What’s the difference between a waterproof and water repellent tarp? This is one of the most common questions we hear. Because we design, test, and manufacture of a range to such high standards, it’s easy for customers to assume that the fabrics we use will be top quality. However, this isn’t always the case when you compare to other brands on the market.
So what is the main difference? Waterproof vs. water repellent tarps: To answer this question, it’s best to consider what each term means (i.e., its literal meaning).
Waterproof – The ability of any fabric to repel water under pressure. When water is applied against the fabric, it can’t penetrate through but will form beads of water which are easily shaken off. So the way this term is used is to emphasize that not a single drop of water should be able to get through to the interior of your tarp.
Water repellent – Traditionally, this term was used by outdoor brands as an umbrella term for all types of coated fabrics on the market. It means that the tarp fabric has been treated with a coating on either one or both sides, which causes water to bead up on top and roll off very quickly (like waxing your car).
A coated tarp would therefore look similar to a traditional tent flysheet. Water repellency is not permanent and eventually wears off, depending on the extent of its use (e.g., how often it has been used), the conditions you expose your tarp to (UV light degrades any coating over time), and the type of coating used (some repel water more effectively than others). For this reason, we consider a water repellent tarp to be inferior.
So what is better: waterproof or water repellent?
This question comes down to personal preferences and priorities. It’s all about what you want from your equipment! Some people seek high levels of protection against external elements, while others focus more on performance, weight, and versatility when choosing their equipment.For those seeking the highest levels of protection from external factors, we would always recommend over any other type of tarp available on the market today.
Tarps with a water repellent coating will provide you with some level of protection, but nothing like that of a specially designed which is built exclusively for this purpose and tested to such strict performance standards. This is why we can comfortably offer a 25-year warranty on all our as long as you use them correctly (e.g., see product care instructions).
Features& benefits of waterproof tarps
If you choose to go down the waterproof tarp route, many different options are available on the market. The primary advantage of using a waterproof tarp is its lighter weight and more packable size when compared with the same sized tent. This is because traditional tarps don’t have any poles or support structures. They rely on you finding two suitable trees to tie them between and the tension of the fabric against the tree.