Can a Tarp Keep You Warm? (Answer Plus Tips For Warmth!)

can a tarp keep you warm?

In order to stay warm and comfortable during camping, you want to utilize all means. You are probably considering bringing a tarp. The tarp is one of the main parts of the shelter system. Together with the whole, a tarp can make a huge difference. Let’s find out can a tarp keep you warm.

A tarp when pitched tight and low to the ground with closed ends can trap heat. The size of the tarp, its placement, and the location where you set up the tarp is going to make a noticeable difference in keeping you warm. The biggest contribution of a tarp is that it blocks cold winds.

In this article, I am going to explain how a tarp can keep you warm and provide some useful tips to set up your tarp correctly to make it more effective.

How Do Tarp Shelters Keep You Warm?

The biggest contribution of tarp shelters is their windbreak ability. Cold winds can rob you of a lot of body heat. Tarps block these cold winds. 

Tarps need to be oriented in such a way that they keep out the wind rather than forming wind tunnels. So adjust the tarp according to the wind direction.

In addition, tarps protect you from rain. If you are camping in the woods or hunting tarps are of great help. You can expect heavy rains in those locations. A tarp will provide a dry space for you and save your camping gear from getting wet.

By tarp, you’re enclosing a space around you the way a tent does. In a tent, you can’t make a fire. But under a tarp, you can light a large campfire. If you are a large group, you can socialize around that fire.

Will a Tarp Hold Heat?

In order to trap heat, the tarp has to be large in size, pitched tight, and low to the ground. Also, the location where you have set up your tarp will determine how effective the tarp is going to be.

By pitching the tarp low to the ground, you are reducing air volume underneath it. That way the heat produced inside can’t escape easily.

Since the tarp is open from both ends, ventilation is high. Therefore, condensation is very low.

The size of the tarp matters as well. A large tarp will prevent heat radiation. While a small tarp will not make a sizable difference in trapping the heat. 

But, regardless it will provide protection against the elements such as rain, wind, and snow.

The most important thing to consider when setting up the tarp is its location. Try to create a micro-climate with your tarp. Set up the tarp some distance away from water sources like streams and lakes. The place should not be completely exposed. That way you will be protected from the wind.

Is Tarp Good For Winter?

Some of you might be considering ditching your tent altogether to leave the extra weight behind and bringing only a tarp for your adventure? But, before making that decision you should know beforehand whether the tarp will keep you warm during your stay.

A tarp can make a huge difference in keeping you warm. It adds an extra layer of warmth during those chilly nights in winter.

In any case, tarps are not a replacement for a tent. I would not recommend you replace your tent with a tarp for your next adventure. The tent is essential and a tarp will add extra warmth.

In winter the temperature difference underneath the tarp and outside the tarp can be up to 3 degrees. At such cold temperatures, 3 degrees means a lot. That makes it clear that a tarp can be effective in winter.

Apart from that, a good sleeping bag is also important. A tarp is only one part of the shelter. Sure, it can provide warmth on its own but together with the whole, it can maximize the effect.

So for your winter camping in forests or woods consider bringing a tarp with a tent. A tarp can come in handy anytime. You can use it as a groundsheet if needed.

A warm sleeping bag is also necessary for winter camping. A tarp alone will not do the work done for you. Therefore, you should bring a good sleep system with you for the adventure.

Is Tarp a Good Insulator?

Although large tarps can somehow prevent heat radiation, we can’t say that they are good conductors. 

At night a lot of heat escapes from the ground into the atmosphere. A large tarp will trap this heat to some extent. 

However, In order to be a good insulator, it has to reduce conductive and convective heat loss. Neither of the two the tarp is good at doing. A tarp is not air-tight and does not provide sufficient insulation.

How Well Do Insulated Tarps Work?

How well do insulated tarps work depends on how you use them. As mentioned, tarps should be pitched tight and low to the ground. Moreover, the location where you set up the tarp is critically important.

Set up the tarp in a less windy location and create a micro-climate. Pitch your tarp under a tree or something. Find a protected spot. That way your tarp will be most effective.

You can build a large campfire underneath the tarp. In summer, during a warm night take a light blanket and sleep near that campfire.


The biggest contribution of a tarp is to keep out the winds and protect you from the rain. If the tarp is large enough it can prevent heat radiation. 

However, it is not good at reducing heat loss through conduction and convection. Therefore, it is not a good insulator.

That being said, it provides protection against the wind, snow, and rain. The placement and location of the tarp will decide the effectiveness of the tarp.

Also, when used with a tent it provides an extra layer of warmth. For maximum effect use the tarp with a tent and sleeping pad.

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