How Do You Keep A Tarp From Collecting Water? 10 Expert Ideas

Tarp collecting water

Tarps are an incredibly versatile and useful tool in many situations. They provide shelter, protect gear and equipment, cover vehicle loads, and much more. However, one of the most common problems with tarps is that they tend to collect water when it rains or when there is dew. If left unaddressed, this can lead to the accumulation of large amounts of water, which can cause damage to the tarp or the objects underneath it. This guide highlights some effective ways to keep a tarp from collecting water.

Slope the tarp

The simplest and most effective way to prevent water from collecting on a tarp is to slope it. This means that you need to set up the tarp in such a way that the surface is angled downwards, allowing water to run off. You can achieve this by using poles, trees, or any other support to lift one end of the tarp while keeping the other end lower.

Tighten the tarp

Another effective way to prevent water from collecting on a tarp is to tighten it. A loose tarp tends to sag in the middle, creating a bowl-like shape that collects water. To prevent this, ensure the tarp is taut and securely tied to its supports. If the tarp is still sagging, consider adding more support or tightening the existing ones.

Use a tarp with a ridgeline

A ridgeline is a rope or cord that runs along the length of the tarp, creating a ridge that allows water to run off. If you use a tarp for camping or other outdoor activities, consider using a tarp with a ridgeline. This will help to prevent water from collecting in the middle of the tarp and keep you and your gear dry.

You can buy tarps designed with ridgelines to shed water and keep everything under dry. Check out this tarp kit with amazing reviews on Amazon.

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Create a gutter system

Another way to prevent water from collecting on a tarp is to create a gutter system. This involves attaching a rope or cord along the edge of the tarp, creating a gutter that allows water to run off. Using a drainage system, the water can then be directed away from the area underneath the tarp. This method is particularly useful if you use a tarp to cover a large area or expect heavy rain.

Add a tarp extension

Consider adding a tarp extension if you are using a tarp to cover a vehicle or equipment. This involves attaching an additional tarp to the existing one, creating an overhang that allows water to run off. The extension should be angled downwards to ensure water flows away from the object underneath the tarp.

Use a waterproof tarp

Using a waterproof tarp is an obvious but effective way to prevent water from collecting on the tarp. When purchasing a tarp, make sure it is made from waterproof material such as vinyl, polyethylene, or canvas. This will ensure that water slides off the surface of the tarp, preventing it from pooling.

Use a bungee cord or shock cord

Using a bungee cord or shock cord to secure your tarp can help to prevent water from collecting. Bungee cords allow the tarp to flex and move with the wind, preventing the tarp from sagging and creating pockets of water. Make sure to stretch the cords tight to keep the tarp taut.

Pro tip: you can add bungee cords anywhere to a tarp by using specialized tarp clips.

Simply attach the clip to the tarp where it is sagging or near where the water is pooling. Then stretch a bungee from the clip to an anchor point which will tighten the tarp allowing the water to run off.

Click the image to see our recommended tarp clips.

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Create a drainage system

If you are expecting heavy rain, creating a drainage system can effectively keep water from collecting on your tarp. Digging shallow trenches around the tarp’s perimeter can help channel water away from the area. Alternatively, you can place buckets or containers around the tarp’s edges to catch and drain the water.

Use a double-layered tarp

Using a double-layered tarp is another way to prevent water from pooling. The inner layer of the tarp can be slightly smaller than the outer layer, creating a gap that allows water to drain through. The gap between the two layers also helps to reduce condensation build-up, keeping the objects underneath the tarp dry.

Consider the location

Finally, when setting up a tarp, consider the location. Avoid setting up your tarp in low-lying or nearby areas prone to flooding. Choose a location on high ground with good drainage to prevent water from collecting.


In summary, keeping a tarp from collecting water is important to ensure that the tarp and the objects underneath it remain dry. Using a waterproof tarp, sloping the tarp, tightening it, using a tarp with a ridgeline, creating a gutter system, adding a tarp extension, using a bungee cord or shock cord, creating a drainage system, using a double-layered tarp, and considering the location are all effective ways to keep a tarp from collecting water. By following these tips, you can ensure that your tarp is always ready to provide protection and shelter whenever needed.