The Best Tarps to Keep Your Outdoor Items Safe, Tested

Tarps are essential for protecting outdoor items from the elements. I tested several best-selling tarps to find the best of the best—check out which ones earned top marks.

Best Overall

The White Duck Outdoors 18-Ounce 100% Cotton Canvas Tarp folded on a white background.

White Duck Outdoors 18-Ounce 100% Cotton Canvas Tarp

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Best Bang For The Buck

The King-A-Ma-Jigs Pro-Series Ultra Heavy-Duty Tarp in its packaging on a white background.

King-A-Ma-Jigs Pro-Series Ultra Heavy-Duty Tarp

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Best General Duty

The Core Tarps Super Heavy-Duty Thick Tarp with its label on a white background.

Core Tarps Super Heavy-Duty Thick Tarp

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Rain, snow, and harsh ultraviolet (UV) rays will take a toll on outdoor items, and if you can’t store them in a garage or shed, you may want to tarp them. Whether you want to protect patio furniture over the winter or prevent blowing sand from scuffing the custom paint job on your Harley, a quality tarp is your first line of defense.

Choosing a tarp requires more consideration than just grabbing the first one you see in the home improvement store. Today’s tarps come in a range of sizes, prices, and materials, so I was interested in finding out which ones are robust enough to protect a range of items. After researching more than 30 varieties of tarpaulins and covers, I chose several highly rated options for hands-on testing at my own rural home.

Keep reading to learn what to look for when shopping for a tarp and find out why each of the following picks earned their spot in this lineup of the best tarps on the market today.

  1. BEST OVERALL: White Duck Outdoors 18-Ounce 100% Cotton Canvas Tarp
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: King-A-Ma-Jigs Pro-Series Ultra Heavy-Duty Tarp
  3. BEST GENERAL DUTY: Core Tarps Super Heavy-Duty Thick Tarp
  4. BEST UV PROTECTION: Kotap 8-Ounce Ultra Heavy-Duty Poly Tarp
  5. BEST FOR CAMPING: AquaQuest Defender Heavy-Duty Tarp 
  6. BEST FOR BACKPACKS: Unigear Waterproof Hexa Tarp Shelter
  7. BEST FOR PAINTING: Dirt Defense 2-Pack Painter’s Drop Cloth
The Best Tarps
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Tarps

Before choosing tarps for testing, I checked out what other people used them for. While most folks use them to cover and protect items like lawn mowers, grills, and truck beds, plenty also use them as makeshift tents or rain-fly protection when camping and hiking. I wanted to test a variety, so I selected best-selling tarps in several categories.

During my actual testing, I carefully noted the tarps’ construction, finishing, materials, and weight, as well as whether they had grommets (reinforced holes for tying them down) and how far apart those grommets were spaced. Then, I subjected the tarps to stress by tying them taut between trees and dumping water on them to see how long it took to soak through. I also used them to cover a range of outdoor items to see how they fared in situational use.

Throughout my testing, I used a rubric and awarded points based on each tarp’s performance—the better it did on a test, the more points it received. After testing, I averaged the points to determine the best overall option and the top performers in each category.

Testing Stats

  • Products tested: 7
  • Time spent testing: About 11 hours
  • Tests performed: 3 to 4, depending on product
  • Average price: $64.28

 Our Top Picks

The following tarps are designed for various uses—whether you need a drop cloth to keep paint off the floor, a cover for firewood, or materials to build an impromptu tent in the wild, there’s a tarp for that. However, each of the following products performed well in hands-on testing, and one is sure to be a good pick for your needs.

Best Overall

White Duck Outdoors 18-Ounce 100% Cotton Canvas Tarp

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Our Ratings: Overall 4.5/5; Ease of Use 4/5; Protection 5/5; Strength 5/5; Value 4/5 

Product Specs 

  • Material: Cotton canvas
  • Dimensions: 12-foot square (finished size 11.6-foot square)
  • Weight: 18.81 pounds
  • Protective factors: Resists water, mold, mildew, UV rays


  • Thick, dense weave creates a strong yet breathable canvas tarp
  • Double-stitched seams and edges add strength and durability
  • Treated with a water-resistant coating to repel moisture
  • Nylon straps by each grommet make it easier to tie down


  • Pricey when compared to other tarps of the same size

If you’re looking for a premium-grade canvas tarp cover that’s tough and durable but won’t trap moisture beneath it, look no further than this White Duck tarp. I tested a 12-foot-square tarp, but this product is available in many sizes to fit individual needs.

The 12-foot-long by 12-foot-wide version of this relatively heavy tarp weighs 18.81 pounds. It’s very dense thanks to its double-fill construction, which involves weaving a strand over and under multiple strands at the same time. It repels water if it’s positioned at an angle that allows water to run off, but it’s not completely waterproof. In my water tests, the liquid that pooled on the surface of the tarp eventually soaked through.

The White Duck tarp features rustproof grommets placed 2 to 3 feet apart along the edges and set in reinforced fabric. I strung it as tightly as possible between trees with 0.375-inch nylon rope, tying it to my ATV and backing up to pull the canvas taut—even under all that strain, the canvas and grommets held firm.

This heavy-duty tarp is well suited for protecting items that require air circulation, working well as a hay or firewood tarp. Plus, it comes from White Duck, a reputable company known for making quality tarps and tents.

Read our full review: White Duck Outdoors 18-Ounce 100% Cotton Canvas Tarp

Get the White Duck tarp at Amazon, Walmart, or White Duck Outdoors.

Best Bang For The Buck

King-A-Ma-Jigs Pro-Series Ultra Heavy-Duty Tarp

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Our Ratings: Overall 4/5; Ease of Use 4/5; Protection 5/5; Strength 3/5; Value 4/5 

Product Specs 

  • Material: Plastic       
  • Dimensions: 12-foot square    
  • Weight: 7.87 pounds  
  • Protective factors: Waterproof, UV-resistant, rip-resistant, fade-resistant


  • Waterproof coating keeps rain from soaking through the tarp
  • Affordable as far as tarpaulin covers go without compromising quality
  • Reinforces edges and corners help reduce the risk of stretching and tearing
  • Grommets set every 18 inches, making it easier to secure the tarp 


  • Best suited to light-to-medium tarping needs—not a heavy-duty tarp

There’s no need to spend a fortune to get plenty of protection from a tarp. This tarp from King-A-Ma-Jigs repels water and protects stored items from harsh UV rays. It’s made from plastic, but don’t let that dissuade you—this is no flimsy tarp. It’s tough and resilient, and best of all, it comes at an attractive price point.

The King-A-Ma-Jigs tarp I tested measures 12 feet long by 12 feet wide and features a waterproof coating laminated over a robust plastic weave. The edges fold over a thick string and are fused to the other side, reinforcing the edge seam and helping reduce the risk of stretching or tearing under pressure.

The grommets are set just 18 inches apart—a quality I liked because it allowed me to fit the tarp and secure it without gaping, which can occur with wider-set grommets.

This waterproof tarp lived up to its description in my test. After tying it between trees, I dumped a gallon of water on the tarp, and it pooled in the center. I checked frequently to see if it was leaking through, but it remained on the top of the tarp. The following day, the water was still pooled on top of the tarp, and the underside was dry.

The corner grommets are reinforced with heavy plastic strips for added strength. I would rate this tarp as best suited for light-to-medium duty. It’s rugged and perfect for covering automobiles, tarping roofs during repairs, and shielding work trailers, but it’s not quite as robust as some of the other tarps I tested. For general tarping needs, it’s a bargain.

Get the King-A-Ma-Jigs tarp at Amazon, Sears (16 feet long by 16 feet wide), or Kmart (20 feet long by 12 feet wide).

Best General Duty

Core Tarps Super Heavy-Duty Thick Tarp

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Our Ratings: Overall 4.3/5; Ease of Use 4.5/5; Protection 4/5; Strength 4.5/5; Value 4/5 

Product Specs 

  • Material: Polyethylene
  • Dimensions: 16 feet long by 12 feet wide
  • Weight: 11.87 pounds
  • Protective factors: Waterproof, UV-resistant, fade-resistant, tear-resistant


  • Completely waterproof in testing—no leaks, even when water pooled overnight
  • Reinforced rustproof grommets set 18 inches apart add flexibility
  • Stress- and stretch-resistant in testing; didn’t tear or rip
  • Smooth undercoating won’t scuff delicate items stored underneath


  • Unsuitable for covering things that require air circulation, such as hay

The 16-foot-long by 12-foot-wide Core Tarps polyethylene tarp turned out to be large enough to cover the bed of a dump trailer with some room to spare. I found this to be a well-made tarp, and while the underside felt a little like it had a rubber coating, the manufacturer specifies it’s all polyethylene. Regardless, I found the smooth undercoating a good pick for outdoor furniture covers that won’t leave behind scuff marks that can result from a rougher surface.

The Core Tarps tarp passed my water test with ease; the liquid I poured in the center of it didn’t leak through at all, even when I checked the following day. It also held up well to stress and stretch testing, and the grommets—set 18 inches apart—are rustproof and reinforced.

The tarp is also tear-resistant, and it didn’t puncture even when I tightened it down over some sharp-edged power tools in the bed of a pickup truck—an impressive feat.

The tarp is a good-quality all-around product. It comes in several sizes to suit different protection needs. However, I wouldn’t use it to cover hay since the waterproofing would likely not allow moisture in the hay to evaporate, which could lead to mold or mildew growth.

Get the Core Tarps tarp at Amazon, Lowe’s, or The Home Depot.

Best UV Protection

Kotap 8-Ounce Ultra Heavy-Duty Poly Tarp

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Our Ratings: Overall 4/5; Ease of Use 5/5; Protection 4/5; Strength 4/5; Value 5/5 

Product Specs 

  • Material: Polyethylene
  • Dimensions: 16 feet long by 10 feet wide
  • Weight: 5.51 pounds
  • Protective factors: Reflective, UV protection, water-resistant


  • Sun-reflective coating prevents heat absorption and provides deep shade outdoors
  • Not waterproof, but repels water when the surface is at an angle
  • Edges, corners, and grommets are reinforced for added strength and durability


  • Material is a bit thinner than competing tarps and stretched slightly in testing

The silver coating on Kotap’s tarp reflects the sun’s rays to keep heat from building up under the tarp. Although I tested these tarps during the winter when it was chilly outside, I found that residual warmth built up beneath some dark tarps. That didn’t happen with the Kotap tarp, even on a sunny afternoon. This makes the Kotap tarp a good option for tarping things you’d like to keep cool, such as the top of a dog kennel for added heat protection in summer.

The Kotap tarp offered some water resistance, but the water I poured on the outstretched tarp did eventually seep through. So, as advertised, it’s not totally waterproof. The aluminum grommets are set 18 inches apart, and the corners and edge seam are both reinforced.

The downside is that the tarp is slightly thinner than some of the other tarps I tested, and it started to stretch out slightly when I was pulling on it. To be fair, most tarps are not going to be stretched to the extent I tested them, so the Kotap tarp will still likely hold up to most protection needs. The ability to reflect heat and light puts it in a special category. If you’re looking for deep shade, check out this tarp.

Get the Kotap tarp at Amazon.

Best For Camping

AquaQuest Defender Heavy-Duty Tarp

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Our Ratings: Overall 4/5; Ease of Use 3/5; Protection 5/5; Strength 4/5; Value 4/5 

Product Specs 

  • Material: Nylon
  • Dimensions: 13 feet long by 10 feet wide
  • Weight: 4.2 pounds 
  • Protective factors: Rip-resistant, water-resistant


  • Made with 70D rip-stop nylon to resist punctures and tears
  • Provides a high level of water resistance, making it well suited for rain protection
  • Reinforced straps along all edges make it possible to use the tarp in multiple configurations


  • Doesn’t come with poles, so users need to supply their own poles, rope, and stakes

The best camping tarp is strong, water-resistant, and lightweight enough that it’s not a burden to lug to the campsite. If it’s a multipurpose tarp, that’s even better. The AquaQuest Defender tarp meets and exceeds those criteria, and testing this one was fun.

The Defender is made from 70D nylon, a tightly woven fabric with rip-stop properties. It’s designed to resist punctures and tears while offering a high level of water resistance. This tarp is not completely waterproof, but it’s close. Unlike some other models, AquaQuest’s tarp is not designed to stretch out flat—it’s made to be positioned at an angle to repel and shed water. As a result, I ran a different water test on this tarp, setting it up tent fashion and spraying it with water from the garden hose.

I directed a strong spray on the outside of my makeshift tent for 15 minutes and then checked the inside of the tarp for wetness. No water had seeped through, but I could feel a slight dampness where I’d directed a strong jet spray. Considering the pressure it was under during the testing, I was impressed by how well it held up.

During the test, a heavy dead limb fell on my tent, collapsing it. Of course, I feared the worst, expecting some rips and tears for its trouble. To my surprise, there were no holes in the fabric after all the stress and strain.

The Defender does not have grommets—it has straps sewn into the edge seams so it can be used with tent poles or nylon rope and tied to nearby trees. It’s an excellent tarp for camping, but it could also serve as an emergency tarp for protecting individuals and their possessions from storms. At a mere 4.2 pounds, it would also be a good survival tarp for inclusion in a bug-out kit. It’s not too heavy to carry, and the reinforced straps make it possible to stake it down or tie it out in virtually unlimited configurations.

Get the AquaQuest tarp at Amazon or AquaQuest.

Best For Backpacks

Unigear Waterproof Hexa Tarp Shelter

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Our Ratings: Overall 4.3/5; Ease of Use 4/5; Protection 5/5; Strength 4/5; Value 4/5 

Product Specs 

  • Material: Polyester/nylon
  • Dimensions: 15 feet long by 14 feet wide (finished size 14.75 feet long by 13.75 feet wide)
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Protective factors: Water-resistant, tear-resistant, UV protection


  • Made from strong polyester nylon that resists rips and tears
  • Offers a high level of water resistance, making it well suited to protection from rain
  • An inner silver layer provides UV protection and blocks light from filtering through
  • Stakes and ties are included, so there’s nothing additional to purchase or carry


  • Not a good pick for covering mold- and mildew-prone materials like hay

The weight and size of every item you carry on your hike warrant careful consideration—what starts out feeling light and comfortable can start weighing heavily after a few miles of trekking.

The Unigear Hexa backpacking tarp weighs just 3 pounds, and it comes with stakes and tie-out cords for securing it to trees and the ground. When bagged, I found the tarp to be compact enough (about 15 inches long by 7 inches in diameter) to fit in my backpack or be tied to an outside strap for carrying.

The tarp is made from 210D high-density polyester nylon that withstood spraying with the jet nozzle on my garden hose without leaking, and the underside of the tarp features a silver coating that’s designed to block UV rays. It did a good job of completely shading the ground beneath it, which would make it beneficial for those wanting to get out of the harsh sun for a while.

I liked the hexagonal shape because it provides points on each of the long ends that make it easier to stake out for use as a rain-fly or a makeshift tent. But this tarp is also suitable for other uses, such as a wind block or impromptu cover to huddle beneath if an afternoon rain storm pops up. It’s a multiuse tarp for hiking that won’t weigh you down on the trail.

Get the Unigear tarp at Amazon, Kmart, or Bed Bath & Beyond.

Best For Painting

Dirt Defense 2-Pack Painter’s Drop Cloth

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Our Ratings: Overall 4.5/5; Ease of Use 5/5; Protection 4/5; Strength 5/5; Value 4/5 

Product Specs 

  • Material: Canvas 
  • Dimensions: 6 feet long by 4 feet wide
  • Weight: 8 ounces each 
  • Protective factors: Slight water resistance, spill-blocking


  • Heavy canvas weave protects flooring from paint drips and isn’t slippery underfoot
  • Slightly water-resistant—it takes a few minutes for liquid to soak through
  • Can be used indoors, outdoors, or in a garage or shed when flooring protection is desired


  • Small 6-foot-long by 4-foot-wide size is handy but might not offer suitable protection for large projects 

Each of the two Dirt Defense tarps in this package is made of cotton canvas, which turned out to be excellent for keeping paint and drywall mud from staining and damaging floors during remodeling projects.

Tarps used for painting should be made of canvas for safety reasons—it’s less likely to become slippery when wet or slide if a ladder or step stool is placed on top of it. The Dirt Defense tarps I tested came in handy 6-foot-long by 4-foot-wide sheets, perfect for putting on a small floor or laying end to end beside a longer wall.

They’re not waterproof, but they are water-resistant. The water I poured on them started to drip through after about 10 minutes, but if you spill something when you’re working over one, you’ll have a few minutes to wipe it off before it soaks through.

Given their designation as painter’s tarps, I conducted an extra test—I dribbled some paint drops over the surface to see if it would soak through. It didn’t, instead drying safely on top of the canvas.

While these tarps don’t come with grommets or straps, they can be used in a pinch to cover items to keep birds or cats off, and you could use weights to keep them in place. Still, they’re best suited for use as drop cloth tarps and can be used indoors or outdoors.

Get the Dirt Defense tarp at Amazon.

Jump to Our Top Picks

The Best Tarps
Photo: Glenda Taylor for Bob Vila

What to Consider When Choosing a Tarp

Tarps are simple protective tools: flexible sheets designed to cover and shield a range of items, from patio furniture to automobiles and even campers and their gear. Your desired materials, design, size, and weight will vary depending on the tarp’s intended use. While tarps themselves are simple enough, you might want to consider the following aspects before buying one.


Tarps are made from several types of material, the most common ones being plastic, nylon, and polyester. Each comes with some pros and cons.

  • Plastic is inexpensive and offers a clear, waterproof shield against rain and sleet, which is why it’s a great choice for covering greenhouses. It’s lightweight and resists mold, but it can become brittle if left in the elements over time, and it’s less durable than canvas.
  • Canvas is a top pick for many types of tarps. It’s most often made from cotton—a breathable natural material—and offers stain blocking and water resistance. It can be heavy, however, and if water pools on the surface, it can eventually soak through.
  • Nylon tarps are tear- and puncture-resistant, lightweight, and compact—all good attributes when choosing a tarp for hiking. However, most will not withstand heavy-duty use, and if they aren’t specifically treated for UV resistance, they can degrade over time.
  • Polyester dries quickly, which is why it’s typically used in a blend with another material, such as cotton or nylon, to help improve durability and repel mold. However, it can be a bit on the pricey side, and polyester tarps may cost more than competing tarps of the same size.
  • Vinyl was once popular as a tarping material, but it’s heavy and can become brittle in cold temperatures. Today, a heavy-duty vinyl tarp may be best suited to commercial or industrial applications like covering machinery or tarping construction sites.

Size and Weight

The dimensions and weight of the tarp you select are entirely up to you, but a few factors bear consideration. Options range from lightweight, small tarps weighing a couple of pounds to massive 40-foot-long by 20-foot-wide (or larger) canvas or vinyl tarps that weigh over 150 pounds and require multiple people to maneuver.

  • Lightweight tarps are well suited for backpacking, camping, or any situation where you need to carry the tarp over a distance. They’re also easier to handle if you need to tarp a large area.
  • Heavier tarps may not need to be weighted down to stay in place and may provide a buffer of protection against damage from light impacts like blowing twigs or small hail.
  • Small tarps are typically easy to store and transport—just fold them up and shove them in a bag or on a shelf. If you’re making a bug-out kit, you may want to include a few small tarps that won’t take up a lot of room.
  • Extra-large tarps may require several people to lay them out, stake them, and fold them up. However, these big boys are typically preferred for creating temporary shelters or protecting large items, such as rows of hay bales.

Ease of Use 

Weight and size are the most critical factors for determining ease of use, but a few optional features, such as grommets and sewn-in straps, can make tarps simpler to use. Grommets provide built-in anchor spots for using bungee cords or nylon rope to secure the tarp to a truck bed or open trailer. The less room between grommets, the easier it is to get a good fit over the item you’re tarping.

Straps sewn in along edge seams make it easy to stake tarps to the ground for uses like camping and building rain-fly protections. In camping and backpacking scenarios, a lightweight tarp that comes with its own stakes or ties can be a big help since there’s nothing else to purchase.


Tarps run the gamut in size, intended use, and cost. Overall, tarps are straightforward, and if you choose a highly rated one marketed for your desired use, you’ll probably fare well enough. However, you may still have a few questions not already covered.

Q. What is the longest-lasting tarp material?

Heavy-duty vinyl tarps can outlast other types, but they’re not suitable for all consumer purposes because they’re heavy and pricey.

Q. How do you prolong the life of a tarp?

Use it only for the purpose for which it was made. For example, if a tarp does not come with UV protection, keep it in the shade if possible. When a tarp is not being used, brush off dirt, debris, and grime, then fold it and store it in a dry location.

Q. Are tarps 100 percent waterproof?

Some are, but most are not. Waterproof means no water can seep through the tarp’s fabric; water resistance means the tarp will shed water when positioned at an angle, but pooling water may seep through. When you need to keep items perfectly dry, waterproofing is a must-have, but if you’re looking for ground-covering landscape fabric to prevent weed growth, some degree of permeability will work in your favor.

Meet the Tester

Glenda Taylor is a product tester and writer specializing in the construction, remodeling, and real estate industries. She and her husband own a general contracting company, and Taylor is experienced in both residential and commercial building applications. She tests a wide range of power tools as well as other home improvement, household, and lawn-and-garden products.

Glenda Taylor Avatar

Glenda Taylor

Staff Writer

Glenda Taylor is a staff writer with a background in the residential remodeling, home building, and home improvement industries. She started writing for in 2016 and covers a range of topics, including construction methods, code compliance, tool use, and the latest news in the housing and real estate industries.