What to Look For When Choosing a Tarp

A tarp can be a great investment for anyone; they're used to cover items you have stored outside or even in the garage, and can be used as drop cloths when you paint. A tarp can also be used by campers and hikers who need added shelter from the elements when in nature. When you shop for a tarp, you might be surprised at the many choices you have available, including their overall material and suggested uses. So that you don't get overwhelmed, note a few things to look out for when you're ready to shop for a tarp.


This material is often called the workhorse of tarps, as it's very affordable but can be used for a number of applications. The dense material of the polyethylene makes it a good drop cloth for painting, putting under the car while working, and the like. Because it keeps out moisture, it's good for protecting a renovation project from inclement weather while you're still working on that project. It's also somewhat easy to make tarp repairs, as you can purchase a small repair kit that includes a type of epoxy that goes over any tear and which adheres to the sides of an open area, keeping them together. Poly does get brittle during cold weather, however, so it may not be the right choice for long-term winter storage or protection of outdoor items.

Vinyl mesh

Vinyl mesh may be more tear-resistant than polyethylene, so it's good to use in high winds or other conditions when it may be subjected to pulling and tugging. It's a favorite type of tarp for truckers protecting their cargo; if you have a trailer you use for lawn care or other such equipment or consistently haul items in the bed of your truck, a vinyl mesh tarp might be the right choice for protecting items underneath the tarp while you're on the highway.

Cloth or canvas

One advantage of cloth or canvas is that it's very quiet when you move it, unlike polyethylene, which often rustles. This makes it a good choice as a hunting blind, when you don't want to alert animals to your presence. You can also sew up any tears in the cloth or canvas with a heavy-duty needle and thread. Cloth or canvas may also be available in a wider variety of colors and patterns than other tarps; if you want a camouflage tarp for hunting or something very light so that it doesn't trap heat underneath, canvas is usually your best option.