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  1. #1
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    Cheap Tarp Fabric

    So I have a few rookie questions about tarp fabrics. What minimum requirements must a tarp fabric meet (other than waterproof)? Is ripstop necessary?

    I ask this because I am curious what would happen if I made a tarp out of something like regular ol' polyester fabric and treated it with a make your own sil? Would the resulting "thing" shred the first time it was pitched?, at the first mild gust of wind?, or would it be usable for any decent amount of time? Or maybe is there something that can be done to normal fabrics to ripstop-ize it?

    I've heard of people making "practice" tarps out of polyester to hone their sewing skills prior to operating on their high $ fabric, but has anyone ever used their "practice" one for real?

    Last question... Am I crazy?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Ramblinrev's Avatar
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    Minimum requirement... Be the desired size. Anything else is negotiable. There are trade offs but the only absolute is the size you want it to be.
    I may be slow... But I sure am gimpy.

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  3. #3
    Senior Member Eidson's Avatar
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    You're not crazy at all and you ask some questions I'm sure many have had. I'll share my opinion and please take it as just that. I won't claim to be right or wrong, but this is what I found worked for me when I began these adventures.

    Practice before building something is great, but I don't necessarily think your practice has to be done on a tarp. Stuff sacks are great and you can practice your ridgeline seaming on them if you'd like.

    As diy'ers we're at a great point with waterproof fabrics and their affordability. Top quality, lightweight fabrics are readily available at low prices by a number of vendors, to any consumer easily. Years ago, I might have suggested building a tarp mock up out of a cheap fabric, but now the price difference between even a cheap fabric and a nice sil fabric of some sort is very minimal. I don't know what kind of budget you're on, or what you've looked at so far, but in many cases you could pick up a quality sil for less than a few dollars more than other fabric.

    Dutch is having a great sale on his newer released Xenon Sil http://www.dutchwaregear.com/xenon-sil.html
    Kyle over at Ripstop by the Roll has a number of waterproof fabrics and has great prices on Silnylon and his Silpoly fabrics and his newly released 2.2 oz HEX70 XL that comes in a PU coated version. http://ripstopbytheroll.com/

    Both are top notch vendors and you're looking at prices between $4.50 - $7.00ish a yard. This is extremely affordable compared to years past and unless you're finding $1.00/yard fabrics to work with. Which perhaps muslin or other cheap materials could be found, but I've just never looked.

    If you're really serious about building a tarp and are only planning to build one, why not get it good to great on the first time? It may not be perfect, as I'm sure most people's first tarps aren't, but building one out of top quality materials would be better in the long run. Perhaps but a yard of some of the fabrics you're interested in, or order samples from a vendor, and work with the samples. It'll always benefit you to work with a fabric before using it in a serious build.

    Maybe even work up some scale mock-ups to test your ideas. Work with the particular fabric for these or even build a paper mockup.


    Just throwing some alternative options out there for you. Wish you luck in whatever you decide to do and enjoy diy'ing! To me building multiples of items that I want or need is just part of the fun. Plus, they tend to get better each time.

  4. #4
    Senior Member bowl-maker's Avatar
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    You can also watch the Walmart clearance fabric. Find something that seems tightly woven or coated, and ask for a sample swatch (which is free). Take the sample to the bathroom and hold it against the faucet to see if it will force water through it. If water sprays everywhere but down, and the underside is dry, you've likely found yourself some waterproof fabric.
    However.....most Walmart clearance fabric is $2.00/yd and up. Dutch's fabric prices are hard to beat, especially when you figure availability (it took me months of looking at Walmart before I found some fabric...and then you don't get a color choice).
    HYOH

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    Another thing to do is torture test a piece of it- pull it, stretch it, poke it. Hem it as you would a tarp, maybe even sew on a tie out. This will give you an idea as to how the fabric will hold up in use.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eidson View Post
    [...]As diy'ers we're at a great point with waterproof fabrics and their affordability. [...]you're looking at prices between $4.50 - $7.00ish a yard. This is extremely affordable compared to years past and unless you're finding $1.00/yard fabrics to work with. Which perhaps muslin or other cheap materials could be found, but I've just never looked.[...]
    I made a small hex tarp with half doors out of silnylon from Ripstop by the Roll and really like it. But even with my economical design it still cost me around $40. If I could use $1/yd fabrics (like a basic polyester) I could make a much larger tarp with doors for less. It might not be as light weight as the fabrics you mentioned, but it would be for car camping mostly. My other option is to buy a large WM "blue-tarp", but I don't like how noisy/crinkly they are and the cheap $20 ones barely last taking them out of the bag.

    Quote Originally Posted by slugbait View Post
    Another thing to do is torture test a piece [...]
    Good advise.

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