When backpacking or hiking, if you are like me, the last thing you want is weight in your backpack that is avoidable. One of the heaviest items you can end up within your backpack can be an oversized tent. As an alternative, I am going to introduce you to a few of the best tarp tents and rain flys for braving the elements.
If you are a happy adventurer like me and you have a love for all things outdoors, the chosen tarp or rainfly can determine the success of your adventure. I personally know the last thing I want when I head out on an outdoor activity is a useless tarp. Choosing a tarp or rainfly needs plenty of consideration. I am going to guide you through some of those considerations, and then we will take a look at some of my choices.
Let’s Look At The Price
One thing that you should realize when it comes to the best tarp tents and that is simply this. You don’t need to break the bank to get something great. If, of course, you opt for something along the ultralight when you hit the stores, you will, of course, be paying more.
When purchasing a tarp or rainfly, it may sometimes be beneficial to pay that little extra. It all depends on what you require at the time. If, of course, you are a seasoned adventurer, then paying extra for something that will last a long time would be a viable option.
How Much Does It Weigh?
Every traveler, adventurer, and happy camper knows the importance of backpack weight. Personally, I can be a little dramatic. An extra five ounces can feel like I am carrying a small child after an hour of walking.
Keeping weight low is vital when it comes to your backpack. So, looking for either a lightweight tarp tent or rain fly would be one of the smartest moves you can make.
When camping or traveling, the heaviest items in the backpack are generally, the tent, and the sleeping bag. And, if you are me, then there’s the multi-box of Snickers.
Of course, if you can prepare yourself to add a little weight to your backpack, this, of course, opens you up to a whole different level of tarps and tents.
Will It Save Me?
A vital need from any tarp is its level of protection. Let us get one thing clear straight off the bat. A tarp will not protect you from bears, that is not what I am talking about here.
When talking about protection, I mean protection from the elements. Elemental protection should be one of your main considerations when choosing your tarp. There have been occasions that I have chosen the wrong tarp for the job. It is never pleasant waking up feeling as though you have taken a nap in a river. Rain is not the only thing you should be wary of. UV protection is also imperative when it comes to choosing a tarp.
Protection from the elements can be a little shaky when choosing tarps in the budget range. So, reputable is quite often your best option.
Space and Capacity
Keeping weight to a minimum can more often than not reduce the size. Size reduction does not always necessarily occur when it comes to very low weight.
Having the right amount of interior space can be crucial for some. When it comes to tarp tents, not having enough space on the inside can lead to claustrophobic reactions for some and when I say some, I mean myself.
Generally speaking a tarp tent or rain fly would house 1-2 people maximum. Housing more than this increases the size of the tarp tent. If a tarp tent is too large, this increases the risk of the elements battering you.
Sticking to a recommended size will always be best, for safety and for you to get the most benefit.
Getting Yourself Set Up
Getting your tarp tent set up can for some people pose quite a challenge. So I am going to take you on a little setup journey and introduce you to some setup methods. Firstly I will introduce you to a list of setup supplies.
The Tarp – Most tarps are square and measure around 9 feet.
Cord – You may have some guidelines included if not, some cord and knowing how to tie a few knots will help.
Stakes – Most tarps will have stakes included. You should, however, always carry spares. Carrying spare stakes will not only give you extra options when it comes to setup. Extra stakes can also help with the unexpected appearance of vampires.
Poles – Most shelters work with trekking poles. One thing that should be accounted for is that tarps very rarely come with poles.
Setup Number One – The A-Frame
- Apply stakes to the corners of the left side of the tarp.
- Approximate 2.5 feet and line up trekking poles at front and back, in line with stakes.
- Pull the tarp over the trekking poles.
- Estimate the equilateral distance on the right side and stake the right of the tarp to the ground.
- Keeping the tarp tight, add further stakes to the sides to ensure the tarp is firmly secured.
If you find the headroom is not enough, you can use trekking poles to meet your requirements. If you do not carry trekking poles, you will need the application of a ridgeline. Run a ridgeline between two trees using the cord and add tension knots to your front and rear loops.
Setup Number Two – Closed-end A-Frame
- Stake the center point of the back of the shelter.
- As with the original a-frame, place trekking pole in the center of the front.
- Stake down the left and right sides of the shelter.
- Add additional stakes to increase the tension of the tarp.
The closed-end a-frame is a great option when it comes to protecting from the wind and rain. Having the rear of the tent as your protection point will help keep you dry the whole night through.
There are, of course, several setups that may intrigue you. This video will give you some ideas that can help you along the way.
Best of The Best
I am now going to introduce you to some of my favorites when it comes to tarps and rain flys.
Best Choice Products Hammock RAIN Fly Tent
All things considered, this tarp arrangement is impressive. The first trip with it was anything but difficult to set up in the breeze around 10 mph. Initially, I sat dubious as I was unsure of the material and whether it would be as durable as advertised. I was soon to find out the tarp could hold its own.
The following night out I wound up getting 60 mph winds. It was blowing this thing everywhere, and it did it for around an hour. The wind then faded away to around 20 mph. In any case, this canvas held up didn’t tear; it stood its ground.
I was extremely happy with this covering. In fairness to this tarp, I put it through its paces, and it didn’t let me down. The one negative I can say about the tarp is this. The carabiners are of very poor quality. Fortunately, I always use my trusted ones and very rarely stray from them.
- Feels Cheap
When this tarp arrived, my taste buds were pretty much turned off. For me, anything in the camo makes my stomach churn. Luckily, this wasn’t a contest of aesthetics.
This tarp came at the same time as the Best Choice one, so they both found room in my backpack. When taking the performance of the Best Choice into account, the Aqua Quest had a lot to live up to. And, I can safely say that it did.
The Aqua Quest made its appearance on day three. The first thing I found quite remarkable was the quality feel of this tarp. The second thing I noticed was its versatility. The Aqua Quest has 24 loops for added staking security.
The wind never really reached the 60 mph of day two, but ultimately this tarp performed. I am sure it would hold up in strong winds without an issue.
- Looks Cheap
The Legit Camping Rain Fly is now one of those options that I love, but it won’t be for everybody.
The Legit tarp has made this list because for me it is one of the lightest and most versatile options out there. Not only that, it is always an amazing value for money. I will start this review honestly, I do have a history with the Legit rain fly, and I will say this. Do not use in heavy rain or winds.
The Legit rain fly does offer amazing UV protection and to a level can protect you from the rain. As with most budget tarps, do not expect the world when it comes to weather protection.
The Legit rain fly also comes with some pretty sturdy stakes, but there are only four. If you are anything like me, no less than 10 will suffice.
- Great UV protection
- Good quality stakes
- Not very waterproof
- Not very durable
- Cheaper material
Ok, so I don’t need to mention that this is yet another camo tarp. Fortunately, that is pretty much where the negatives stop.
I was completely unfamiliar with Gold Armour before I purchased this tarp. I regret not getting to know them better beforehand.
Gold Armour generously provides 33 securing loops on this extra-large tarp. You should appreciate its other features too. Unfortunately for me, I got to test this in heavy rain. Once the assembly reached completion, the rain posed me no further issue.
The tarp may weigh a little more than the rest on the list, but I loved it. Gold Armour advertises this tarp as “Indestructible,” and I would be inclined to believe them.
- It’s Camo!
The Free Soldier boasts a lot of features from its advertising. Most of these are usually claimed and never fulfilled. The Free Soldier, however, does deliver on some of these. It is very durable and waterproof to a point.
The only place I found the Free Soldier lacking is in its execution. The workmanship that goes into the tarp is slightly lackluster. I found the tarp does leak through some of its thread holes.
Leaks like this can of course happen, and the tarp itself is a solid piece of kit. When it came to wind, this tarp holds its own and no stress at all on its loops.
Taking into consideration all these tarps and what I want from one, there is one stand out winner in my eyes. That winner is unbelievably Best Choice Products Hammock RAIN Fly Tent. While many may think the Gold Armour is the Best Choice, for me the Best Choice offers the whole package.
Best Choice offers durability, all-weather protection, and affordability. It offers all of this at one of the lowest weights on the list. Weight for me will always be the most prominent factor when choosing what to put into my backpack. What you should ask is what is most important to you when you are choosing yours?