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What are the differences between flat and shaped tarps?

What is a flat Tarp?

Flat tarps are square- or rectangular in form, have flat edges and corners, and 90 degree angles. These tarps are versatile and can be used in many different ways depending on the weather and terrain. These are just a few examples of Tera Rosa Gear’s excellent pitches, but there are many other options. This video shows their Prospector model tarp.

What is a shaped Tarp?

What are the differences between flat and shaped tarps?
What are the differences between flat and shaped tarps?

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  1. What are the differences between flat and shaped tarps?

    Shaped Tarps Backpacking Light

Shaped tarps don’t have to be square or rectangular. They usually have a curved edge or ridge line. This category can be used for many models and shapes. The Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid and Zpacks Hexamid are good examples. The shape of the Hexamid and Duomid are obvious. However, the CubicTwinn’s curved edges run between the top ridgeline and the ends of the Hexamid. All four edges have a gently curved shape. The shaped tarp category also includes Hexagon-shaped hammock tarps.

What is a catenary curvature?

Catenary curves are shaped like a cable on a suspension bridge. These curved edges are used to cut shaped tarps. They provide a tighter pitch, and the resulting tarp is lighter because it has less fabric. Many tent fly patterns are cut with catenary curves.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of a flat-tarp?


Flat tarps are versatile and can be made in many different shapes, depending on the terrain or vegetation. In high winds, they can be pitched low to the ground. They are typically cheaper than shaped tarps, and can be used for other purposes than camping. Their pitch may determine if they provide more shelter space than a comparable tarp with curved edges.


Flat tarps are generally heavier than shaped ones because they have more fabric. It is also harder to pitch a drum with flat tarps. Because there are so many ways to set them up and it can be difficult to choose the right pitch for your situation, flat tarps can also be more difficult to pitch.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of a shaped roof tarp?


For specific terrain or weather conditions, tarps can be shaped to suit particular terrain. Studies in Antarctica have shown that the pyramid-shaped tarp is the best structural shape for high winds. These tarps are also great for winter use when you need high walls to shed snowfall. For beginners, shaped tarps are easy to set up and maintain a tight pitch. Catenary curves are another way to reduce the weight of a Tarp.


Because they are limited in their configurations, shaped tarps can be less flexible than flat tarps. Catenary curves and edges decrease the usable space. They can also be difficult to set up in tight spaces, such as dense forests, where there isn’t enough space for a complete setup.

Because they can’t be pitched as low as flat tarps, high standing tarp shapes may also have a reduced interior volume during high winds. Because of the labor required to make them, shaped tarps are more costly than flat ones.