Winter weather hit some areas earlier than expected. Just after Labor Day weekend, Colorado saw its 100-degree weather vanish to make room for a snowstorm that was among the earliest snowfall that state’s seen. Since then, winter keeps making appearances throughout the U.S. Montana saw snow and below-zero temperatures just a few days before Halloween.
If you haven’t gotten your outdoor furniture, woodpiles, or snow-blocking door/window protection up before winter hits, it’s time to buy a tarp and get the tarps in place before the snow arrives. These are the best snow tarps to protect outdoor equipment, items, and exterior doors/windows from the snow.
Pair the Tarp to Its Purpose
Before you can decide what tarp to get, you need to consider why you need it. Do you need a tarp that air passes through? Is it better if it’s water-resistant or waterproof? Does the tarp need to stand up to wintry temperatures or are you in a warmer climate? Will the tarp be sitting under ice and snow or hung vertically and need to block out the wind?
The tarp you choose to cover your firewood may not be the same tarp you’d pick to protect a leaking roof. Think about the most common reasons people need tarps in the winter.
- Car, patio furniture, or lawn equipment covers (Cannot allow mildew to develop.)
- Playground equipment covers (Needs to prevent condensation to protect metal or wood surfaces.)
- Firewood protection (Must allow air through to prevent condensation while also being water-resistant.)
- Walls for a covered deck, porch, or patio (Needs to allow light in but keep snow and rain out.)
- Ice fishing shelter (Must keep out cold winds and if a heater is used fire retardant qualities are important.)
- Winter camping shelter (Must keep out cold winds and snow while also being fire retardant.)
- Outdoor door and window winterizing covers (Must withstand and keep out wintry winds.)
- Air conditioner cover (Must be waterproof and handle the weight of snow and ice.)
- Roof cover (Must be waterproof and withstand abrasion from ice and snow.)
- Protective garden and shrubbery cover (Breathability is important.)
As canvas, poly, and vinyl tarps all have specific strengths and weaknesses, you need to closely match the tarp to the qualities you need. For creating seasonal walls on a covered deck or patio, Clear PVC lets the sun in and keeps rain and snow out. If you get days or weeks of frigid weather, a tarp, such as the 18-ounce Vinyl Coated tarp is designed to handle freezing weather and can be a good choice for sheltering your ice fishing area from snow and freezing rain.
Treated Canvas tarps let air pass and prevent mildew, but the coating on them stains the items below them. Therefore, you wouldn’t want to use them to cover your boat or car for the winter. Instead, Iron Horse tarps offer breathability and strength without staining items.
Thickness vs. Weight
When you can say why you need the tarp, you can start considering the strength. Tarp specifications often list the weight or thickness. You may find some that give both, but you can’t always count on having both. That’s important to consider when choosing the durability of a winter tarp. Thickness is measured in mils, and weights are in ounces.
One mil is the equivalent of 1/1000th of an inch. Knowing how to quickly convert mil to inches is important. Take a Clear PVC tarp that is 20 mils thick, divide 20 by 1000 to get the thickness in inches. Chicago Canvas & Supply’s clear tarp is 2/100ths of an inch thick.
For tarps that are listed in terms of ounces, that’s the weight of one square yard of the tarp. What’s a square yard? A yard is 3 feet, so a square yard is 3×3 feet. Generally, the heavier the tarp, the thicker it is. That same Clear PVC tarp weighs 18 ounces.
Is a heavier, thicker tarp always the strongest tarp in the winter? Not necessarily. Some tarps can withstand freezing temperatures. Others will freeze and crack.
A Clear PVC tarp is thick, but it’s not designed for arctic conditions. If you want a tarp that can take bitter cold temperatures for a short time, try the Brown Green Heavy Duty tarp, which is 4 mils thick and 3 ounces per square yard.
What Are the Best Winter Canvas, Poly, and Vinyl Tarps?
What do we recommend as the best winter tarp? If you need some help getting started narrowing down your options, here’s a quick look at why we use different tarps throughout the winter.
Clear PVC Tarps
You have a drafty patio door. You’re not alone, these doors can be inefficient and allow drafts to get through. There are patio door insulation kits, but you might prefer to put up a barrier on the outside of your home. Clear PVC tarps are ideal for this reason. The natural light gets through, but cold air won’t pass.
Fire Retardant Canvas Tarps
For winter camping, Fire Retardant Canvas Tarps are a great choice. They resist some water and are designed for outdoor use. If they’re near a heater or within range of a campfire, they’re a much safer choice thanks to the fire-retardant coating.
They can stain the items below them because of the coating that’s applied to make them fire-retardant and water-resistant. Don’t use this type of tarp to cover your boat or car for the winter.
Heavy Duty Poly Tarps
A lot of people use Blue Poly tarps to cover their firewood for the winter. That’s a fine way to use the tarp, but heavy ice and snow may wear it down and lead to rips and tears. If you live in a particularly snowy area, consider a Heavy Duty Poly tarp instead. It’s more durable and offers the same benefits. Mildew won’t form, but your firewood stays dry until it’s needed.
Iron Horse Polyester Tarps
This is one of our favorite winter tarps. It’s a silicone-treated canvas/polyester blend that provides breathability while being waterproof. It resists mildew and isn’t likely to rip or tear if it’s exposed to windy conditions or heavy ice and snow. Best of all, it is an odor-free, stain-free tarp.
What can you use it for? It’s a great cover for your boat or car in the winter. You can also use it to cover patio furniture, grills, and other outdoor equipment that won’t fit in a shed or garage.
Silver UVR Heavy Duty Poly Tarps
Silver UVR Heavy Duty Poly tarps reflect the UV rays, which protects items from sun damage. This poly tarp keeps water off the item below, so you might want to consider it for a temporary roof cover while you’re waiting to have a leak repaired. It’s also a good choice for creating walls around a deck, porch, or patio.
Vinyl-Coated Polyester tarps are best for covering crops, hay, and farm equipment. You can also use them as canopies over a winter campsite or patio. As they are not fire-retardant tarps, you don’t want to put a heater below them.
Before you order, make sure you know your dimensions. Our tarps are cut size, so you must add a few inches per side for the hems and seams. It’s even easier to pick up the phone and call Chicago Canvas to talk to our tarp experts about the tarp you need for your winter storage or activities.