I'd like to try tarp camping. 3m x 3m (9ft x 9ft) and 3m x 4m (9ft x 12ft) tarps of differing material are plentiful and many are even affordable. Which tarp shape is more versatile in the number of setup configurations?

Configurations should include a simple roof, lean-to-type or a fully enclosed tent-like structures. All weather conditions should be considered also.

I know there are other shapes but they seem to be intended for specialized configurations.

So Square or Rectangle?

  • Are you using a hammock or bivvy for sleeping? – User632716 Jul 6 '17 at 9:04
  • No hammock, sleeping at ground level. – B540Glenn Jul 6 '17 at 13:41

Going back to WW.2. A shelter half as used by the US. Army. This would form a pup tent with 2 joined or a lean to with one. Sized right for a rain protector over cloths. Kind of rectangle with a triangle at both ends. Buttons & button holes at the top.


A rectangular would offer the most choices. I have used a 8x6 and 9x7 in a half-mid pitch above treeline in the Rockies. Whether it is rectangle or square, which is also a rectangle, is insignificant since you could do the same pitches with either one assuming the sides are long enough for the coverage you desire. You would need longer sides if you want to be fully enclosed unless you don't mind cramped space. Where you run into issues is with shaped tarps that can only be done in 1 or maybe 2 pitches.


After a lot of thought, I don't think that there are any shape configurations that would be limited to just a square or just a rectangular tarp.

However, when you are sleeping under a tarp, either on the ground or in a hammock your body is in a rectangular shape. I use a 5ftx7ft tarp and if it was 7ftx7ft square tarp it would just be extra weight to carry.

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