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Best Bushcraft & Survival Tarps

Tarps are among the most basic but most useful pieces of gear that you can carry during a bushcraft expedition. This simple piece of fabric converts to the roof over your head and the shelter you begin to call home. Not only is it a shelter, but it’s also an additional resource for anything from collecting water to trapping heat in a hypo-wrap. 

Some tarps are bulky, and some are lightweight. Some tarps are made to last forever, and some tarps shred apart easily. Although it’s a simple piece of gear, there’s still a lot that goes into making one. You’ll want to pick the best bushcraft tarps that perform well for your individual needs, not just the cheapest or the lightest ones.

I’ve spent nights under tarps that cost less than a gallon of gas and nights under tarps with price tags that should be on a car. To get an idea of the different options out there, we have a list of some of the best. Getting one of these in every bag is going to ensure your readiness for an unexpected bushcraft adventure.

Best Bushcraft Tarps

In my opinion, there’s a lot that goes into making the best bushcraft tarps, and it isn’t usually the price. While I prefer value, some of the best tarps I’ve found have been remarkably affordable. Some people see more value in cost, and I can understand that. 

To meet everyone’s preferences, we’ll check out a vast array of different tarps, all of which I consider to be the best for bushcraft.

Aqua Quest Defender Tarp

best bushcraft tarp
  • Material: 70D Nylon with Heavy TPU and DWR coating
  • Size: 10’x7’, 10’x10’, 13’x10’, 15’x15’
  • Weight: 10’x7’ is 2.4 lbs
  • Color: Camo or Olive Drab
  • Water Resistance: 20,000 mm

We’re starting with one of the absolute best by most bushcraft standards. The Aqua Quest Defender is a heavy-duty tarp that’s built to last and take on the most extreme rainstorms imaginable. The Defender is made from 70D nylon that is then coated with heavy TPU and DWR. This construction is going to put up with rough treatment and long trips. 

The hydrostatic resistance rating of 20,000 mm is incredibly impressive. You can be sure that there won’t be any water breaching this barrier when you need it the most. The heat taped seams and reinforced stitching mean you won’t be ripping any holes in this tarp anytime soon. 

There are 19 different reinforced webbing tie loops around the tarp’s perimeter with four corner pockets and two separate lantern loops. You can set this tarp up any way you want and then turn the inside into a temporary home. Your new home has a coverage of 92 sq ft, which isn’t bad for roughing it. 

You can still pack this beefy tarp down to a small size. The 10’ x 7’ tarp packs down to 7” x 7” x 5”. It’ll easily fit in your pack and be ready when you need to take it out and set up an emergency shelter. This tarp has all the features to help make bushcraft even more enjoyable than it already is.

Sanctuary SilTarp

best bushcraft tarp
  • Material: 30D ripstop nylon with silicone/PU coating
  • Size: 10’x7.5’ tapered cut, 10’x8’ flat cut, 10’x10’ square-cut, 12’x10’ (flat or hex cut)
  • Weight: 10’x7.5’ weighs 10 ounces
  • Color: Green
  • Water Resistance: 5,000 mm

The Sanctuary SilTarp gives you everything you’ll need to get out into the bush without needing to run to the store. It’s got the guy line, micro line-loc adjusters, six aluminum stakes, and of course, the tarp. 

The tarp is really what we came here to talk about, though. This tarp is a 30D ripstop nylon to help prevent any accidental tears, and therefore, leaks. On top of the nylon, they’ve put a dual-coating of silicon and PU. With this and the taped seams, the tarp gets a 5,000mm rating for hydrostatic resistance. Not bad for a decent rain. 

There are plenty of different sizes to choose from, and the smallest size weighs a mere 10 ounces. Once you add in the accessories for setup, it is still only 14 ounces. That’s less than a pound for your shelter, which saves valuable space for other gear or food. The tapered tarp has 12 perimeter attachment loops to get the right angle to available trees for shedding rain.

Get a huge rip? No problem. The lifetime warranty on this US-based company is going to have your back after a mishap in the bush.

Aqua Quest Guide Tarp

best bushcraft tarp
  • Material: 40D ripstop Nylon with PU and silicone dual-coating
  • Size: 10’x10’, 13’x10’, 10’x7’, 20’x13’
  • Weight: 10’x10’ weighs 1.5 pounds
  • Color: Green or Olive Drag
  • Water Resistance: 5,000 mm

Aqua Quest has four different series of tarps, all of which are well-made and sure to keep you protected. The Guide tarp is designed more for those that want an ultra-lightweight build for long-haul backpacking trips. For that purpose, they’ve truly outdone themselves. 

The 10’ x 7’ gives you total coverage of 64 square feet, which is definitely enough to cuddle up underneath. There are 13 tie-outs for getting the right support and rain-shedding angle. The Guide packs down to 11” x4” x3.5” to fit into almost all of the nooks and crannies you have in your pack. Even then, it only weighs .9 lbs, so you’ll barely notice it there. 

To get a 5,000 mm hydrostatic resistance rating, Aqua Quest put a dual-coating of silicone and PU on top of the 40D nylon tarp. That’s enough protection to last you a long time in some exceptionally harsh environments.

Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly Rain Tarp

best bushcraft tarp
  • Material: 210D ripstop nylon with PU coating
  • Size: 10’6” x6’4”
  • Weight: 22 ounces
  • Color: Olive, Navy, or Grey
  • Water Resistance: Not Available

Eagle’s Nest Outfitters, more well-known as ENO, is famous for the lightweight and portable hammocks that they produce. A hammock is a pretty crummy place to sleep when the rain starts coming down, though. Because of this, ENO has put their engineers to develop a high-quality tarp built to protect hammock users from the rain. 

Now, I remember a night sleeping under my old-school construction tarp, and my tarp neighbor was under the ProFly. There were at least five times that night when strong winds took my tarp away, and my neighbor was poking their head out, asking if I wanted help. The ProFly stayed solid and kept my neighbor dry. Mine was a different story. 

The ProFly uses 70D Ripstop nylon with 1000mm of PU coating for extra protection. This tarp comes in one size, 10’6” x6’4”. This will give you plenty of room underneath to spread your gear out and keep dry. It packs down to a small 4.5” x9” and only weighs 22 ounces. If you’re going to be on the go, this will be right by your side. 

The seams on this tarp are double-stitched to become waterproof. Along with that, there are six different guy line points to help you get a secure positioning to weather a downpour. This tarp is an excellent option for bushcraft, even when you’re not in a hammock underneath it.

Aqua Quest Safari Tarp

  • Material: 70D Nylon with silicone and PU dual-coating
  • Size: 10’x10’, 13’x10’, 10’x7’, 20’x13’
  • Weight: 1.2 lbs
  • Color: Camo, Olive, Olive drab
  • Water Resistance: 5,000 mm

Our final product from Aqua Quest is their Safari series. They focus on making the best tarp for bushcraft with the Defender and the best tarp for lightweight backpacking with the Guide. The Safari strives to be a complete hybrid of the two tarps for a light but durable option. 

The 70D nylon pairs with a silicone and PU coating to make this tarp durable and waterproof. The heat taped seams and reinforced stitching bring the hydrostatic resistance to an impressive 5,000 mm. The Safari packs down to 11” x5” x2” and can be compressed even further to 6” x6” x3”. You’ll have no problems finding the space in your pack. 

Fifteen different reinforced webbing ties mean you’ll be able to set this tarp up even in the trickiest of spots. That’s an incredibly useful feature of the Aqua Quest tarps. The woods weren’t designed for your tarp to fit in perfectly. Sometimes corners need to be cut, and the extra ties make that possible. 

I love the Safari because you get the best of both worlds. We all want the extreme durability of the Defender and the lightweight build of the Guide. You have to sacrifice durability or weight to get either of these tarps. The Safari is made to have fewer sacrifices and meet in the middle.

Everest Hammock Waterproof Tarp

best bushcraft tarp - everest
  • Material: 70D Ripstop Nylon with PU coating
  • Size: 142” x98”
  • Weight: 1.63 lbs
  • Color: Gray/Black
  • Water Resistance: Not Available

The Everest Adventure Dry Fly goes up against the ProFly for the best tarp for hammock camping. They make it pretty apparent that they are the ProFly’s competition. The Adventure Dry Fly uses a similar design to the ProFly with a bit larger design and more focus on the Hex Cat-Cut.

This specific type of tarp cut has curved cuts that save on material, make the tarp rattle around less in the wind, and still gives full protection for a hammock camper. This cut can end with you getting a bit wet in a heavy downpour if you’re sleeping on the ground, but you’ll be safe in your hammock. 

They include reflective guy lines with Lineloc technology on each of them. This is an excellent choice when you don’t want to stumble over your tie-downs in the middle of the night. The Lineloc pull-outs are great for quick adjustments to your lines, so you don’t even need to know your knots. It also comes with aluminum ground stakes, which I would leave behind. 

The most significant difference in this tarp from the ProFly is the sizing. It has a centerline of 142” (almost twelve feet) and a 98” (just over eight feet) width. 

This gives you a ton of space underneath, which helps you keep you and your gear dry. Hammock tarps usually need to be set up a bit higher and will leave your gear on the ground more vulnerable to sideways rain.

Wise Owl Outfitters Rain Fly Tarp

  • Material: Waterproof 210T Ripstop Nylon
  • Size: 11’x9’
  • Weight: 1.6 lbs
  • Color: Blue, Grey
  • Water Resistance: Not Available

Wise Owl started out making hammocks and has since then expanded to a broader product line. Their tarps come at a budget price and are decent for keeping you dry. There are a few different options to let you choose the different cuts and sizing for the tarps. The unique lightweight cuts are explicitly designed for hammocks and will require you to keep gear elsewhere. 

Compared to other tarps, this one falls right in the middle for almost everything. It’s a pretty big size, which is excellent for spreading out, and it isn’t crazy lightweight or extremely heavy. Where the Wise Owl tarp comes out on top is with the price. It’s affordable, especially when you put it up against other tarps on the market. 

For a lighter version, you can get the Rain Tarp Lite, which packs down slightly smaller and weighs even less. It will cover a hammock easily by using a square cut that attaches at four different points. I think this is a great design if you’re going out with a hammock, but I wouldn’t sleep under it on the ground.

Unigear Waterproof Tent Tarp

  • Material: 210D Ripstop Oxford Fabric with PU coating
  • Size: 9’10” x9’10”, 9’10” x13’1”, 9’10” x 16’5”
  • Weight: 2.25 lbs
  • Color: Brown
  • Water Resistance: 3,000 mm

To go even further into the budget tarp territory, the Unigear Waterproof Tent Tarp comes into play. This tarp hits prices similar to buying construction tarps from a hardware store but is much less bulky. 

The three different sizes that Unigear offers are all rather large. You’re going to be sleeping underneath a space that allows for a ton of spreading out and lounging. This uses an Oxford fabric rather than nylon, making it come in at a heavier 2.25 pounds.

There are some shortcuts taken with this tarp, and you’ll notice them once you start packing it away. It’s 11.5” x6.1” x3.4” in total when completely packed away. That’s pretty big for a tarp that’s meant to fit into your pack with a whole load of other gear. 

While it has its drawbacks, the Unigear tarp is highly affordable and will make it easy to have a tarp available in all different areas of the house or each grab bag.

KingCamp Rain Fly Tarp

  • Material: PU coated fabric
  • Size: 9’10” x9’10”, 9’10” x13’1”, 9’10” x 16’5”
  • Weight: 2.76-3.97 pounds
  • Color: Black or Blue
  • Water Resistance: 3,000 mm

If you’re looking for a tarp that gets set up and then stays there, the KingCamp Rain Fly Tarp can fit that bill. It’s a massive tarp that’s pretty durable. While it’s huge and durable, that also means that it’s a hefty beast of a tarp to carry around. I wouldn’t want to lug around the extra, almost four pounds.

This comes with everything you need to set it up and has plenty of tie-down loops on the tarp. On one side of the fabric, they have put a Silver Glue to protect from UV rays that can penetrate specific materials. It would make for a good sunshade in a super hot environment. 

As I said, I wouldn’t carry this one around with me, but I would set it up at basecamp. In addition to the sturdy build, KingCamp gives users a 3-year warranty, which is a great comfort for buying such a cheap product.

FREE SOLDIER Waterproof Portable Tarp

  • Material: 210T ripstop polyester
  • Size: 118” x126”
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs
  • Color: Brown, Blue, Camo, Gray, Orange
  • Water Resistance: 2,500 mm

The Free Soldier Waterproof Portable Tarp focuses a bit more on durability than it does weight. It’s 2.2 pounds but is much more durable than more lightweight tarps. The 210T ripstop polyester performs well and still rates at 2,500 mm. 

There’s not a lot that’s unique about the Free Soldier tarp, but it does also work well as a simple tarp. It has 19 different guy points so that you can get pretty creative with the tarp setup. It will fit through different angles between trees when you need it to, and you can even tie it shut like a tent. 

One thing I like about this tent is that the ridgeline has strengthened grommets on its guy points. Getting a tight ridgeline is the most important part of setting up an adequate shelter. This feature helps you tighten those down and not worry about anything breaking in the process.

How to Choose a Tarp for Bushcraft

From the different materials, their size, their waterproof rating, etc., there’s plenty of tarp specs that you need to sift through now and decide which one to purchase. Let’s go through a great tarp’s various features to get a more precise idea in your head of what’s right to buy. 

Shape

Tarps are all cut to different shapes, and it affects the way they are set up, the coverage it gives you, and the way it reacts to wind and water. For hammock users, a different cut may be better than for those of us sleeping on the ground. It’s all about your use. 

Cuts and shapes range from a tapered cut, a flat cut, a square cut, to a hex cut. Each one of these has a unique purpose and will work well for certain situations. This article is about bushcraft, though, so we’ll focus on the best shape for a bushcraft tarp. 

A square, rectangular or basic cut is going to be your best bet for a bushcraft tarp. These are the most versatile shapes for tarps and cover the most ground. Other cuts are meant to cut down on weight for long-distance hikes. Even if you know you’ll be hiking a lot, bushcraft isn’t always about getting the lightest gear. It’s about getting what will help you in the most ways. 

Size

Some manufacturers sell huge tarps. A 9 foot by 15-foot tarp covers my entire living room at home. While it’s a nice thought that I could be sleeping in my living room while out in the backcountry, it’s just not the best size tarp for bushcraft. For me, a smaller square is a perfect size. 

There is a delicate balance of a tarp that’s just too big and one that’s getting you wet while you sleep. Depending on your height, you may need a bit larger tarp than others. I am 6’3” and sleep under a 10’ x 10’ Aqua Quest Safari Tarp for about half of my nights out of the year in the deep rainforest of SouthEast Alaska. 

I’ve never gotten soaked in a 10’ square tarp. It’s the perfect size for me, but maybe bigger for others. Typically, the smallest size that brands offer is going to be the best for bushcraft. Larger sizes are usually designed to be brought along in the car or for a big group of campers. 

Material

Ripstop fabrics are used in tarp construction, so when you may accidentally puncture your tarp, it doesn’t spread. This is a grid design that’s layered into the tarp, and the rip will struggle to push through the reinforcement if it tries. Ripstop is a necessity for a bushcraft tarp. 

The other options you have in the material are between the three main types of base material used. Ultralight backpacking tarps use a silnylon or Dyneema fabric that’s incredibly expensive. This should play a part in your choice, but you don’t need to spend a load of money on one of those.

I think nylon is the best fabric for a bushcraft tarp. It’s lightweight and durable while packing up to a small size. It’s not crazy expensive and will barely weigh more than the expensive options. While it doesn’t do well at blocking UV rays, I think for bushcraft, you’ll be able to find other ways of getting the proper shade you need. 

Polyester is a second great option for tarps. It has more UV resistance than nylon and is stretchier. Sometimes the stretch isn’t ideal and can lead to some pooling on your tarp if it isn’t set up perfectly. Otherwise, it’s a decent cheap option. 

The one material I would stay away from is Oxford fabric. I don’t really understand why anyone would make a waterproof tarp out of the stuff, other than to save on price. The price difference isn’t big enough to make this one worth buying. It’s made out of cotton and polyester, which doesn’t hold up well in the rain. 

Coating

Every time you look at a tarp, you’re guaranteed to see the letters PU somewhere. PU stands for polyurethane. If you’re a woodworker, you may recognize using polyurethane to seal wood watertight. It does the same for fabrics and adds another layer of waterproofing to the tarp. 

Silicone is also commonly used as a coating on tarps. It doesn’t add any thickness to the tarp, which is a significant pro on its side. It works well but isn’t the most waterproof coating you can get. 

TPU, or thermoplastic polyurethane, is the top tier of tarp coatings. It is the most water-resistant as well as the most abrasion-resistant out of all your coating options. The only drawback, you guessed it, is the price. TPU is the most expensive to find out of all your standard coating but is well worth it. 

Attachment Points

The forest won’t clear space for you to get the best tarp site. You are working on fitting yourself into a small area at times, and when that time comes, which it will, you need more attachment points. 

Various attachment points allow you to adjust the tarp’s size and fit it into different shaped or sized spaces. It also allows you to pull tension from different directions. If you utilize this, you can ensure that your tarp is better waterproofed. 

Color

While it might seem that color isn’t worth noting on the features of tarps, it can have an effect in bushcraft. 

A green, brown, or camo tarp is going to help keep you hidden if that’s necessary. Sometimes bushcraft demands that you stay away from others, and you don’t want a bright orange tarp shouting to others your location. 

Sometimes, you want to be found. That’s when the bright orange tarp is going to come in handy. Some tarp’s silver glue on the interior for UV protection also signals if they are reflective enough. 

Example Tarp Shelters

If you’re going to head out with a tarp, I highly recommend having a few different styles of shelters up your sleeve. Sometimes, it’s impossible to set up the perfect A-frame shelter, and you need to resort to a cornet style. This skill gives you a higher level of versatility when you’re out there.

A-Frame

The most popular tarp shelter is the A-frame. It makes a beautiful canopy that lets you have plenty of space both at your head and feet. To set this shelter up, you need two trees that your tarp can fit between. You string the ridgeline between the two trees, and then once that is tight, you stake out all four corners. 

This is an easy setup and gives you a great shelter. However, you need the right amount of space, trees, or other strong anchors readily available.

Lean-To

A lean-to tarp shelter is a great sun or wind protection from one direction. This is precisely what it sounds like, where the tarp is leaning on an imaginary (or real) support. One side of the tarp is fixed at a high point, and the lower two corners are staked out at a slight angle. I wouldn’t spend too much time sleeping under these unless there’s zero threat of rain.

Sunshade

A sunshade is like a big floating square or rectangle in the sky. When the sun is directly overhead, you can set up a sunshade to give you the protection you need without restricting your space underneath.

For a proper sunshade, you need four corners that are roughly equidistant and allow you to set up a tarp evenly between them. It’s easiest to tie all four points to start with at the same height and then tighten them.

Cornet

When you only have one high point available, a cornet is a great shelter that can also provide a bit of warmth and the best rain protection. 

Like an A-frame, you’ll tie one part of the ridgeline to a tree. Unlike the A-frame, the other end of the ridgeline gets pulled tight and staked out in a straight line. Once you have the ridgeline from a high point to the ground, you can stake out your four corners. It stays low to your feet but opens at your head to sit up comfortably.

Dining Fly

This is an impromptu version of an A-frame that’s great for setting up when you don’t have any trees or high points available. You can use sticks or your trekking poles as the high points. It can be a little tricky to set up but stands stable once you have it. 

Tying both ends to the end of a stick or trekking pole with a clove hitch allows you to stand those up like they are trees. With the remaining guy line, you can stake the line down on both ends. Chances are, the tarp will flop to the ground now. Once you have the four corners staked out correctly, it will stand freely without issue. 

Final Thoughts

The best bushcraft tarps are some of the best and most versatile gear that you can bring with you on an expedition. 

Their uses are all about survival and saving your life. Once you get out and use a tarp, coming home to a bed and four walls feel constricting. Tarps give you a beautiful sense of freedom that you can’t find elsewhere. 

Hopefully, one of these is the right tarp to make it into your bushcraft pack. Take it and put it to use. Sleep out there in any weather, and come back a happier and more seasoned bushcrafter.

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