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Gear Workshop The Gear Workshop forum is for the discussion of homemade backpacking gear, gear modifications, and repairs.

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Old 06-10-2014, 11:56 AM
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FirstRWD FirstRWD is offline
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What to use for rugged tent floor?

I found a DIY tent plan that I want to make. It's basically just a silnylon tarp pitched over you with mesh walls hanging down underneath and a silnylon floor. I'd like something a little more rugged for the floor. I'm willing to carry the weight. I also figure if I use something rugged and waterproof, it eliminates carrying a ground cloth, negating some of the weight increase. I used to have a tent long ago that had what was basically a very thin tarp(like the crunchy blue kind that people cover trailers with) for the floor. That's the sort of thing I had in mind. I'm hoping there's something lighter weight than a crunchy blue tarp. I want rugged, easy to repair, completely waterproof. Any suggestions?
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Old 06-14-2014, 05:01 AM
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tonto tonto is offline
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I went online to a well known camping supplies retailer to check out specs on tarps.
I figured that would help get an easy comparison of materials, weight, and price.

Looks like there are four readily available options for your purpose.
But, you will save bucks getting these materials from online fabric retailers that cater to DIY types like you.

To compare apples with apples I used a 6 x 8 tarp for the base line.
The weights may very slightly depending on # and size of metal grommets or use of cloth tie outs instead of metal grommets.


#1. Polyethylene Tarp, 4 mil, 1 lb, 2 oz pack weight, $3.49

This is the blue tarp that you mention. I've seen very low end tents that use this material for flooring.
The material is waterproof, fairly durable, easy to repair with duck tape, very inexpensive per square foot.
The material is bulky and stiff. UV rays deteriorate them rather quickly.

#2. Polyethylene Tarp, heavy duty 6 mil, 2 lbs pack weight, $6.99

This is the green tarps that are a heavy duty version of the blue tarp.
They have the same pros and cons of the blue tarp.
The only difference being they are twice as heavy and twice the price but still inexpensive.
This material is standard flooring material in low end car camping tents.

#3. Nylon with polyurethane coating, 1.9 oz material, 15.2 oz pack weight, $34

These have been around for decades because they are relatively light and durable.
The weight is nearly 20% less than the very inexpensive blue tarp material but 10x the price.

#4. Sil nylon, 1.1 oz material, 9.2 oz pack weight, $69.99

These are extremely light and extremely expensive.
This material is used by cottage industry ultra light tent makers for flooring.
The material is extremely water resistant but not waterproof.
I've used a sil-tarp on a the trail and water blows right through them as a fine mist in a heavy downpour.
Not sure how the material would perform as tent flooring.
I would expect it to have a low head pressure that would allow water to seep through.


For very inexpensive and relatively light: option #1.
For durable and inexpensive: option #2.
For durable and less weight at a higher price: option #3
For very light but very high price: option #4
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Old 06-14-2014, 05:20 AM
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tonto tonto is offline
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The best economical and durable option would be polyurethane coated nylon.

It is waterproof, relatively light and less bulky than polyethylene (blue tarp).

The nylon is priced 10 x higher but nearly 18% less weight over the cheap blue tarp.

I went online to a major camping supplies store and compared 6 x 8 tarps.

The polyethylene blue tarp 4 mil was 1 lb-2 oz pack weight at $3.49.

The urethane coated nylon 1.9 oz was 15.2 oz pack weight at $34.99
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Old 07-16-2014, 06:05 PM
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Ralph Ralph is offline
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Material are a lot less expensive when bought by the yard. I like sil-nylon for some things but it is REALLY slippery for a floor. Light, coated pack cloth might be a better option.

Rather than sewing in the floor consider an old idea called a sod-cloth. This is a strip about 10" wide sewn around the perimeter. Even if no floor is used the sod-cloth stops drafts, bugs and rain from creeping into the shelter. To add a floor, sew up a tarp to exactly fit the bottom. This is probably most useful in larger tents you walk into but the idea is still good even for smaller tents. The 10" overlap on the side is pretty secure. Floors are easily damaged but with a tarp any tears can be easily repaired or the whole thing can be replaced without having to rebuild the entire shelter. Floors also attract mud, dust and spills. The tarp can be removed, cleaned or washed down and replaced a lot easier than a sewn-in floor.

If you are concerned about the tarp shifting, sew in some pieces of heavy Velcro or sew on loops and peg the corners. A grommet in each corner of the sod cloth allows a peg (shepherd's crook style is probably best) to be inserted.
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