Tarps can be made from a variety of materials, including polyethylene, canvas and vinyl. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to understand the properties of each before making a decision.

Tarps have been around for centuries and have been used for a variety of purposes, from protecting outdoor equipment to providing temporary shelter. With so many different types of tarps available on the market, it can be tough to figure out which one is best for your needs and why.

The backstory of tarps

The use of tarps can be traced back to ancient times when nomadic people used animal hides to cover their shelters and protect their belongings from the elements. Tarps as we know them today evolved from these early forms of shelter and protection.

More recently, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tarps were primarily made from canvas, a heavy-duty and durable material that was ideal as the use of tarps grew with industries such as construction, agriculture, and transportation expanded and needed reliable, low-cost solutions for protecting their equipment and materials

Then, in the mid-20th century, the advent of new synthetic materials such as polyethylene (PE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) led to the development of lighter and more affordable tarps. These new materials offered improved resistance to water, UV light, and other elements, making them ideal for a wide range of outdoor uses.

Today, because they’re more versatile and affordable than ever, tarps continue to be an essential tool in a variety of households and industries. And, with new advances in materials and manufacturing techniques leading to ever-more specialised tarps for specific uses and applications, such as ute tray covers, tarps are going to be a staple for a long time to come.

What are tarps made from? Common materials used in tarps


Polyethylene (PE) is a thermoplastic polymer made from the monomer ethylene . It is a versatile and widely used material that is commonly found in many consumer and industrial products such as:

  • Plastic bags, films, and packaging materials
  • Food storage containers
  • Water bottles
  • Automotive parts
  • Wires and cables

PE tarps are made from High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) which is applied as lamination to each side of a fabric scrim.  PE tarp edges are typically heat-sealed or “welded” and often contain a synthetic cord in the hem to improve edge stiffness.


Polyethylene is one of the most commonly used materials for tarps because it is affordable, lightweight, and durable. This makes PE tarps ideal for a variety of outdoor applications, from covering outdoor equipment to providing temporary shelter.    


One of the disadvantages of polyethylene tarps is that they are not very breathable, which means that moisture can build up underneath the tarp. Additionally, polyethylene tarps tend to be lighter in weight and are more prone to tearing, which makes them less suitable for repetitive heavy-duty applications.


Canvas is a durable and heavy-duty material that is commonly used in the manufacture of tarps. It is made from cotton or synthetic fibres that are woven into a tightly woven fabric. The tight weave of canvas makes it naturally water-resistant, while its breathable nature allows it to prevent condensation buildup. Canvas is commonly used in products like:

  • Tents and camping gear
  • Backpacks and duffel bags
  • Sail covers, boat covers, and boat tarps


Canvas tarps are known for their durability, breathability, and water resistance. This makes them ideal for outdoor applications where protection from the elements is important. Additionally, canvas tarps are known for their long-lasting qualities, which makes them a good investment for those who use tarps frequently.


One of the main disadvantages of canvas tarps is their weight. Canvas tarps are much heavier than PE and PVC  tarps, which makes them less suitable for applications where portability is important. Additionally, canvas tarps are more expensive than PE and PVC  tarps, which can make them less accessible to some consumers and can be prone to mould if not dried correctly.


Vinyl is a synthetic polymer made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin. It is a versatile and durable material that is often used in making tarps, but it’s also used in the making of rainwear, pool covers, and even home flooring.

PVC tarps are made by spreading a thin layer of PVC on each side of a synthetic scrim.  The strength of the tarp is dependent on the thickness of the PVC layer and the density of the scrim. PVC tarp edges can be heat sealed in similar manner to PE tarps, but can also be sewn directly or with webbing for additional strength and durability.


Vinyl tarps are known for their waterproof qualities, making them ideal for applications where protection from the elements is essential. Additionally, vinyl tarps are durable and easy to clean, making them a good choice for those who use tarps frequently.


Like PE tarps,  solid vinyl tarps are not breathable, which can lead to moisture buildup underneath the tarp. Additionally, vinyl tarps can become brittle over time if not properly treated with UV protection, especially in extreme weather conditions.

Other materials and construction(e.g. mesh, cotton, etc.)

There are many other materials used in tarps such as cotton and synthetic fabrics. s. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to consider these when choosing a tarp. 

Mesh tarps are made from similar materials to solid tarps however they differ in being constructed from woven threads.  These tarps are relatively lightweight, flexible and breathable, making them ideal for outdoor applications, particularly involving light diffusion and where wind may be an issue. On the other hand, cotton tarps are durable and water-resistant, but they can be heavy and expensive. It’s important to consider your specific needs and the type of application you will be using the tarp for when making your decision.

Choosing material tarps for you

Choosing the best material for a tarp depends on the specific needs and requirements of the user. While canvas is known for its heavy-duty and durable nature, polyethylene is a versatile and widely used material that offers relatively low cost, durability and weather resistance. For repetitive heavier-use trade and industrial applications, vinyl may be more appropriate.

Spider Tarp Australian Tarps

To learn more about the best material for your specific needs, take a look at the available Spider Tarp covers and Spider Tarp cords for more information. Spider Tarp uses a range of high-quality materials including UV-treated polyethylene (PE) and  vinyl (PVC), coated fabrics to manufacture their waterproof covers and heavy-duty mesh cargo nets. Each tarp material is chosen for its durability and functionality, and application.

With a wide range to suit all budgets and needs, Spider Tarp offers a variety of options for all your load cover requirements. Take a look at the shop to learn more about each individual product, or contact us to learn more.

Do I need to Cover My Trailer Load?

According to the National Transport Commission and the Load Restraint Guide for Light Vehicles, 2018 edition, all loads that are hauled by truck, ute, or trailer must be adequately restrained. In all cases but the lightest loads, a tarp is normally not enough of a restraint to be relied upon by itself. 

However, in conjunction with other lashings, a strong trailer cover fastened with appropriate attachment cords is a great way to help not only keep the load secure and constrained but also to protect it from wind and inclement weather.

Some light loads might include garden waste, such as grass clippings, small branches, garden and household rubbish, or similar, that you are taking to the tip. The sides of your ute or trailer are typically enough to constrain the waste as long as it’s covered by a tarp. Another light load might be light building materials, which could include:

  • drywall
  • plasterboard
  • plastic pipes
  • other items that could be dislodged by the wind

A heavy-duty tarp will usually be enough to hold these materials in place. The same holds true for recreational items like camping gear, climbing gear, or equipment for the beach.

Remember, a tarp by itself will normally only suffice if the load is below the sides of the trailer. For items that protrude above the sides, additional lashings will be necessary, like Spider-Cords. Heavy and bulky items, such as refrigerators, desks and beds may need to be restrained by load-rated straps and lashings. 

How to Cover a Trailer with a Tarp

When tarping a trailer for transporting goods or camping, the first decision is to decide whether you want to use a fitted tarp or a flat tarp. Of course, fitted tarps must be chosen to match your utility trailer whereas a regular flat tarp needs to be must be adjusted to fit.

For a fitted tarp, you will need to determine the normal loading configuration of the trailer as the tarp is typically fastened to the trailer with multiple short fixed-length cords.  If your load is going to extend beyond the trailer side walls, then you need to account for that extra space when choosing a tarp of the correct size.

Flat tarps provide a flexible way to cover a large variety of loads.  They must be folded to fit the trailer, but they will work just as well as long as you’re careful about selecting an appropriate-sized tarp and its folding. 

Having a tarp that is the wrong size or that is incorrectly folded and secured could create dangerous results.  The tarp could foul in the wheels of the trailer if it’s too big, or part of the load could be dislodged from the trailer if it’s too small resulting in penalties under the Load Restraint Guide for Light Vehicles. When folding the tarp, it’s important to ensure that the folds face towards the rear of the trailer so that the wind flows smoothly over the tarp rather than catching in the fold and potentially causing billowing. 

Adjustable trailer covers with tightening straps and cords like Spider Tarp’s range can help in ensuring your load is safely secure with minimal effort and reliable results.

Grommets, D-ings and eyelets


When it comes to how to cover a trailer, the tying technique you will use depends on whether or not your tarp has dedicated connections like D-Ringsor eyelets. With these connections, it’s a simple matter of threading rope or using some other connection to secure the tarp to the trailer tie bars or securing points.

Most of the time, you will find heavy-duty tarp clips to be a workable alternative when you’re trying to figure out how to put a tarp on a trailer without these connections. But, it’s better to only use this method for lighter loads because the temporary option, no matter how strong, won’t be as secure as eyelets or D-Rings on a purpose-built trailer cover

In an emergency, such as when a tarp tears, it’s possible to place something nonabrasive and round into the folds of the tarp and close the tarp around it with rope or bungee cord. Such jury-rigging is unreliable and should only be used when there is no other alternative. If you’re transporting goods in a trailer and your cover has become damaged, your safest course of action is to pull over, assess the damage and readjust and secure the cover where possible.

Correct Loading Procedure When Covering a Trailer

The question of, “How to Cover a Trailer With a Tarp”, is only part of the equation. How you load the trailer is equally as important. Always put the heavy items on the bottom and the lighter items on top.

Be sure to spread the load evenly across the flat surface of the trailer. Load the heaviest of items over the wheels and axles and balance the load evenly across the flat space. Fasten the heaviest items with a separate set of straps or cords before attaching the tarp.

Finally, avoid overloading your trailer or allowing too much to overhang any side of the vehicle. If something doesn’t fit, then you’re going to need a bigger vehicle. If you have to, make multiple trips rather than trying to cram the load together for one trip. Your safety and the safety of those you share the road with are paramount in all cases.

Miscellaneous considerations when transporting in trailers

Don’t transport loose tools. Put them in toolboxes, and fasten them properly. When it comes to bigger tools like rakes and shovels, which won’t fit into a toolbox, you can use a heavy-duty tarp or cargo net instead. It’s often easier to transport garden refuse if you bag it than if you simply toss it into the trailer.

Spider Tarp Covers

To transport goods safely, securely, and reliably, consider using an Australian-designed and purpose-built trailer cover solution from Spider Tarp. 

Manufactured using either waterproof 230gsm PE or Spider-Mesh™ 350gsm PVC fabrics, you can choose between two high-quality materials to tailor the product to your exact needs. Available in various shapes and sizes to suit open and caged box trailers from 6’ x 4’ up to 8’ x 5’, these trailer covers are designed to fit without any unnecessary overhang. 

The patented Spider Tarp attachment system makes securing the cover easier than ever with eight adjustable attachment cords and Spider-Lock™ hooks that are permanently fitted on each corner and midway along each edge. On our larger trailer cover, there are an additional eight brass eyelets positioned midway between the attachment cords – giving users extra flexibility when it comes to security. To add even more stability if necessary, your trailer covers can be further secured with 120cm Spider-Cord™ with Carabiner

Spider Cord With Hook And Carabiner – 120cm
120cm Spider-Cord with Carabiner
Spider Cord With Hook And Carabiner – 60cm
60cm Spider-Cord with Carabiner

attachment cords available separately. 

This product has been designed with convenience, strength and dependability in mind – making the Spider Tarp Trailer Cover the perfect accompaniment for outdoor activities or transporting goods during all types of weather conditions.

Learn more about Spider Covers, or shop online for specials and your trailer cover today.

This month, Spider Tarp Managing Director Graeme Breen and Omni Alliance showcased a range of truck covers at SEMA in Las Vegas with a large interest from US automotive aftermarket retailers.

Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) now consists of 6,383 companies worldwide, bringing together aftermarket manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers (OEM), media, car dealers, specialty equipment distributors, installers, retailers and restoration specialists.

The largest of the SEMA events held annually during the first week of November is the SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada in conjunction with the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week.


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