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What Size Tarp for Camping?

If a camping tarp is too small or too big, it can spoil the whole trip. So, let's ask the obvious question - what size camping tarp would you buy?




For a tarp to cover a tent, it is approximately 2 feet longer and wider than the base of the tent. Under the tent floor, it is approximately the same size as the tent base. For a hammock shelter, the tarp will be 2 feet longer on the diagonal than the ridge line. For a tarp shelter, dimensions will vary.




At this point, you need to know the difference between the cut size and the finished/actual size of a camping tarp.




The cut size is the size of the material used in the tarp. It is measured before any seams or folds appear.




The finished size, on the other hand, is the size of the tarp after the seams/rolled edges have been completed. So, this is the size of the tarp you will be using in practice.




According to most tarp sizing calculators, the finished size of a tarp is 4-6% smaller than the cut size, which results in an average reduction of 6-8 inches per side.



Tarpaulin size calculation 1: Use above/below the tent

The most popular use of a camping tarp is with a tent. It can be used above or below the tent, or even both.




You may want a pair of giant tarpaulins that "fit all". But if the weather turns bad, this could backfire. Not to mention the huge maintenance and set-up hassle they entail. Make sure that whatever size you choose, you have plenty of room for your blanket and sleeping bag.




In any case, read on to find out the 'best' tarp sizes for 'above' and 'below' camping tents.



What size tarp is suitable for use above the tent?

We get it - everyone will feel safer with a larger tarp on top of their camping tent. It also provides more space for you to hang out with your camping buddies and possibly some storage space for your camping gear.




But it's not as simple as it seems.




If the tarp is larger than required, you may have to deal with the following problems.




The tarp will collect too much rainwater. It may collapse on your tent.


High winds with or without rain can make it more difficult to stay in place.


Setting it up can cause more trouble and carry more equipment.




So, what size tarp to use outside the tent?

Ideally, choose a tarp that is 4 feet longer than the length and width of the tent. Therefore, a 10' x 10' tent will need at least an 18' x 18' tarp to provide decent shelter.


That's fine with you. ...... I just need to measure the length and width that I need to cover, right? Of course, if you only want to cover a specific area of the wall or floor, that's fine. However, if you are trying to cover a 3-dimensional object, then it will be a little more than that.




When estimating a 3-dimensional object, all you need to do is start with the method we mentioned above - measure the length and width of the top area of the object to be covered. Of course, if it's not a flat-topped object, you may need to estimate a little to allow for any upwards objects. It's best to overestimate rather than underestimate at this point, as you don't want to end up with a tarp that doesn't cover as much or far less of the object than you need.




Now you need to consider how far you want the tarp to cover the edges of the object. Sometimes you only want to cover the top of the object, as shown in the trailer top example above. Other times, you need to cover all the way to the ground. The trick here is to measure the distance you want the tarp to drape from the top of the object downwards, double this figure and then add that number to the length and width. So, if you want the tarp to drape 2 meters over all 4 sides, you need to add 4 meters to the length and width measurements.



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