Intro: DIY Simple Tent Ground Cloth + Optional Waterproofing Layer
There are a bunch of posts on Tent Ground Cloths. They're all pretty easy to make, just as this one is.
Then why another DIY ground cloth making post or in this case Instrucructable one might ask?
My answer is simple, because there seems to be plenty of confusion about tent ground cloths, mainly the primary purpose of a tent ground cloth. With out knowing the primary purpose, you can't make one correctly, now can you?
Somewhere along the line, the primary purpose got lost. And I don't care what anyone tells you, what company makes what claim. The primary purpose of your ground cloth is simply to help protect your tent floor from sticks and stones and punctures. It is not to weatherproof your tent floor. It should already be weatherproofed. If not, that's anther issue you have all together. And should be remedied before your next outing.
That's not to say you can't add additional waterproofing to your ground cloth. Of course you can. But it must be limited to the floor dimensions. Preferably the waterproofing on the ground cloth should be your tent floor dimensions less an inch boundary all the way around the floor perimeter.
That said, your "ground cloth" can be as big as you want it to be. It should allow water to run through it, not soak up water, dry quickly and help protect your tent floor from the elements on the ground. Which you hopefully swept and cleared the area you plan to pitch your tent of all: Sticks, Twigs, Rocks, Logs, Stones and other things you might be uncomfortable lying on.
You can have a ground cloth 10 feet by 20 feet large with a tent only 3 foot by 7 foot if you like. But If the whole thing is water proof, guess what? First rain, your tent and everything else on it, will be sitting in water. And that is not what you want. Well, I don't, maybe you do...?
Hopefully you have a clear understanding of what your ground cloth's purpose is for. Lets make a simple yet effective one.
Step 1: Materials and Tools Required for the Build
The material you use for your ground cloth is up to you. You could just throw a sheet down and call it a day. If you know it's not going to rain, and the ground isn't wet or water logged. That is a fine and viable solution. But lets make one for all weather conditions that is even lighter weight than a bed sheet.
I have used in the past Pond Under Liner. It is designed for the same purpose as our ground cloth needs. To help protect the rubber pond liner from punctures from sticks and stones and the like. It works well. Depending on what type material it is made from, it will not retain water and dries quickly.
However, I found another product recently that worked great. It's a Landscape Fabric used to keep weeds from growing made from recycled plastic bottles. It's very light weight. durable (has a 25 year warranty), flexible, no noise like you get from some products (Tyvek or tarps or heavy plastics as I've seen some people use). And because it's made from plastic bottles, it doesn't soak up water and it dries very quickly. It;s light green in color which proved very plesant on the feet when I was making it on the stone patio on a incredibly hot humid Florida day at noon.
It's made or put out by Sta-Green and you can find it at Lowes for $10 a roll at the time of this writing.
So lets get all the materials and tools together for the build:
1 3x24ft roll of Sta-Green Landscape Fabric - (depending on the size of your tent - if you need more - get more)
A Grommet Kit - Preferably you'll use non rusting or Aluminum Grommets. Use ones with 3/8 to 1/2 holes if you want to stake it out.
Heat Shrink Tape or Duct Tape (2" width) Only if you need a double width of landscape fabric or want to add a water proofing layer
or if you prefer you can sew the seams, for that you'll need or have access to a Sewing Machine.
4mm Visqueen or the like plastic sheeting ( only if you want to add a water proof layer to your ground cloth).
Scissors or Utility Knife. ( to cut the landscape fabric and plastic sheeting.
Step 2: Step 2: Summary of the Build
Pitch your tent and decide now what area you want to cover with the ground cloth. And water proof layer.
Do you want it bigger than your tent? Same size?
Do you want to cover the vestibule area with the ground cloth? or with the water proof layer as well?
Measure out the dimensions your covering. Measure your tent floor as well as vestibule area if including it.
Do not go by the manufacturers measurements on the box or in the instructions it came with. A lot of manufacturers lie by rounding the measurements up or down. Take the measurements yourself.
To summarize the build these are the steps you'll be taking.
Take your measurements and get the dimensions of length and width.
You'll be adding two inches for a folded edge - either all the way around or perhaps just on the length depending on your tent size.
Add a water proofing layer if so desired.
Make the edge folds.
Tape or sew the edge folds.
Tape the water proofing edge if needed
Add grommets in the corners.
It's a very simple build.
Lets start with a ground cloth only - no water proofing layer added.
Step 3: Step 3: Ground Cloth Only
The tent pictured is a Alpine Design Solitude I solo tent that is 3.2 wide by 7.2 ft long at it's longest point.
I chose not to add a water proofing layer for this particular tent.
This makes for real fast build.
Since it is 3.2 ft wide. There is nothing to do on the width side. The Landscape Fabric is 3 ft wide. It's just fine as it is.
See the little graphic I did for you to see how this tent lays out over the ground cloth.
Tent is light orange and ground cloth is light green in the image.
Measure the length adding 4 inches for the edge fold ( two inches per side)
Cut your material.
Go to one of the sides on the length. Fold over the material 1 inch. Fold that over again 1 inch.
This material creases real nice like.
You can tape it or sew the hem you just made.
Dog ear the corners
Add a grommet to the center of each dog ear in the material.
Go to the other long side - do the same. Folding over the end 1 inch and again 1 inch.
Sew or tape the hem.
Dog ear each corner and add a grommet to the center of your dog ear.
Flip it over hem side down.
You are done.
Step 4: Step 4: Ground Cloth With Water Proof Layer
In this build we are going to add a water proof layer using Visqueen (plastic sheeting)
One I chose to do for my Hiker Biker Solo Tent II which as you can see by the pictures, has a vestibule.
Personally, my decision was to cover the vestibule area with the ground cover, but not with the water proof layer.
That is not something written in stone. You may want your vestibule area to have a waterproof layer. That is your decision.
This build goes pretty much the same with the exception that you tape the plastic sheeting to the landscape fabric. Or not, you can just lay it loose. I chose to tape it. Heat shrink tape is great for out door exposure. Well, the one I use is.
Make your ground cloth as previously stated
Cut your plastic sheeting making sure it is your tent floor dimensions less 1 inch all the way around. IF taping it, make sure you minus an extra inch all the way around for the tape) Unless covering your vestibule, in which case I recommend cutting it at least 1.5 inches back from your rain fly edge in the vestibule area.
Minus an added 1 inch to allow for the tape if taping!
Flip your ground cloth over hem side down.
Lay your plastic sheeting on top of it and tape the edges to the ground cloth.
You did allow for the tape in your measurements when cutting it didn't you? The tape is waterproof too!
IF not - just cut an added inch off all the way around the plastic sheeting. Then tape it.
You can see on the graphic image I added how this tent layed out with each layer.
Step 5: Step 5: a Dome Tent Ground Cloth With Water Proofing.
The Landscape Fabric is 3 ft wide. But what if your tent is a dome tent such as the Ozark Jr tent pictured is?
It's floor area is 6ft x 5ft.
It's actually pretty simple. You tape or sew a seam in the middle.
It's not rocket science after all...
I've included some snaps I took of the very first one I made with this material for the Ozark Jr tent shown.
Additionally I was experimenting with double layers of both the waterproofing and ground cloth layers.
Once made I changed it and revised the design to single layers so I almost hesitate to post images of it.
But as stated - Making a ground cloth is not rocket science and I'm sure you are all smart enough, you'll get the picture and hope you won't not hold it against me for posting pictures of an experimental build revised.
The first photo is of my original experimental dual layer ground cloth once it was completed. Because of it's construction - I really didn't need much tape. I was also going to add in a built in door mat but ran out of material. Big idea, just not a big enough roll of fabric!
The grommets held it all in place nicely. But in changing my mind and deciding to revise it. I had to cut a layer of each out. then go back and tape.
The second photo is the revised single layer. View from the top ( one layer of landscape cloth and a single layer of water proofing)
Next a bottom view of the same.
You do not need to go as crazy with grommets as is shown on this ground cloth. One in each corner is plenty. The tent sit on top of it.
Additonally, my tent(s) being different dimensions than yours. What I can offer up on the dome tents ground cloth build is this.
Being my tent floor was 5'x6' as mentioned I chose to put my seam on the 5 foot side. Meaning I would need two pieces 3 ft by 6'4". I would run the splice of the two pieces down the center. In the photo you can see I used an overlap rather than a hem style fold for the splice.. Taping each side (top and bottom ) of the splice perspectively.
If you have a single plastic sheet that will cover the whole ground area that needs to be covered. Again cut an extra inch off the plastic sheeting to allow for tape. ( if using 2 inch tape)
Once you make this ground cloth and see how light it is. You'll be real happy you made it.
Step 6: Step 6: Additional Thoughts and Tips
If you have extra material you might want to make a door mat for your tent such as the one I made.
As well, if you don't or didn't know what I meant by "Dog Earing" you can see an example of dog earing on this door mat a little better than in the other photos.
Drying out your ground cloth if it gets wet - just hang it over a branch for an hour if that.
This stuff dries out real fast.
Use Landscape Ground Cloth Pegs to hold your ground cloth down. They are plastic and really light weight as well. Makes it easier than chasing a ground cloth in the wind when pitching your tent. That's for sure.
You can pick up a bag of 20 pegs at Home Depot for less than $5. That should be enough for several ground cloths.
So far I've had great luck with my ground cloth made from Sta-Greens Landscape Fabric. It's really held up nicely so far. Easy to sweep off. Much better than the black material I've used in the past.
I think you'll like. Give it a try and let me know how your trip went.
Post a link to pictures of your camping outing. I'd love to see them.
- chase -