Canvas vs. Vinyl Tarps

Selecting the right tarp is not as easy as it may seem. There are many different options to choose from, which makes finding the right one much more challenging. It’s best to narrow down your options by choosing the tarp material first. Two of the most popular tarp materials are canvas and vinyl. Canvas is a natural material made out of 100% cotton, whereas vinyl is a synthetic plastic. Which is the right material for your needs? Take a look at these pros and cons of each material before making this decision:

The Look and Feel

The most obvious difference between canvas and vinyl tarps is the look and feel of each material. Canvas is known as a more rugged and natural material, so it has a coarse texture and matte appearance. On the other hand, the surface of vinyl is slightly glossy, so it has a bit of shine. Vinyl has a rubber-like texture, making it much smoother than canvas.

The Durability

Another important factor to consider when choosing a tarp is the material’s durability. Both canvas and tarp are heavy duty, durable materials that are designed to withstand wear and tear. However, the durability of canvas cannot compare to the unparalleled durability of vinyl. Vinyl tarps tend to last longer than other tarps because they are difficult to damage, so keep this in mind when making your decision.

Resistance to Environmental Elements

Tarps may be exposed to a number of environmental elements, including heat, water, and wind. For this reason, it is important to know how well the tarp will hold up when exposed to these elements.

All vinyl is waterproof whereas treated canvas tarps are water resistant. These two terms may seem similar, but they are actually very different. Waterproof means that the material is not affected or damaged in any way when exposed to water. This means there’s no need to panic if a vinyl tarp is accidentally exposed to water. However, the term water resistant means that the material can prevent the penetration of water to some degree. A little bit of rainwater or a splash of water may not damage a canvas tarp, however if water is left on top of the tarp, it will eventually seep through and cause damage. Therefore, it is best to choose a vinyl tarp if it will be exposed to water.

Vinyl is also more resistant to mold and mildew growth than canvas. Mold and mildew grow in warm, damp environments. It can be very difficult to get rid of mold and mildew once it starts to grow, so it’s best to prevent the growth altogether. But, prevention is hard when you are working with a canvas tarp. This is true regardless of whether or not the canvas tarp is treated to slow down or prevent the growth of mold and mildew. For this reason, a vinyl tarp is the best choice for people who plan on working in environments where mold or mildew growth is a real possibility.

Canvas is a breathable fabric, whereas vinyl is not. As a result, a canvas tarp will not trap as much heat from the sun as a vinyl tarp will. However, vinyl tarps are typically treated with a solution that protects the material from damaging UV rays. Heat should not negatively affect either one of these tarps, but if you want extra protection from UV rays, vinyl is the best choice. Vinyl can also withstand extremely cold temperatures, making it ideal for all environments.

Vinyl tarps are often used as truck and trailer covers because of their high resistance to wind. This material is flame retardant as well, so it is highly resistant to fire. These are two more examples of the many environmental elements that will not severely damage vinyl tarps.

The Price

Price is another factor to take into consideration when choosing between a vinyl and canvas tarp. Prices can vary depending on the size and quality of the tarp, but in general, vinyl is more expensive per foot than canvas. Vinyl is actually one of the most expensive tarp materials. However, it’s important to think about the price in relation to the lifespan of the material. Many people are willing to pay extra for vinyl because of its durability and resistance to environmental elements.

The Impact on the Environment

Living a green lifestyle is important to a lot of people, so many customers are eager to find out which material has a lesser impact on the environment. Canvas is much more environmentally friendly than vinyl. A lot of pollution is released into the atmosphere during the creation of vinyl, but the same cannot be said for the production of canvas.

Vinyl is recyclable, but many recycling facilities will not accept this material because they do not have the equipment to process it. Finding a facility that processes vinyl is challenging, so this material often ends up in landfills. However, canvas is a cotton material that is easy to recycle and widely accepted at recycling centers across the country. Plus, cotton is a natural fiber that is completely biodegradable, so it will break down naturally even if it is accidentally sent to a landfill instead of a recycling center. If you’re concerned about choosing an eco-friendly tarp material, canvas is the clear winner in this category.

Are you ready to choose the perfect canvas or vinyl tarp? Chicago Canvas & Supply is your leading source for textiles, theatre fabrics, tarps, dropcloths, and more. Tell us what you’re looking for so we can help you choose the right products for your needs. For more information, or to request free material samples, contact us today by calling 1-866-389-2218 or emailing email@chicagocanvas.com.

Camping Tarps 101

Ahhh, the great outdoors! All campers know that your trip is only as good as your survival skills and your tools. That’s why you need a great camping tarpaulin—they can come in handy for an unlimited amount of outdoor situations. Make your adventure a smooth one. Use this post as your guide to choosing the right camping tarp and getting the most use out of it.

Which kind of tarps should be used for camping?

You’d want something waterproof, durable and weatherproof. So, the best tarps for camping would be either vinyl-coated polyester tarps or iron horse polyester tarps. You can also use some lightweight camping tarps, like poly tarps, for short-term light-duty use (never for pitching tents or providing shelter, though).

Tarp vs Tent

Tarps can be used as shelter, but should you use them instead of a tent? Well, it depends on your preference. If you want to “rough it”, be our guest and pitch a tarp to use as shelter. However, tarps are usually used for shelter under “survivalist” situations. For families and less experienced campers, we recommend complementing your tent with a couple different tarps to provide extra protection and a ton of extra use throughout your trip.

Uses for Tarps While Camping

A tarpaulin could have an endless amount of use on your camping trip. Use it practically (such as ground covers, protection covers, privacy screens, etc.) and for survival! Check out just some of what you can use tarps for while camping.

Tent ground tarp – A tarpaulin can be placed underneath the tent on the ground or inside the tent covering the floor to block out moisture and add extra protection (this will also prolong the life of your tent!).

Ground sheets – Pull out your tarp to sit on during picnics, hikes or just around your campsite.

Rain barrier – Have extra protection in case a storm hits, protect yourself and your stuff against the mud, create a short-term shelter while bringing gear in/out of your tent, and cover your campfire.

Wind – Tarps can act as a windbreaker for your shelter.

Shade – Vinyl-coated poly tarps are UV-treated, so they protect you against the sun and its rays. Ideal for desert camping! Use this helpful video to learn how to hang a tarp from trees over your campsite.

Camp kitchen shelter – You should never cook inside your tent. Instead, create a cooking area with a tarp secured from above to protect against the elements. If your tarp will be next to an open flame, you will need a flame-retardant tarp.

Campfire protection – A must for when there’s unkind weather. A tarp can also help keep the warmth in, making your campsite cozy.

Tarp hammock – A comfortable and useful rest area/survival shelter. If you’d like a tutorial for this, here’s an excellent video from Survival Tracker. You can even go a step further and protect your hammock with another tarp shelter (see tutorial).

Tarping a Campsite

There are several different ways to tarp a campsite. Here are three of the most popular tarp shelter configurations:

  1. Diamond Fly
    • What it is: a diagonal pitch using a square tarp.
    • What you’ll need: Trees/poles, stakes, guy line and a square tarp.
    • Ideal for: Personal shelter, protecting against rain/sun, maintaining warmth.
  1. A-Frame
    • What it is: a tarp that’s pitched from the middle.
    • What you’ll need: 8×8 or 8×10 tarp, paracord, loops, stakes, lighter and a knife.
    • Ideal for: Roomier shelter (with two walls a roof) for campers, pets and equipment; shelter during snow or rain (because the angle allows for runoff)
  1. Envelope Tarp Shelter
    • What it is: A tarp that’s pitched from each corner at different heights to create a pocket for shelter.
    • Ideal for: Protection from ground and one side.
    • What you’ll need: guy line, stakes, trees/poles, tarp.

These are just a few ways you can pitch a camping tarp. Which others do you rely on? Let us know in the comments below.

Until next time–stay happy, campers! 😊

Unsure which kind of tarp of what tarp size to purchase?

GG Knows – A Dictionary of Textile Terms

Meet GG, one of the beloved founders of Chicago Canvas & Supply. Although she’s no longer with us, her vast knowledge of industry terminology lives on in this textile dictionary! Each month, we’ll pull from GG’s personal collection of terms—don’t miss out by subscribing to our blog over on the right-hand side of this webpage.

Ready to learn something new? Let’s get started!
Read more

40 Tarpaulin Uses

One of the reasons we love tarps is because they’re so versatile. If you buy one for your home, we’re sure you’ll be bringing it out time and time again. Check out some of the creative uses for tarps!

Creative Tarpaulin Uses

Camping

DIY Tarp Tent

  1. You can pitch a tent from your tarp.
  2. Protect the bottom of your tent.
  3. Use as a windbreaker.
  4. Make privacy dividers.
  5. Create shower/restroom area.

Shelter

  1. Keep wood dry.
  2. Animal shelter.
  3. Keep your fire in the rain.
  4. Shade yourself, or your supplies from the sun.
  5. Sleep or protect yourself from weather under DIY shelter.

Activities

  1. Cover supplies.
  2. Make a hammock.
  3. Hunting and fishing gear.
  4. Carry/transport supplies (firewood, food, etc.) around.

Hiking

  1. Create a make-shift picnic or rest area during breaks.
  2. Make a rain poncho.

Survival

  1. Gather water.
  2. Make a floatation device.
  3. Camouflage (with the right color, like olive drab).
  4. Use as a gurney to transport injured individuals.

Home

  1. Use to treat roof leaks.
  2. Use as a ground cover for simple clean-up.
  3. Protect floor while painting.
  4. Warm plants on cold nights.
  5. Use as temporary covers for renovation, construction, and unfinished projects.
  6. Make temporary room divider curtains.
  7. Cover and protect storage.
  8. Protect your carpet while moving.
  9. Cover patio furniture during rain/snow or shade from sun.
  10. Protect bikes from snow/rain/sun.
  11. Equipment and supply cover (sports, construction, garden, wood etc.).
  12. Use instead of a painters drop cloth.
  13. Play space for kids.

Vehicles

  1. Car/truck covers (inside and outside the vehicle).
  2. Boat/yacht covers.
  3. Boat windows.
  4. Boat sail.

Fun

  1. Use on a hot day as a slip-n-slide.
  2. Make your own waterproof bags.
  3. Use for the kid’s fort.

Find Tarps for Every Occasion

Waterproof - Water-resistant - Light- to Heavy-Duty

Don’t Come up Short with Cut Size Tarps

The Difference of Cut Size vs. Finish Size for Tarps

What a frustrating feeling when you go to use your recently ordered tarp to cover your equipment, gym floor, or use for a tent…whatever the use, the tarp is just a few inches too short!  But you measured, right?  Of course you did.  You are sure of it. So unless some mythical creature lurking inside the box trimmed that heavy duty tarp exactly even while in transit, re-hemmed the tarp and carefully refolded the tarp as a practical joke, something went awry.  Well, what likely happened is you ordered a cut size tarp. What does that mean? Let us break it down for you.
Read more