It’s normal to feel a sense of pride when you go camping in a tent instead of an RV. You feel that you’re abandoning the comforts of home and you’re really making the most of being out there, in nature. However, there’s certainly an added charm if you choose to go hammock camping instead. After all, a tent is still a sort of shelter, right? And it still keeps you somewhat separated from the wild outdoors.
We don’t mean that you should abandon your safety and well-being, though. This is where hammock tarps enter the picture. A hammock camping tarp will give you the same level of protection that a tent provides, while at the same time, blurring the lines between being indoors and outdoors.
We understand, however, how daunting it can feel to go on your first hammock camping trip. So allow us to bring back that sense of security by helping you choose the right tarps for hammock camping. Excited? Then let’s get started!
Choosing the Right Hammock Tarp Size
Are you wondering “How do I choose a tarp?”. The first step on how to pick a tarp for a hammock is to determine the size that you need. This will ensure that whether you’re camping in the rain or camping in hot weather, you’re still going to be well protected from the elements. There are different factors that you need to consider to get the size that you need:
First is the purpose of your trip. You can opt for a large tarp if you’re only going on a short weekend trip or if you’re car camping. However, you might want to consider opting for ultralight tarps for hammock camping if you’re going on a longer, more intense trip like backpacking and hiking.
The next factor that you need to consider is the length or hammock tarp size: what size tarp do I need for my hammock?
At the very least, it should be six inches longer than each of the ends of your hammock (or 12 inches longer than the actual hammock length). This will help keep you dry in case of a drizzle.
Finally, you should consider your budget. Hammock tarps come in different types (something that we’ll talk more about in detail in a bit). However, regardless of which type you choose, we recommend getting one in the best quality that your budget will allow. Not only will it be more durable to the elements, but it will also last you longer.
Different Types of Hammock Tarps
As mentioned, there are different types of hammock tarps and each has its own purpose and perks. Here they are:
Asymmetrical tarps are the most commonly used and also the most affordable. They are lightweight and perfect for quick solo camping trips. However, take note that they also provide the least coverage. In order to make the most of your asymmetrical tarp, we recommend sleeping at the same angle as it is hanged. Diagonally.
Hexagonal/Catenary-Cut (Cat-Cut) Tarps
Here’s another popular hammock tarp type. Hexagonal hammock tarps might be a bit heavier (and pricier) than an asymmetrical tarp, but they are also more flexible, not to mention that they offer better coverage.
You should consider getting hexagonal catenary-cut types too. These are hexagonal tarps with curved cut edges that make their overall weight lighter due to the reduction of the material used. These edges also help in keeping the cover more tightly stretched preventing sagging and flapping.
Looking for a lightweight tarp that you can use during the warmest days of summer, but offers slightly better coverage than the asymmetrical tarp? Then the diamond or square tarp is the choice for you. It provides more coverage on the sides. Don’t expect it to be longer, though.
If you want a longer tarp, then the rectangle tarp is the way to go. As the name suggests, it’s closely similar to a diamond or square tarp, only that it provides more coverage for each of the ends of your hammock. The only thing that we don’t particularly enjoy in using rectangle tarps is that we find them more challenging to keep taut. In our experience, they are more prone to flapping and sagging. Making adjustments with your tarp ridgeline setup will help.
Finally, there are winter or four-season tarps. Getting one can be quite an investment but it is definitely worth it if you’re thinking of going snow camping or you can’t be bothered in waterproofing your hammock tarp. Expect this piece to be heavier, given the thicker and larger material. This is due to the extra ends used that can be zipped up to act as a storm door that will keep you warm and dry during the chilliest weather.
What Does Your Hammock Tarp Need to Be Made Of?
Speaking of materials, here are the different fabrics used in manufacturing hammock tarps:
Remember those blue tarps you find in hardware stores? That’s exactly what poly tarps are. Polyethylene is a woven plastic material that is both durable and cheap. It’s quite practical, yes, if you don’t mind the aesthetic and the crinkling noise that it makes every time it gets hit by the wind. It can also get quite hot inside, something to keep in mind if you’re camping during the summer.
If your hammock tarp is made out of nylon, then it’s probably made with ripstop nylon. It is a material made with woven nylon threads and is known for its durability. It can be quite heavy, though, something that you should definitely consider if you’re a weight-conscious camper.
What do you get if you coat the nylon threads of your nylon tarp with silicon? That’s right. Silnylon. Surprisingly, a silnylon hammock tarp slightly weighs less compared to other tarps out there. Keep in mind, however, that this material is available in different thicknesses. The thicker the material, the heavier it will be. What we absolutely love about silnylon, though, is its waterproof nature. This feature has earned this tarp a permanent space in our hiking kit.
Finally, there’s canvas, the hammock tarp that we prefer to use during the winter thanks to its added warmth. Should you choose to get one, just make sure to opt for a piece with a waterproof coating. Canvas can get quite heavy when wet and it may require support poles to keep it properly pitched.
Camp with the comfort of a hammock. Sleep underneath the stars. Enjoy the gentle sea breeze. Relax. Yes, the hammock and tarp combo will always make our list of camping essentials. They provide a different outdoor experience and is definitely something that we recommend you to try.
We also appreciate the fact that tarps can be used for other purposes too. We can think of a number of emergency cases where tarps can help out, such as serving as an emergency blanket or even as a survival stretcher.
Before you purchase one, however, just remember that there are different factors that you should consider when looking for a piece to complete your hammock tarp setup like the tarp’s weight, dimensions, style, and of course, the material that it was made from.