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Man spreading tarp over firewood

Choosing a Tarp

Tarp Uses

A tarp (short for tarpaulin) is a versatile product that is most often used for temporary storage or to cover cargo during transport. Tarps are also used recreationally to create camp shelters (protection from rain and/or wind) or to serve as ground clothes. At home or on jobsites, tarps get used for a variety of other purposes. For example, many people rake leaves onto a tarp and then drag the tarp off to a dumping spot. Other times, tarps are simply used to cover up tools or materials in order to create a neater jobsite. Tarps should not be depended on to be 100% weatherproof but they provide ample protection for most temporary purposes.

“Man Covering fire wood after it has had time to season properly is recommended to prevent rot.

Choosing a Tarp

There are 3 key considerations in choosing a tarp: 1) Material and weight, 2) size, and 3) need for grommets.

Material and Weight

Choosing material/weight is a matter of knowing where a tarp will be used and for how long. For indoor uses (garage, shed, barn, etc.), light-medium tarps will almost always be adequate. For outdoor uses consider 1) weather conditions, and 2) the length of time you expect the tarp to be in place. Heavy duty tarps provide more durable protection and greater water resistance. For short-term medium weight tarps will fit most outdoor uses, but the longer you intend to leave a tarp in place, the more likely it is that you will want a heavy-duty tarp.

Most tarps are polyethylene (PE) or a similar synthetic. Some are still made of canvas (the more traditional material) but canvas is heavier and less water resistant, so PE will usually be the material of choice for both indoor and outdoor uses.

There are three key specifications for comparing the thickness, weight and durability of one tarp to another. 1) Thickness is measured in mils; 2) Denier is a measurement that refers to the thickness of the fiber strands used in the tarp; and 3) The weave indicates the tightness of the weave.



Size is fairly straightforward, but make sure you visualize the way it will be used. For example, if you want to cover a dimension of a certain footprint (say, 10’ x 10’), how far down the sides do you want the tarp to extend? Is just covering the top sufficient, or do you want full coverage on the sides as well?

... A reinforced grommet on a heavy-duty tarp


If you intend to tie the tarp down, you will want grommets. While most tarps include grommets, they will vary in 1) how well reinforced the grommets are and 2) how close together the grommets are. If the tarps are for transport on a truck, where wind and water will be factors, go for reinforced grommets as tightly spaced as possible. If transport is not an issue you may be fine with fewer grommets.

Additional Considerations

You will likely need rope or clothesline to use with any tarp you choose and you may also need anchors that can secure your tarp to the ground. You'll find a great assortment of sizes within our selection of tarps and we will keep adding more! Check back again soon or for Sign up today for product alert emails!

Last updated: 6/27/2022

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