Basics of Cargo Nets and Tarps

Cargo nets and tarps help you cover and restrain multiple items, oddly shaped gear, or loose material - cargo that would be difficult to secure with any other kind of tie-down. The following information will help you decide whether you should use a cargo net or tarp to tie down or cover your load and, if so, which kind will work best for you.

Cargo Nets

A cargo net consists of cords formed into a net that fits over multiple items, loose loads, or oddly shaped cargo to hold it in place during transport. The cords in most cargo nets are stretchy. A cargo net works great for covering a pile of items, eliminating the need to secure each item separately. All you have to do is set your items on your luggage rack, truck, or trailer and then cover them all with 1 net. And hooks are located around the edges of most cargo nets to help you attach the net to the rails of a carrier or to individual tie-down points.

Cargo nets can secure luggage, camping equipment, boxes, coolers, and more to a cargo carrier, the bed of a pickup truck, or a trailer. Nets are available for ATVs, roof-mounted cargo carriers, hitch-mounted carriers, trailers of different sizes, and truck beds.

Pros of Cargo Nets

Choosing a Cargo Net

An important consideration when choosing a cargo net is size. Normally, the dimensions of the cargo net should be slightly less than the dimensions of the carrier, though this will vary based on how tall your load is. If you carry a tall load, you may need a larger net. Also, keep in mind that cargo nets are often designed to fit certain applications - for example, ATV racks, roof-mounted cargo baskets, hitch-mounted carriers, utility trailers, and pickup truck beds. This makes it easier to select a cargo net of the right size. At, we list the unstretched dimensions of a cargo net unless otherwise indicated.

Remember that a net that doesn't stretch must be large enough to span the carrier, pickup truck bed, or trailer on which you plan to use it.

A cargo net usually comes with hooks so you can fasten the net to a cargo rack or any other convenient tie-down point. And most hooks are made of plastic so they won't scratch delicate cargo or your vehicle. You should match the number and type of hooks needed to secure the net to existing attachment points.


A tarp is a sheet of flexible, usually impermeable material that is used to cover and contain objects or loose material or to provide protection from sun, rain, or wind. A tarp is usually made of canvas or strips of nylon that are woven and bonded together. Typically, grommets are built into the edges of a tarp for securing it in place.

Applications of Tarps

Tarps should be used to cover loose material like mulch, sand, gravel, firewood, lawn clippings, or leaves. Wind and rain can cause these materials to blow off or wash out of your truck or trailer. Also, the motion of your vehicle or trailer while you're traveling can cause loose material to move around and slump. Covering this kind of material with a tarp can help ensure that it stays put. Tarps can even be used to cover pools and hay bales.

Pros of Tarps

Choosing a Tarp

Tarps come in a variety of sizes to meet your needs. At, we offer small tarps that measure 5' x 7' and are easy to handle, as well as large tarps that measure 40' x 60'.

Tarps are also available in different weights. Heavier tarps resist abrasion and wear better than lighter tarps. Also, they won't flap as much in the wind. Lightweight tarps, however, are easier to handle.

If you plan to use a tarp outdoors, choose one that has a polyethylene coating. This coating makes the tarp resistant to water, mildew, rot, and breakdown from exposure to UV rays. It also helps keep water off your cargo and helps prevent the tarp from deteriorating, which can happen if the tarp stays in contact with wet material.

If wind flap is a concern for you and keeping your cargo dry is not as important, you can cover your cargo with a tarp that is specially designed to minimize the effects of wind. This kind of tarp has a mesh construction that allows air to flow through it without letting loose material out. However, the mesh will also let water pass through, so the tarp can't keep cargo dry.

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