I’m usually a pretty serious advocate of buying brand name gear when your life depends on it. Recently, however, I’ve needed things that are so specific for what I am doing that they simply aren’t marketable. Last year, I made gear to allow me to safely paddle a kayak from Key West to The Tortugas which required a sail, cockpit cover, sea anchor, and outriggers among other things (click the links to see the designs). But recently, I’ve set my eye on a backpacking trip necessitating the lightest gear and have been seriously disappointed with the options currently on the market. I was very impressed with the light weight and affordability of my 7 ounce silnylon Integral Designs Siltarp 1 that I purchased last year. But I figured using a similar rectangle design with Cuben fiber instead of silnylon could drop that weight even further. I did some calculations and figured I could make a Cuben fiber tarp using ZPacks materials that weighed just 2 ounces.
So I ordered
- Four linear yards of their .34 oz/sqyd fabric
- Four strips of .51 oz/sqyd 1″ seam tape
- One 6″circular adhesive reinforcement
- Two 2.5″ X 2.5″ stick on loops
- I also had some small grommets lying around from a previous project.
I first cut the fabric into a 54″ X 82″ sheet. In hindsight, I probably would have accepted another .1 ounces to make it 90″ long. But being 5’6″ fortunately allows me to carry a pretty small tarp. I then cut the 1″ tape in half, giving me two strips of 1/2″ tape. I lined every edge with this 1/2″ tape rolled over to prevent fraying on the edges.
After that I cut the circular reinforcement into fourths, and applied one of those to each corner. I decided to just apply to one side, figuring, despite being aesthetically less pleasing, it would definitely be the strongest part of the whole tarp.
After that I added 1-gram grommets as close as I felt comfortable with to the edges. I didn’t want the edges to roll over with the grommet too centered and I didn’t want the grommet to rip out if it were too close to the edge. For the guylines I used G-Line 1 Polyester Dyneema Guyline Cord from Litetrail but it is apparently no longer available. The ZPacks 1.25mm Spectra cord will work just as well. I used ~1.5 meters per corner and ~2 meters for the ends. The plan is to have long guylines so I can tie the tarp between trees more often than not. That’ll give it more functional surface area and allow my only carrying two stakes to be much more practical. It ends up being ~10 grams of guyline cord.
I put the stick on loops centrally on the short sides to allow me to run a guyline through it and set up the tarp A-frame style using trekking poles. I’m switching to the collapsible Black Diamond Ultra distance trekking poles which doesn’t allow me to simply take the guyline through the hand loop on the trekking pole like I did before with my adjustable poles. What I’ll probably end up doing is using two more stick on loops at the correct height on my new poles and just running the guyline through there.
The tarp ended up looking great. I managed to keep straight lines despite having less than ideal tools. I highly recommend using a rotary cutter to cut the fabric. Other than that there is no sewing involved and it takes just a few hours to make the whole tarp. It ends up costing ~$100, surprisingly high for a DIY project but still markedly less than a similar retail tarp.
While the length is easily adjusted simply by cutting the fabric longer, increasing the width would need double sided tape. While still stitch free, it would certainly add to the weight and possibly the fragility by adding another point of failure.
Comparison to retail tarps (all weights are body, guylines, and 2 MSR carbon stakes):
Mine 3.1oz $100
Zpacks 5.15oz $185
Hyperlite tarp 7.1oz $300
Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp 5.5oz $285
If you’re not interested in making your own tarp, Zpacks is definitely the way to go. They normally make their rectangular Cuben fiber tarps out of the heavier .51 oz material but they very likely would make one out of the lighter .34 oz material if you request it.
I hope this helps someone else interested in making a ridiculously lightweight tarp but at least at minimum it proves it can be done. Up next: ridiculously lightweight Cuben fiber rain jacket.
I made a new tarp and used Zpacks stick on loop for the corners instead of grommets. I also didn’t use tape reinforcement for the edges. Both of these adjustments make the tarp even easier to make, lighter, and I believe with the same durability.
39 thoughts on “DIY: Two ounce cuben fiber tarp”
Nice job! My 0.34 cf is 80g with the cordage and is 6×9, had zpacks make it for me years ago, got thousands of miles of use with it. hope yours serves you well !!
80 grams for 6*9! Looks like I need to go back to the drawing board.
I’m curious how these tarps held up long term? Were they wide enough for you? Did the lack of taping the edges ever cause issues? Anything you would do different if you were to make another one?
I’ve returned to this page a bunch of times and finally think I might try my hand at making one!
Thank you so for sharing!
The lack of taping never caused any problems, still a functional tarp. Probably would’ve made it bigger but in older and not as tough now!
Question: Why do you need four linear yds. if your finished size was approx. 52×80? I might be missing something.
I ended up turning it into a poncho tarp so that’s what the extra yard was for. More expensive but worth having extra!
Is it possible for you to show the poncho modifications?
I’ll see what I can put together!
How are the edges you didn’t tape holding up? Is it better to tape them?
It didn’t seem to make much of a difference to me at all! They held up great without the tape. They rolled up slightly on the edges (a couple mm) and I have one small tear about half an inch but the dyneema threads stopped it from spreading. Thanks for checking out my site!
Love the kit list. I’m with James. I’d love to see the poncho modifications if possible.
Thanks Jason! I’ll see what I can put together man!
Thanks for all of your insights regarding the DIY’s and trips.
I’m Yam, from Malaysia. I’d like to ask, is there any way that you could come up with another set of your tarp & shipped it to my country?
Those materials are not available here. Plus, yours seems very, very reasonable. The costs can be followed suits.
Thanks for your kind responses 🙂
Thanks for your interest! I apologize but I’m very busy now and will be unable to build another tarp for quite some time now. I recommend checking out Z-packs site and seeing if they’d be willing to put one together for you. It wouldn’t be as light as mine but it will still be very high quality. Otherwise you could attempt building one yourself from Z-packs material. Good luck and let me know how it works out!
Just wanted to add another vote for sharing the poncho modifications!
Zpacks site says their stick on loops will not be strong enough for guy lines. Have you had any issues with your version 2 using only the stick on loops?
I have not had any issues. I also use super thin guy lines and the tiny 1 gram terra nova stakes so it’s all pretty low strength stuff. I’m not sure what would give out first but I imagine the stakes would bend or pop out of the ground before the stick on loops tore.
Great stuff! In your post you mention increasing the width by using two pieces taped together. I’m looking at doing this to make a 9×6. Do you think the double sided tape is necessary? I was assuming I’d be able to overlap the edges and using single sided tape, weld the two pieces to each-other on each side.
I imagine that would work just as well if not better! I’m having a tough time remembering why I was considering the double sided tape…
Just a quick followup. I ended up using the double sided and this this tarp is amazing. perfect size for gear storage underneath and weather protection. Using it on my Colorado Trail thru-hike this summer.
Thanks for the creative inspiration!
Awesome! I’m glad it worked Chris! Good luck on your trip.
Great write-up. In the first completed photo showing the ceiling height, the tarp looks really narrow. Is that still enough space to fit your gear and a sleeping bag + bivy sack under? I’m considering making version 2 of this for a 7-day trip along the JMT in September. Thanks.
Hey Paul, it is very narrow. I usually set it up lean-to style though which gives you a lot more space but you’ll still get sprinkled on in most hard rains. For 7 days on the JMT I personally would feel totally comfortable with it considering it hardly rains and with those big days you’ll be happier with a lighter pack. I’m jealous! Enjoy your trip!
Thanks so much for the post! I’m thinking about doing something similar, but with silpoly. I was curious, though, can you give more explanation to the circular adhesive tape you used? I can’t find anything similar online to buy. I can’t imagine Gorilla tape would work, but that’s the closest to what I’m finding to it.
You can find the circular adhesive here: http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/tape.shtml I’m not sure if gorilla tape would work or would last long. But it’s worth a shot! You could try it on a small section to see if it works.
I hope you’re still seeing notifications on this. Thanks for doing this, first of all. With the linear yards being 54″ wide only, how did you join them to make a wider tarp–using the same seam tape as on the edges?
Another vote for poncho plans
Please & thanks Grayson!
Yet another vote for the poncho plans, please.
Me too for the poncho plan!
Another plead for poncho / tarp description
Nice job on the tarp! I lost my Golite poncho. I think the wind took it at some point, either near Angels’ Rest above Pearisburg or off the clothes line in my back yard drying it out. Real mystery what happened to it. Anyway, I’d love to make myself one of these to replace at least the tarp function of it. Thanks for the tips.
I read about your hike a while back, and I was sorry to hear of your unpleasant experience with a backpacker who told you: “I hate you guys.” I’ve also run into a few of those people who feel obligated to point out the people they think don’t belong (in their new-found utopia).
Don’t let these trail hijackers choke your enjoyment of the trail. The trail belongs to anyone who wants to hike it in any way and at any speed they want, (even them). Trail would be so much closer to the utopia they seek to preserve for themselves, if they didn’t feel and act so threatened by those of us who are also entitled to use it.
It’s such a bizarre conundrum to have a thru-hiker point a finger at another thru-hiker like them and say he/she doesn’t belong. I’ve backpacked the whole AT and have run hundreds of miles on it also. Matt Kirk also thru-hiked the trail 2-3 times before he ran it through.
Thru-hiking is hard enough that not many people do it. Great way to find a little solitude in the more remote sections. Fast-packing is harder and even fewer. What’s the fuss? I say let them run on by. There won’t be that many, and they’ll be out of their view in a matter of seconds.
Thanks for your comment!
This is awesome. So you didn’t have to tape the edges of your second version? And you used zpacks stick on loops for corner tie outs? That’s great.
Also very interested in seeing how you did the poncho tarp! Hoping to follow the guide just with a slightly longer tarp to add a little rain protection!
Hey I’m curious, did you stitch anything or simply use the tape and the adhesive corners? Looking into this to make my own and trying to plan it out, I want to see the edges and anywhere needed IF Necessary, but if it holds up fine without then no need. I do not own a sewing machine so that would be an investment.
No stitching, just tape! Holds up great, honestly the taped parts are probably the strongest