Folding a tarpaulin is a simple skill that will help you fold several items in your camping kit down to a small size. This tarp folding technique can be used on all types of tarps including canvas, poly and shade mesh tarps, as well as for folding other camping equipment, such as tents and flys.
I have used a small silver poly tarpaulin in the photos below for illustrative purposes. The same technique works for large tarps, tents and flys as well.
Step 1. Lay your tarp out flat with the side you want to stay clean facing up (make sure it is dry first, otherwise it will go mouldy when it is folded up and stored).
Step 2. Fold the short edges (along the long edge) to the centre until it is double your desired width.
Step 3. Fold one half over the other half lengthways.
Step 4. Fold each end towards the middle until it is double your desired size.
Step 5. Finally, fold the two halves over each other again.
This should give you a nice, tight package that can be easily stored in your camping kit. You may want to tie the tarp with a length of rope, but I usually find that it is fine as is.
Using this tarp folding technique is great for folding tents and flys too. If you struggle to fit your tent and fly back in its bag, then this folding technique will normally get your tent to a size so that it easily fits into its original bag.
I used the above technique to successfully fold and pack the 20′ x 24′ tarp, and 10-person tent and fly (into its original bag) shown in the photo below.