The Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) 8’6” x 8’6” Flat Tarp is a versatile, strong, and waterproof tarp made of Dyneema Composite Fabric, weighing only 9 oz/ 255 grams (an 8′ x 10′ model is also available). It has a ton of tie-outs for pitching it in many different ways, and all of the perimeter tie-outs use Lineloc tensioners to make tightening the guylines quick and easy. It’s expensive, but if you’re looking for a premium quality, well-constructed, durable, ultralight tarp that can fulfill many duties, this is a strong contender.
Specs at a Glance
- Tarp Weight (manufacturer): 8.85 oz/ 251 grams
- Tarp Weight (tested) 9.0 oz/ 255 grams
- Stuff sack weight (tested): 0.3 oz/ 8.5 grams
- Guyline weights (tested): each 4 foot guyline: 0.1 oz/2.8 grams; each 6 foot guyline: 0.2 oz/ 5.7 grams
- Dimensions: 8’6” x 8’6” square / 2.59 x 2.59 meters (also available in 8’ x 10’/ 2.59 x 3.05 meters)
- Tarp Material : 0.8 oz/sq. Yd. / 26 g/sq. meter Dyneema Composite Fabric
- Ridgeline Seam construction: Fully Bonded (not sewn)
- Color: White (Spruce Green is available in the same weight for an upcharge)
- Tensioners: Linelocs
- Tie-outs: Sixteen(16) Lineloc-equipped perimeter tie-outs, plus five (5) on the tarp body and two (2) sewn in D-rings for attaching a bivy or nest under the ridge line
- Included: Guylines: 10 guylines, six 4’ / 1.2 meters and four 6’/ 1.8 meters lengths. UHMWPE core, 2.8 mm line, non-reflective, stuff sack.
- For complete specs see the Flat Tarp page at Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Why a Tarp?
A tarp tends to attract two kinds of users. One is perfectly content to pitch it in an A-frame every night and uses it because of its low weight and connection to nature. I’ve witnessed incredible sunrises the moment I opened my eyes from under a tarp that I wouldn’t have seen from inside a tent.
The other is a tinkerer, who sees a flat tarp as a sheet of origami, whose shapes are only limited by their imagination. They like to play and will practice in the yard or the local park with various shapes before heading out into the woods. They are excited to have the knowledge and experience to tailor their pitch exactly to the conditions they face–from high and breezy when coverage needs are minimal to buttoned-up full coverage for a storm.
The first user above might be more content with a catenary-cut tarp. A “cat-cut” curve on the ridgeline approximates the sag of gravity and thus allows you to pitch it drum tight. Sometimes the edges are also cat-cut to be able to pull them extra tight. These tarps are more limited in terms of pitching options since the pitch needs to take advantage of the catenary curve, but they are easy to use.
The second user appreciates the benefits of a flat tarp. Since these tarps don’t have catenary curves, they can be harder to pitch drum tight, but they are much more flexible in terms of the potential shapes you can create with them. The HMG Flat Tarp is such a tarp–completely square and flat, with no catenary curves either on the ridgeline or the edges.
While it works great as a standalone shelter (always paired with a bug-net if you’re in tick country like me), its flexibility allows it to be adaptable to many different scenarios for diverse trips: a hammock tarp, an overhead shelter to get out of the rain during a canoe trip, a cooking and dining fly for family camping, a front porch for your tent, etc. It’s light enough to take as a solo shelter but big enough for two people (as long as you’re not much over 6’ tall).
The HMG Flat Tarp is constructed with 0.8 oz/ sq. yd Dyneema Composite Fabric (“DCF8”), the same material used in HMG’s Echo and Ultamid shelters. A hem is sewn around the perimeter of the tarp, but the ridgeline is fully bonded–no stitching.
There are a ton of tie-out points on the tarp, including:
- 16 Lineloc tensioners sewn around the perimeter, 5 on each side (if you’re doing the math, remember the corner guy-outs each count for 2 sides) with bonded reinforcement patches
- A tie-out in the very center of the tarp, with a small circular reinforcement patch
- 4 mid-panel tie-outs with small circular reinforcement patches. If you imagine the tarp pitched as an A-frame (like in the photo at the top of the article), there is a midpoint tie-out at one-third and two-thirds the length of the tarp on either side. You can attach guylines here and stake them out to create more room under the tarp.
- On the underside of the tarp along the ridgeline, there are two D-rings attached via webbing and small circular reinforcement patches to rig up bug netting or a bivy.
The D-rings are located to pair with an Echo II Insert, but you can rig up any net tent or bivy to them. And, if you are sleeping 2 people underneath the tarp, since DCF is a sandwich of Dyneema between 2 sheets of Mylar film, I don’t see any reason you couldn’t flip it over so the placement of the mid-panel tie-outs would work better on the underside of your tarp–as tie-out points for two bivy sacks above the heads of each person to lift the bivy netting off their faces. It just makes the use of the Linelocs somewhat more awkward.
The construction is robust. In addition to the reinforcement patches, the perimeter tie-out webbing holding the Lineloc tensioners are each sewn with three bartacks to the tarp, and a fourth on the ribbon itself. I’m assuming this fourth bartack is to take the impact of tension from the guyline before the stitches on the tarp itself do.
Guy-out Points and Guylines
It is rare to need to guy-out all 16 points on any particular pitch, so HMG includes 10 UHMWPE-core guylines of 4’ (6 count) or 6’ (4 count) for you to add to the Linelocs where you need them. Unfortunately, a few got lost at some point so I only have 6 of the original guylines left. The guylines are blue and white striped but do not have any reflective tracer woven in.
The included guylines are a little short for some pitches, so you may want to purchase more 2.8 mm line and cut it to the lengths you most need. HMG sells a roll of 50 feet of the guyline they use on this tarp here if you want your extras to match, but you can find guyline from a number of different vendors.
Being DCF, the HMG Flat Tarp is low weight (only half a pound) but somewhat bulkier than a similarly-sized silnylon or silpoly tarp. We recommend folding and rolling DCF shelters instead of stuffing them into their stuff sacks to help preserve their longevity.
The stuff sack can seem small, but I found that when I kept folding the tarp in half until it was about 8 inches wide (and 8.5 feet long) I could roll it up and it fit easily. If you fold and roll it hastily or sloppily, it won’t come close to fitting. But often I’ll leave the stuff sack behind and just fold and roll, weaving the guylines left and right across the tarp as I roll to keep them from tangling, and put it directly into my pack.
DCF does not stretch or sag when wet (though it can deform when under lots of uneven tension) and it doesn’t absorb water, so if you pitch it tight, it should stay tight. In the morning, give the tarp a good shake or wipe it down with a bandana or a small piece of sponge sheet and you won’t be carrying additional water weight with you.
Here are some quick tips for camping with the HMG Flat Tarp:
Since the longer your guylines are, the easier it is for them to get tangled, I like to keep the stock lengths of short guyline on the tarp and bring the quick-attach guylines from my REI Quarter Dome SL tarp with me. They have little toggles that work perfectly with the stake loops on the HMG guylines to extend the guylines as long as you need.
When I used the HMG as an overhead shelter for cooking for the family in the rain, I strung together as many as three of these guylines in succession to have the length I needed. It was much quicker than swapping out guylines in camp or knotting guylines together and made for a lightning-quick breakdown. To make your own quick-attach guylines, you can get toggles from Ripstop By the Roll.
Some pitches, like my favorite, the “Tarp Tent” featured here, use a trekking pole handle to “raise the roof” and create more headroom. While some tarps have dedicated large reinforcement panels for this, the HMG Flat Tarp doesn’t, so I try to position my trekking pole handle underneath a small guyout reinforcement patch to prevent deformation or damage to the seam, but this isn’t always an option due to location.
Tie the stopper knot on each guyline relatively loosely so that you can undo it–removing the stopper knot is necessary to be able to switch guylines from one location to another.
You don’t need to add guylines where you are pegging the tarp to the ground. Just slip a thin stake through the webbing the linelocs are attached to and twist it a half turn to insert it into the ground.
Pitching a flat tarp is a skill that requires practice to get a good pitch, especially the less intuitive shapes. To really geek out on this, check out our article on Square Tarp Pitches and download the PDF we’ve linked. Go play, and find out what shapes you like and under what conditions you might use them. Memorize them through repetition so they become second nature. Then you’ll have a bunch of possibilities when you reach camp. For starters, here are a few pitches I particularly like:
Plow Point/ Diamond
Tarp Tent (no connection to Tarptent, the company)
Comparable Flat Tarps
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp is an expensive tarp, no doubt. But that’s the only con I can find for it, unless you’re much over 6 feet tall, in which case you may want to go up to the larger, rectangular 8’ x 10’ size HMG offers. A lot of thought has gone into the placement of tieouts, the hardware, and the robust construction. I really enjoyed the flexibility and multi-use potential of this tarp, its ultralight weight, and its reliable waterproofness. If the price is not an issue for you, this is a fantastic tarp that should serve you for many years to come.
Disclosure: Hyperlite Mountain Gear donated a tarp for review.
About the author
Greg Pehrson is an ultralight backpacker who was bitten hard by the MYOG (make-your-own-gear) bug. He repairs, tinkers, and builds gear, often seeking to upcycle throwaway items or repurpose things from outside the backpacking world.
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