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kenk

Ground Cloth Material

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I've read of several different materials being used for ground cloths: plastic sheeting, blue woven tarps, canvas(?), coated nylon($), and even Tyvek house wrap.

 

What are your recommendations. It seems that the plastic sheet would be too prone to puncture to adequately protect the tent floor. I read that Tyvek works well, but that it doesn't fold well and doesn't last long. What are the negatives with the blue woven tarps, if any?

 

When I was a kid, we used plastic tarps in floorless Voyegeur tents - they were there to keep us clean and dry, not to protect the floor. Today I tend to want the ground cloth to protect the floor from puctures and dirt.

 

Thanks,

 

Ken K.

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Most tents now days come with or you can buy seperately a "footprint" which is basically some really heavy nylon with a water proof coating. It is real light and usually fits exactly the size of your tent. That's what I use on all three of my tents. If you can't find one to fit, check out REI or Campmor. Sometimes you can find footprints or ground cloths for different tents on clearance. They might not fit your tent exactly but they are good alternatives. In a real pinch use 6 mil plastic. It doesn't fold or roll real well but it works.

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The best stuff I ever saw was this really thick black plastic sheeting we used in Korea to cover vehicles to keep chemicals off of them (those blasted north Koreans and their scud missiles). It came in rolls about 200 feet long, and unfolded to about 16 feet wide. The readiness guys would give us the scraps/remnants that were too short to cover a truck, but big enough to protect a tent floor. Cutting through that stuff was like slicing through a plastic coffee can lid (I exaggerate slightly). I've not seen anything that thick at Lowe's or Home Depot, but they may have some thick painter's plastic or something.

 

I've tried using the woven tarps, but you have to cut them to fit your tent, and that's when they start fraying.

 

I've never bought a tent that came with a free ground cloth...why not? They include stakes; given a choice, I'll take the cloth. Moreover, getting the tent with a ground cloth into the bag they give you with it is like pulling a horse through a knothole. Considering that, try to go as thin as you can; that cloth has to go somewhere when you break camp...

 

KS

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Hi Kenk,

 

Well for starters you want to stay away from canvas as a ground cloth. If might do a great job protecting your tent from sticks and stones, but I wouldnt want to carry it out after a night of rain. If you're backpacking, the tyvex is nice stuff because its lightweight. Yes youll have to replace it every once and a while.

 

The blue tarps you might have to trim, that will cause them to fray, not a good thing. Some of the nylon stuff is great if you can get it pre cut to fit your tent. Beyond that I would stick with any heavy plastic sheeting. Remember the idea of the this thing is to take the abuse, it wont last forever, and you shouldnt care what happens to it.

 

Having said that, I dont like to use ground cloths. I buy decent tents and check the ground where I plan to set up the tent.

 

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Since I rarely use a tent, the weight of my ground cloth is not much of an issue, being nothing more than a lightweight piece of canvas made into an oilcloth. Takes a beating, stays dry, and can be repaired.....overtime and use thin spots will happen and may leak a bit. However, it's an easy problem to cure with a rubbing of bees or candle wax...

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I a builder and buy 6 mil poly in 400sf rolls. It's cheap, light, tough and easy to fold or roll. When our pack goes on an outing, I'll throw a roll in the back of the truck for emergency backup. I don't know about Tyvek. One of it's properties is that it allows water vapor to pass, like Gortex. It will keep you tent bottom clean, but I don't know about dry.

 

I got suckered into buying a Eurka ground cloth a couple years ago. I assumed it would be a much heavier-duty poly than what I use. When I got it home, it was nothing more that a sheet of poly -- and maybe even a little lighter than the normal 6 mil. For the 10 bucks I paid for it, I can buy 200sf of the same stuff at the lumber yard.

 

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>>I a builder and buy 6 mil poly in 400sf rolls. It's cheap, light, tough and easy to fold or roll.

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Some tents come with or you can buy custom ground cloths for many tents. I find them expensive. I am addressing only ground cloths for tents with sewn in floors.

 

A ground cloth for a tent serves several purposes: they helps protect the tent floor from moisture, abrasion, and punctures. They can provide some protection from the cold ground.

 

I use 6 mil clear plastic sheeting that I buy in rolls. It is relatively inexpensive, readily available, and serves all of the above purposes. I cut it to fit.

 

I am very picky about my tents. I am very systematic about how I unpack, and set up a tent and about how I take down, clean, dry, pack and store a tent. I carry a small whisk broom to sweep out the tent. I basically colapse the tent on the ground cloth, leaving all zipper about 75% zipped (helps trapped air escaoe. I then vert neatly pull the tent taut so that it is exactly the size of the floor. I make sure that the door is on top. If the tent has a rain fly, I spread it out over the colapsed tent. Then I fold the tent, with all layers, including the ground cloth, to the appropriate size, and then I begin rolling the tent so that the last part rolled is where the door is. I roll the poles and pins inside the tent roll. That way, when I unroll the tent, I know that I am holding the edge where the door is. As I roll, I try to while the roll dry with an old towel as I go. I can set up my tents quickly in daylight or dark, or even in rain or snow. This way the plastic ground cloth acts like a cover for the rolled tent. Then I put the whole thing in the tent bag.

 

Even if there was no rain whle the tent was being used before packing at camp, when I get home, I unpack the tent and set it up in the sun or inside until it is totally dry. I make any necessary repairs, seal the seams, replace poles or pins or lines at this time. Then I repack the tent again as I describe above.

 

Another way to protect the floors of your tents is to not wear footgear inside tents, and to not use chairs or cots in tents that have unprotected feet which will eventually puncture tent floors. Use rounded feet or pad the feet in some way. Be careful sliding things like pack frames, walking sticks, tools, etc. on tent floors too.

 

I have several tents, all with sewn in floors of various types and sizes from 2 man lightweight rents to large family size tents and I treat them all the same. I have several tents, newer and older (some are 20 to 30 years old and while showing some age, are still good reliable tents). Take care of them and they will take care of you.

 

 

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I bought an official ground cloth from REI for one of my tents, and it is very nice. It serves its purpose well. However, I would not spend that kind of money again. Get a heavy plastic sheeting material. Lay out your tent on the plastic. Mark the outline of the footprint of the tent on the plastic with a magic marker. Get out your scissors and cut out the footprint. That way you carry only what you really want to carry. I would stay away from the blue tarps and other fabtics.

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GI poncho: Rubberized ripstop nylon, wears like anything... Keep it dusted with unscented talc and you're home.

 

Alternative: Commercially available ground cloths, rubberized ripstop nylon. These have the advantage of being riggable for a dining fly or emergency shelter.

 

I've used something like this since I was a Tenderfoot. I'm approaching 48 now.

 

John

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"I've used something like this since I was a Tenderfoot. I'm approaching 48 now."

 

So, John-in-KC, you coming up on that Second Class Board of Review any time soon?

 

(Just kidding, man, feeble attempt at humor!!! We're both 47, so I felt this "bond"...)

 

KS

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I have used the thick plastic sheeting bought from the local harware store. It worked well, but I didn't like the way it folded. I eventually bought a waterproofed nylon tarp that I really like. It has grommets around the side so it can be used as a covering tarp, a dining fly or shelter in addition to a ground cloth. It is lightweight and easy to fold compactly. The store I bought it at had them in several sizes ans I bought one that was slightly smaller than the floor of my tent. I know that many scouters here already know this, but it bears being said again. DO NOT cut a footprint bigger than your tent and leave the edges sticking out from underneath your tent. The purpose of a ground cloth is to protect your floor and creat a moisture barrier under the tent. When you leave material sticking out from the edges of the tent walls, the water pours down the tent and gets captured by the ground cloth. Now you have a layer of water trapped between your ground cloth and tent floor. Just what you were trying to prevent! I'm always amazed at how many experienced scouts and scouters I see doing this.

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We use that 6 mil 'clear' plastic, roughly cut it to size and just fold it under itself to fit. Simple and works fine, can be a little unwieldy in cold weather and don't even try to dry it out laying on the lawn (solar-powered condensation and all that)

And not such a good idea to roll them in with the tent...

Lately we've been using those 6x8 blue/brown/green tarps with our Eureka '4-man' tents; every Scout has one ($3) and again just fold any excess under. Also gives you an extra for lining the inside in bad weather. Also keeps things handy for covering firewood, pack line etc. Also provides a known for emergency shelters.

 

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KS...

 

Aren't you supposed to be out in CP Tango doing RSOI??? ;)

 

(I can trade feeble attempts at humor...)

 

Since I'm not an Eagle Scout, the rank of my youth expired on my 18th birthday :)

 

While this isn't the right forum, I do evaluate the structure of advancement now is far superior to what we had in 1969/70 or so. Boys are in a situation to be truly "over the hump" on Eagle required MBs when they hit Life. In our era, 5 Eagle MBs meant the road was still uphill.

 

John

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John:

 

If I were still there, I'd be in the HTACC at Osan -- but, been to Tango...charming place for a cave.

 

If you did time there, you're probably familiar with that plastic sheeting I was talking about -- great stuff, rolls good, practically indestructable, and can't find it anywhere on Oahu...

 

KS

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