Hammock camping tarp mistakes

5 Worst Hammock Camping Tarp Mistakes [+What to Do Instead]

In this article, I’ll share the worst hammock camping tarp mistakes I see hammock campers make, or mistakes I have made myself.

For a thorough guide on all the juicy stuff you want to know about hammock tarps, check out my Hammock Camping Tarps: Guide for Beginners to get you going.

Table of Contents

5 Worst Hammock Camping Tarp Mistakes

Maybe you already tried some of these out on your previous hammock camping trip, or maybe you are worried ahead of your first try.

Don’t worry, after reading about these common hammock tarp mistakes, you will get the hang of tarping out in no time.

Hang on as we dig into the most common hammock camping tarp mistakes, you’ll want to avoid if you are heading out hammock camping in 2024.

Mistake #1: Not Choosing the Right Hammock Tarp

When you’re getting ready for a hammock camping trip, picking the right tarp is super important.

You might even still be wondering if you need a tarp for hammock camping. That depends, what type of camping are you going for?

Think about where you’ll be camping. If you’re just hanging out near your car or going to fun festivals, you can get away with a big, not-so-fancy tarp.

A huge, cheap, and waterproof tarp can be perfect for chilling between songs, or socially camping under for several people.

However, if you are heading out for many kilometers or miles, carrying big, bulky tarps can be quite troublesome. And cheap tarps are generally bulky.

That is one of the hammock camping tarp mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

Then again, if you are camping in your backyard or next to your car, you might not even need a tarp.

Mistake #2: Getting the Wrong Size Hammock Tarp

Now, let’s talk about how big your tarp should be.

It’s like when you’re picking out an umbrella. Too small, and you’ll get wet. Too big, and it’s just awkward to carry.

If your hammock is 10 feet long, get a tarp that’s around 10 or 11 feet. You generally want a tarp that is at least 6 inches longer than your hammock, or 15 cm, on each side.

Worse weather might warrant getting even more coverage though, but then again, hammock camper report doing fine with shorter than recommended, so tarp skills probably weighs in here as well.

My own mistake: Too short tarp and drip lines

For one of my first hammock trips I brought a tarp that was too short (which I found out after a while…) and it started raining. Water ran right down the suspension and into my hammock!

Not fun. But then I learned about drip lines – they’re like little water slides that keep the rain away from the important parts.

Don’t overshoot

Now, I can hear you thinking: “I’ll just get a bigger tarp and be on the safe side!”. Well, if you pick TOO long of a tarp, it can interfere with your suspension, as the rope and suspension rub into each other. That can be a hassle.

Overspending on hammock tarp

Mistake #3: Spending Too Much or Too Little on Their Tarp

This is a mistake I often see newbies doing. They either overcommit to the most expensive ultralight gear from day 1, and end up never using it (or overspending for their casual car camping scenarios), OR; they try to bring bulky, cheap tarps for longer backpacking or hiking trips, which becomes annoying and hard to handle.

RELATED: The Best Hammock Camping Tarp Material for Your Needs

When it comes to cost and how much you should spend, consider this; if you’re just starting with hammock camping, you don’t need to spend a lot.

A simple tarp from the hardware or department store will do the trick if you’re hanging out hammock camping with some friends. Maybe you are hanging out at a festival or camping close to your car. They are pretty cheap at under 10 bucks a pop.

It reminds me of the scout camps I attended when I was a kid. We used those trusty old, big blue polyester tarps to make a lot of different shelters. It wasn’t fancy, but it worked!

Spend according to your hammock camping plans

For those of you dreaming about backpacking adventures, you’ll want something lighter and easier to pack, with good waterproof properties. Which WILL cost you more.

Nylon, or silnylon is a good medium-cost alternative for casual backpackers, while the ultralight backpackers might want to splash for the best tech tarp gear.

Going Ultralight

And for the ultimate hammock campers who count every ounce and gram, there’s a material called Dyneema. It’s like magic fabric – super light but super expensive.

Mistake #4: Not Rigging Your Tarp for Rain

A big mistake I have seen many times is not rigging for rain.

Big, big mistake if you are backpacking. When the rain hits, your gear and hammock will get wet before you can say “Hammock camping!”

You should always rig for rain, in my opinion.

Nothing sucks worse than trying to set up a tarp in a rainstorm in the middle of the night. At least get it ready for quick deployment with a Snakeskin or some elastic bands to your ridgeline.

hammock camping tarp mistakes

Mistake #5: Not Setting Your Tarp up Against the Wind Direction

Always try to set your tarp against the wind, for maximum coverage against rain, wind, and cold air.

Fresh hammock campers tend to forget taking the wind into account, which can make for a miserable experience.


So, there you have it, happy hammockers. Whether you’re just chilling or going on a big adventure, there’s a perfect tarp out there for you.

Just make sure to avoid the worst hammock tarp mistakes, and you’re good to go.

Happy hammock camping!

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