Poly, Vinyl Or Canvas: Which Tarp Should You Choose?

Posted on: 29 September 2015

When it comes to hauling around dirt, mulch and a wide variety of other loads, it usually pays to cover it with a high-quality pickup truck tarp. The hard part is finding a tarp that's not only right for your pickup truck, but also the load you're hauling.

Most of the pickup truck tarps you'll see for sale are made out of polyethylene, vinyl mesh or duck canvas. The following takes a look at each material's advantages and disadvantages, so you can decide which tarp type works best for your needs.

Polyethylene Tarp

Polyethylene tarps can be considered the jack of all trades. Not only can you find them in just about any shop that offers truck tarps, but they're also well-rounded for covering a wide variety of loads. They're also the most affordable type of tarp you can purchase – a definite advantage if you're on a tight budget. While most polyethylene tarps come in that characteristic blue color, this material offers a wide variety of other color options.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of downsides to using polyethylene tarps. For starters, polyethylene lacks the overall durability that vinyl mesh and duck canvas offers, so it's not an ideal material you'll want to use long-term. In addition, polyethylene tends to become brittle under severe cold, making it more prone to rips and tears. Most polyethylene tarps come without treatment against ultraviolet (UV) radiation, making them more vulnerable to UV degradation than other tarp materials.

Vinyl Mesh Tarp

Unlike polyethylene tarps, vinyl mesh tarps feature an open weave that allows air and sunlight to filter through. The relatively strong vinyl material combined with its open weave design give vinyl mesh tarps greater durability under strong wind conditions than polyethylene tarps. Unfortunately, the same mesh design offers inadequate protection against rain and snow.

Vinyl mesh tarps are ideal for hauling leaves, branches and other loads that could use the airflow the mesh weave provides. It's also ideal for hauling coarse gravel and sand, given that the mesh design makes the tarp less likely to flap around at high speeds. If you want to keep your load dry under wet weather conditions, however, you may want to use a polyethylene or canvas tarp instead.

Duck Canvas Tarp

If you're looking for a durable truck tarp that also happens to be environmentally-friendly, then duck canvas might just be what you're looking for. Unlike polyethylene and vinyl mesh tarps, the average duck canvas tarp uses all-natural cotton fiber in its construction, making it more eco-friendly than other tarp types. Duck canvas tarps also feature a softer texture, making it less likely to scratch sensitive finishes.

However, duck canvas tarps require the most maintenance of the three tarp choices at your disposal. These tarps must be kept clean and relatively dry to prevent mildew from forming on the material. Fortunately, most canvas tarps are chemically treated to help resist rot, as well as degradation caused by UV radiation. Canvas tarps can also be treated for added water resistance – an excellent benefit since duck canvas lacks natural waterproofing properties.

If you plan on using a treated duck canvas tarp for your vehicle, you should keep in mind what type of waxes and dyes were used to treat it. It's not out of the ordinary for a treated canvas tarp to leave behind stains or strange odors.

Which Works Best for You?

In the end, it's up to you to decide which tarp material works best for your hauling needs. Polyethylene tarps offer the best value, but lacks the longevity and durability other tarps offer. Vinyl mesh offers a flexible solution for covering most loads, while duck canvas offers the most environmentally-friendly option of the three.