Sunday, August 20, 2017

Adding a Center Loop to your Vinyl Survival Tarp

Most vinyl tarps have grommets around the outside edges but few, if any, have loops on the back of the tarp.  A center loop can be very helpful with tarp set-ups like the diamond fly, also called the plow point.  The center loop allows you to attach a line in the middle of the tarp and give a little lift to take the sag out of your ridgeline.  But, my $15 Harbor Freight tarp didn’t have a center loop; so I decided to attach one myself. 
I have added loops to canvas tarps by stitching and then re-waterproofing the affected area, but I was concerned that this wouldn’t work on vinyl.  I was afraid that it would either leak or tear out too easily, so I thought that maybe I could glue the loops on for a stronger and more leak-proof bond.  I found a You Tube video by a young fellow who goes by “Brave the Wilds” in which he glued on tarp loops (check out his You Tubes at, so I followed his lead and proceeded as follows.

To do this project you will need the following:
Tape measure
Marking pen
Woven nylon webbing
Ice pick and heat source
Straight pin
Sewing machine or needle and thread\
Medium grit sand paper (one small piece)
Rubbing alcohol
Cotton ball
Two part, five minute epoxy
Some weights

First cut a piece of nylon webbing that is about six to six and one half inches long.

Next, heat the ice pick in a flame and use it to gently melt the ends of the webbing.  This will keep it from unraveling.

Fold the webbing in half and pin it about an inch from the loose ends.

At this point you can sew across the loop by hand of with a sewing machine.  My wife sewed it for me on her machine, and she went back and forth about three times to make it good and strong.

So now you have your loop and it’s time to prepare for gluing.

Lay your tarp out on a flat, hard surface and set the loop down on your center mark.

Use your marking pen to outline the area to which the loop tabs will be glued.

Use the sandpaper to very lightly rough up the surface of the tarp and the tabs of the nylon webbing.  This will help the glue adhere better.

Dampen the cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and clean the surface of the tarp and the loop tabs.  Let them dry for a few minutes.

Mix the five minute epoxy according to directions.

Apply epoxy to the tarp trying to stay inside the outline that you have drawn.  Get a good coat of epoxy but don’t overdo it.

Apply epoxy to the loop tabs

And press the tabs into place.

Place some weights on the top of the tabs to press them down but don’t get epoxy on the weights or you may end up with them glued to the tarp.  A couple of small pieces of wax paper between the tabs and the weights might help prevent accidental gluing.

Note that 5 minute epoxy sets in 5 minutes but it is not cured and strong.  You should leave the weights in place for at least over-night to make sure that the loop is firmly attached.

When you remove the weights you will have a nice web loop attached to your tarp.

Here are a couple of pictures of the tarp loop in use.  It seems to be firmly in place and doing its job.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Make an Inexpensive Reflector Tarp for a Warm Survival Shelter

The wilderness survival community has, of late, taken a keen interest in using reflector blankets or reflector tarps to help create warmer lean-too shelters.  The idea is that if the inside of your lean-too has a reflective surface, it will reflect the heat of a campfire onto you as you lie in the shelter.

     This is not really a new idea.  I can recall Mors Kochanski advocating for this quite a few years ago when he developed his concept of the “super shelter.”  Mors suggested placing a shiny Mylar survival blanket on the inside of your tarp to reflect radiant heat into the shelter.  More recently I have seen several companies selling survival blankets/tarps.  These survival tarps are made of more durable material than Mylar and they have a reflective surface on one side and grommets to aid in set-up of a shelter.  One problem with these commercial tarps is that the ones I have found are fairly small.  What I am going to show you here is how to make any size vinyl tarp into a reflective tarp that is pretty durable and quite a bit cheaper than a commercially made model.  Let me emphasize that I have only done this with vinyl tarps.  I don’t know how it would work with nylon or other fabrics.
     The idea for this tarp came to me in a blinding flash of the obvious when I was working on one of the out-buildings on my farm.  The building in question is about 25 years old and is covered in corrugated sheet metal.  The metal was starting to look a little on the rusted side, so I decided that I would paint it with some Rust Stop metallic aluminum paint from our local Ace Hardware store.  I bought a gallon of the stuff for about $30 US. 

     They also had quarts for about $10, but I knew that a quart wouldn’t be enough.  So, anyway, here I am standing up on a ladder painting this building when the sun comes up over the trees.  In about ten minutes I started feeling like a rotisserie chicken.  Man, I thought, this stuff really reflects some heat, and that’s when it hit me.  I wonder if I could paint this stuff onto a vinyl tarp?  Well, sure enough, I had about a half-gallon of paint left when I finished painting the building, so I decided to try a little experiment on a tarp.  I got an old tarp and painted a couple of square feet with the aluminum paint.  It flowed on smoothly and covered with one coat. It also didn’t appear to be damaging the vinyl in any way.  So far; so good.  I let it dry in the sun for a couple of hours before I gave it the durability test.  When it was dry I scraped it with my finger nails and there was no peeling.  I folded it into a crease, wadded it up, and just generally tried to make the paint crack or peal.  The tarp seemed to be completely flexible, and the paint adhered beautifully.  I thought to myself, “We may have a winner.”
     I unstrapped the 8’ x 10’ camo vinyl tarps that my wife and I have attached to our bug-out bags and went to work.  I laid a tarp out on the ground and used a three inch foam brush to apply the paint. 

     It went on easily and took about 45 minutes to apply.  I left the tarp out in the sun for a couple of hours to dry. 

     When it was nice and dry I gave it another round of durability testing, and it seemed to work great.  Even better, painting the two 8’ x 10’ tarps barely made a dent in my half gallon of paint.  I bet a quart would paint three or four of these tarps, so if you have friends that are into this kind of thing you could share the cost of the paint.

     I did learn a couple of lessons from the first tarp that helped make the second one a little easier.  First of all, do this in the shade or on a cloudy day.  These things really, really reflect a lot of light and heat.  Second, use some tent stakes to stake down the corners before you paint.  This keeps the tarp from moving around as you paint it.
     So there you go.  An easy way to turn a $15 Walmart or Harbor Freight tarp into a high dollar reflective survival tarp.