Not all tarps are created equal. Indeed, what appears to be one of the simplest pieces of gear, next to a basic gathered-end hammock, tarps end up being one of the most complex. On one end of the spectrum you have the very simple asymmetric or diamond tarp that boasts only two guy lines and two anchor points. I’m not even sure there is a limit on the other extreme end of the spectrum where tarps become walled tents with doors, multiple guy lines, side walls, and even chimneys for stoves.

To cover a hammock, a tarp should extend at least 6 in (15 cm) past each end of the hammock. For most hammocks, a ridge line of 12 ft (3.6 m) is more than enough for maximum coverage. Tarps with shorter ridge lines should be hung closer to the hammock for the best coverage. Hennessy perfected the asym tarp to cover a hammock when you lay on the diagonal. It’s the least amount of tarp for the most protection, but for some it’s bikini coverage. In some ways, the popular hex-style tarp is just an evolution of the simple diamond tarp where the side panels are cut off to reduce weight on the unused fabric. Personal preference and weather conditions are prime factors on how wide, angular, or fancy the sides of a tarp should be cut.

Out of curiosity sake, I took out a sample of my tarp collection to do a side-by-side visual comparison. This comparison was not meant to be exhaustive, but representative of the types of tarps available to hammocks. I drew the outlines from the photographs, so there is some skewing because I used a wide-angle lens to get all the tarps in the frame. The measurements are accurate.

All the tarps were centered within my 12 ft (366 cm) pipe stand. You can see that outside of the enormous Grand Trunk Funky Forest Tarp (2012 model), the other tarps all provide nearly the same coverage along the ridge line.

TARPS SHOWN

Brand Product Ridge line Length
ENO Dry Fly 130 in (330 cm)
GoLite Poncho Tarp 2012 124 in (315 cm)
Grand Trunk Funky Forest Tarp (Pitched off the diamond axis) 123.5 in (314 cm)
Grand Trunk Funky Forest Tarp (Pitched as a diamond tarp) 178 in (452 cm)
Hammock Gear Cuben Fiber Hex w/doors 130 in (330 cm)
Hennessy Hammock Expedition Rainfly 70D Polyester 132 in (335 cm)
Hennessy Hammock Hex Rainfly 70D Polyester 141 in (358 cm)
OES MacCat Standard Hex 122 in (310 cm)
OES MacCat Deluxe Hex 131 in (333 cm)
Ticket to the Moon Diamond Tarp 138 in (350 cm)

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