Hammock tarps are one of the most popular types of tarps available, and it’s because they’re used for far more than just hammocks.
Based on their design and the contact points, they can be used for bushcraft, survivalists, campers, hikers, and more.
We’re going to explain how a hammock tarp does what it does by discussing the shape, what type of tarp (materials) work best for it, and what size you should get depending on your intended purpose. Consider this your crash course in hammock tarps. Class is in session.
What Size Tarp do I Need for my Hammock?
Well, how big is your hammock? And are you going to be storing anything near it if you’re, say, camping in the woods?
Don’t let your thoughts stop at the width of the hammock, because you have to account for something that many people forget about: rain ingress.
It’s the number one reason why people still get wet even when they have a hammock.
If you’ve seen photos of people using what appear to be oversized tarps on top of their hammocks, it’s because they’re doing it for a reason.
The shape alone isn’t enough to guarantee no rain will get in, so you should have a tarp that’s twice the size of your hammock to account for this.
Now, there is such a thing as too big when it comes to your hammock tarp. If it’s so big that it’s not allowing for any suspension when you use ball bungees or bungee cords, then it’s not doing you any favors. It’s just going to hang there and collect rainwater, which is not what we want.
It’s a tough thing to consider, especially when you can’t always know how far trees are going to be from where you decide to put your hammock when you’re camping.
Best-case scenario, you’ll find a good spot and be able to stretch the hammock tarp out so that it covers what you need.
What About Shape?
Hammock tarps come in a variety of shapes, most notably hexagonal. You can also get hammock tarps in rectangular and diamond shapes, which don’t provide the same level of utility.
The reason you want your hammock to be a hexagonal shape is because of all the tie-down points. You can never know which way the wind is coming from, so you don’t know how the direction is going. Having those additional tie-downs is big.
You can secure two to a rope or directly to close trees, and four of them to the ground with stakes. If done properly, the enclosure still has enough room for you to get in and out, and it will help block just about all the rain that comes your way.
What Type of Tarp is Best for a Hammock?
Polyethylene is going to be best for hammocks because it repels water, even after the coatings have run dry.
Reasonably, this tarp is also going to be set up during the day when you’re camping (there’s no reason to take it down until you’re done with your camping trip), so you want to set it up and just forget about it.
Polyethylene is also UV resistant, so you’re not going to run potential health risks when laying in your hammock.
While these tarps are treated with a chemical to prolong their UV ray resistance, they also come with a natural water resistance to it, which is critical for hammock camping. This also makes a hammock tarp extremely useful for other applications outside of camping.
How do You Set Up Your Tarp Over a Hammock?
Assuming that you have a few trees or poles nearby where you can anchor this down, this is what you need to do.
- Position your tarp over the hammock so you still have room to get in. Once you know where this is, tether two lines to trees or poles so that this stays suspending at this height.
- Once the first two lines are suspended, we still have four grommets to tie down. We want to avoid rain ingress as much as possible here, so these will be tied to the ground. Gently pull down on the edges of the tarp where the other four grommets are and see how close you can get them to the ground. Reposition your tarp and initial ties if need be.
- Using bungee cables and tent stakes, find some solid earth to attach your remaining grommets to. Your cables can run two or more feet up from the ground, just be sure that they’re taut to help fight against wind resistance.
Can You Install a Mosquito Net on a Tarp?
Yes, you most certainly can. Mosquito nets are extremely fine pieces of mesh, so you have to be careful with how you do it, but it can be done. On hammock tarps, the only issue you run into is that you don’t really have anywhere to go with the netting.
You could have it hang there and stake it into the ground, but this would require a lot of pre time before you even bring it out with you. If you secure it to the hammock itself, bugs can still get in through the holes in the hammock netting below, so that’s not going to do you any good.
If possible, you can make a zip-up mosquito net for your hammock tarp.
You can attach mosquito netting all the way around the bottom of the tarp, and then install a zipper along the bottom so that it can shut, but it would take some DIY mastery to get it done without tearing the netting.
Other Ways to use a Hammock Tarp
1. Emergency Backpack
Backpack tears while you were camping?
It happens. It’s not going to be good for hauling your stuff back anymore, so why not just throw it into a hammock tarp, and tie it up?
Drop the hammock tarp on the ground, place your items inside, and just pull the grommets together.
This obviously isn’t a perfect solution, and you’re going to have excess fabric near the top, but that can all be remedied.
All you have to do is tie it off with a ball bungee by running it through all the grommets, and tying it back together. These work well if you end up finding something while you’re camping and want to bring it home, because you can use this alongside your backpack if you find a reason to.
2. Game Cart
Hammock tarps are usually made of polyethylene, which can hold onto just about anything without tearing or breaking.
If you’re a hunter and you’ve ever used a game cart, then you know that you wouldn’t use anything else to carry a 150 lb whitetail back to your truck. But what about small game?
You can have a polyethylene tarp handy, put a rabbit or pheasant in there, and then tie it up to carry it back. It keeps any potential bleeding confined, and also helps protect the back of your SUV trunk or your truck bed from bleeding and staining anything.
If it really came down to it, you could drag a polyethylene tarp through the woods with bigger game on it, but it’s not going to hold up well against the abrasions. It would limit its use.
3. Impromptu Emergency Shelter
Utilizing the same hanging method we talked about earlier, you can mount your hammock tarp to the ground and slip underneath it if you need an emergency cover.
Instead of having two of the six grommets tied to a tree, you would just stake them into the ground. Consider leaving one grommet unattached so you have a way to slip in and out with ease
4. Sleeping Bag
Provided that you’re using the recommended hexagonal hammock tarp, this is the perfect way to make a drawstring sleeping bag. Simply run a bungee cable or ball bungee through all six grommets while sitting inside of it, and gently pull it shut.
If your ball bungee has a big enough loop, you might be able to actually tie the ball bungee around the top. If not, use a bungee cord for this to keep it nice and tight. It works in a pinch, although it’s not as useful as an actual designated sleeping bag is in these situations.
5. Preserve Firewood
Using a hammock normally implies that you’re camping, so if you’re going out to rough it in the woods, you might be collecting your own firewood. In the cold rain and dark nights of the wilderness, a campfire is your number one way to stay warm. If your firewood is wet, it’s a completely fruitless endeavor.
It’s got to stay warm, so your hammock tarp is the perfect solution. You can either drape it over your kindling pile, or you can fully wrap it up inside of the hammock tarp and fold it over, so the opening is wrapped up as well.
Just be sure that no rain can get inside of it. This also helps you store it in your tent or hammock without getting dirt and debris everywhere.
You can use a windscreen in so many different situations, but when it comes to camping and outdoor activities, they serve a different purpose. You take the tarp down from on top of your hammock, and set it up to catch wind that would otherwise blow your fire out.
If you know how to tell which direction the wind is coming from, then you’ll be able to figure out where to hang this up. This also helps prevent the cold from going right through your clothes when you’re just trying to stay warm.
Yes, you can even use this in fishing. If this is all you have, you can go down to the river and use your preferred method of fishing, and then use this to store your fish in while you take it back to cook it.
While you’re not going to want to use this on your hammock again until it’s cleaned, it gets the job done. You can pack some individual cleaning wipes to wipe this thing down and still use it on your hammock at the end of the day. Look at it like a utility tool at this point.
8. Rowboat Sail
One discarded pole and a camping hammock tarp with ball bungees, and you’ve got yourself a makeshift sail.
You can use this to make it a little bit easier when you hop in your rowboat, and get that extra distance. If you’re in a bind while sailing, you could use a camping hammock as a patch-up as well, so long as you can affix it to the sail tightly enough to not allow wind to pass through it.
9. Emergency Ground Gurney
This is more of a survival-based situation that you hopefully never find yourself in, but things happen, and we never know what to expect. Be the one that everyone can rely on, be the fast thinker.
You can position a wounded person onto a tarp hammock that’s laying on the ground, and then use it as leverage to move them across the ground to bring them to a place of safety.
This is all going to depend on your strength, the injured persons’ weight, and things of that nature, but the point is it can be used to help out in a sordid situation.
10. Temporary Roof Patch
It’s hurricane season, the shingles are being peeled off the roof by the rain, and the cleanup is going to be intense. You don’t have the money to hire someone to fix the roof, but you don’t want any more damage to occur and spike up the eventual repair bill.
You have that hammock tarp in the closet and some spare lumber, so you can make a temporary patch that can last for a few months until it can be repaired properly.
We have a guide for tarping up a roof, and while a hammock tarp is a smaller scale than a roof tarp, it can do the job for patch-up tasks.
How Long Does a Hammock Tarp Last?
Any time you talk about how long a tarp can last, there are so many environmental and independent variables that come into play, things that I can’t properly predict.
What I can do is give you an average timeline, and then explain what you need to do to either get on par with this timeline, or prolong your hammock tarp use.
Because you can find these made out of cotton canvas, nylon, or other materials, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact timeline. Most hammock tarps have two to five years on them, and will last longer if you:
Recoat It As Needed
There are waterproof coatings on most hammock tarps, otherwise they would be pretty useless. However, those coatings wear down, and then the tarp is exposed to the elements where water damage can occur.
If you use this hammock tarp once a month, you should recoat it once a year. If you use it less frequently than that, once every two years, but be sure to put a stick or reminder on the tarp bag just to be safe.
Dedicate It To Hammock Use Only
Hammock tarps can be made out of a lot of different things, and while that’s great, it also comes with challenges. You’re going to use this to shield you from the rain, and apart from that, it shouldn’t be used for another thing.
No storing materials in it or using it on a kennel temporarily when you get back home. To prolong it, dedicate its use, and you could have this tarp for the next ten years.
Keep Clean and Store Dry
Even when an anti-mildew material is used in the primary construction of a tarp, there are still ways for it to eventually be eaten by it. If you store your hammock tarp without cleaning and drying it properly, mildew forms in the moisture left behind.
It doesn’t immediately start eating the tarp, so you can definitely clean it off if you spot some, but when left unchecked it will deteriorate it. If you spot mildew and clean it off a tarp, and it still smells bad despite not being able to see any trace, it’s likely that mildew has seeped into your tarp.
The Ins and Outs of Hammock Tarps
While they’re definitely used to cover up your hammock, that’s not the only thing that you can do with them.
From making a shelter in the woods on a long hike to hoisting food above a campsite, to actually covering your hammock back at home, there’s a hundred ways to utilize this uniquely-shaped tarp. What ways will you discover?