Tips: Finding the Right Tarp for Your Hammock Camping & Backpacking

Preparing for camping can be challenging, but with the right hammock camping accessories, you’ll be able to enjoy the adventure even more.

The weather forecast for your next hammock camping trip might be perfect, but even with a mild forecast, the weather can still be unpredictable.

A cold front or a storm could hit during your camping trip, leaving you soaked, frozen, and wishing you were better prepared.

Thankfully, with the right tarp, you can stay warm, dry, and out of the wind while hanging in your hammock.

Not sure what you need? Let’s take a closer look at the types of tarps to pair with your hammock to keep you comfortable no matter what the weather throws at you.

Types of Tarps

While any tarp can become a shelter for your hammock, there are actual tarps designed for hammocks.

Also known as rain-flies, these hammock tarps are lighter than your typical blue plastic tarp but are still strong and waterproof.

For proper coverage while hammock camping, you’ll need a tarp that covers your entire hammock. At the very least, the tarp should cover along the ridgeline and width of the hammock, extending between 6 to 12 inches over each end of your hammock.

Hammock tarps come in different shapes, weights, and sizes, with some providing more coverage than others. The coverage ranges from a roof over your head to complete coverage on all sides.

The type you choose depends on your preference for weight, wind coverage, and rain coverage.

Rain Fly EVOLUTION 12x10/10x10 Hammock Waterproof Tent TARP & Survival Bracelet - 22 pcs - Lightweight - Backpacking Approved - Perfect Hammock Shelter
Rain Fly EVOLUTION 12×10/10×10 Hammock Waterproof Tent TARP & Survival Bracelet – 22 pcs – Lightweight – Backpacking Approved – Perfect Hammock Shelter

Asymmetrical Tarps

Asymmetrical tarps provide the least amount of coverage but are lightweight and easy to set up. For maximum coverage, you must sleep in line with these tarps. To do this, sleep diagonally in your hammock with the angle of the tarp.

Diamond/Square Tarps

Diamond or square tarps are ideal for use in summer. These tarps are also lightweight and easy to set up. And they provide more coverage than asymmetrical tarps, especially on the sides. But they don’t provide much coverage on the ends.

Hexagonal & Catenary-Cut

For camping in spring, summer, and fall, hexagonal catenary-cut tarps are the most versatile. Although these are not as lightweight or easy to set up compared to diamond tarps, they do provide better coverage.

You can find hexagonal tarps and hexagonal catenary-cut tarps.

Catenary-cut refers to the curved cut edges that reduce the weight of a typical hexagonal tarp since it has less material. This also keeps the tarp taught, preventing it from sagging and flapping in the wind.

Hexagonal & Catenary-Cut Tarps

Rectangle tarps are larger and have more material, making for a heavier tarp but with ample coverage. These tarps take longer to set up, and due to the extra coverage, they have less ventilation than smaller tarps.

Winter/Four-Season Tarps

For winter camping, you will need the full coverage of a four-season tarp. These are the heaviest tarps, and the most complex and time-consuming to set up. But a winter tarp will shelter you from the biting cold and heavy winds, snow, and rain.

These tarps have extra material on each end that can be closed, acting as storm doors. When these doors are closed, the tarp is essentially a hanging tent that keeps chilly air and inclement weather out and your body warmth in.

Light Vs. Heavy Tarps

Light tarps are ideal for camping in fair summer weather. They are small, lightweight, and easy to pack and carry.

But depending on the type and size, lighter tarps may not provide adequate coverage from the elements. If the weather forecast for your camping trip is mostly sunny and clear skies, then you should be fine with a lighter diamond tarp.

If you plan to camp in cold, stormy weather, and you want to stay as dry as possible during a rain or snowstorm, larger, heavier tarps are the way to go. Although they are heavier to carry and often more difficult to pitch, large tarps provide adequate shelter and privacy in all weather.

ENO - Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Rain Tarp, Ultralight Hammock Accessory
ENO – Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Rain Tarp, Ultralight Hammock Accessory

What Are Ridgelines?

To hang a hammock tarp, you must first hang a ridgeline; a rope or a cord used to suspend a tarp over a hammock.

You can tie a ridgeline to the hammock suspension. However, this will cause the tarp to sag and reduce your coverage, especially when you get in and out of your hammock.

You’re better off tying the ridgeline tightly to the trees and not to the hammock. This is helpful when it’s raining since you can set up the tarp first and have better coverage when hanging your hammock.

Keep in mind that your hammock suspension and tree straps should be attached higher up the tree than the tarp ridgeline suspension.

Some tarps come with end-only ridgelines to reduce weight and make for an easier setup. Cords on each end of the tarp are fastened to a tree and tightened with line-locks so there is enough tension to support the tarp and prevent sagging.

Full-length ridgelines are more common. These run under tarps, extending to the anchor points on each end. A full-length ridgeline provides extra support to tarps in rough weather conditions, such as high winds, torrential rain, and heavy snow in blizzards.

Ridgelines are also useful for hanging up wet clothes to dry and setting up bug nets.

Make sure to set up a water break or drip line on each end of your hammock’s suspension to help keep you dry. Tie a piece of string on the hammock’s suspension. This creates a water break, causing water to drip down to the ground instead of down to your hammock.

Ease of Use for Pitching A Tarp

The ease of use for pitching a tarp varies by type.

Once you’ve secured a ridgeline to two trees, you can drape the tarp over the ridgeline. To keep the tarp in place, you will need to tie down the corners of the tarp with guy lines and stakes. Guy lines anchor the tarp downwards.

Asymmetrical and diamond tarps are the easiest to pitch since they usually only need two guy lines.

You may not need to set up a ridgeline when pitching a catenary-cut tarp, making this an easy tarp to setup. Instead, the shape can create enough tension for a ridgeline by tightening the attachment ropes.

Hexagonal, catenary-cut, rectangle, and four-season tarps all have four anchor points to stake to the ground with guy lines. So pitching these tarps takes more time than diamond or asymmetrical tarps.

When conditions are bad, keep tarps tied down low for better coverage. And when the weather is nice, you can prop up one or both sides of your tarp with trekking poles for ventilation and a better view of the great outdoors.

How to Properly Care for Your Tarp

It’s not just your hammock that requires care and maintenance. To keep your hammock tarp in good condition for longer, keep these care tips in mind.

  • Use hammock/tarp patches and repair tape to fix tears and holes before the damage gets worse;
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s care instructions, especially for cleaning;
  • If there are no instructions, wash by hand. You can spray off most dirt with a hose. For harder to clean dirt, use a gentle brush and mild soap to scrub, then rinse thoroughly and hang to dry;
  • For sticky tree sap, pour a bit of baking soda on top of the sap and let it dry out before peeling off the sap; and,
  • Always make sure your tarp is completely dry before storing it. Hang it to dry before storing it in its bag. And keep the tarp bag stored in a cool, dry area away from pests.

With the right hammock tarp, you can take camping to a whole new level.

Enjoy a comfortable, warm, and dry hammock camping adventure in any weather, rain, snow, or shine, with the shelter of a durable hammock tarp, available at Hammock Universe!

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