Iron Horse Polyester Tarps vs. 16 oz Canvas Tarpaulins for Boat Covers

A boat is an investment, and it’s one that you want to protect. The right boat cover is the best way to prevent damage to your boat. You can purchase a pre-made boat cover, but you’re not certain you’ll get the quality you need.

Making your own boat cover isn’t an easy task, but it’s not as hard as you might imagine. YouTube is packed with instruction videos that are easy to follow. It is work, however, so you want a cover that’s going to last for years. The longer it lasts, the more money you save. This is why the fabric you choose is so important. 

Factors to Consider When Making Your Decision

Those are the different fabrics used to make boat covers. Knowing which one to choose is your next step. Consider these factors.


Condensation is a problem as it encourages mold and mildew growth. The material you use for a tarp cover has to be breathable. If it’s not, it’s not a good choice.


Does the color of the boat cover matter to you? If you need vibrant colors, make sure the tarp material you choose comes in the color options you want. 


Your boat cover needs to be durable. It has to stand up to repetitive use and abrasion. If it can’t stand up to winds, ice, salt, and sand, it’s going to need patching and eventual replacement sooner than expected. That means you spend more money.


Price has to be part of your decision. You need to be able to afford the tarp, but you also need to consider this. Suppose you spend $30 on a tarp to use as a boat cover, but that tarp rips within a year. Another option was twice as much, but most people get at least five years from the tarp. It’s better to spend the extra and have the tarp boat cover for a longer period. You save money over time.

The Season

Are you looking for a boat cover to protect your boat over the winter or one for between uses when your boat is tied up on the dock? Is it going to sit outside in snow and ice all winter? Are you in need of a tarp that can withstand the air currents while you’re trailering your boat from your home or storage area to a lake, river, or ocean?


Does the tarp you prefer have the size you need? Ideally, you want a fabric that is custom-sized. When you do get the tarp, is it cut size or finish size? If it is cut size, it’s going to end up smaller when the hems are added, so you need to make sure you order more than you need to ensure you don’t run out.

UV Protection

When you’re in a sunny climate, the sun will break down a tarp over time. You need UV-resistant materials that protect the fabric from UVA and UVB rays.

It’s believed that some plastics take thousands of years to break down completely. Sunlight can speed that up to decades. When you have your boat docked, it’s in the sun. Those UV rays will affect the plastic if you don’t have a tarp with UV protection or one designed for outdoor use.

Waterproof or Water-Resistant Materials

Water resistant and waterproof are not the same. Water resistance means water shouldn’t leak through, but it’s not guaranteed. If water is allowed to pool or rains are too heavy, water will soak through the fabric. 

Because you don’t want the seating and equipment within a boat to get wet, a waterproof tarp is a better choice. Just make sure it’s breathable to protect against mold and mildew.

About 16-Ounce Canvas Tarpaulins

Canvas is a durable cotton material. For the 16-ounce tarpaulin, the cotton weave is tight and receives a coating of oil and wax to help it withstand moisture. Together, these materials lead to a weight of one pound (16 ounces) per square yard. Due to the weight, this tarp is going to stand up to the weight of snow and ice, winds, and animals climbing on it. 

It’s a breathable cotton fabric, which is important for preventing condensation. Condensation happens when the air outside is cooler than the temperature of the items below the tarp. Condensation is frustrating as it can drip onto items below the tarp and you may not want water dripping onto any metal components or fabric.

However, 16-ounce canvas tarpaulins are water-resistant and not waterproof. It will resist mildew, but it’s not going to keep heavy rain from soaking through and getting into your boat. It also doesn’t stand up to continued sun exposure. Plus, you have an oil and wax coating that can damage your boat’s finish if water gets through it. This is why we do not recommend 16-ounce canvas tarpaulin for a boat cover.

The 16-ounce canvas tarps come in five colors and sizes ranging from 5 x 7 feet to 30 x 30 feet. There’s also a fire-retardant 16-ounce canvas tarp, but it’s also treated with chemicals that are not good for your boat’s finish.

About Iron Horse Polyester Tarps

Made from a silicone-coated polyester fabric, Iron Horse polyester tarps are twice as strong as canvas, but they weigh less. Iron Horse tarps weigh 15 ounces per square yard.

They have a dry finish that doesn’t stain, which makes them ideal for boat covers. They’re completely waterproof, but they still allow airflow, preventing problematic condensation from forming.

Iron Horse polyester tarps come in six colors and sizes ranging from 5 x 7 feet to 20 x 20 feet. Custom sizes are available.

Which Is the Best Option?

If we were picking our preferred tarp to use as a boat cover, what would we choose? Chicago Canvas & Supply believes that the best tarp for a boat cover is an Iron Horse polyester tarp. It stands out for several reasons.

  • It’s waterproof.
  • It won’t stain or cause discoloration.
  • It’s lightweight.
  • It’s breathable.
  • It’s twice as strong as a 16-ounce canvas.

Canvas tarps can stain the finish and are only water resistant, so they’re not a tarp we’d use to protect a boat. It’s not worth the risk to the boat. Choose Iron Horse for a stain-free, breathable, waterproof cover.

When you sign up for the Chicago Canvas promotional emails, you get 15% off your first order. Look for the sign-up box when you load the website. Prices are already discounted, but you’ll save even more. Order your boat cover tarp boating season and protect your investment.