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Fabric suggestions for slightly unusual shelter project - please :-)
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Richard Tie
(RichieT) - F
Fabric suggestions for slightly unusual shelter project - please :-) on 03/04/2012 07:03:49 MST Print View

Hi everyone,

for my next project, essentially a cross between a tarp and a Kifaru Sawtooth which can be pitched like a normal open A-frame tarp and also as a fully enclosed shelter so it can be used with a stove, I am trying to decide exactly what material to use, and would be thankful if some of you insightful people here could help me make a good choice and pick a good source.

First things first: I have set my mind on rip stop silicone nylon. If that sounds boring to you, please read on nonetheless to see my requirements below, which so far I have not found a good source for - that really seems to be a bit of a challenge!

Reasons: We are using the tarp with our children during quite serious backpacking trips in the mountains, and both the trips as well as occasionally our children are tough on the tarp. Also, I have quite decent experience in sewing silicone nylon, and I do not want to deal with temperamental materials. Finally, I am convinced that the stretchyness that nylon has is actually a benefit and not a downside, because materials that have little stretch do not have the ability to "even out" point loads (for example created by accident, or by non-perfect sewing), and therefore, while they often have higher test ratings, they do not actually perform too well in regards to reliability and longevity - both of which is paramount for me. So silicone nylon it is.

That still leaves a lot of questions though, which stem from some of my requirements for this shelter:

1. Athough I have my ideas about that, I am still undecided about what material weight / density / thickness I should choose, and would really like to hear your opinions about that. Keep in mind that I value robustness, and would like to avoid going all too flimsy. Also keep in mind that the shelter will be about the size of this, except with the significant difference that it will only be about chest high at the front pole:

Sawtooth 01

Sawtooth 02

2. I really want stealthy colours. If it wasn't so much heavier without any structural advantage, I would even consider actual camouflage patterns, but their stealth advantage over "just stealthy" natural colours is not high enough for my application that I'm willing to pay the weight penalty for it. It should be something between brown and dark green, for example, like the brown of Kifaru tarps. What are good sources for that?

3. I would really, really like to be able to buy it in maybe 70" or even wider, to avoid having to put in two seams that I would not need otherwise, and that are technically unnecessary. Are there any good sources for silicone nylon in such width?

4. No through-misting in very heavy rain (I know the difference between this and condensation, and know how to avoid condensation in the first place, which is possible both with tarps and with enclosed heated shelters). I have had very good experiences with the sil-nylon that Ray Jardine sells. Ray claims his material has been treated in some unique way to prevent through-misting, and indeed I never had a problem with that. What does his treatment actually do? How does the sil-nylon of other sources compare in regards to through-misting? There seems to be a huge range of treatments that the fabrics on the market have off the shelf, and I am struggling to make sense of them. I would absolutely happily buy sil-nylon from Ray again, but he has absolutely no colour that even comes close to my stealth requirements, and does not sell the fabrics in the width that I need for this project either.

5. If, ideally after all the above requirements have been met, I can get the fabric with a reflective coating on one side, such as this: and without a significant weight penalty, I'll happily pay twice the price. Actually, what do you think of this particular fabric? Aside from the fact that it doesn't come in a colour that I really like, but in technical terms what do you think of it?

So the bottomline is (ideally): Light but strong enough not to worry about it; stealthy natural colours; fabric available in 70" width or even wider; no through-misting in heavy rain.

Curious to hear your opinions!


Edited by RichieT on 03/04/2012 07:50:37 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Fabric suggestions for slightly unusual shelter project - please :-) on 03/04/2012 07:27:01 MST Print View shield silnylon is good. I got some for a floor and it is very waterproof. If it's waterproof for floor then then there won't be any misting in a wall.

I don't think you'll find it greater than about 63 or 66 inches which is what's typical, they say 60 inches but it's a little wider

Richard Tie
(RichieT) - F
Waterproof floor on 03/04/2012 07:38:12 MST Print View

Thanks for the link - and good point re "waterproof for floor"!

Since it's only marginally heavier than other comparable sil-nylon fabrics, but I think I recall a test here on BPL that Shield Sil Nylon is a lot more waterproof than most if not all others, I have to ask though:

How does the mechanical performance compare? The fact that it's hardly any heavier yet a lot more waterproof than others seems to suggest that they use a rather loose weave of nylon to make up for the extra weight of an increased amount of silicone.

Would be really grateful if someone knowledgeable could clarify this... if it's equally tough as other sil-nylon fabrics, I see no real reason not to buy Shield Sil Nylon.

Also, are there sources for Shield Sil Nylon in different colours from the offered grey and yellow? The grey might work well enough regarding stealth camping, but I would still prefer an olive brown or similar.

I know fabrics often come wider, but the thing is, when I order it half around the globe and spend the money on it, I need to know for sure that it will be wide enough for my project... although I also think I might have to live with not finding a source for that width.


Edited by RichieT on 03/04/2012 08:04:49 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
thru-hiker shield silnylon on 03/04/2012 08:26:51 MST Print View

Richard Nisley measured hydrostatic head. Shield is much better. That's why I got some. Thanks Richard.

I think you'de want a tighter weave to be more waterproof but whatever...

I'm pretty sure it's the same strength as other silnylon. Getting it waterproof is just a matter of getting the coating process down?

No other sources that I'm aware of. Pretty sure you won't find 70 inches. Call or email thru-hiker and ask him. He follows this website so he might just respond to this.

One thing I noticed about the Shield is it's slipperier. Regular silnylon has an almost sticky surface. The shield is like it's harder or something, quite slippery. I put some silicone caulk on the floor so I don't slip around so much but it's still pretty slippery. I need to put undiluted with mineral spirits silicone maybe. Not an issue for you though...

Terry Trimble
(socal-nomad) - F

Locale: North San Diego county
light coyote brown silnylon on 03/04/2012 08:42:42 MST Print View

This company might be able to help you out with the coyote brown silnylon.

Or call thru hiker and see if he can find a bolt in the color you want thru hiker silnylon is the same as the silnylon MLD uses on their tarps. Dave Oware at Oware might be able to locate some also.

Personally I would use super K kote nylon 140d urethane nylon from seattle fabric for strength and guaranteed waterproofness.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: light coyote brown silnylon on 03/04/2012 08:46:51 MST Print View

super K kote is 4 ounces per square yard, almost 3 X the 1.4 ounce per square yard of Shield.

Don't need the extra strength unless you're climbing Denali : )

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Fabric suggestions for slightly unusual shelter project - please :-) on 03/04/2012 19:00:15 MST Print View

You can gt 70d silnylon (which is 1.9 oz ripstop plus silicone impregnation - total weight/yd I don't know) from some vendors if you want extra durability. I would not say extra storm-worthiness, but for the rough and tumble of kids and pets it may be worth the weight.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
Fabric suggestions on 03/04/2012 19:50:42 MST Print View

Thanks for the tip about Ray Jardine's silnylon. Will look into it.
Excellent quality silnylon is so hard to find now, that I think you are specing yourself out of business with the 70", and perhaps even with the color limitations.
The Thru-Hiker comes in dark gray, but is translucent, and might appear lighter in daylight, and not contrast overly with, say, conifer trees.
If you want to go heavier, there is the material used by Appy tents, and the polyester used by Chinook tarps, in medium spruce green and other earth-tone colors.
The 2.5 oz silnylon has been offered by Seattle Fabrics and some others in a medium spruce green; but that also would make for a rather heavy shelter.
Maybe you will have to go to shaded cuben, like so many others.
It will be interesting to see what other possibilities might come from your thread.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Fabric suggestions on 03/04/2012 19:58:29 MST Print View

I have one of Ray's tarp kits unused but in his own signature blue with sewing cord and a note from Ray. Richard Nisley would have liked a sample but I thought there just wasn't enough selvage to spare for testing. But somebody can put it to use. Me-the skeeters consider me Nirvana, so sometimes a great notion...

Richard Tie
(RichieT) - F
Why do replies require a subject? oh well here is one on 03/04/2012 21:58:47 MST Print View

Hi again,

great information coming together here, thanks all, keep it coming!

I'm thinking I'll have to work around the limitation of 60" width. It's not ideal, but manageable. It's hard to me to understand why such a narrow width has become de facto standard, but that's what it seems to be.

I can not live with a colour that stands out though, so that requirement has to remain. Being semi-translucent to me almost seems to be an advantage, because it lets some of the colours behind and underneath it shine through, which helps with blending into the environment (unless you have a blaze orange quilt or sleeping bag, haha). Some of Ray's colours do that, too. Also, there is more daylight underneath the tarp, which is nice.

Don't know how heavy exactly Ray's sil-nylon is, because he states "oz/yard", and I'm not entirely sure if he actually means by yard, or by square yard. He states 1.3 oz/yard, if he actually means oz/yard, at the width he is selling it that converts into app. 2.2 oz/square yard. If someone could clarify that somehow, that would be great because then I would have a number that I can compare my possible candidates with.

Whatever the weight of Ray's material actually is, from own experience I can say it's strong enough for what we do, but I admit I wouldn't mind adding some 20% strength or so because (only!) in very high winds (read: walking is difficult), his material does stretch a little too much to sleep peacefully; you can see it by just looking at it before you dive back into the cover underneath after fine tuning some pegs and lines in the storm. It never showed any visible damage the next day, and no permanently remaining stretch either, which is fantastic, but I'd just like to know for sure that it will survive while we are in the storm, instead of having to lie awake throughout the night ready to improvise an ad-hoc makeshift shelter from our groundsheet any second in case the main shelter blows. It would not be very enjoyable to have ourselves and all the gear exposed to storm, rain or even snow from one second to the next. A couple times I thought it might happen, but it never did. I am impressed with what Ray's material has done for us, and we definitely take the tarp into situations that are pushing it for tarps (and probably for most tents as well) - but it would be good for what we do to have a wee bit extra strength. It would just allow us to have nicer dreams on those nights.

It's a shame that Ray doesn't offer any more stealthy colours, especially since he promotes stealth camping so much. If I could buy his sil-nylon in a truly stealthy colour, my quest would be over, and I would simply buy from him again. The performance of his material was so good for us that whatever we choose, we run quite a risk of being disappointed, even if we use something slightly heavier. Weight is no guarantee for performance.

(Disclaimer: While we had extremely positive experiences with Ray's sil-nylon even under adverse conditions and in exposed places, note that of course we pitched very low in these storms, with the ridge maybe mid thigh high or even less; we used all pullouts and lines; had additional extra pegs in important places; and fine tuned the tension all around very carefully. I would definitely not recommend to anyone to try tarping (nor tenting!) in such conditions unless they have significant skills and knowledge in tarping, and in bushcraft in general. Even the most expensive shelters can fail. If you would be in a life threatening situation without your tarp or tent which you could not get yourself out of due to lack of gear or skills, in an ideal world, you shouldn't be there in the first place in my opinion. Extend your limits by learning systematically and carefully at the same time, step by step, and you will learn heaps, be safe, and live to enjoy another trip.)

A brief idea: I think I have some leftovers still. If they are large enough, if anyone wants to test Ray Jardine's sil-nylon, just give me your address and how large a piece you need, and I'll mail you some. I definitely also have some of his PU nylon left over as well (used it as a hard wearing and non-slippery floor in another project). Of course I can't guarantee that it's still the exact same sil-nylon that he is selling today, since I bought it years ago, but he never said anything on his web page about having changed materials, and I think he probably would if he did.

To be continued...


Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Why do replies require a subject? on 03/04/2012 22:01:58 MST Print View

use the reply button in the title header, and it will be filled in for you

Richard Tie
(RichieT) - F
Re: Why do replies require a subject? on 03/04/2012 22:04:08 MST Print View

Oh ok, thanks for the tip! :-)


David Scheidt
(dscheidt) - F
why 60" wide? Money. on 03/07/2012 13:55:45 MST Print View

Fabric widths are determined by economics. A loom that's capable of weaving fabric wider is more expensive, both to buy (They're not just bigger because they're wider, they have to be stronger to withstand the increased warp thread tension), and to run (more electricity). They're also slower (fewer picks/ minute).

Wider fabrics are worth more to the people making stuff of the fabric, because you get better allocation (less waste). But as fabric gets wider, it gets harder to handle, and you spend more money and space on cutting.

It works out that most looms are 190 cm (75 inches)wide, which produces goods that work out to be about 150 cm (60 inches) once finished. (The actual width varies an awful lot depending on what the goods are, and on what the finishing is.)

There are 340 cm wide looms that are capable of making the nylon cloth that silnylon is made from. If you're willing to buy a few kilometers, you can get someone to make what you want. If you're not, you're stuck with a seam. (Look on the bright side: fabric used to be much narrower.)