Camping tarps are the go-to shelter for bushcrafters and survivalists who want to hone their outdoor skills and make do with less. Lighter, multi-functional and highly adaptable, camping tarps are also popular among backpackers, bikepackers and packrafters who are looking for ways to reduce the amount of weight they carry.
But, using a tarp for camping isn’t limited to the extreme and experienced among us. More and more ‘everyday’ campers are turning to camping tarps as a fun, interactive way to learn new skills and connect with nature. In this blog, we’ll unpack the benefits of tarp camping and prove that this versatile shelter option has a place on any overnight adventure.
But first, what is tarp camping?
Tarp camping is exactly what it sounds like: using a tarp to create a shelter. Camping tarps can be rigged up in a wide variety of configurations, allowing users to adapt the level of protection to suit the conditions.
On the most basic level, a camping tarp is a single sheet of fabric with built-in tie-out points. A camping tarp is ‘rigged’ into a shelter with a combination of guy lines, stakes, trees and/or hiking poles.
Camping tarps come in a variety of different designs, shapes, sizes and materials that offer specific advantages depending on your preferred setup – but, we’ll cover that more in another blog! A camping tarp may be used alone or with other gear, such as a bug-net tent, groundsheet, bivvy or camping hammock, depending on your specific shelter needs.
Why should you try tarp camping?
Ask yourself this: why do you go camping? Maybe nature serves as an escape from the routines (and stress) of your daily life. Maybe you enjoy the chance to test yourself, becoming more self-reliant and resourceful. Maybe you use camping as a way to share quality time with friends or family. Whatever your reasons, what if we told you that tarp camping can take everything you love about camping to another level? Here’s how:
1. A camping tarp lets you go further with less.
Going further with less is one of our core values here at Alton, and it’s not just about saving weight in our pack (although we’re always down for that, too). It is about creating space for the things that actually matter in life. It’s about appreciating the simple pleasures instead of getting caught up in excess. It's about strategically using your resources, whether it’s your time, energy, or outdoor equipment, to maximise their impact.
In our humble opinion, camping tarps are the ultimate shelter option when it comes to going further with less. A camping tarp can fulfil multiple purposes and be used in a variety of conditions, allowing you to get more use out of it compared to other shelter options. Plus, a camping tarp is typically much lighter than a tent, reducing the amount of weight you carry without compromising protection. Without that unnecessary burden on your shoulders (literally and figuratively), you're free to go further.
2. Tarp camping will help you become a skilled adventurer.
The hands-on skills that tarp camping builds – knot-tying, stake placement, and guy-line tensioning – can be rewarding for novices and experts alike. There's a real sense of accomplishment that comes from setting up a functional shelter with just a tarp and some cordage. It makes you realise what you are truly capable of, with a little bit of practise.
3. You adapt your camping tarp shelter to suit the conditions.
A camping tarp can be set up in a huge variety of configurations depending on the terrain, weather, available resources and, of course, your personal preferences. It is also common to pair a tarp with a camping hammock, tent or bivvy to provide extra protection from the elements. Whether you love camping tarps or hate them, there is no denying how versatile they are!
4. A camping tarp is great value for money.
Not only are camping tarps typically more affordable than tents, they are more durable and can last longer when cared for correctly. Thanks to their minimal, streamlined design, tarps can be crafted from high-performance materials that are exceptionally durable without adding too much weight to your pack. A high-quality tarp makes it possible to have a protective shelter for camping without blowing your budget.
5. You get to be a part of a friendly community.
Tarp camping might seem like a solitary pursuit, but there is actually a strong sense of community among us tarp campers. In our experience, people are always eager to swap tips and techniques, or have a chat about their favourite tarp configurations. The tarp camping community is welcoming to individuals of all skill levels. We are all here to learn and have fun!
6. Tarp camping is just…awesome!
If you ask someone why they like tarp camping, they will usually list off a whole bunch of performance benefits – ultralight, compact, durable, versatile, the list goes on. But, the real reason that we fell in love with tarp camping comes back to the feeling we get when we are using our camping tarp in the wild.
Tarp camping lets you engage deeply with nature, opening you up to deeply rewarding, even meditative experiences. You can tune into your surroundings, assess the conditions and work with nature to use your camping tarp for optimal effect. The freedom, confidence and simple satisfaction that comes with tarp camping is what it is all about.
Are you ready to try tarp camping?
Tarp camping might have roots in ultralight and survivalist circles, but the benefits extend to campers of all levels. So, why not leave the tent behind and give tarp camping a go? It might just transform your outdoor adventures in ways you never expected.