Since I am still experimenting with different kind of shelters for hiking, I made myself a tarp this year, in order to be more flexible and faster set up than with a tent. Here you’ll find how I created my tarp: What materials did I use, sewing instructions, and patterns.
Why a Tarp?
In the past years I have been experimenting with other types of accommodation than a tent, which I perceive as something where I am closed in in the meantime. I love the idea of being able to the see the sky before falling asleep, and also right after waking up in the morning. For this purpose I sewed myself a bivy bag two years ago, and it proofed as a great shelter in wintertime. For summer, though, with the possibility of rain, I wanted to have something more spacious. This should be more convenient during rainy days, but also more communicative for non-solo trips. I also like the idea that on a rainy day, you have a quick to set up shelter for cooking or resting. Thus I decided to make myself a tarp.
Materials & Considerations
Unlike for my earlier bivy project, the choice of material was much easier, as the fabric doesn’t need to be breathable. With the only criteria of having a water proof and light-weight fabric, my choice easily fell for a silicon coated nylon.
I found a 20den nylon, coated with silicon on both sides, with only 36 g/qm. Perfectly light weight, and with 2000mm hydrostatic head I thought enough water proof for its purpose. While the tear strength of min. 9,2 kg (DIN EN ISO 13937-4) seemed enough for the tarp, of course I wanted to strengthen the anchor points.
For this purpose I used old left over light weight tent floor with 90 g/qm, though since it is also a coated material, I made wholes into the individual pieces, so that water (for example from condensation) can escape.
For attaching tent stakes or lines, I found some very light-weight aluminum rings, with only 1.3 g each.
Webbing & Velcro
The rings are attached with a 10 mm webbing to the main material.
Since I wasn’t sure how much I can trust the strength of the main material, but also to make sewing easier (the silnylon is very slippery), I decided to sew the two fabric lanes on a ca. 20 mm thin and felxible webbing.
Since I often sleep somewhere in the tundra, there are no trees to attach the tarp to. When using poles only at the end, I was afraid that all the wind would blow through, but also that in stormy weather rain could easily come inside. Thus I wanted to be able to built up the tarp from inside, like a tent.
For this purpose my plan was to use hiking poles. Due to the slippery surface of silnylon it wouldn’t be possible to simply place the poles underneath. Consequently I got the idea to attach velcro in certain places to the middle webbing. With some left over fabrics I made kind of hoods with velcro for my poles, which only add a few more grams to the whole tarp.
While along the outer seams I used regular nylon threads, in the middle the main material is sewed with a nylon thread that has a cotton coating. The expanding cotton – when getting wet – should better seal the seams.
Additionally I attached a layer of silicon on the outside of the middle seams. It is recommended to put some talc powder (like baby powder) on top of it, to avoid having a sticky surface.
For setting up the tarp I also got me some tent fasteners and a a reflective tent rope. And finally, I also sewed in some reflective piping in the top corners of the tarp.
- 7m of Ripstop Nylon tentfabric silicone coated, 20den, 36g/sqm
- 4m of 20mm webbing
- 2m of 10mm webbing
- 0.5m velcro
- 1 tube Silnet
- 10 pcs aluminum rings
- 10 pcs tent fasteners
- 30m tent rope (2.5mm)
- 0.5m of strong fabric for anchor points
- 0.5m of reflective piping
- 1 pkg of baby powder
Weights and Measures
The tarp itself has outside measures of appr. 3×3.5 meters (9.8×11.5 ft). For packing the tarp I sewed a small pouch from left-over materials of the main material. In this (still pretty well compressible) pouch the bivy has packed measurements of 14×23 cm (5.5×9 inches). Including all cords, rings, pouch, pole hoods etc. it weights approximately 630 g (21 oz). The tent stakes I use with the tarp add another 130 g (4.6 oz).
HOW TO: Instructions for Making a DIY Tarp
- First I attached one side of the velcro on 5 places on the 20mm webbing; One in the middle, in the other more toward the edges, according to the height of my telescopic hiking poles.
- Then I sewed together the two pieces of 3.5m of my main material. I simply sewed them onto the 20mm webbing. Just make sure to at least have every side sewed with at least two layers and two seams.
- In a next step I cut the whole piece in form. I chose to not have straight edges, but curves, so it stands more stable in the wind and less prone to make noise.
- After cutting the tarp sheet according to the patterns, I folded the edges 3 times and made two seams all around the sheet.
- Then I cut stronger fabric in pieces, according and fitting to each corners/anchor points.
- Before sewing in the additional fabric, I made holes into it, so that water can escape from in between the two coated fabrics. If you have an uncoated or non-waterproof fabric, you may not need to do this step (I guess the weight reduction is negligible).
- Between additional fabric and main material I added 10mm webbing, which stands a bit out at the corners, and where the aluminum rings are sewed in.
- For the anchor points along the middle webbing I additionally sewed in reflective piping
- After everything was sewed together, I put Silnet on the seams in the middle, and after drying I put some baby powder on top of it.
- For the hiking poles I made a hood with velcro on top, to get a better fix of the poles under the tarp.
- With some of the leftovers from the material I made a nice pouch for the tarp.
Pictures of Tarp in Action
Some trips (with images) where the tarp was used