Tarps against sun rather than rain?

Are CCS or similar nylon tarps effective as sun shelters? Does anyone use them that way? Does it depend on the color?

It hardly ever rains here, but when camping on river gravel bars there’s typically no shade available till the sun sets. I’ve been thinking about getting maybe a 10x12.

For your use
a sunshade would be cheaper and freestanding… Its possible to use a tarp but you will have to be inventive. A 10 x 12 will give you less floor space than this, when you factor in overhang.


And note that I am a long time user of a CCS tarp. Everything has a best use.

The Kelty Sunshade is NOT waterproof.

Agree, but might weigh options

– Last Updated: Dec-31-13 11:16 AM EST –

The Kelty Sun Shade is nice and easy to set up. You CAN do just as well or better with a 10 x 12 tarp, but as Kim says you'll need to be creative (which is actually kind of fun with tarps, but it requires extra time). I say you can possibly do "better" with the tarp because the Kelty does have sloping walls, and in an ideal set-up situation you can avoid that problem with a tarp, but again, it's more work, especially if there's much wind. The Kelty is extremely easy to stabilize against wind without the need to resort to ingenuity.

Oh, and to directly answer the OP's question, it won't matter too much what the color of the tarp is. Eliminating direct contact with the sunshine is more important than making it a little darker beneath the tarp by use of a darker color. The Kelty Sun Shade is white, and being semi-enclosed, it might actually be a bit cooler inside as a result, even if it's not darker.

The downside of the Kelty Sun Shade is that it is many times heavier and takes up many times as much space when packed as does a 10 x 12 CCS tarp. You might need to weigh convenience against weight and bulk, and decide what matters most to you. Oh, and that weight difference will be a lot less if you bring along four or five good-quality poles for the tarp (CCS poles are extremely good, and adjustable, but they are heavier than flimsy poles from a big-box store).

Things like Kelty Sun Shades,
EZ UP canopies and their ilk are easy and handy to have along, but as previously mentioned are heavy. If weight is an issue a tarp or river wing can easily be rigged using oars or paddles.

when I wrote sun shelter
I really just meant any protection against the sun, not necessarily the shelter shape. Could just be a lean.

I’m pretty sure everyone realizes that
Even so, there’s a lot to be said for the ease of use of a free-standing unit like the Kelty, and I took that to be the reasoning behind Kim’s recommendation. On the other hand, when a tarp is rigged as a simple lean-to with one edge at or near ground level, it needs to be pretty long in the “lean” direction to have useable space beneath it, especially in summer when the mid-day sun is high overhead. A tarp that’s 12 feet long would better serve if the whole thing is well off the ground, though it could still be set up in the form of a single, sloping plane.

CCS Tarp in light color is perfect

– Last Updated: Dec-31-13 1:23 PM EST –

as sun shade. This is really what mine are used for in the arctic barrenland where there are no trees, lots of sun, lots of wind and very little rain. There are times when we are desperate to get out of the sun and wind for a while. Not unlike the tropics. CCS tarp is much more versatile piece of kit than a dedicated sun shade IMHO. It can be set solidly with practice in almost any environment. It is water proof. It can be combined with a second tarp if you have a big group. They are very durable if you take care of them. Highly recommended. They are expensive though so if you are not doing a lot of tripping you might be able to do just fine with something else. I have no experience with the Kelty Sunshade but I predict that it will not hold up if you get any serious wind. I could be wrong - but you might want to ask around if big wind is an issue for you.

The CCS tarps are lovely, but expensive.

They are expensive because they are well made, from very light-weight silicone impregnated nylon.

That makes them light and waterproof.

If it doesn’t rain where you are, then you are wasting the waterproof part.

If the light weight is an important factor, then go for it. If a few extra ounces isn’t a deal breaker for you, then a much less expensive urethane coated nylon tarp will work just as well for a sun shade.

Or, you could buy a used Kelly Noah’s tarp that has lost its water proofosity.

Not as effective
I have a 10x12 green CCS tarp that I rarely use on trips. I’ve set it up in my yard several times and would say it is somewhat effective as a sun shelter. I mean, it’s obviously better than nothing. The light bleeds through the translucent nylon, of course, and is not completely blocked.

I have a old fashioned tarp shelter that is erected on five poles. That material is effectively opaque with a white (or light) coating on the sky side. It is much more effective at blocking out the light and heat. Of course, it’s much, much heavier than a CCS tarp, and I never considered taking it on a canoe trip, although that’s possible with enough canoe space.

The problem with a tarp in treeless places is that you need to have poles. You could get by with two poles, but you really need five to maximize the under-tarp shelter area, especially if you want to stand and walk under the whole thing.

If there are enough trees for a tarp without poles, then I usually just use the trees as my shade and don’t bother with a tarp just for sun purposes.

new word
"water proofosity". I like it.

This thread got me thinking about our next outing to the Everglades. Usually one treeless beach is involved in camping. In the past we have usually hunkered down in the shade of the tent, rotating sides as needed.

But its usually windy and deadmen can be scarce too. I think I am going to buy some more poles for my CCS tarp and make do. The thought of chasing an errant sun shelter in the wind is not appealing.

Good topic for conversation though.

spent a lot of time under tarps
Found darker does block more sun. Have used painters poles to great success as tarp poles. Three being a good number to set up a typical a-frame, two for the ends, and prop up a long side with the third pole.

Maybe overkill -
But keep in mind that the CCS tarps have the advantage of very strong and reliable attachment points which is key if you are dealing with significant wind. So even in the unlikely circumstance that you never have to deal with rain - if wind is an issue and you need or want reliability - think about springing for a good CCS tarp. Properly cared for they will last a long long time.

I use the Home Depot brown ones
to cover my boats. Very good at preventing UV damage. have to replace them yearly .

Bleeding light and overkill
were my thoughts as well. A polyurethane coated nylon tarp at half the price may address the overkill, but probably still bleeds much light. My cheap poly tarp would block the light better but it’s too unruly to be a joy to take along.

Btw, it is my understanding that the silicone treatment not only makes the material rain proof, but also increases resistance to tearing.

Thats what Dan says
and as a long time Tundra Tarp owner and user ( it sees some three weeks up each year…I don’t put it up unless I think it will rain) its going on two hundred uses. No mini tears even.

Try one of these


Here’s a tarp trick
My wife makes drawstring bags with a piece of webbing sewn around the bag a few inches from the bottom. The webbing has a heavy stitch across it every few inches. The bags can be pulled over a paddle and the tarp tied or clipped to the webbing one side, the guy lines on the other to make a pole for the tarp. The drawstring can be tied below the blade for extra security.

The big bags carry the tarp and fit a euro paddle the small bags carry stakes and lines and go on the Greenland paddles. You can make shorter pouches w/out drawstrings too but they are not as useful.



I built a couple “lean to” with a sunbrella knock off for my permanent outdoor sun protection for sea kayaks for less than $100. It works great and drys after rains so no mildew as when I previously used a tarp.

Need a shed or garage, however alas, the lean to makes do for now.

Just passing by, but as another option you can check out a military surplus store in your area. They should have the canvas type tarps which are rather great for sun. With proper maintenance they last for a very long time. That’s what we use.

As for silicon coating/treatment - you’re right, melenas. It certainly makes tarps more durable, but also heavier.

I have an Alps Mountaineering sunshade. It is a bit heavier than the Kelty and it works well for shade and is good in the rain too. What its not very good in is wind unless you really stake it down. We occasionally will set it up in a shallow spot on shoal and sit under it on a sunny day,.