The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp Review

The best tarp that money can buy.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $355 List | $301.00 at Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Pros:  Extremely lightweight & packable, adaptable to almost any situation, top quality materials
Cons:  Lacks bug protection and privacy, expensive
Manufacturer:   Hyperlite Mountain Gear
By Amber King & Andy Wellman  ⋅  Oct 29, 2019
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 19
  • Livability - 30% 6
  • Weight - 25% 10
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 5
  • Adaptability - 10% 10
  • Ease of Set-Up - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp is, without a doubt, the best of tarps we tested this year. Its flat design allows for the most set-up configurations while its DCF material offers countless advantages over its SilNylon peers. It is incredibly lightweight (0.63 pounds) with incredible water resistance and durability. Find yourself amongst spikey plants? This material will hold up, even if you set up amongst them. While tarps have a few disadvantages in comparison to other forms of ultralight shelter, including lesser bug and weather protection and privacy, those that don't mind dealing with the elements will see the value in this piece. As our Editors' Choice award, we whole-heartedly recommend it for those who are seeking the lightest experience that the industry can offer.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $301.00 at Hyperlite Mountain Gear$600 List$700 List$300 List$535 List
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Pros Extremely lightweight & packable, adaptable to almost any situation, top quality materialsAmazingly light, four-sided weather protection, ample space for two, double doorsGreat weather protection, lightweight, adaptableRoomy, easy to setup, fully enclosed, affordableUnder a pound, bombproof dyneema construction, ultralight stakes included
Cons Lacks bug protection and privacy, expensiveExpensive, doesn’t include necessary stakesExpensiveHeavier, design not quite as wind stable as double vestibule optionsExpensive, single pole set-up takes a little practice
Bottom Line The best tarp that money can buy.Ample space and exceptional performance in all metrics makes this our favorite ultralight shelter.This is the shelter you want when waiting out a storm.An affordable fully enclosed single person shelter that we love.Our favorite ultralight shelter for strictly solo adventures.
Rating Categories Square Flat Tarp ZPacks Duplex Flex Upgrade Tarptent StratoSpire Li Gossamer Gear The One Tarptent Aeon Li
Livability (30%)
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Adaptability (10%)
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Ease Of Set Up (10%)
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Specs Square Flat Tarp ZPacks Duplex Flex... Tarptent... Gossamer Gear The... Tarptent Aeon Li
Type Flat Tarp Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor Single wall tent w/ removable floor and bug netting Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor Single wall tent w/ sewn in bug mesh and floor
Weight with all components 0.64 lbs 1.8 lbs 1.60 lbs 1.68 lbs 1.09 lbs
Measured Weight of All Included Shelter Parts Total: 0.64 lbs Guy lines: 1.8 oz, Tarp: 8.5 oz Total: 1 lb. 5 oz Tent: 19.7 oz, Guy lines and clips: 1.2 oz, Stuff sack: .3 oz. (Flex upgrade: 11oz) Total: 1 lb.10 oz, Floor and bug net: 11.5 oz, Fly: 14.1 oz Total: 1 lb. 6 oz., Tent: 1 lb. 5.1 oz., Extra tie outs: 0.5 oz., Stuff sack: 0.4 oz., Optional aluminum poles: 5.7 oz. Total: 1 lb. 1 oz., Tent with Bathtub floor and bug net: 15.8 oz., Stakes: 1.7 oz.
Stakes Included? No No Yes No Yes
Poles Needed for Set-up? Yes or Tree Yes w/o flex kit
No w/ flex kit
Yes Yes Yes
Capacity 2 person 2 person 2 person 1 person 1 person
Max Floor Dimensions (inches) 103" x 103" 45" x 90" 86" x 45" 88" x 34" 88" x 30"
Peak Height (inches) Depends on configuration 48" 45" 46" 47"
Fabric DCF8 Dyneema Composite Fabrics .51 oz/sqyd DCF Fabric Dyneema Composite Fabrics 7D high tenacity nylon-blended sil/pu coating Dyneema Composite Fabrics
Packed Size (inches) 6.5" x 5.5" x 3.5" 7" x 13" 16" x 4" 6" x 9" 14" x 4"
Floor Area Depends on configuration 28.13 sq ft 26.88 sq ft 19.55 sq ft 18.3 sq ft
Doors 2 2 2 1 1
Interior Pockets 0 2 2 1 1
Number of Poles 2 trekking poles 4 2 trekking poles 2 trekking poles 1 trekking pole
Number of Tie Outs 21 8 8 10 7
1-person version? 6'x8' available No No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp is the lightest ultralight shelter we tested and — in the hands of an expert user — defines shelter adaptability. A creative camper can pitch it for weather protection just about anywhere you can sit or lie down. Your adjustable trekking poles provide the support for the most common pitches while adding a groundsheet or inner tent or bivy sack extends severe weather protection. These great features that'll keep the pounds off your back earn it our Editors' Choice amongst the tarps on the market.

While we tested the square flat tarp with dimensions of 8.5'x8.5', this tarp also comes in two different rectangular versions with sizes of 6'x8' and 8'x10'. While the squareness of this tarp makes it ideal for pitching in all the different ways one can think of, it also makes it slightly harder to pitch in A-frame mode.

Performance Comparison


The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp pitched in super low storm mode without stakes. (Extra long guylines wrap around rocks.) North Cascades  WA.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp pitched in super low storm mode without stakes. (Extra long guylines wrap around rocks.) North Cascades, WA.

Livability


When pitched as an A-frame close to the ground, this flat tarp offers lots of space for two people to spread out but limited headroom for sitting up. Two D-rings along the inside ridgeline will help hold an inner tent, such as the Echo II Insert sold by HMG. Storm mode offers even less room to sit up but has lots of floor space for two people and all of their gear. Other configurations, such as lean-to style, can be very comfortable and provide a fantastic view.


There is no doubt that livability is one area where using a tarp such as this one is not as comfortable or luxurious as using a fully enclosed tent. When enduring a storm with the tarp pitched in storm mode, you will have no choice but to be lying down inside your bag, with little room to move. This tarp also doesn't have a floor, necessitating adding a ground cloth, or bug protection.

For those who like a little privacy where they can change clothes or clean up after a long day of hiking, you aren't going to find it here. In short, when using this tarp as your shelter, you are in effect living outside in the world, and this can be a great thing, or not such a great thing, depending on the weather, your needs, and your disposition. That said, these are all downsides that you'll find with any flat-tarp option.

The Square Flat Tarp set up as low A-frame mode  using just the standard six guy out points  on a backpacking trip in Dark Canyon  Bears Ears National Monument  Utah.
The Square Flat Tarp set up as low A-frame mode, using just the standard six guy out points, on a backpacking trip in Dark Canyon, Bears Ears National Monument, Utah.

Weight


This lightweight tarp weighs in at 0.63 pounds, including the tie-outs which come along with it and the DCF stuff sack; this makes it the lightest shelter in this review!


For those who value weight above all else, let this be enough of an endorsement. That said, you do need to bring your poles, which isn't captured in the weight metric above. Did we also mention how easily its small profile fits into a fastpack or backpack? Bonus points!

The HMG Square Flat Tarp comes with 10 different pre-cut and tied guy lines (four are 6' long  six are 4' long) and a small stuff sack. While we love the small stuff sack  we have found it very hard to fold this tarp up well enough to easily get back into the sack! You will need to add a minimum of 6 stakes  although you may want as many as 10  and two adjustable trekking poles to complete this setup.
The HMG Square Flat Tarp comes with 10 different pre-cut and tied guy lines (four are 6' long, six are 4' long) and a small stuff sack. While we love the small stuff sack, we have found it very hard to fold this tarp up well enough to easily get back into the sack! You will need to add a minimum of 6 stakes, although you may want as many as 10, and two adjustable trekking poles to complete this setup.

A side by side comparison of the two smallest stuffing shelters in this review  the HMG Square Flat Tarp on the right  and the Black Diamond Beta Light (with stakes included!) on the left. These shelters define "Take anywhere."
A side by side comparison of the two smallest stuffing shelters in this review, the HMG Square Flat Tarp on the right, and the Black Diamond Beta Light (with stakes included!) on the left. These shelters define "Take anywhere."

Weather Resistance


This tarp features the best DCF fabric that gives it ultimate waterproof-ness, meaning it won't stretch when wet and can be used in low storm mode, all in contrast to SilNylon. That said, its weather resistance depends on its pitching configuration. A-frame mode provides rain and wind protection in well-protected to moderately exposed areas (e.g., the entire Appalachian Trail and most of the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails). Storm mode offers adequate protection in very exposed areas and is one of the great advantages of a flat tarp. It also features an incredible number of tie-out points. Sixteen line-locks line the perimeter of the tarp, and five guy-out points in the middle (or field) offers many adaptations for the weather you might encounter. No matter how you fold or pitch it, there's likely to be a guy out point right where you need it!


Perhaps the most significant drawback to a flat tarp is its lack of four-sided weather protection. Storm mode protects against wind and precipitation from three sides but occasionally spray, and wind can whip around into the entrance. In windy and wet weather, we like to seal off one side of the entry of a storm mode pitched tarp with a full-zip rain jacket, backpack, rocks, or snow.

Pitched in storm mode  there's lot of protected floor area inside  but little headroom. Water resistant bivy sacks  which weigh around 7 oz.  can be a useful for added storm protection. ZPacks Quantum Bivy shown here.
Pitched in storm mode, there's lot of protected floor area inside, but little headroom. Water resistant bivy sacks, which weigh around 7 oz., can be a useful for added storm protection. ZPacks Quantum Bivy shown here.

In the winter, you can close off one side with snow and "seal" the other (the door) with a jacket or pack. The same technique applies to an A-frame or different pitching configurations. If you want the best protection available, pairing this tarp with a lightweight, water-resistant bivy sack could be your best bet. While there are plenty of workarounds to help a tarp be as weather-resistant as possible, it's never going to be as bomber as an enclosed tent, such as the issue with any tarp set-up.

DCF fabric  formerly known as Cuben Fiber  is completely water proof  and will not absorb water either  meaning it won't stretch or sag when it gets wet. It is also tough  durable  and doesn't degrade with exposure to UV light. Did we mention its also lighter than SilNylon? What's not to love? Except for the cost...
DCF fabric, formerly known as Cuben Fiber, is completely water proof, and will not absorb water either, meaning it won't stretch or sag when it gets wet. It is also tough, durable, and doesn't degrade with exposure to UV light. Did we mention its also lighter than SilNylon? What's not to love? Except for the cost...

Also, while it can function in certain situations in the winter, where you have a super warm sleeping bag and heated water in bottles at your feet, we find the level of protection it offers if the weather gets dire to be too much of a risk is marginal. It's a much better option for most folks during the warmer seasons.

Adaptability


There is no doubt that this is the most adaptable shelter in this review. While we have mentioned A-frame mode and storm mode as the two most likely ways of setting it up for a good night's rest, there are many other methods to pitch this tarp.


Using two trekking poles, it can be set up in lean-to mode or some modification thereof, thereby making it wide enough for three. One also doesn't need to be confined to stakes and trekking poles but can use trees or branches, roots or rocks on the ground, or climbing gear (or rocks used as chockstones?) deposited in nearby cracks of rocks.

Simply playing around with different tarp setups in the Dark Canyon  we found that set up in lean-to mode  there is then plenty of room for three people to sleep side-by-side under this flat tarp  and a nice view!
Simply playing around with different tarp setups in the Dark Canyon, we found that set up in lean-to mode, there is then plenty of room for three people to sleep side-by-side under this flat tarp, and a nice view!

That said, we couldn't award it a perfect score regarding adaptability, simply because to be ready for any situation one might encounter in the great wide world, added components will be necessary. It is also worth noting that set up in some ways, like storm mode, if it's windy and raining, it could be very uncomfortable to hang out it in.

Although it wasn't needed on this pleasant night  we set up this tarp in a "high" storm mode for demonstration. The open end would of course be on the leeward side  giving great wind and rain protection on the lower windward side.
Although it wasn't needed on this pleasant night, we set up this tarp in a "high" storm mode for demonstration. The open end would of course be on the leeward side, giving great wind and rain protection on the lower windward side.

Ease of Set-up


This tarp comes with ten included and pre-cut tie-outs, four of which are 6' long, and six of which are 4' long. Using these included guy-outs means, you will want to carry ten stakes with you. As there are 16 line-locks around the exterior of the tarp, and five more on the field of the tarp, you will have to move the guy lines around as needed. For added versatility, you may want to add a few lengths of much longer lightweight cord to your kit for rigging to trees or other natural anchors.


The easiest way to set this tarp up is in storm mode, and this can be accomplished very quickly with one person, even in a bad wind. Loosely stake out all four corners, then add the single short pole to the middle of the leeward side, and adjust as needed, adding more stakes for better security. Setting it up in A-frame mode can be quite a bit trickier with only one person, and requires a bit of practice. This tarp does not have dedicated grommet holes at the ridgeline for slotting the tips of your trekking poles into, so the use of a clove hitch is necessary. Suffice to say that a knowledge of knots is mandatory for setting this tarp up, and the more experience you have with rigging, the easier it will be. While the set-up for the seasoned tarp sleeper isn't tough, it comparatively requires more knowledge and time than most other shelters in this review.

At the eave of the Square Flat Tarp is a simple line-lock. In order to attach it to your trekking poles  a clove hitch knot is most appropriate  shown here. While trying this knot to the bottom of the pole is easier  we like setting our poles up vertically so the pointy end provides good traction in the soft ground.
At the eave of the Square Flat Tarp is a simple line-lock. In order to attach it to your trekking poles, a clove hitch knot is most appropriate, shown here. While trying this knot to the bottom of the pole is easier, we like setting our poles up vertically so the pointy end provides good traction in the soft ground.

Value


For a tarp, this shelter is expensive. However, it is highly durable and won't rip or tear in the wind or around spiky plants. While the initial price is quite the investment, those that love and appreciate tarp camping through three-seasons of the year will find the most value in it.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp in the North Cascades  WA.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp in the North Cascades, WA.

Conclusion


The Hyperlite Mountain Designs Square Flat Tarp is a lightweight, highly adaptable flat tarp shelter, making it worthy of your consideration. For those who appreciate the lightness and quickness of tarp camping, this is the creme de la creme, the Cadillac, the diamond amongst tarp shelters. While it doesn't offer the same level of protection as a fully-enclosed tarp, its adaptability is one you can trust to set up anywhere. Perfect for the couple looking to go as light as possible.

Set up in A-frame mode  the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp has more than enough room for two people to sleep comfortably without threat of getting wet. It is also incredibly adaptable to a variety of other potential set ups.
Set up in A-frame mode, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp has more than enough room for two people to sleep comfortably without threat of getting wet. It is also incredibly adaptable to a variety of other potential set ups.


Amber King & Andy Wellman