Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Make a DIY Tyvek Tent Footprint

Tyvek Tent Footprint

I recently acquired a beautiful new backpacking tent as an unexpected gift. It is a Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2, and I love it thus far (click here for my review.) However, the tent did not come with a footprint, and the stock footprint costs $70 because it is made of ultralight silnylon. I had often read about DIY Tyvek footprints and now was presented with a perfect opportunity to give the project a shot. The material only cost me $16, and I ended up with a finished footprint that weights 4 oz. on the nose, the exact specs of the Big Agnes model. The project took about an hour. For a simpler version, this project might only take about 15 minutes. Mine took a bit longer because the tent has a trapezoid floor rather than a perfect rectangle, and I decided to reinforce and sew tabs on the corners so it could be staked out (this is optional, of course.), Also, because this tent is not free-standing, I could not simply set it up, set it on the Tyvek, and trace the outline, which is probably the fastest method. So, below I’ll outline each step of the process I did use, where to get the Tyvek (certain types are better than others), and the tools you will need.

Tools Required
  • Good Scissors
  • Magic Marker
  • Tape Measure
  • Long Straight Edge (a yardstick or long T-square should do)
  • Tyvek fabric larger than your tent
  • Sewing Machine and synthetic thread (optional)

Getting the Tyvek
Thanks to an article I read in Backpacker magazine, I discovered this place to buy Type 1443R Tyvek. The supplier actually provides kite-making supplies, and sells this by the yard ($3.50/yrd.) I needed three yards to hit my longest dimension, so my total cost including shipping was $16.50. This model is less “crinkly” and, therefore, a lot less noisy than the type of Tyvek you see wrapped on houses. I suspect it might be lighter, too.

Step 1 – Measuring /Determining Your Tent’s Perimeter

Measure tent perimeter for footprint
If you have a free-standing tent, you are in luck. Simply spread out the Tyvek, assemble your tent, set it atop the Tyvek, and trace the edges with a magic marker. Because the tent I’m using is not free standing, I simply staked out the edges and then measured with a tape measure.

Step 2 – Measure & Cut the Tyvek
Drawing a straight edge to begin DIY tent footprint
You might have to draw a straight
edge for a starting point.
If you already have your lines drawn from tracing your free-standing tent, just measure two inches inside your lines and cut. This is because you want your footprint slightly smaller than the tent floor so that rain does not collect at the edges and roll underneath the tent.

If you need to draw the edges rather than trace, it can be a tad trickier, especially for odd shapes. Mine needed to be a trapezoid which meant my corners would not be right angles. Also, I noticed my Tyvek did not have straight cuts at either end. So, I took my magic marker and made a straight line to begin from. I then measured and drew the necessary lines from the dimensions I'd measured, then came back inside two inches from that and drew them again. Frankly, due to a bit of math phobia,  I wasn’t sure if just taking 4 inches  off of my original dimensions (2” for each end)
Lines drawn for DIY Tyvek tent footprint.
would result in the proper shape in the end. So, I decided to take an extra five minutes and do it this way. I then cut out the Tyvek.

If you don’t want to stake out your footprint, YOU’RE DONE! Because I like to sew and sometimes find setup easier if I can stake my footprint, I decided to add tabs.

Step 3 – Add Stake Tabs To Each Corner(Optional)

diy tent footrpint tabs
For this step, I decided to only use my Tyvek scrap (but you could use a very thin webbing or other synthetic fabric.) First, I sewed a triangular reinforcement on each corner, two-plys thick. This means my tabs will be sewn into three layers of Tyvek. After the corners, I used a single layer of Tyvek to make tabs through which I could use a loop of cord for staking. I sewed two parallel lines and an “X” on these to distribute the force of pulling across a wide area. Even one ply of this Tyvek seems plenty strong enough. I made them fairly wide, again to distribute the pulling pressure over a larger area.

Step 4 – Add Cord

Once I got the tabs sewn, I cut four strands of cord and left them untied. I put out the footprint, set my tent on top, and staked the tent’s four corners. From there, I just tied a knot in each cord loop around its stake, making sure to burn the ends with a lighter to prevent fraying.

Finished project, DIY Tyvek Tent Footprint
Here is the footprint fully finished, and staked out.

So, for only $16.50 and an hour of labor, I now have a perfectly good footprint that coincidentally weighs exactly the same (4 oz.) as the $70 silylon verson from Big Agnes. This saved me $53, and I get a lot of satisfaction from making things myself. Having said that, I’m sure the factory manufactured silnylon version from Big Agnes is more durable, and probably packs a little smaller. I’m happy to make that trade-off in this case, though.

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1 comment:

  1. You can buy adhesive loops on eBay or Amazon instead of going through all the work of sewing the loops on.
    These are the peel & stick type.