Are you looking for the most essential camping accessories? Confused about which one to choose between tent vs tarp? Then take a moment to read this article before venturing into the market for camping gear.
Tent and tarp are similar in a way that they both provide shelter under an open sky. Whether it is for camping or household purpose, both gears come in handy to protect you or your accessories from bad weather.
You are probably wondering, then what is the difference between them? In this article you will learn the main differences between tents and tarps. Also, I will review some best-selling products of both categories for your convenience.
Keep reading to find out the product that suits your needs the most and shop accordingly.
Here are the Key Differences between Tent vs Tarp at a Glance.
Ease of Use
|Comparatively hard to pitch, larger tents have complicated function, requires professionals to set-up.
Small, easy to pitch, pop-up tents are available.
|Smaller than the usual sized tents, simple in function, can be pitched easily by 1-2 people.
Ultra-light weight, used for backpacking.
|Comes in various sizes, large ones can accommodate small programs in it, small ones are mostly used for camping.
Provides more shelters than tarp.
|Mostly comes in small size, easy to set-up because of its handy size.
Large tarps are also available to shelter bigger camping group. Best for camping in dry season.
|Very sturdy, more durable than tarps, last longer in bad weather.
Can survive against strong wind, heavy snow, or pouring rain.
|Much weaker than tents, not made to last against harsh weather.
Comparatively feeble foundation, crumbles easily.
|More complicated than tarp, robust structure, comes with poles which results in strong foundation.
Include walls, doors and windows, provide less ventilation.
|Simple structure, can be pitched with 1 pole, has only a roof.
More open thus provides more ventilation, good for summer season.
|Large tents are heavy-weight, not very portable, require pro campers to set-up and take down.
Small tents have higher portability, can be carried in a backpack.
|Higher portability due to its small size and simple structure.
Considerably easier to carry than tents.
The Gap between Tent vs Tarp in Terms of Ease of Use:
When it comes to easy pitching, tents will not win this battle over tarps. Although there are easy to set, pop-up tents available in the market, still many of them are hard to pitch. It will take at least 2 people to set-up your camp if your tent is a bit large and has confusing structure. However, Coleman Instant Cabin Tent (146.99$) will be a great choice for you if you are looking for an instant set-up tent.
This one can be pitched as fast as within a minute. Around 6 people can be accommodated inside this 150D polyester tent. With a 6 ft. height and 10×9 ft. interior, you will get a roomy tent that is also weather proof.
On the other hand, tarps are way easier to set-up than tents. They have simple structure that doesn’t require any professional’s help to arrange them. Tarps are also multi-purpose, makes it an essential camping gear. REDCAMP Camping Tarp (29.99$) is one of those multifunctioning gear that can be used as a backpacking tent tarp, shelter from rain and sun, hammock, rain fly or even picnic mat.
This tarp measures 46×118 inches while spread and weigh less than a kilogram. With 6 aluminum stakes and 6 ropes, REDCAMP is easy to arrange and also very much portable. The company offers a full money back guarantee and a one year warranty.
So it can be said that, when it comes to ease of use, tarps win over tents.
The Size Gap between Tent vs Tarp:
One of the useful sides of tent is that they come in various sizes. From small pop-ups to large tunnel like shape, you will have multiple choices to pick from. Small tents for single or double campers and large tents for families and group of friends are available in the market. Core Extended Dome Tent (157.99$) is one of those large family tents that can easily make space for 9 person in it. 6 ft. in height, Core extended dome tent can accommodate 3 queen size mattresses and comes with tent poles, stakes, rainfly and a carrier bag.
They have waterproof PU coated material and taped seam to keep the interior dry in rainy weather. With the company’s H20 Block tools and poles made of fiber glass, this tent is an easy choice for family camping in bad weather.
On contrary, tarps are usually smaller in size. They are made to multifunction and easy to carry thus comes in a handy size. For single campers tarps can be an essential gear. But, larger tarps are also made. Aqua Quest Nylon Guide Tarp is one of those extended size that are popular in the current market. Price ranging from 64.99$ to 174.99$ aqua quest is water-proof tarp made of non-toxic silicone and Polyurethane.
The dual coating will make sure that not a single drop of water gets inside. This half a kilogram weight tarp is 92 square ft. in measure while spread and can easily accommodates a large gathering. Despite its light-weight, Aqua quest nylon guide tarp is much sturdier than any other tarps in the market.
In terms of size, tents win this round with their versatility in measurements.
Difference of Tent and Tarp in Case of Durability:
Tents are made to last long and stand against harsh environment. People who love to hike in remote areas like mountains will always go for tents over tarps. Since durability depends a lot on stable structure which can add some extra weight, durable tents are usually a bit heavy. But if you are looking for a tent that is durable along with suitable for light backpacking then ALPS Mountaineering will be your perfect travel company.
As users’ reviews suggest, this particular tent can survive against heavy snowing, strong wind and pouring rain. Mountaineers carry this kind of tent in order to travel light but sturdy. By investing only 109.52$- 179.99$, you can be a proud owner of this super useful accessory for hardcore camping.
Conversely, tarps aren’t that strong to last against bad weather. They are mainly useful in light rain and sunny weather to give you shelter. However, Aqua Quest Bushcraft Survival tarps came to the market to provide you with durability of a tent and light-weight of a tarp. Company’s defender series is well known for manufacturing heavy-duty tarps that can last against the force of nature.
Weight a little more than 3 pounds, bushcraft survival tarp is made of 70D nylon, taped seam and has heavy DWR+TPU coating. In spite of its heavy material, you can still fold it into a small convenient size. The 92 feet broad tarp comes only at 89.99$.
Since, tarps are not made to rough use; in terms of durability tents will always beat tarps.
Structural Difference of Tent and Tarp:
You already know that tents are made to last long and survive against Mother Nature at her worst. An accessory that is made that strong clearly is in need of a robust structure. Thus, tents have comparatively complicated construction than tarps. They are made of metal or fiber glass pole with heavy duty material to cover the foundational structure.
Tents include roof, walls, windows, floor and sometime even a small porch. Some tents even need to be staked to the ground for a sturdier foundation. The larger the tent, the more complicated it is to assemble.
Larger tents also need special skill to pitch and cannot be done by amateurs. But once pitched properly, tents will not crumble easily against harsh environment. However, nowadays, small, light-weight pop-up tents are very popular and common in the market. Those come in a much simpler structure and very easy to set-up.
Contrariwise, tarps have a very simple structure. All it needs is a pole and some para cords and you are good to go. Tarps can even be set-up on small branch acting as a pole. They only have a roof and no walls. But more robust designs are becoming popular in the market now. Those tarps include multiple poles and cords to anchor them to the ground for a more stable shelter. Tarps are relatively easy to pitch and flexible enough to set-up in multiple ways.
In case of structure, I’m afraid there is no winner in this round. If you are looking for stability then go for tents and if you are looking for light shelter then tarps should serve you well enough.
The Portability Difference in Tent and Tarp:
Now, let’s talk about portability. Portable tents are in demand in these days. Companies are making more tents that are portable and durable at the same time. However, due to complicated structure and build to last long nature, tents are comparatively less portable than tarps. Still MIS MOUNTAIN Ultra-Light Tent will be a very good choice for ultra-light backpackers. This 100% water resistant tent weighs less than 4 pounds.
Small yet convenient Mountain ultra-light tent is spacious enough for one person. This is a multipurpose tent made for music festivals, hiking, camping in moderate weather and for beach camps. A repair kit is included in this 77.99$ tent to solve some simple problem all by yourself.
In contrast, tarps have higher portability than tents. Their light-weight and simple structure makes it easy to carry around. Campers who like to ultra-light backpacking should always carry a multi-functioning tarp like Grassman Portable Camping Tarp. Prices 16.99$-19.99$, this tarp is worth every penny. From hammock to footprint, this particular tarp can be used to make your camping a lot easier.
The material is PU coated anti-rip polyester that will keep the interior dry. This durable and waterproof tarp is easy to use and can be fold in to small size to save space. It is 71×83 inches while spread and offers other sizes to choose from. Grassman portable tarp is washable and has unique designed corner strap. The drawstring carry bag makes it easier to move around on the go.
In case of portability, I belief tarps are a winner in this round.
## Now that you know the major differences between tents and tarps, let’s have a look at this table to know the main pros and cons of them.
|Comes in various sizes||Complicated structure|
|Provides more comfort||Hard to set-up|
|Provides security from wildlife||Comparatively expensive|
|Strong structure||High maintenance|
|Suitable for all-season|
|Highly portable||Not suitable for bad weather|
|Excellent ventilation||Provide less comfort|
|Multi-purpose||Lack of safety from wildlife|
|Very easy to pitch|
Before I conclude, have a quick look at this table of best products for both categories in terms of their usability:
|Weather Resistance||Kodiak Flex-Bow Canvas Tent Deluxe||B-Air Multi-Purpose Grizzly Tarps|
|Water-Proof||Mutha Hubba waterproof Tent||Xpose Safety Multipurpose Protective Tarp|
|Most Commodious||Tahoe Gear Ozark Family Cabin Tent||Aqua Quest Nylon Guide Tarp|
|Best Portable||Big Agnes Ultra-Light Tent||FREE SOLDIER Portable Tarp|
|Overall Best Value||Mountainsmith Morrison||Aqua Quest Heavy-Duty Defender Tarp|
I hope my effort to distinguish the differences between tent vs tarp has been a success. One more tip for choosing the best camp gear is to know exactly what you need. Both tents and tarps are useful in their own way. Your necessity will decide which will be more useful to you.
If you are planning to go for a lengthy camping trip in a bad weather season then tent will serve you better than a tarp. However, a tarp will provide more comfort if you are an ultra-light backpacker, hiking in a dry, hot season.
Keep in mind the weather and the type of camping you are going to when you shop for camp gear. Enjoy your trip in to the nature.
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