Tech Tips: Tent Groundcloths

Ground Cloths

Camp below North Peak Couloir

Anyone who has purchased a new tent in recent years knows that salespeople are pushing slickly designed groundcloths hard. They are touted as a sort of insurance for your new badass tent. We beg to differ.  Not only is this accessory not needed, but also it adds extra weight and bulk to your pack. Let’s take a harder look at tent groundcloths and their place in today’s backpacking arena.

There are two potential reasons to use groundcloths with a tent: (1.) waterproofing the floor and (2.) durability so the floor won’t tear or wear out.  In the good ol’ days, tent fabrics were very different than they are today. They weren’t always waterproof, the laminates dried and peeled off, and the floors wore through quite quickly. Groundcloths were needed to combat these issues and were very effective. Today’s backpacking tents (late 90’s and on) are constructed of much more sophisticated fabrics. Silicone impregnation offers waterproof-ness and durability, as does seam taping and welding. “Bathtub” designs keep would-be leaky seams off of the ground. So, the manufacturer has already solved the waterproof issue. Regarding durability, SYMG’s fleet of tents can offer perspective. These are tents that in one summer see more use than 10 years of the average person’s tent! It’s the zippers that bust, not the floor. While it is possible to get the occasional hole or tear in the floor of the tent, a gore-tex patch will fix it right up. The zipper, however, is another story. The better companies will warranty the zippers, but taking care during use is your best insurance.

The take home message: groundcloths don’t help your tent in any meaningful way, so save yourself some weight, bulk and money by leaving them at the store. Happy backpacking!

2 thoughts on “Tech Tips: Tent Groundcloths

  1. Cristina

    I have to believe the pesorn responsible for the design of the tent must be an avid camper. Plenty of detail is in the structure including operation of the windows, multiple organization compartments, air flow , ect. I chose the tent based on strict criteria. The tent must be less than 10 pounds to fit on the luggage rack on a motorcycle. The tent must be free standing and easy to erect under minimal light conditions. Another friend purchased the same tent. Both of us conducted pre-test to know how to erect the tents once in the field. My tent did not set up correctly in pre-test. One of the legs wanted to twist out preventing the complete erection (In the field the same situation occurred). The other tent had no erection difficulties in pre-test. We conducted our field tested at the Thunder in the Mountains motorcycle rally. The area we were in was rock under the about an inch of soil. We were unable to use the stakes that came with the tents since they were not heavy duty enough for the conditions. Likewise, gusting winds up to 30 mph posed a problem with the tent setup. Under heavy winds the tents became airborne since the staking step follows erecting. We were able to use field procedures and secure the tents by tying to large rocks as a solution to staking. There are no instructions with the tent on the use of the rain fly. An experienced camper will be able intuitively attach the rain fly, however, my friend had to ask during pre-test what the purpose of the extra pole not being experienced in the realm of camping. With simple handling the stitching came out of the bottom of the stake bag. It may not seem like any big deal but an unsecured stake loose in the carrying bag could lead to a paint rub when attached to the motorcycle. Part of my tent did collapse under the high winds. When re-erecting one of the poles split length wise however remained serviceable. The bath tub floor is a pro and con. I did encounter a puncture so I would recommend carrying a roll of duct tape. With the floor as the foot print, under muddy conditions you will be packing up the mess with the tent and soiling the top nylon portion. Both of us were able to pack up the tents and secure them back to the condition they were shipped. While cleaning the tent after the rally I noticed additional poles fracture at joints where the pole connects to the hinge. Update: Tent went into the field during one of the worst and wet rallies. Pretty much eveything remained dry. The rain fly adequately covers the tent. Seams held tight. additionally cleaning of the tent is easy since it can be free standing. Nothing like cleaning dries horse manuer! I have used the tent for right at a year now and it’s preformance has held up. I have change the star rating from 3 to 4. I continue to challege the equipment I take motorcycling and so far this is the best tent at the pricing point. There are now three of us using the tent on rallies. I think I have had the most difficulties. The split/fractures poles are still holding up. When the one I own wears out I plan on buying another one.

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