Make an Ultralight Solo Tarp (200g / £20)

Ultralight solo tarp

Background

After experimenting with some commercial tarps I couldn't get away from the fact that I was paying a lot of cash for a large sheet of cheap fabric. I also wanted something that was more suitable for Stealth Camping and was also lighter.

If you move away from a pure rectangular tarp you may use flexibility in pitching bug you do gain potential savings in weight.

This tarp features a triangular rear panel that is optional. The triangular panel makes the whole thing much more weather resistant and also means that I can use a shorter tarp for the same effect.

I always use my tarps with a DIY bathtub groundsheet

This picture shows the tarp pitched in a forest and pitched for bad weather. There is very little headroom at the front. It's pitched sloping and the guys are slack after a night of rain.

This tarp has been used successfully on one trip and is scheduled for another. The Camo fabric carries a weight penalty and so this sample weighs in at 330g including ample guy ropes.

Materials

2oz PU-coated Nylon is just fine for a tarp. If you want to you can use SilNylon (Silicone Coated Nylon) or this 2.5oz Camo PU-coated nylon. SilNylon is a lot tougher but it is also harder to work with.

2oz PU-coated Nylon will typically weigh in around 50-60gsm giving you 200g or more of final weight.

Spinnaker fabric will be a little lighter and a lot weaker. [Note: Spinnaker fabric is sold based on UNTREATED fabric weight and proofed fabrics are sold based on ACTUAL weight. The difference in actual weights is not that great - maybe 10-20% for the lightest stuff.

  • 3m of 2oz PU-coated Nylon or similar in a 1.5m width.
  • 10m of 3/4mm Nylon Cord (see later)
  • 1m of 10-15mm Nylon webbing

Pattern

If you don't wish to have the rear triangle you can reduce your fabric purchase to 2.75m

ultralight solo flat tarp pattern

(Click Image to enlarge)

Cutting

This is really simple!!!!

1. Make sure that both ends of your fabric are square.

2. Measure 2.5m on both sides from one end of the fabric and cut to produce a 1.5 x 2.5m rectangle.

3. Fold the remaining fabric and measure out a right-angled triangle with a base of 0.62m and a height of 0.5m and then cut so that you end up with a triangle like above.

Construction 1 - Main Tarp

1. Cut off the selvages on the fabric (this may be marked by pin holes and will not be waterproofed. Some fabrics might not have selvages.

2. Hem the 4 edges using a rolled-hem. If you do not have a rolled-hem foot (it looks like a seashell) then just fold over about 1cm and stitch.

ultralight solo tarp pattern patches

3. Cut 4 triangular reinforcing patches 4x4x4cm

4. Stitch one triangle onto each corner of the tarp on the INSIDE of the fabric.

5. Cut 2 rectangular reinforcing patches 4x6cm

6. Stitch the two patches at the centre of each end as shown above on the INSIDE of the fabric. Use a flag stitch. These patches will be holding the tension from the guy ropes.

7. Cut 2 rectangular reinforcing patches 4x4cm

8. Stitch the two patches on the edge of each long side in the middle (see above).

Construction 2 - Rear Triangle (optional)

1. Start from the centre of the tarp and stitch one side of the triangle to the tarp. To do this place the triangle so that the right side of the fabric is touching the tarp and the triangle is overlapping with the tarp. Straight-stitch once or twice.

2. Repeat for the other side of the triangle

3. Trim the base of the triangle to approximately the same height as the tarp as the edges (+1cm) and hem it using a rolled-hem or a folded hem.

Construction 3 - Peg Loops and Guy Loops

1. Cut 8 pieces of 8cm nylon webbing.

2. Stitch 1 piece onto each triangle onto the patch with the loop pointing away from the fabric:

peg loo

Make sure that at least one line of stitching is close to or on the edge.

3.Stitch the final two peg loops onto the small rectangular patches

4. Stitch the Guy loops onto the OUTSIDE of the fabric instead with the reinforcing patches underneath the fabric. Make sure that these loops are stitched on well.

5. Cut the Guy ropes as follows:

  • 2.5m for the front
  • 1.5m for the rear
  • 2 x 1m for the centre peg-outs
  • 2 x 1.5m for the front peg-outs
  • 2 x 0.5m

6. Attach each guy to the tarp using a single-loop noose.

7. Finish each guy with a taut-line hitch.

Final Notes

I've used relatively heavy guy-ropes for no other reason that they hold the knots well and are easy to tie/untie. You can of use lighter stuff. Even 1-1.5mm nylon cord has a breaking strain that is 80+Kg. That is already well into stormy weather. Personally, I err on the side of safety.

If you use very light spinnaker fabrics then there is a good chance that 'normal' windy weather will break the tarp.

See also: Ultralight Tent Pegs, DIY Short Tarp Pole, DIY Long Tarp Pole