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endo's gear lab: bivy tarp

okay! i want to start writing up some posts about gear experiments, partially to help me think things through and document them, and also to share this process with others.

(and also it's an excuse to make cute doodles)



when i do fair-weather solo motorcycle touring, i often camp out with a bug bivy (basically just a bivy-sack shaped bug netting), sleeping pad, and sleeping bag; i bring the groundcloth from my two-person tent that i pitch over the bivy with paracord if i expect light rain, or want some more privacy. the groundcloth is okay as a tarp, but it's a tiny bit too small. commercially-available backpacking tarps tend to be more expensive than i can justify paying for what's basically a rectangle with grommets (they can easily run over $100USD).

the project


make myself a bivy tarp from scratch! i bought myself 58"x4yd of 1.1oz silnylon, an extremely lightweight, water/windproof, strong material that is what a lot of light backpacking gear is made from anyway. total cost, including shipping, was under $25USD.


  • reduce cost out of pocket (which excludes time/skill involved in production)
  • minimize packaging material (i got fabric shipped to me cut and folded and tucked into a small envelope with no extraneous packaging, whereas commercially-produced gear tend to come with documentation, wrapping, other stuff, etc.)
  • learn to work with a material that is new to me, and increase my fabric construction skills

skills involved:

  • sewing machine use (it's of course possible to hand-stitch this, but i greatly appreciated being able to throw down several yards of straight hems by machine)
  • measuring and cutting fabric (helps to have extremely sharp scissors)
  • patience, for working with a difficult material

process so far:


  • pitched my bivy, strung paracord along the spine of where i want the tarp to be, fit the tarp over the bivy.
  • mark off length, leaving about a 6" overhang on either side
  • i wanted the tarp to taper down towards the feet, so i made a diagonal mark from around the shoulders down to the feet, making the overall tarp shape trapezoidal when flat. this was all just eyeballing the shape/length, sometimes folding over the fabric to make the shape i wanted and then marking along the fold.
  • cut along marks, leaving about 1.5" for hemming along each edge
  • hem cut edges

main difficulties:


  • silnylon is very slippery! it is literally light nylon embedded with silicone, which means it sticks to nothing. this is great when you want water to bead right off. it's really frustrating when you're trying to lay it out on a table to mark off cuts.
    • recommendation: work on the floor, or, put stacks of books or shoes or something on it to keep it from sliding around while you mark off your cts.
  • can i say this again? silnylon is very slippery! i'm doing a rolled hem (fold over about 1/2", then fold over again, and stitch that to protect the cut edges), and i didn't want to use needles because i didn't want to introduce more holes, but the hems unroll themselves as soon as i break eye contact with them.
    • recommendation: use a glue stick and press the edges together for about ten seconds; this holds the edges together at least until you can feed it through the machine.
  • silnylon is also very stretchy!
    • recommendation: grab the material on either side of the needle and pull it taught while the machine fed it through.

what's next?

  • attach adjustable cords to the corners for staking
  • test-pitch in the yard, checking for sagging points
  • consider adding points for guy-lines, maybe a peak reinforcement for an upright support at head or feet

comments, questions, advice, etc. welcome here!

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Re: %c+XZ7WmGH

@按豆 shared their plans for a homemade low cost bivvy tarp and asked for advice from anyone who might have it to offer.

bivvy tarp drawing


@dangerousbeans has shared the latest update of Guild Lands as well as a public instance of it.

Guild Lands

I'm not entirely sure what we're looking at, but it's neat.

@cblgh shared some updates on Cabal including images! Yayy. Still early stages, but this changes everything.

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@Fenwick later shared a new release to the cabal-clone client.

Cabal clone v0.3.0 animated gif screenshot

Software Community Intersection

@kas shared some interesting stats from Diaspora Europe which pretty clearly show that there being > 12k knows ids here and only ~150 (probably just a rough guess) daily posters is right in line with what we should be expecting.

dinoƧ𝔸Ⓤᖇ shared a link to "The 1% rule" in support of this idea.

Anecdotaly, It takes a huge number of people on a network to create a large active network, but the more users you have the faster it grows.

@kieran shared their experinces at Data Terra Nemo which included listening to talks from a number of 'butt scuttlers.

One thing they mentioned was Beaker Blue. On Twitter Beaker shared this Sketchnote overview of it

Beaker Blue sketchnote

According to kieran

beakerbrowser are making some super interesting innovations with, going more of the social network way, and making it easier and easier for almost anyone to build public applications.

@happy0 posted a series of photos from around town as well as some smiling 'butts like this one.

Rabble smiles while standing in front of posters


We have access to some money, and some of Mix's time for SSB "maintenance." What should that maintenance look like? What should they work on?

Leave your thoughts in this thread

post 2 of 3


Awesome! I have the materials for a synthetic quilt in my closet; waiting for a burst of motivation to sew it up. No advice from personal experience as far as tarps go, but the Make Your Own Gear subreddit is pretty good.

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Nice job @按豆 !
I generally iron and/or pin to get a rolled hem to hold it's shape, but I can understand you not wanting to pin, and gluing is probably faster and better than ironing: with glue, the layers are less likely to creep as you machine.

It's a pity domestic machines don't come with a rolling or hemming foot (you just feed the fabric in and it is rolled to shape as it approaches the needle). Maybe some of them do now? There has been a noticeable shift over the years where features that were once considered commercial (notably horsepower) are now built into dometsic equipment.


woah, sweet project and beautiful diagramming @按豆 !

on the off-chance - have you considered going to dWeb Camp ? It's p2p nerds + camping, so might be up your alley? A few of us from here are going and if money is a challenge there's some resources we could channel to help you get there.


@seanb, ahh, making a whole quilt seems like a lot of work! a big hurdle for me is to just have the time and space to spare for this much material kicking around. once i got started, i was pretty motivated to get it done soon so i could have my tiny workspace back, haha.

@IBob, yeah, i think ironing this material is not good for it, too, since it's silicone-embedded nylon and probably has an extremely low melting point, or could possibly just delaminate. pinning would have been okay in the hem since that's not really a place i expect to be watertight, it's just also a lot of work putting in that many pins, and it would probably still have a tendency to slip.

it looks like singer has a rolled hem foot available in a few different sizes; since hems are probably 90% of what i use a sewing machine for, this seems like it might be a good investment!

@mixmix, thanks! i got you back on PM; i'm sad i can't make it but i'm keeping my eyes out for another event somewhere i can hop in on someday :)

since that first post, i've finished the tarp! it's got attachment points for stakes, and i took it out for a spin on my current camp/climb/roadtrip adventure, and it held up wonderfully under a night of on and off thunderstorms. more updates later, i'm still on the road now :v:

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@Tom Cooks

Consider using a tarp with a reflective side, powers up thr insulation

@Tom Cooks
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@Sourdough Bread
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@Sourdough Bread

Thanks I love your motivation!

But I'm surprised because this slim-line tarp idea definitely comes from lightweight backpacking respectively ultra-lightweight backpacking movement - thousand thanks to grandma gatewood and followers! - and those guys and gals were/are walkers but not motorbikers.

I'm an aging outdoor being and I need more space and I don't want to feel like Pharaoh Ramses in his own juice. And there are a lot of patterns of lightweight tarptents to sew with mosquito protection.

Nevertheless I guess we're something like outdoor soulmates. :) Thanks you very much.

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