How you store your camper when you’re not using it can have a major effect on how long your camper lasts.
If you don’t have the luxury of a fancy RV port home or storage canopy, you’ll probably have to keep your RV outdoors. While you might consider shrink-wrapping your RV, many folks use a tarp to protect their RV from the elements.
In this article we’ll take a look at the different types of tarps available, and how to select the one that’s right for your RV.
Types of Commonly Found Tarps
The word tarp is a shorthand for tarpaulin, itself a combination of the words tar and palling (an old word for a cloth covering). Back in the sailing days of centuries ago, sailors used tarred canvas to cover objects on ships, and the name stuck. While you can still buy water-resistant canvas tarps, most tarps these days are made from synthetic fabrics with better waterproofing qualities. The most common types of tarps include:
- vinyl – vinyl tarps are waterproof and can withstand rough use (they have a high abrasion resistance). Their durable construction makes them ideal for covering trucks or equipment traveling down the highway. Vinyl tarps tend to be more expensive than other types of tarps.
- mesh – mesh tarps are often used as privacy screens at sports facilities and construction sites, and won’t work well to cover your RV since they aren’t waterproof.
- canvas – canvas tarps have been around since the 1950s, and while they used to be the most common form of tarp, nowadays other materials have become more popular.
- poly (nylon threading with a polyethylene coating) – these tarps are the most common worldwide, and the variety most often used to cover vehicles stored outdoors.
How to Describe the Thickness of a Tarp
Tarps come in many different thicknesses, measured in mil. A mil is one thousandth of an inch, 0.001 inches. In the metric system, a mil would be 0.0254 mm. A higher mil usually indicates a better quality tarp.
Sometimes a manufacturer won’t indicate the mil thickness, instead referring to their product as regular duty, super duty, or super heavy duty. The description for this waterproof travel trailer cover by Komo doesn’t tell the mil thickness. Instead it’s described as being simply ‘super duty’.
Only one of these RV’s has a cover – and it’s a simple blue tarp.
In the photo above, the travel trailer in the center right has a simple blue tarp pulled over it. It’s secured with a rope around it’s midsection, but nothing holds the tarp down. While you could use this type of tarp for added protection from rain and flying debris, regular blue tarps aren’t your best choice for several reasons.
Regular Tarps Wear Out Quickly
If you’ve used a blue tarp to cover a pile of fire wood or a piece of machinery before, you know they fall apart quickly. In less than a summer, your tarp might start to look faded and frayed.
Many blue tarps are only 6 mil thick and last anywhere from three to five years in full sun. Some companies make special UV-rated tarps that are up to 12 mil thick and can last for over a decade. Though your tarp may stay together for a few years, it will quickly degrade at a microscopic level, and water will eventually leak through.
Canvas tarps tend to last longer than plastic tarps (canvas isn’t affected by UV rays as much) but they aren’t waterproof, only water-resistant.
When covering your RV, it’s essential that you keep your RV dry. You don’t want water seeping through the outer covering and pooling on your RV’s roof or against slide out seals.
Some folks have wondered if it’s still OK to use a blue tarp on your trailer or motorhome. I live in the midwest and notice a few RVers who cover their RV with a simple blue tarp (like the one in the photo above). While your run-of-the-mill blue tarp might afford some protection, you might want to consider a tarp made just for your RV.
RV-Specific Tarps May Be Best
Many RV equipment manufacturers make coverings specifically for RVs. These covers combine the benefits of a tarp with enhancements ideal for RV owners.
For example, Tarps Plus sells RV tarps made of three layers of polypropylene. The layers block rain while allowing moisture to escape from under the tarp. One of the problems with using a ‘regular’ tarp is that it’s not breathable, and can act as a greenhouse around your RV.
Many RV-specific tarps come with a multi-year warranty and accessories like a storage bag and tie downs. Some have elasticized corners that make securing the tarp to your RV’s profile as easy as fitting a sheet over your bed.
Some other advantages of RV-specific tarps include:
- integrated air vents
- zippered panels allowing access to the RV while in storage
- multiple draw strings and cords so you can achieve a custom, tight fit around the contour of your rig
- storage bags for the RV cover during the camping season
- heavy duty roof paneling
- improved grommets that won’t rust out
The motorhome to the right sits in the open, while the travel trailer on the left hunkers under an RV tarp.
Not all RV owners decide to cover their RV. Some park there RV outside, either on their property or at a storage lot, and leave it exposed to the elements.
The owner of this Flair motorhome opted to cover only its wheels.
As a compromise, some RV’ers choose to cover just the tires of their trailer or motorhome. It’s important to shield your RV’s tires during storage because exposure to UV rays and ozone in the air will degrade the rubber more quickly than you might think.
While you certainly don’t need to use a tarp when storing your RV, many RVers choose to put some sort of covering over their camper. While regular blue tarps could be the cheapest option for covering your RV, they may not be the best.
Certain RV-specific tarps have added features that make them more suited for storing your RV. Some come with elastic corners, tie down straps, and rust-free grommets.
Other benefits of RV-specific covers include integrated vents and one-way breathable fabric. Even with all these options, some RVers choose to leave their rig out in the elements, completely unprotected!
What do you think? How do you store your RV?