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UltraTNT: The Fabric Makes the Tarp

The Kiwi Ultralight 3mx3m Tarp

This Kiwi Ultralight 3mx3m tarp uses the cutting-edge laminate fabric UltraTNT produced by the USA-based company Challenge Sailcloth. Other than being an ultralight shelter made in New Zealand, what makes this tarp special?

Let's dig into the details:

What is UltraTNT?

UltraTNT is made by laminating ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) fibers at 0, 45, and -45 degrees between mylar sheets. This leads to a fabric that's dimensionally stable even in wet conditions, plus it won’t sag or stretch in rain or over time. You can see a similarity to fabrics used in modern racing sails.

This relatively thick mylar provides a higher waterproof rating than any other fabric on the market at 140,000 mm, or 200 psi.

Dimensionally stable weave of UHMWPE fibers

A result of these design features is an incredibly tight pitch on your tarp which will last as long as you take care of it. In addition to its waterproofing, the fabric does not tear and is hard-wearing against all types of damage except pinpricks (more on that shortly). Over time, the fabric itself will soften, become quieter, and increase its resistance to damage.

Instead of being sewn, UltraTNT uses a unique seam bonding tape that’s fully waterproof and durable. Tie-outs and peaks are all reinforced with ULTRA100, an Ultra-PE blended fabric with high-tenacity polyester bonded to the UltraTNT. You may have seen this fabric used in ultralight packs from other companies.

The most obvious comparison to this fabric is the ever-popular laminate DCF. While slightly lighter than UltraTNT, DCF is known for being weak to abrasion, prone to stretching over time, and being incredibly expensive and hard to source. UltraTNT outperforms DCF in all these categories.

Other common alternative fly materials are Sil-Nylon and Sil-Poly (silicone-impregnated nylon or polyester). While these make for a reasonable low-cost product, the fabrics are typically heavier than both UltraTNT and DCF and have problems with sag and water absorption leading to an even heavier tarp after it rains.

The UltraTNT tradeoff

The one weakness of this fabric is puncture damage. If you take care of it, you shouldn’t have any issues. This means folding rather than stuffing it into its storage bag, not walking on it, and carrying it inside your pack rather than outside (something you will find quite easy given the small pack size). You don’t need to be overly anxious about random punctures while pitching on tussocks or other rough surfaces; it's quite hardy, just treat it like the high-performance gear it is.

Luckily, on the off chance you do puncture the fly, UltraTNT is very easy and cheap to fix even out in the bush. Every tarp comes with transparent repair tape, which when placed on either side of the damage, will be just as waterproof as a standard seam. A quick, light, and easy repair.

Should you consider this product?

UltraTNT represents a middle ground in both pricing and weight between the main alternatives. If you're choosing an UltralightTNT tarp, you can trust you're getting a product well-suited for the New Zealand environment.

You're also buying one of the only tarps that's made right here in New Zealand by trampers out there doing it! Click the link below to see our store page:

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