Last Updated: Oct 15, 2021 @ 1:27 pm.

What's the best camping tarp? We tried out several tarps to find out. Then we surveyed the camping enthusiasts among our parent readers to find their favorites. What worked best as a tent footprint? As shelter against the weather? Here are the ones we recommend.

FYI: We've been reviewing and rating products for families, parents and kids since 1994. We don't take money or freebies from brands we review—that keeps our work independent! Our reviews are 100% reader-supported!

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Best Tent Footprint Tarp

Keeps water from getting under tent
We liked this tarp as the best bet to go under a tent. It's big enough for a 2-3 person tent, yet lightweight (.66 lbs.) and comes in a carry pouch. Waterproof, mildew-proof and machine washable.

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Best Tent Footprint Tarp: REDCAMP Waterproof Camping Tarp

Let’s talk about tarps and camping!

When it comes to buying a tarp to go camping, there are a couple of considerations:

  1. Tarp for tent footprints. Yes, these go under a tent and keep it dry. Also called groundsheets, these tarps are designed to keep water away from your tent. (Pro tip: make sure the tent footprint tarp is not wider/longer than your tent. Why? Water that rolls off the tent can then roll back on the tarp . . . into the tent! Fold the tarp under your tent to so it is not any wider than the tent.
  2. Tarps for weather protection. Yes, tents are waterproof . . . but hanging a tarp as weather protection helps everything stay dry. Pro tip: get a tarp that is TWICE as big as your tent footprint. Angle the tarp so water flows off the tarp.
  3. Tarps to cover tables and other light-duty uses. Sometimes an affordable blue tarp is helpful to keep supplies off the wet ground or to cover a picnic table.

So given those key uses, here are our picks for best camping tarps.

Let’s start with tent footprint tarps. After surveying our readers and trying out different brands, we liked REDCAMP’s tarp best as a groundsheet under a tent. Here’s why:

What We Liked

• Sized for 2-3 person tent (82″ x 82″). Remember you want it to fit UNDER the tent and not extend beyond the tent edge.

 Lightweight at less than a pound (.66 lbs.).

• Machine washable.

• Comes with carry pouch.

• Waterproof.

• 210D ripstop material is well made.

• Mildew-proof.

• Grommets on each corner to stake it down. Grommets are rust-proof.

• Leak-proof heat sealed and taped seams.

What Needs Work

• Better for tent floor than weather shelter. That’s because the small number of grommets make it less ideal to hang up.

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Best Rain Tarp Waterproof

Also good as a pool cover
Good waterproof tarp at a price that is easy on the wallet. We liked the reinforced edges and corners. Rip-stop fabric is durable. Bonus: also usable around the garden and under outdoor play gear.

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Best Rain Tarp Waterproof: AmazonBasics Waterproof Camping Tarp

The best tent for weather protection has to have plenty of grommets—you’ll be attaching it via cord to nearby trees.

We liked AmazonBasics Waterproof Camping Tarp as the best choice for this use . . . nothing fancy, waterproof and gets the job done, without breaking the bank.

Pro tip: one common complaint for all tarps are that the grommets tear in heavy wind. We suggest using bungee shock cords (essentially elastic cord) that takes some of the stress off the grommets in the wind.

Here’s more on why this tarp is good for keeping rain off a tent:

What We Liked

• Both sides are laminated to make it waterproof.

• Reinforced edges and corners to resist tearing.

• Affordable.

• Also good as a pool cover.

• Other sizes are available if you need more coverage area.

What Needs Work

• Can rip in high wind. That’s true for most lightweight tarps, however—consider using shock cords to reduce stress on grommets from the wind.

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Best Budget-Friendly

Great for use as drop cloth
This all-purpose blue tarp is our go-to for most outdoor uses: protection from the weather, as a temporary ground cover and more. Great size. Lots of grommets so it can be hung up.
$12.99 ($0.16 / Sq Ft)

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Best Budget-Friendly Tarp: B-Air Grizzly Tarps

Sometimes a simple, affordable tarp is great for miscellaneous camping needs—covering a picnic table, laying on the ground to keep other items from getting wet or dirty and so on.

After trying out several affordable tarps, we think the best budget-friendly option is B-Air Grizzly Tarps. Yes, these are the classic blue tarps that are ubiquitous at camp sites. Here’s more:

What We Liked

• Holds up well.

• Heat-sealed seams.

• Built-in aluminum grommets every 36″.

• Affordable.

• Lightweight at 1.4 lbs.

• Waterproof and mildew proof.

What Needs Work

• Best for short-term use. Yes, you can use this tarp to cover a boat or vehicle for a few days or weeks . . . but don’t expect it to survive an entire winter.

• Not great for windy applications. This tarp can provide shelter from light rain or wind. However, it can tear in high winds. To be fair, that’s true for many lightweight tarps.

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Best Single-Person Tarp

Excellent emergency rain cover
Great tent footprint for a single-person tent—super lightweight at less than a pound. Easy to pop in a backpack, thanks to included carry bag. Also easy on the wallet.
$21.99 ($0.38 / Sq Ft)

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Best Single-Person Tarp: REDCAMP Ultralight Tent Footprint

If you just need a small tarp for a single-person tent, this REDCAMP ultralight tent footprint would be our suggestion. Good quality, yet affordable!

What We Liked

• Easy to carry. This tarp just weighs just under one pound.

• Great for an emergency rain cover.

• Waterproof.

• Corner tie loops.

• Comes with travel bag.

• Rip-stop polyester fabric that is 210D.

What Needs Work

• Hard to get the tarp back into carry bag once you get it out!

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing products for the home and families since 1994. We do hands-on testing—we buy the products with our own money and evaluate with an eye toward quality, ease of use and affordability.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Our work is 100% reader-supported!

Picture credit at top of article: Scott Goodwill via Unsplash

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