IF YOU WANT a lightweight, compact (when packed) shelter that covers more than a couple of people, then you need a tarp. And before you scoff at “lightweight” and “tarp” in the same sentence, you need to dismiss from your mind the image of bulky, heavy tarps of yesteryear and check out the Wilderness Equipment Ultralight (UL) Overhang Tarp.
Tarps (of all shapes, materials and sizes) are brilliant shelters; from vehicle-based camp set-ups, to canoe/kayak trips and multi-day hiking adventures, a large tarp is the ultimate go-to when it comes to the ability to shelter more than a couple of people – and, in some situations, can replace a tent as the main shelter.
The Wilderness Equipment UL Overhang Tarp has appeared intermittently during my many adventures; from rafting the Franklin River and sharing a WE Overhang Tarp with seven fellow paddlers, through to huddling under the same model of tarp on a rest-day during a particularly wet and wild traverse of the South Coast Track in Tassie. These tarps can make all the difference when it comes to keeping both people and equipment sheltered from the elements.
The WE UL Overhand Tarp comes in three sizes: Small (2m x 2.95m); Medium (3m x 2.95m) and the Large (4.5m x 2.95m) tested here. It is also available in the same sizes using a “Standard” material (75-denier polyester tent fabric) that is heavier, but significantly cheaper.
I recently purchased my own WE UL Overhang Tarp, with the view that it is, when packed into its storage sack, super-compact, but when opened up it offers fantastic shelter for either when I am hiking with a group of friends, or camping with the family and need more shade or rain shelter. So in other words, no matter the adventure, I pack the tarp, thanks to its versatility. I opted for the Large, which despite its impressive 4.5m x 2.95m size, weighs just on 1kg. The tarp is made from tough 30-denier, ultra-tough ripstop nylon, and is coated on both sides with silicone elastomer for UV protection. And this all packs down into a 1L storage sack.
The UL Overhang Tarp comes with WE’s unique teardrop guy attachments with integral guy line pockets that have double-layer patches for reinforcement. The company claims the teardrop shaped attachments add strength to the join by distributing stress (tension) across the fabric panels more effectively. Having sheltered under one of these tarps in some particularly wild conditions, I can confirm this. Included with the tarp are the guy lines (3m in length on corners, 2m on the sides) which, when not in use, are cleverly stored in the guy pouches. The ridge seam of the tarp is reinforced, but owing to the silicon coating of the tarp, you will need to seam-seal this seam and the guy attachments in the middle of the tarp (a 10-minute job).
So far the WE UL Overhang Tarp has been on two family camping trips and one overnight hiking adventure, and has been used each time; the added shade during a summer family camp was a godsend, while a bit of extra shelter while cooking in light rain on the hike was more than welcome. It ain’t cheap, but its versatility makes this tarp one of my first-pack items.