Last updated: August 23, 2021

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This time we've put together the most relevant information for you to make the best decision when buying your ideal tarp and get the most out of it. We've all suffered through the rain ruining our outdoor gatherings for lack of a roof.

Worse still, sometimes we can't even enjoy ourselves because we don't have a good shade to protect us from the sun. That's where tarpaulins play an important role, as they can solve these problems and many more.

We want you to have all the tools you need to buy the best tarpaulin, so continue reading this article to solve all your doubts. By the end you will be ready to protect yourself from the weather with a great product.




The most important thing to know

  • Tarpaulins are large pieces of fabric or plastic that help cover open spaces from sun and rain. They are also used to protect vehicles, swimming pools and the goods on some cargo trucks.
  • Most tarpaulins are made of acrylic or PVC. Acrylic is lighter and allows the interior to stay cooler, although it is not as waterproof. On the other hand, PVC is denser and more waterproof, but allows a lot of heat to build up inside.
  • To get the right tarpaulin for you, you need to follow a few buying criteria. You will need to ask yourself what size you need, as well as the quality of eyelets you need and the use you are going to make of it. Below we will help you understand each criterion.

The Best Tarpaulin: Our Picks

There is an impressive variety of tarpaulin models on the market, in all sizes, colours and qualities. Below we have selected some of the best we could find to help you decide on a good product.

Buying guide: What you need to know about tarpaulins

Buying a tarpaulin seems to be very simple and any piece of fabric can meet your needs. However, the quality of tarpaulins vary greatly depending on the use for which they are designed. Read on to get all the tools you need before making your purchase decision.

Tarpaulins help you enjoy your outdoor evenings more. (Photo: Gary Perkin / 123RF)

What is a tarpaulin and what are its advantages?

Tarpaulins are large pieces of fabric or plastic that are used to cover open spaces and protect them from the sun's rays. They have metal eyelets through which ropes can be threaded to attach them to a wall or other solid structure. They are also widely used to cover swimming pools or vehicles.

From the most austere tianguis to the most exclusive shopping malls, the need for shade is a priority. The tarpaulin is an excellent option, as it can be assembled and disassembled, and it also provides cover from the rain. Nowadays, most of them are made of a plastic derivative, which makes them more economical than the fabric ones.

There is a wide variety of qualities when it comes to tarpaulins. Some are so basic that they will break after a short time of use and will probably not be 100% waterproof. Others are so sophisticated that they even protect you from UV rays and resist all kinds of extreme weather.

Advantages
  • They are portable
  • They provide shade and protection from rain
  • They come in a variety of sizes
  • They are easy to set up
Disadvantages
  • They take several people to set up
  • They can add heat to the interior
  • They can be difficult to engineer

Acrylic or PVC tarpaulin - what should you look out for?

Broadly speaking, tarpaulins are made of acrylic or PVC. The tarpaulin material you should buy depends on your needs. Below we talk more in depth about the two categories.

Acrylic tarpaulin. This type of tarpaulin is not completely waterproof, but it has the advantage of being very light and allows air circulation. It is especially recommended for very hot locations, as with other materials it is very likely that the inside of the tarpaulin will be even hotter than the outside.

PVC tarpaulin. This material is stronger and more waterproof, and generally lasts longer. It is welded rather than sewn, which also makes it easier to repair. The downside is that as it does not allow it to breathe, a lot of heat can build up inside.

Acrylic PVC
Indoor temperature Cool Hot
Resistance Minimal Very resistant
Fibre bonding Woven Welded
Use Domestic Domestic and industrial

Purchasing criteria

In this section we have selected different criteria that you should consider before making a purchase decision. We know you will find this information very useful and after reading our advice you will be ready to make the most of the canvas you choose.

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Uses
  • Eyelets

Size

Tarpaulins come in different sizes and it is very important that you measure the space where you want to place it before you buy it. It is always better to have too much than too little, although in the case of tarpaulins it is easier to put extra string if there is a shortage than to find a way to fix the surplus.

The size of the tarpaulins depends entirely on the manufacturer; sometimes they are square, sometimes rectangular. They can measure from one metre to 10 metres, so check the product description carefully. If possible, we recommend that you have one made to the size you need directly with the manufacturer.

PVC tarpaulins are 100% waterproof. (Photo: Padabed Kiryl / 123RF)

Weight

The weight of the tarpaulin depends very much on the materials it is made of, as well as the dimensions. It is also important to consider that the weight of the tarpaulin can increase considerably with water. It is therefore advisable to let the tarpaulin dry perfectly before dismantling and storing it.

Acrylic. Inexpensive acrylic tarpaulins can be quite light. If it is about 3 square metres in size, it will weigh between 300 and 600 grams. Of course, because they are so light they are more fragile, so we recommend you use them in spaces where the wind is not so strong.

PVC. On the other hand, the most resistant PVC tarpaulins of about 3 square metres can weigh up to 5 kilos. If you are thinking of buying one of these tarpaulins, we recommend that you make sure to use strong nails or eyebolts.

Uses

The intended use of your tarpaulin will influence the choice of one manufacturer over another. The same applies to the dimensions and quality of the materials. Here are some of the most common uses for tarpaulins.

Shade in outdoor locations. This is perhaps the most common use for tarpaulins. It provides adequate shade for almost any space and all you need to do is mount it with ropes tied to nails or eyebolts. We recommend choosing one that helps keep the interior cool so it doesn't become an oven.

Vehicles. Tarpaulins are also widely used to protect vehicles parked for long periods of time. They are also used to cover cargo trucks and protect the contents. Whether it's motorbikes, cars, bicycles or even yachts, we recommend getting a custom tarp made directly from the manufacturer.

Swimming pools. Another common use for tarpaulins is to protect swimming pools when they are not in use. In this case it is not so important to worry about the eyelets and the most important thing is that it is 100% waterproof. If you are purchasing a tarpaulin for this purpose, we recommend that you order one made to the exact size of the pool.

Camping tents. In addition to providing shade for the campsite, tarpaulins can be used under the tent to prevent water seepage. Most inexpensive camping tents are not waterproof on the ground and absorb water from the ground. We recommend getting a small but waterproof tarp.

Eyelets

Eyelets are a must if you need your tarp as an auxiliary roof. Inexpensive tarpaulins will have them spread over a greater distance, while more sophisticated tarpaulins have eyelets close together to maintain a perfect stretch.

Metal. These are the most durable and resistant type of eyelets. However, you should make sure that they are made of stainless aluminium to ensure that no harmful rust is generated on your tarpaulin. The recommendation is to always look for this feature in the product specifications.

Plastic. This material guarantees water resistance without generating rust. It is the eyelet material used in most of the cheap tarpaulins. However, they are not of very good quality and can come apart at the first gust of wind. We recommend buying this type of eyelets only if you are not going to use your tarpaulin as an auxiliary roof.

(Featured image photo: Eugene Sergeev /123RF)

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