What Size Tarp For Camping? 11 Done-for-you Charts

What Size Tarp For Camping
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Last Updated on October 16, 2021 by Jawad Khan

Camping tarps can sabotage the entire trip if turns out to be too small or large. It’s a good thing that you’ve searched about it on the web and landed on this webpage.

So let’s ask the obvious- What size tarp for camping you’d buy?

For over-tent tarps, get about 2’ longer and wider than the tent base. Under the tent floor, it’ll be about the same size to the tent base. For hammock shelters, the tarp diagonal will be 2’ longer than the ridgeline. For tarp-shelters, the size will vary.

Well, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Coming up with the ‘Exact’ tarp size measures is a hard nut to crack. Unless you’re dying to redo your high school math lessons. 

Good news is- we put on our mathematician hat for a while for you. Throughout this article, you’ll find a set of done-for-you tarp size charts for every camping purpose under the sky.

Ready for it? Pick your notebook up and hop on the wagon- 

Cut Size vs Actual Size: This is IMPORTANT!

Has it ever happened to you that you found the tarps to be smaller than what is shown on the packaging? 

If so, it’s not actually a manufacturing defect or misprint. 

It’s the point where you need to understand the difference between cut size and finished/actual size of camping tarps. 

Cut size is the size of the material used in the tarp. It’s measured before any seams or hems take place. 

On the flip side, finished size is the size of the tarp once the seaming/hemming is done. So, this is the size of the tarp that you’ll get to make use of in practice. 

As per most of the tarp size calculators, finished size of a tarp is 4-6% smaller than cut size, which leads to a deduction of 6-8” on average on every side. Have a look-

Credit: tarpnation.net

In this discussion, we’ve calculated the ‘exact’ sizes of tarps for the given purposes. And while pointing out at products, we’ve added up the ‘6-8%’ margin to that. So, you can skip the calculations and go with the recommended products anyway. 

Tarp Size Calculation 1: To Use Over/Under Tents

Credit: scoutofmind.com and astentco.com

The most popular use of camping tarps is to use them with tents. It can be over or under the tent and even both. 

You might want to go with a pair of gigantic tarps that ‘fit-them-all’. But that can backbite if the weather goes south. Let alone the mammoth maintenance and setup hassle they invite. Make sure that whatever size you choose, you have space for your blankets and sleeping bags.

Anyways, keep reading to learn the ‘optimal’ tarp sizes for using both ‘over’ and ‘under’ camping tents. 

What Size Tarp for Using Over Tent?

We get it- everyone feels safer with larger tarps on your camping tent. Also, it provides more room to hang out with the campmates, and probably some storage space to dump your camping gears too. 

But it’s not that simple as it looks. 

With tarps that are too large than required, you might have to face problems like- 

  • The tarp will collect too much rainwater. And it will threaten to collapse right on your tent.
  • High wind that comes with or without the rain will make it harder to stay in place. 
  • Setting it up will come with more hassle and more equipment to carry.

So, what size tarp for over-the-tent use? 

Ideally, pick a tarp that’s 4 feet longer than both the length and width of the tent. So, a 10’ x 10’ tent would require a minimum 18’ x 18’ tarp for a decent shelter.

To let you skip the calculations, here’s a complete chart of tarp size recommendations to use over the tent- 

Chart 1: Tarp Size Chart for Using Over The Tent

Tent Floor SizeRated CapacityTarp Size for Over The Tent
7.7′ x 3.2′1 person10’ x 6’
7.2’ x 4.6’2 persons10’ x 8’
7.6’ x 7′3 persons12’ x 12’
9’ x 7’4 persons/family13’ x 11’
10’ x 9’6 persons15’ x 13’

What Size Tarp for Using Under Tent?

For using a tarp under the tent, the closer you can get to your tent footprint, the better. Too much extension out from your tent will funnel rainwater, debris, and dust under your tent floor. 

That said, don’t go for tarps that are ‘exactly’ the same to your tent floor. Because the finished size of tarps is always a few inches shorter than what’s displayed. 

The verdict is- measure your tent footprint, get tarp that is 8-12” larger in both length and width, and fold the edges under the tent. 

For easing things up, here is a size recommendation chart- 

Chart 2: Tarp Size Chart for Using Under The Tent

Tent Floor SizeRated CapacityTarp Size Required
7.7′ x 3.2′1 person8’ x 4’
7.2’ x 4.6’2 persons8’ x 5’
7.6’ x 7′3 persons9’ x 9’
9’ x 7’4 persons/family10’ x 8’
10’ x 9’6 persons11’ x 10’

Tarp Size Calculation 2: To Use As Tarp-shelters

Source: arklight-design.com

The best way to use a camping tarp is as shelter. Period. 

But to get it right, you’ll need sheer expertise on bushcraft setup skills. Also, you need tools like- vertical support system(VSS), ropes, ground stakes etc to come up with a weather-proof tarp-shelter. 

Once you manage to check the boxes, you’ll have the freedom to choose from literally dozens of pitches as per your need. Unlike the pre-made tents and hammocks, you can customize your little shelter whenever, however you want. 

Anyways, to get you the exact tarp sizes for such shelters, we’ve picked up three of the most popular tarp-shelter pitches. They are-

  • Basic lean-to tarp shelter pitch.
  • Basic fly/mushroom fly tarp shelter pitch.
  • A-frame tarp shelter pitch. 

Even within each of these pitches, we’ve shown several configurations and calculated the tarp size needed for each.

Let’s start with the basic one-  

What Size Tarp For Basic Lean-To Pitch?

Source: Rollingfox.com

Lean-to tarp shelters are the fastest and easiest ones to make, especially for new campers. 

The tarp has to be set at an angle with the ground, where the edge has to be secured on the ground. 

Depending on at which angle you’re setting the lean-to shelter up, the tarp size requirement would vary. Campers usually go with one of these three angles- 30°, 45°, and 60°. The choice is mostly on the space requirement and wind velocity.

Anyways, we’ll break down tarp size requirements for each. 

Chart 3: Tarp Sizes For 30° lean-to shelters- 

Shelter CapacityHeight of The ShelterFloor SpaceRequired Tarp Size
1 Person4.5’7.8’ x 9’9’ x 9’ 
2 Persons5’8.6’ x 10’10’ x 10’
3 Persons6’10.4’ x 12’12’ x 12’

Chart 4: Tarp Sizes For 45° lean-to shelters- 

Shelter CapacityHeight of The ShelterFloor SpaceRequired Tarp Size
1 Person4.6’4.6’ x 10’10’ x 6.5’
2 Persons5.6’5.6’ x 15’15’ x 8’
3 Persons7.1’7’ x 20’20’ x 10’

Chart 5: Tarp Sizes For 60° lean-to shelters- 

Shelter CapacityHeight of The ShelterFloor SpaceRequired Tarp Size
1 Person7’4’ x 10’10’ x 8’
2 Persons8.6’5’ x 15’15’ x 10’
3 Persons10.3’6’ x 20’20’ x 6’

What Size Tarp For Basic Fly/Mushroom Fly Pitch?

Source: Rollingfox.com and waldenlabs.com

These two tarp pitches are handy when all you need to care about is staying protected from sun, rain and snow. They are easy to set up, but can’t offer any protection from wind. 

FYI, A mushroom fly offers better snow or rain runoff than the basic fly, as a support pole is added up at the center of it. 

And both of them are supported at the 4 corners, being parallel to the ground. And it’s convenient to go with square-shaped tarps for building any basic/mushroom fly. 

Anyways, here goes the person-wise tarp size recommendation- 

Chart 6: Tarp Sizes For Basic Fly/Mushroom Fly shelters

Shelter CapacityShadow SpaceRequired Tarp Size
1 Person49 sq. ft.7’ x 7’ 
2 Persons81 sq. ft.9’ x 9’
3 Persons121 sq. ft.11’ x 11’

What Size Tarp For A-Frame Pitch?

A-Frame
Source: Rollingfox.com

Just like the letter-A, an A-frame tarp shelter extends the tarp to a width while the centerline is supported by a ridgeline. The ridgeline can be created by stringing a paracord between two trees. 

Apart from the basic pitch, there are a few close modifications of A-frame shelter- 

  • Body Bag/Tube Tent: Looks like an A-frame pitch, just with a groundsheet/floor. The groundsheet will take a cut from the tarp. So, the room would be less than what you’d get from a basic A-frame pitch. 
  • Wind Shed: Closed at one end, partially open in the other end. Can be built with or without(Fold-Over Wind Shed) the ground sheet.
  • Diamond Fly: An enclosed version of A-frame, where one of the sides are secured to the ground, mostly on the windward side. 
  • Dining Fly: Slightly lifted A-frame. More headroom and ventilation but lacks side-protection. 
Source: Rollingfox.com and waldenlabs.com

The size of the floor depends on the angle that the tarp is splitted at. However, for convenience, we’ll cover multiple angles(45°, 60°, 90°) for basic A-frame and two of it’s variations below-

Chart 7: Tarp Sizes For A-frame(basic) shelters- 

Shelter CapacityWall AngleShelter HeightFloor SpaceRequired Tarp Size
1 Person45°5.5’6’ x 8’12’ x 8’ 
2 Persons60°6.5’7.5’ x 12’15’ x 12’
3 Persons90°7.1’14.2’ x 10’20’ x 10’

Chart 8: Tarp Sizes For Body Bag shelters-

Shelter CapacityAngleShelter HeightFloor SpaceRequired Tarp Size
1 Person45°5.5’6’ x 8’18’ x 8’ 
2 Persons60°6.5’7.5’ x 12’22.5’ x 12’
3 Persons90°7.1’14.2’ x 10’34.2’ x 10’

Chart 9: Tarp Sizes For Wind Shed shelters-

Shelter CapacityAngleShelter Height Floor SpaceTarp Size
(with groundsheet)
Tarp Size
(without groundsheet)
1 Person45°5.5’6’ x 8’15’ x 8’ 9’ x 8’ 
2 Persons60°6.5’7.5’ x 12’18.75’ x 12’11.25’ x 12’
3 Persons90°7.1’14.2’ x 10’28.5’ x 10’15’ x 10’

Note: There are dozens of other shelter pitches you can make out of a rectangular/square tarp. Some of them are-

  • Rectangular Stall and variations(swing-back stall, sentry box & half-box)
  • C-Fly
  • Body Bag
  • Arrowhead
  • And many more.

Here’s an in-depth guide from David Macpherson on the subject. Also, find illustrations of 25 tarp shelter configs here.

Tarp Size Calculation 3: To Use With Hammock

How to Hammock Camp | REI Co-op
Source: rei.com

Another popular use of camping tarp is to use it as a shelter on hammocks. With a safe shelter, hammock camping becomes easier and more fun.

For obvious reasons, you won’t need any ground cover with a hammock. All you need to calculate is tarp size for using over a hammock.

Depending on how much protection(from wind, rain, dust and bugs) and privacy you want, the tarp shelter configuration can vary a lot. We’ve figured out pitches for two of the most popular kinds of hammock shelters-

  • A-Sym/Diamond Rain Fly
  • Hexagon Rain Fly

Now, before we dive into numbers, here’s a couple of points to note, especially for beginners- 

1 of 2: What is Ridgeline?

Hammock ridgeline - YouTube
Source: Backpacking With a Hammock

Ridgeline is the cord between two ends of the hammock. It’s usually 83% of the hammock length if you hang the hammock at 300 with the hammock stand/tree. 

It’s important in this discussion because that’s where the tarp will be hanging on, providing shelter and protection for your hammock.

1 of 2: Your height vs Hammock Length

The tarp size will depend on the hammock length, which depends on your own height. 

So, what’s the ground rule?

Simply, add 4 feet to your height and you’ll get a hammock length that you’ll need as a single user. Say, you’re 6 feet tall. So you’ll need a tarp that’s 10 feet in length. 

For more than one person, go with hammocks of the same length, just a bid wider. Some hammocks have spreader bars as well, which is good for family usage. 

What Size Tarp for A-Sym/Diamond Rain Fly over Hammock?

Source: theultimatehang.com and outdoorser.com

A-sym or asymmetrical and diamond rain tarps for hammocks are quite similar. They look the same, offer the same perks and are equally easy to set up. 

The first difference is, A-sym is made out of rectangular tarps, where diamond flies are from square ones. Hence, the tarps size choices will be a bit different as well.

Secondly, diamond flies offer more shelter all around the hammock, which is preferred for multiple users or families.

However, the rule for calculating the right hammock tarp is- 

  • Find the diagonal length of the tarp.
  • Find the ridgeline of the hammock while hung. 
  • Make sure that the diagonal is at least 6” longer at both sides than the ridgeline length.

To cut the clutter, we’ve done the math for you-

Chart 10: Tarp size for A-Sym/Diamond hammock rainfly

Hammock LengthUser TypeRidgelineTarp Size Recommended
13’ Family11.3’4’ x 12’ (A-sym)
12’ x 12’ (Diamond) 
12’ Single(up to 7’ Tall)10.4’
11’Single(up to 7’ Tall)9.5’5’ x 8’ (A-sym)
7’ x 7’ (Diamond)
10’Single(up to 6’ Tall)8.6’6’ x 6’ (Diamond)
8’Kids7’4’ x 6’ (A-sym)

What Size Tarp for Hexagon Rainfly over Hammock?

Tarp Hammocks rainfly
Source: hammock-outlet.eu

Just as the name sounds, hexagon rainfly is made out of tarps that are 6-sided(hexagonal). 

These are better rain flies than ones with rectangular tarps because- 

  • It doesn’t form wrinkles around the corner. So rain water gets better channelling around the hammock. 
  • Also, they’re harder to get flapped in the wind.

To find the tarp size required for such rainflies, follow these steps- 

  • Find the length of the biggest diagonal of the hexagonal tarp. 
  • Find the ridgeline of the hammock while hung. 
  • Make sure that the diagonal is at least 6” longer than the ridgeline, on both sides. 

Again, here’s the done-for-you size chart- 

Chart 11: Tarp size for hexagon hammock rainfly

Hammock LengthUser TypeRidgelineTarp Size Recommended
13’ Family11.3’9’ x 11.8’
11’Single(up to 7’ Tall)9.5’7.6’ x 10’
8’Kids7’7.6’ x 7.6’

In case you’re looking for a more in depth break down of tarp-hammock relationship, here’s a video from Youtube Channel “Bushcraft Hammock & Tarp Setup”-

What’s Wrong With Tarps Bigger Than You Need?

So far, we’ve talked about tarp sizes that are bare minimum for the given scenarios. But what if you want to be on the safer side by getting tarps larger than we’ve recommended? 

Well, there is practically nothing wrong with it. But as long as it’s about camping, you’d love to stay minimal with everything.  

That said, let us portray the pros and cons of having tarps larger than the minimum estimate- 

ProsCons
More flexibility with sleeping room and positions.
Maximum protection from wildlives, bugs, etc. 
More pitching options and versatility. 
More privacy for cloth changing, etc.
Weighs more. 
Requires more hardware to setup.
Might need practice and expertise on tarp pitching.

Parting Advice: What Else To Look for in A Tarp?

We hope that you’ve got the grip of the discussion, and got the desired tarp size in hand. But that apart, there are a number of other things to look for in a camping tarp. 

Here is a quick list of them for you- 

  • Look for top-notch built quality. It should be thick, waterproof, and durable. 
  • Go with lighter colors, as they’ll be less prone to UV degradation. Grey tarps are recommended, which lies in the sweet spot of dark and light colors. 
  • Look for ample guy out points and interior attachment points
  • No matter which size of tarp you go with, make sure they’re easy to store while not used. 
  • Don’t go with tarp materials or sizes that will be too difficult for you to clean.
  • Make sure you have all of the accessories you’ll need to set it up on the campsite. 

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