Sunday, May 31, 2009

Super Ultra Light / Super Ultra Cheap

A Really Light and a Really Cheap Gear List.

Can we find enough really cheap or almost free (as in recycled) material to build a decent set of Super Ultra Light (SUL) gear?

The complete gear list has to be under the 5 pound weight as defined by as SUL and survive a continuous hike of at least a 165 miles on a trail system such as the Appalachian Trail. The material used for this gear needs to be readily available and not just enough to make one or two items.

I think the total weight / cost will be a good surprise to many.

1 - Backpack:

I have been playing with one type of material that turns out to be good for packs. I have even used this material for shoulder straps and hip belts.

You can see the first pack bag I made out of this material in this picture.

The material weighs 3.4 ounces a square yard but the total weigh for a decent size pack should be well under one pound. The material is very strong and easy to sew.

The real $$ cost of this pack ( the material is from something meant to be thrown away) might be $5.00.

With this as the first item on my Really Cheap Gear List, I am off to see what I can come up with next.

2 - Bivy:


The Polycryo material is not working. I have tried to sew it several different ways and that did not work. I then tried a tape that works on Cuben Fiber and that also did not work. I have stopped working on the Bivy. I have a couple of ideas and will try them. If anything works I will post my results.

I spent time trying different ways to sew the Polycryo material and think I have a way for it to work. I would warn anyone that wants to try sewing Polycryo to test several different ways till you find a way to make it work.

Bottom Material:

Gossamer Gear sells a "Polycryo Ground Cloth.

I bought one of their (2) packs several years ago. At the time I thought this stuff might be good for other things but since I was using a lot of Cuben Fiber I never made anything with it. When I first got mine I weighed it to see what the square yard weight was. It is 0.568 ounces per sq yard.

The ground cloths cost (2) for $8.00. Now that I am looking for cheaper alternative materials I am re-looking at what I might be able to make with this material.

I have made several Bivys using Cuben Fiber as the bottom and Pertex Quantum as the top. I will try a Bivy using one of these Polycryo Ground Cloths for the Bivy Bottom.

From GG about the Polycryo Ground Cloths:

"The Polycryo ground sheet is constructed from industrial grade cross-linked polyolefin. This material is extremely tough for it's weight, with amazing puncture resistance. It has a tensile strength of 15,400 p.s.i. (1,083 kg./sq. cm.) per ASTM D-883. It is waterproof, but very slightly breathable (1.09 gms of water vapor/100 hours). At 0.55 oz./sq.yd. (16 g.), it's HALF THE WEIGHT of our Spinnsheetâ„¢ ground cloths. You will have to replace this more often than tougher alternatives, but it's very economical. These single ground cloths are shipped as a 2-pack so you have an extra. Our medium size is 40" (102 cm.) wide.'

Ground Cloth Link

Top Material:

Frogg Toggs make a poncho out of a very nice material that is said to be 100% waterproof and breathable. It would seem that this material would make a good top material for the Bivy. I need to find out the size of this item but just in looking at it I am sure it is big enough.

Frogg Toggs Poncho

I believe that Frogg Toggs is made from something like 3M Propore. I have a sample of the 3M Propore and it weighs 2.37 ounces a squard yard.

A Bivy made from the GG ground Cloth and the material from a Frogg Toggs Poncho should weigh about 6 ounces.

Cost: I have found the Frogg Toggs Poncho list on two different web sites. It is selling for $11.50 at one place and seems to be on close out at $8.95 on another web site. I will call both on Monday and confirm prices. Using what seems to be the MSRP of $11.50 for the Poncho and $4.00 for one GG Ground Cloth, the total Bivy cost would be a bit under $16 plus shipping, tax etc.

3 - Shelter - Tarp

My first thought is to make a tarp out of 3 GG Ground Cloths sewn, glued or taped together.

The Tarp would be about 10" by 12' and the tarp material weight would a little less than 2 ounces. Add in some weight for the tie out line ( 1.42 oz) 6 stakes made out of - you pick it ( 1.23 oz) and a few secret things and you have a big tarp that weighs under 5 ounces.

If you have an idea you would like to share leave a me comment.

More to follow.


Blogger samh said...


I'm glad to see you're continuing to explore this topic. On top of that I'm excited to see the new insight you've taken on the topic with the use of polycro and Propore as potential materials.

Monday, June 01, 2009 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger samh said...

Forgot to ask - you mention you have a sample of Propore. I presume you've not been able to source this in any bulk quantity?

Monday, June 01, 2009 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger gardenville said...

Hi Sam,

I had a bit of a problem with the Polycro and using it for part of the Bivy is on hold. It might still work but I need to try a few more ways to attach it to the Propore. I have a couple weird ideas to try. I have nothing to lose.

Propore was made by 3M but their patent ran out and no one bought the equipment and Propore material went away.

Just before that happened I had called 3M and was sent two samples. One was the lighter weight Yellow color (5 yards) and the other was a blue color (6 yards) but a bit heavier. I called 3M a couple months ago, talked to the same man as before and he said it is nolonger being made by anyone.

I know from talking to Frogg Toggs that the DiDuck material used for the Poncho and other rain stuff is made by them and not sold to anyone.

I just ordered 2 Ponchos from Sierra Trading Post on sale for $8.95. That will give me some material to play with.

A couple weeks ago when I made the Black PQ and Cuben Bivy I cut the first piece of Cuben out of some 0.62 oz Cuben by mistake. When I weighed it I realized I cut the wrong Cuben and got the 0.33 oz Cuben and cut another piece. I am thinking about using the 0.62 oz Cuben and Propore For another Bivy. It will be heavier. The upside will be that the Propore is water proof and the Pertex Quantum is not. I could use it in the winter or if I expect a lot of rain.


Monday, June 01, 2009 1:30:00 PM  
Blogger samh said...

I did not realize that Frogg Toggs was using a proprietary fabric - that's interesting.

Looking back at your descriptions I see the issue of sewing the polycro and how that could cause problems. The cuben fiber left over from your mistake with the cuben/PQ bivy sewn to the chopped "Propore" poncho could very well prove to be a very successful fully waterproof poorman's bivy.

I have the very expensive (and heavy) ID South Col eVent bivy and would be very curious to put it head to head with a bivy you've constructed for less than $50.

Monday, June 01, 2009 1:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Thermo-lite Emergency Sleeping Bag ( ) feels similar to the DriDucks material, only coated with a silver water proofing which of course makes it a non-breathable sweatbox. What about cutting a two foot wide x five foot long section off the top and replacing it with the breathable poncho fabric? Perhaps glue it together with 3M spray adhesive. That adhesive seems to bond most anything an remains flexible. You'd end up with a lightweight breathable bivy for about fifty dollars, unless you get lucky and find clearance items.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 9:05:00 AM  
Blogger samh said...

Would the thermo-bivy fabric be lighter than the polycro material? If not it seems a moot point for this discussion, but a valid one for another application perhaps.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger gardenville said...

Hi Salemva,

That is an interesting idea but I think to much trouble for what you might get from the panel of breathable material. I would just use the WB material for all the top.

I also notice from the picture that this Bivy is made like a folded piece of paper. I sew the end in a way to give my feet some extra space. The Thermo-Lite® material looks interesting and if it is strong it might be good for the bottom of a MYOG Bivy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger gardenville said...

Hi Sam,

The ThemoLite Emergency Bivy is listed at 6.9 ounces.

If you cut the ThermLite Bivy in half ( 3.45 ounces) and used one side as the bottom and a Frogg Toggs Poncho (8.5 ounces) for the top part this Bivy would weigh about 12 ounces. The Polycro (1.5 ounces) and the Poncho (8.5 ounces) for a weight of 10 ounces.

Using the MSRP of $34 for the ThermoLite Bivy the Thermolite / Frogg Toggs Poncho - Bivy would cost about $12 more not counting shipping.

I have located a ThermoLite Bivy at for $26.49. That price would drop the cost difference to about $9.25.

The difference is not a lot and the ThermoLite material might be easier for some to sew vs the Polycro material.

Next consideration would be the size difference. The ThermoLite Bivy comes 36" wide by 84" long at the top, 27" wide at the foot. The Polycro material is 40" by 96".

Lots of good ideas.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger mkirk said...


You've probably already explored the tyvek suits, but that would be my contribution to this interesting challenge.

My friend back from the marathon des sables reports how everyone uses these suits which go for less than $10.

In more humid conditions in the Appalachians, he reports success using as an extra layer. I've made a windshirt out of the top of the suit before and been pleased...

Friday, June 26, 2009 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Huzefa said...

Bill, is that pack material tyvek?

Monday, July 20, 2009 2:15:00 AM  
Blogger gardenville said...

Hi Huzefa,

The pack material is not Tyvek. I have never tried Tyvek for any of my gear projects. If you have any you might try it for a pack and see how it works.

This stuff is a woven material with a coating of some sort on it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 4:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Lyle said...

Hi all
I was just curious if any of you had made anything with tyvek. I am planning on trying to make a bivy this winter with it to go under my poncho. I dont know how waterproof it is but it is supposed to be waterproof and breathable and at 1.25 ounces per sq/yard it is pretty lite. Its also cheap!

Sunday, September 20, 2009 12:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wtf? you always say "i found something for this and that" and "i found a way to successfully do this" but you never tell how or where or what. this is totally NOT useful.

Friday, October 30, 2009 1:07:00 PM  
Blogger gardenville said...

Hi Anonymous,

I posted your comment this time but I may not the next time.

You could be a little more specific with your comment and you might also sign your name.

As far as I can tell from what I have written in this thread the only thing I have not been specific about is what material I am testing for the pack. If this is your problem, testing on that material is still underway.

Even when I am finished testing this material I may not say what it is. I am not obligated to tell everybody what materials I happen to be using.

"Anonymous" posters go to the top of my "why you" list.

Friday, October 30, 2009 2:01:00 PM  
Blogger sleepwalker said...

> ... the material is from something meant to be thrown away ,,,

Still working on the puzzle you've thrown us Bill. :-) Very intriguing. I've gone though several hardware stores (for all I know, I walked right past it) but I think it's time to try other venues.

I really like the thread you've started here. With a very limited budget, I'm always scrounging up materials.

I was surprised you were were able to find a way to sew the polycro. I'll try but I think I'll also try transparent duct tape to reinforce the poly after it's sewn to the top (I'll be using some kind of Type 14 Tyvek for the top).

- Steve B. ("TheTurk" at BPL)

Thursday, July 22, 2010 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger sleepwalker said...


I stumbled across some at the hardware store today. White plastic, woven construction. Sewn closed at one end and designed to take a load.

Definitely lighter than the grocery shopping bags that I PMed you about (from BPL).

No idea if you see any of this. (Not that it's important.) But I had fun with the "treasure hunt" and thought I'd let you know.

(I'm still trying to figure out how you ever were able to get the polycryo to hold with just sewing - but that's another adventure.)

Thanks for all of the information you continuously publish Bill. I've learned a lot and still find things I missed in old posts.

- Steve Bergeron

Saturday, August 14, 2010 8:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this may sound crazy but..if you want cheap, recycled material that is waterproof and strong...take a look at some of the large bags dogfood comes in....

Sunday, October 24, 2010 9:27:00 PM  
Blogger gardenville said...


Yes, try Cat Chow in the big bags also if you don't have dogs.

Sunday, October 24, 2010 10:26:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home