MYOG No. 2 – Tyvek Ground Cloth

Tyvek ground cloth with splash guards in an urban camping environment
Tyvek ground cloth with splash guards in an urban camping environment, complete with Thermarest and sleeping bag

Gear: Tyvek Ground Cloth With Toe and Head Splash Guards.

Weight: 97 grams/3.4 ounces

Dimensions: Apx 34″x68″ flat (with splash guards 34″x104″)

Cost to make: $6. Comparable retail cost: about $10 (not really a comparable retail product though, it’s mostly DIY or a flat ground cloth). Savings: around $4 (40%)

Use: As a ground cloth when cowboy camping or when sleeping under a tarp

Will I use it?: Yes! Especially now that I have a Thermarest NeoAir for super plush sleeping

View from the head-end of the ground cloth
View from the head-end of the ground cloth

So here’s my second piece of lightweight gear: a Tyvek ground cloth complete with toe and head splash guards.

You might be wondering what’s up with tyvek…Yes, it’s a building material. And it also just so happens to also be a perfect lightweight and durable material for ultralight gear. According to the ZPacks website (another great ultralight gear maker): “Tyvek ‘Home Wrap’ is an ideal material for ground sheets. It is waterproof, and very abrasion and puncture resistant. Tyvek is stiff, and foldable like thick paper. It will not bunch up or slide around under you like other fabrics. It can be cut with regular scissors, and the edges do not fray.”

Most thru hikers use a Tyvek ground cloth. It’s cheap, light, durable, waterproof, easy to find, and perfect for throwing under your sleeping pad if you’re cowboy camping (look, Ma! No tent!) or using a tarp (aka a shelter without a bottom). Some of the extreme ultralight folks out there use polycro as a groundcloth instead of Tyvek, a material that’s super super light and more like saran wrap. I decided to go with Tyvek because I just got a new sleeping pad – a luxurious and plush Thermarest NeoAir because I toss and turn and side sleep and need more than just a thin foam pad. However, NeoAirs are rumored to puncture fairly easily, so I wanted a groundcloth that would give me durability and substance – a good buffer between my delicate sleeping pad and any sticks or rocks – while still being lightweight. Hence Tyvek.

Nice, generous toe splash protection
Nice, generous toe splash protection

Why the toe and head splash guards? No splashing – duh! Well, you can imagine camping under a tarp in a thunderstorm. Sure, a simple A-frame simple tarp will keep you dry and cozy from overhead rain, but what if it’s windy? And what if the rain drops are so huge that they’re splashing back up from underneath the tarp edges? That A-frame allows a lot of room for drops to snear near your bag. Solution: splash guards! The splash guards at the toe and head will protect from water splashing back, and the construction means that the ground cloth creates a bathtub shape along the sides, further protecting you and your fragile down bag from any rogue water droplets. Less wet down means no soggy bag and less dry time. Last year on the PCT Jared and I got caught in a few doozy thunderstorms in the Sierras. If we’d had a tarp, we surely would have needed protection from monster raindrop backsplash and would have made good use of this ground cloth.

Smaller head splash guard
Smaller head splash guard

The ground cloth is made with two pieces of tyvek, each about 34″ wide. The two pieces are sewn together and seam sealed. Then the edges are folded over, envelope style, to create the toe and head splash guards. The corners are rounded to reduce excess material and weight. Attachment points for the toe guard are reinforced with extra fabric and stitching to prevent tearing. All seams are sealed with SeamSure, a simple water based seam sealer.

So far, the ground cloth is faring well. I have yet to put it to the test and use it outside, but urban apartment camping tests bode well for future successes. It should give me just the abrasion and dirt protection me and my sleeping pad need. And it should also protect my down bag from any splashing (especially under those tarps that I have in the works).

Overall – second ultralight gear making was a success! Next time around, I’ll add a few inches to overall length (it’s just barely long enough now…a few more inches would reduce stress on attachment points), but will otherwise keep the design consistent.

Next on the horizon: tiny bug mesh tent, 2 person tarp, bivy bag, and solo tarp/poncho…

Attachment point seam reinforcements
Attachment point seam reinforcements
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