Zpacks 8.5’ x 10’ Tarp Review: The Ultralight Tarp to Carry?

Olive green Zpacks 8.5' x 10' Flat Tarp

My favorite hammock tarp is the Zpacks 8.5′ x 10′ Flat Tarp, a top choice for ultralight enthusiasts in search of single-digit base pack weights. It’s light and versatile enough that I take it everywhere, including day hikes and car camping trips.

I mostly use tarps as hammock rain covers, but they’re also popular for setting up pyramids and A-frame shelters. I prefer hammock sleep systems, but they tend to be heavier than ultralight tents because more gear is in play. Saving a few extra grams on the tarp helps offset that weight gain.

Zpacks Flat Tarp 8.5′ x 10′ Review

Price: $399 MSRP – Check Current Price
Weight: 7.1 oz
Dimensions: 102″ x 120″
Capacity: 1 to 2 person
Pros: Extremely lightweight, very versatile, DCF is better than silpoly or silnylon, packs down small, works great as an emergency shelter
Cons: Setup can be tough, DCF is thin and pricey
Alex’s Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars  4.6 of 5 stars
7′ x 9′ Flat Tarp: Check Current Price
Hexamid Pocket Tarp w/ Doors: Check Current Price

VIEW ZPACKS FLAT TARP

Notable Features

Black and blue logo that says "Zpacks"
The Flat Tarp is equipped with a clever set of minimalist features

At just 7.1 oz with the stuff sack, it has 16 tie-outs attached via Lineloc V guy line adjusters. Guy lines aren’t included, so I recommend packing at least two 50-foot, 1.3 mm Z-Line cords. You may need more lines for other scenarios, but you can get away with fewer for hammock usage.

This featherweight tarp is made from Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF), the strongest and most waterproof material for ultralight purposes. The tarp’s attachment points are reinforced, so it shrugs off punishing winds. It’s also durable, but make sure to keep sharp branches from jabbing the fabric when it’s windy; even DCF has its limits.

Trekking Pole Setup

Most ultralight tarps will use two trekking poles to set up A-frame shelters for two people. Less often, a single pole is used to make a half-pyramid shelter, but both options provide roomy and well-ventilated spaces that will protect you from the wind and rain.

Hammock Setup

Ultralight camping tarp and hammock setup
I connect my hammock to a different tree during the day and swing it under the Flat Tarp before bedtime

The Zpacks 8.5′ x 10′ Flat Tarp is designed with hammock sleep systems in mind. Smaller tarps may not provide adequate coverage, especially for taller folks.

Tarp shelters avoid the condensation and other moisture problems that often come with single-wall tents. In my experience, this tarp provides phenomenal protection from the wet stuff.

Most hammock tarps use silpoly or silnylon for cost-effective waterproofing, but they also weigh more. If you want the lightest and best waterproofing, DCF is the way to go.

Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF)

Opaque fabric with raindrops and a view of trees and blue skies on the other side
DCF is exceptionally lightweight and weatherproof but also quite opaque

The Zpacks Tarp uses DCF that’s rated at 0.55 oz/sq. yd. Competitors like Hyperlite Mountain Gear offer 0.8 oz DCF that’s slightly more puncture-resistant but it’s also 1.75 oz heavier.

Tarp longevity is more a function of how much care you take in pitching your shelter. Dyneema is 20 times stronger than steel by weight, but if you let the wind poke sharp branches into the material all night long, it will eventually tear. Even so, a quick patch with DCF tape will save the day.

Versatile Pitching for Multiple Uses

Grey ultralight shelter with water beads and guylines staked into the ground
I mainly use my tarp for hammock camping, but can use it as a standalone shelter with my sleeping pad to slash my base weight

I mainly use the Zpacks Flat Tarp as my hammock shelter, but it’s so featherlight that I now carry it everywhere, regardless of my sleep system. It’s with me on all my day hikes for quick shelter from bursts of rain.

My hiking partner is an 18-pound chihuahua mix named Chaibear. She’s always the smallest dog on the trail, but has the biggest heart. Even so, the weather sometimes gets too aggressive and we’re both forced to find shelter.

Yes, huddling under a tree during cold downpours is a classic hiking experience, but those days are gone with the Zpacks Tarp. Its quick setup as an emergency shelter protects both me and my mighty bear.

It’s also great for blazing hot days since it can also be pitched horizontally as a sunscreen. This is my default, go-to setup for car camping.

VIEW ZPACKS FLAT TARP

Weight & Packed Size

The 8.5′ x 10′ Zpacks tarp weighs 7.1 oz with the stuff sack. That’s one-third of the weight of my previous hammock tarp, the Eno ProFly (which comes in at 22 oz and is heavier than all of its competitors using DCF). For people counting the ounces, there’s no substitute for the Zpacks Flat Tarp.

Note: Zpacks also offers a smaller 7′ x 9′ tarp that weighs a scant 5.1 oz. And for a less versatile one-person tarp, consider the Hexamid Pocket Tarp with a one-pole setup.

All Zpacks tarps stuff down to the size of a small ultralight sleeping pad. You won’t have any problems finding room in your pack.

Weather Resistance

Water beads on a grey ul backpacking shelter
DCF is 100% waterproof but must be pitched correctly if you want to stay dry

DCF doesn’t absorb water; rain just beads up on it and falls off, with no water-repellent coating to restore. Plus, its considerable tensile strength is more than a match for wind, sleet, and hail.

Price

The Zpacks Flat Tarp is currently priced at $399. Several competitors offer similar-sized DCF tarps at similar prices, but most are heavier by a few ounces.

What I Love About the Zpacks Flat Tarp

A-frame camping shelter pitched between two trees
The Flat Tarp opens up a world of possibilities when backpacking and camping

This is one piece of gear I wish I’d discovered sooner. It’s been the biggest weight savings for my hammock sleep system. Both Chaibear and I give it five stars, and here’s why:

  • It’s very versatile: You can get creative about how to pitch it. Whether car camping in the woods or backpacking high above tree line, this shelter can do it all.
  • With proper care it’ll last a long time: It’s survived extremely windy nights without any issues, and I haven’t had any punctures. Treat it with care and it should serve you for many years to come.
  • It’s incredibly lightweight: You’d be hard-pressed to find a lighter tarp offering this much coverage and so many tie-out options.
  • The build quality & customer care are exceptional: This is my fourth Zpacks purchase in five years, and the seams and stitching have always been rock solid. Plus, any online support questions I posted were answered the same day.

Things to Keep in Mind About the Zpacks Flat Tarp

As with all ultralight gear, there are tradeoffs…

  • It can be tricky to set up: The Lineloc V guy line adjusters felt clumsy at first. Be sure you know how to properly feed the line through; otherwise, the setup will be exponentially more difficult. A-frame shelters are also not the easiest shelters to set up. Practice setting them up before heading into the wild and save yourself a few headaches.
  • It’s pricey: The sticker shock of ultralight gear is a big hurdle. Dishing out $399 for a tarp might be hard to justify. You can buy most hammock tarps for less than half that cost, but they’ll weigh up to three more than the Zpacks. Your call.
  • It’s thin: Tarps made with thicker, heavier, and more durable materials will give you better privacy and do a better job blocking sun and heat. At night, the Zpacks tarp is translucent enough that your silhouette may be quite visible. And on blazingly hot days without wind, you’ll feel the heat radiating right through the tarp.

Final Thoughts

Hammock underneath a DCF tarp shelter
The 8.5′ x 10′ Flat Tarp is my go-to hammock camping shelter for camping and backpacking excursions

I initially assumed the Zpacks 8.5′ x 10′ Flat Tarp would be just another hammock sleep option. But I quickly discovered that it was so much more — an extremely versatile multi-use shelter that weighed less than the protein bars in my pack.

Try the Zpacks Tarp made from Dyneema Composite Fiber in the harshest conditions you can find. You will be impressed. And you will also be tempted to take it with you everywhere you go. My advice: give in to that temptation.

VIEW ZPACKS FLAT TARP

Last Updated on March 18, 2024

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Alex Choi

Alex is an experienced hiker, backpacker, and hammock camper that lives in Colorado with the love of his life, an 18-pound chihuahua, Chaibear. If you can't find him out on the trail, chances are he's slinging sushi or watching ultralight backpacking YouTube channels in search of some inspiration.

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