Over the past year I have used the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp in a wide range of environments. Testing grounds have included regular excursions into Mexico’s Sierra Madre, the traverse of Badlands National Park, and above treeline routes in the Beartooth and Sangre de Cristo Ranges. Here are my impressions of the shelter:
Specs & Features (as per HMG Website)
Weight: 9.8 oz with guylines (Note: I swapped out the HMG guylines for Kelty TripTease Lightline)
Size: 8’6″ x 8’6″
- DCF8 Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber)
- Constructed with DCF8 Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber)
- Fully bonded radial double reinforced tie-outs with line locks
- Fully bonded, “stitchless” ridgeline seam
- 16 Perimeter tie-outs
- 4 tie-outs placed in the center, one-third, and two-thirds of the interior body
- Comes with a Medium DCF8 Stuff Sack for storage
- Includes 10 ultralight 2.8mm UHMWPE Core Guy Lines
Double Thumbs up. In the last 12 months I have regularly taken this tarp into extreme above treeline environments – high winds, rain, sleet and snow – and it has never been anything other than rock solid. The combination of high end materials, simple design, a multitude of well-placed guyout points (both on the perimeter as well as mid-panel/s), sturdy tent pegs (I use a combo of different sized MSR Groundhogs) and low/taut pitches has seen me ride out multiple storms above 10,000 ft. That being said, when the rain is coming in at a 45° angle at those elevations, an “umbrella door block” can be worth its weight in precipitation deterrent gold (see photo below)!
(Note: Unless you have a good deal of experience with tarps and severe weather, I wouldn’t recommend using this shelter above treeline).
If you’re around 6’1″ (186 cm) or less the square flat tarp is a great option. If you’re much taller than that, I would suggest going with a longer/larger tarp; for solo hikers either a 9′ x 7′ rectangle or a 9′ x 9′ Square, depending on your preference . I am 6’1″ on the button, and the tarp was just big enough to suit my purposes in severe weather (Note: In regards to size recommendations for two people, I would suggest an 8′ X 10′ model).
In other online reviews of the Square Flat Tarp, I’ve seen it mentioned that the shelter is large enough for two hikers. I would disagree with this assessment, with the following caveat. If you do all of your backpacking in either mild conditions and/or sheltered environments, then yes, the Square Flat Tarp is big enough for two people when pitched in A-Frame mode. However, if you occasionally like to venture out into more exposed environments where inclement weather is common, then in my opinion this is not a two person shelter when pitched low in storm mode (i.e. When one end is staked to the ground, it is simply too short).
One of the biggest pluses of a flat tarp is the ability to pitch it in a multitude of configurations. However, with the exception of the occasional emergency pitch, I generally just use two variations; “storm mode” (as seen in most of the photos) and A-Frame. The latter was my go-to pitch on the recent trip to the States, due to the often-extreme conditions in which I was hiking. When I’m overnighting in the more mellow, sheltered forests of Mexico’s Sierra Madre, I invariably use an A-Frame pitch (except during the June to October rainy season).
In three decades of tarping, I’m not sure I have used a more solidly built model than the HMG Square Flat Tarp. From the fully bonded reinforced tieouts to the heavy duty Dyneema Composite Fabric, this tarp was built to handle inclement weather. Nonetheless, you definitely don’t want to skimp on either guyline or tent pegs; one of the more common mistakes made by ultralight hikers. With the sheer number of tieout points available, there is little excuse for not being able to achieve an even distribution of tension (i.e. the key to a taut pitch) when using the Square Flat Tarp.
Value for Money
Hyperlite Mountain Gear products aren’t cheap. However, as with the HMG 2400 Southwest Backpack I reviewed last year, the Square Tarp is well constructed, sports high end materials, is made in the US, and most importantly, does what it is supposed to out in the field. I would say it represents fair value for money.
The HMG Square Flat tarp is an excellent option for minimalist hikers that enjoy venturing into challenging environments. The design and workmanship are top notch, and it holds up like a champ when the elements are raging. I give it 8.5 out of 10; which seems appropriate considering its dimensions. 😉
Disclosure: The Hiking Life was given the HMG Square Flat Tarp free of charge in exchange for feedback from the field. This post contains affiliate links, which means The Hiking Life receives a small commission if you purchase an item after clicking on one of the links. This comes at no additional cost to the reader, and helps to support the website in its continuing goal to create quality content for backpackers and hikers.