Poly tarps are made of polyethylene, a durable polymer that is thick, waterproof and similar to plastic. Poly tarps are one of the most durable types of tarps and are available in a host of colors, including clear and camouflage. Blue poly tarps are one of the most common, and usually of medium durability. Heavy duty poly tarps are usually red, white, yellow, silver or green while the lighter duty poly tarps are often orange or brown. Go ever heavier by investing in a two-ply poly tarp with double the layers of protection. Poly tarps protect against the weather, including harmful UV rays. Because of their durability and strength, poly tarps are fairly heavy to haul around.
Canvas traps, usually made from cotton, often feature hemmed edges and heavy duty eyelets for attachments. Canvas is not waterproof, but does offer ideal protection against the wind. Canvas tarps are easier to fold and maneuver than poly tarps, but still pretty heavy to carry. They, too, come in a variety of different colors and weights. Some are flame retardant and all can be treated with a water repellent.
Mesh tarps are lightweight and airy, best used for shade or blocking debris. Because they are very loosely woven, they will let both wind and rain through the material. Mesh tarps, made from a lightweight polymer, are incredibly easy to carry and often feature reinforced grommets and corners.
Nylon tarps are also incredibly lightweight and are very easy to carry, regardless of their size. They can be folded, bunched or rolled into compact spaces for travel. While not as durable as poly or canvas, nylon does offer sun, wind and water protection. Some nylon camping tarps are treated to be fully waterproof. Some are covered with silicone, which makes them a bit heavier but also a better protector against the elements. Nylon tarps come in many colors and sizes.
Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski
Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.