiple stakes per corner or edge.

Use Additional Guy Lines: An essential step in the process is using additional guy lines to secure corners and edges of the tarp pitch. For proper functioning, the guy lines should be attached to each corner and edge around the tent footprint with strong cordages such as paracord or rope. Then, they should be staked at least 2 feet from each corner or edge for maximum security against wind uplift or water pooling around them.