- Hmm, I've been asked to write a review on plastic eyelets – now how do I make that riveting? OK. let's go back in time. In March I went camping in my newly purchased Vango Mirage 200 2015 model. On waking up the first morning Seiben's, my dog, water bowl was frozen solid. It hadn't just been frosty over night, but proper freezing. Snug in our new tent we hadn't noticed.
More by luck than good judgement the tent was quite reasonably well pitched, despite it being done for the first time in the dark. This was due to the background to the tumble in my review of the Lifeventure 800ml stainless steel drinks bottle. The tent had worked perfectly, but I did have some reservations and concerns about the thinness of the groundsheet. Like how robust was it? Would it be likely to tear or puncture on uneven, stoney ground or sharp vegetation?
So back home it was time to upgrade the system. The most obvious answer was the Vango 200 Mirage footprint at £20. But what was it made of, how strong? Also I would have to internet order it without seeing it first. Now a Blue Mountain ground sheet size 1.8m x 1.2m for £5.00 was stocked. The dimensions of the Mirage are all a bit ambiguous and approximate, like they didn't really know if it was inner or outer tent dimensions or some hybrid of the two. But the tent tapers slightly, 1.2m is the approx width of the narrow end of the inner tent. So the groundsheet would be a perfect there.
The inner tent is approximately 2.2m long, then add the porch. So knowing I had some blue builders damp proof membrane off cuts I bought the groundsheet and the pack of plastic eyelets and domed head groundsheet pegs.
First thing, erect the tent on a lawn. It's a semi- geodesic so no need to peg it down. Stretch the Blue Mountain Groundsheet out, pull it taut and peg down at the corners, away from the tent. The groundsheet is about 40cm too short for the inner tent, plus the porch. Decide how much you want to underlap the DPM under the ground sheet. I chose about 25-30 cm. As for the width of the DPM you can make it slightly wider than the groundsheet as the inner tent is tapering out.
Keeping ground sheet taut, remove the two pegs nearest the door end of groundsheet, slide the DPM under it and position. Mark through the eyelets of the groundsheet onto the DPM. Remove the DPM and try and fit the eyelets! Now I have have moderately strong fingers and hands. 50% of men in a handshake gripping competition I would reduce to a pleading jibbering mess to escape the crushing pain inflicted, but as Clint Eastwood said, a man's got to know his limitations, and I am nowhere in the league of rock climbers, motor mechanics, electricians or hedge layers. Even so I could not squeeze the two parts of the eyelets together to puncture the 250 micron DPM. Perhaps had I not been sitting on the lawn and had a solid surface to press against with my whole hand – maybe. This didn't matter. The squeezing of the eyelets made a perfect circular mark on the DPM. The knife I used to cut the DPM had a thin blade and small enough to cut inside the ring. The eyelets then snapped easily together, there is no need to get exactly to the line, just taking the centre of the hole out a few mm from the ring is enough.
The DPM was then positioned underlapping the groundsheet. The groundsheet pegs going through the eyelets in the DPM and the groundsheet. The tent minus the inner tent was positioned on top and pegged down. The porch area positioned. The DPM then trimmed to size to fit inside the porch, the eyelet hole positions marked, eyelets fitted and the membrane tensioned and pegged down.
The inner tent fitted, with a final trimming of the DPM to ensure the new secondary groundsheet system fitted flush with the edge of the inner tent. The Vango groundsheet for the porch area fitted over the underlying porch area DPM extension.
And so into the tent. Lush, sumptuous and luxurious. Like diving onto a new kingsized bed with fresh cotton sheets. Smacking the inner ground sheet with the palms of the hands sent a ripple of air underneath between the original groundsheet and the new sub sheet.
So away camping to test for real. The first advantage was you could get the exact perfect position for the tent by putting the new groundsheet system down first. The next advantage was when positioning the tent above it, with the inner tent fitted, the inner groundsheet settled perfectly. No snags, ripples or creases. The next was absolute minimised danger of punctures or tears to the groundsheet from missed stones or twigs and sticks.
The level of comfort inside the tent increased 10 fold. The taut groundsheet system held by pegs inside the eyelets just smoothed out the floor, imperceptibly spreading the load, the short grass and vegetation beneath, not being directly crushed acting as a thin natural mattress.
To sleep on, I was using a thin standard roll up camping mat. What was noticeable, camping previously without the secondary groundsheet system, Seiben the dog liked to sleep partly on my camping mat. Now with the secondary system he was content to lie anywhere in the tent.
The next afternoon a couple of day walkers asked if we had got wet during the night, as the rain was lashing down and torrential for hours. Er no, so comfortable was my nights sleep the storm passed unnoticed.
The secondary groundsheet system was the gift that kept on giving. It smoothed out the floor so the camping stove was more stable in the porch. The standard as fitted groundsheet was not entirely waterproof having a 6000mm hydrostatic head, now there seemed to be less condensation in the tent. The floor felt warmer with the extra insulation. When packing the tent up, the tent groundsheet was clean dry and muck free, with no need to clean it either there or at home. A clean groundsheet kept the rest of the tent clean when rolled up and packed away.
The DPM is in the porch area where it gets heaviest usage. If it gets damaged just cut another piece and reuse the eyelets or use the other in the pack and make another one. Also when packed away, if you put the Blue Mountain sheet with the tent, and the DPM section folded up in the bottom of your rucksack below your sleeping bag. Not only does this give extra waterproofing and protection to your equipment, if you stop somewhere for a rest and something to eat and drink, you have an immediately accessible groundsheet to sit on.
It might not be appreciated me pointing this out, but here goes. If you have 'grammes to spend' where and how do you spend them? Using the eyelets as part of the system described, for less than a tenner, you might have a better and more functional option than spending £20 on the Vango factory made footprint. If you are thinking of improving your tent comfort buying a self-inflating mat, hold it right there. The difference in weight between a standard roll up sleeping mat and a quality self-inflating one is about the same as making up a secondary groundsheet with the eyelets as described. Having done that, you might consider the quality of comfort doesn't justify the more expensive option. Also remember if conditions turn bad and you have to spend time in the tent, a robust camping mat and fantastic ground insulation might be a better option than a fragile inflatable mat.
The eyelets and the rest of the system have improved my Vango Mirage no end. The Mirage has an inner and outer tent, so two layers above you, so it makes sense to have two below you. The tent now feels so much more durable, comforting and welcoming. It was good before – now it's great. Sometimes it's not just a physical improvement alone, but how something makes you feel in your head that justifies a purchase. A £3.00 pack of eyelets is a cheap way to contentment.
- You can get similar cheaper elsewhere, but is it worth the hassle to save a £.
Stiff to push through 250 micron DPM with fingers only.
Published on: 23 June 2015