Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
I am considering a solo DIY tarp. It would like it to be as simple and light as possible. Maybe just a 8' x 8' rectangle to use as a flying wedge or A-frame. I do not need mosquito protection where I hike. What Material would be best? Sil nylon? coated Nylon? I forget what the call the stuff they make door and window weather covers out of, but that might be a possibility too.
Silnylon works well. I made a Ray-Way style tarp from it, and the only disadvantage I've found is that it tends to collect a fine coating of dust, I assume due to static electricity.
A long time ago my then-girlfriend made me a 10'x10' tarp of 1.9oz. PU coated nylon. It worked well, but heavy by today's standards (about 2 lbs.).
3- or 4-mil polyethylene, usually only available in black or clear, but occasionally in light gray, also works. The corners can be secured with sheet bends, but you need Grip Clips or similar for other pullouts:
Note, by the way, that Grip Clips won't work on silnylon since it's so slippery. I've read that you can make it work by putting a thin piece of rubber (cut from a balloon) between the clip and the fabric.
Always remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everybody else. -Margaret Mead
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Polycryo is both inexpensive and very light, not to mention it's easy to build with. The only problem is durability. Folks say if it starts a run, it will keep going, though I haven't experienced that yet. If you do use it, make sure you "hem" all the edges with that 1/4" double sided tape and that all the guy lines have elastic segments.
If I had the time to make another tarp, I'd probably try silpoly myself.
The journey is more important than the destination.
Loc: Central Illinois near Springfi...
I've made several tarps, starting with SilNylon, but switching to SilPoly. There is not much difference working with either, but the SilPoly should be longer lasting and not stretch as much wet. I hem the edges and sew Grosgrain ribbon loops on for tieouts. Where I have seams, I often sew extra tieouts on. Depending on the use, I often sew a strip of Grosgrain ribbon into the hems on the edge. It adds strength to the edges and allows me to pull the tarp more taut.There should be plenty of plans online. You don't need to use one of these plans, but they can give you some insight into why things are made the way that they are. Long hems and seams in lightweight material are not easy for those of us with limited sewing experience. That's the main reason that I use Grosgrain ribbon in mine, it adds bulk and helps to keep things straight.
For simplicity it's hard to beat an 8x10 silnylon tarp from Campmor. I sewed some tie points in along the centerline so I could hang it from an overhead line rather than drape it over. That way, it's easy to pull either or both sides down in response to weather. You can do the same thing with a ball+loop clamp or even just bundling up duff and lassoing a line around the clump. That size was perfect for three when I brought two kids along.
A flat tarp doesn't scale well for one person, however. A pyramid seems to make more sense in terms of weather protection per ounce of material. I got lazy and bought a Deschutes from Six Moon Designs but it shouldn't be hard to make something similar from Silnylon or whatever.
I definitely wouldn't trust Polycro for overhead protection. I used some as a groundsheet once and it got a huge rip in it when I dragged it a few feet with my stuff on it. This is NBD for a ground sheet but would ruin your night if it got poked by a branch during a rainstorm.
For dew and condensation protection clothing-style Tyvek (not the thicker house wrap) makes a nice combination ground cloth and blanket. You can pull it over your face without suffocating or making condensation inside. I wouldn't trust it in real rain but I've been fine in a light mist followed by heavy morning dew when a companion cowboy camper woke up soaked.