Jake Frith discovers that many so-called ‘heavy duty’ tarps really aren’t – but this tarpaulin from Yuzet just might be
Best heavy duty tarp? This one from Yuzet just might be
Whenever I read about microplastic pollution and its disastrous impact on the marine environment, I remember rinsing down the cruiser storage yard at my sailing club a couple of years ago and all the little bits of blue stringy plastic washing into the drain.
You see, someone, or in fact a few people, had covered their boats’ cockpits in the ubiquitous online-purchased blue woven scrim polyethelene heavy duty tarps and they were getting somewhat frilly after not very long in the sun.
The problem is these poly tarps are coated in a post-manufacture UV protectant that, unbelievably, washes off the fabric after a few rain showers.
Perhaps one of the transparent (or occasionally green) tarps laminated in two film layers with a square open weave grid of white polyester fibre reinforcement between the films might fare better?
Nope, their life expectancy is also 3-9 months in UK sunlight conditions as they are also coated in a UV protectant that washes off, then the little squares between the grid of reinforcement each get a neat little hole a matter of weeks after the product is overdue its refund period.
When this was a matter of economy, it wasn’t such a problem – after all tarps are cheap, so you could use it for a few months, chuck it and buy another one.
Environmental concerns about heavy duty tarp
But now it’s clearly such a big environmental issue, knowingly selling outdoor plastics (they use the same stuff for gazebos etc.) that will self destruct after as little as three months use is immoral and offensive in my book.
Even if you get to it early and replace before it’s too far gone, the thing is still going to landfill, so ultimately still into our environment sooner or later.
As the owner of many small boats over a few decades I’ve binned maybe 50 tarpaulins, and to say I’m sick of this is an understatement.
The ‘Rolls Royce’ solution is a 600gsm, UV-stabilized woven PVC material. Gsm denotes grammes per square metre – the weight of the material, and a key metric to those of us obsessed with tarps.
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This is the shiny, heavy stuff with a just visible internal scrim used to make heavy advertising banners, the strap-down trailer sides of articulated lorries and commercial grade wedding hire gazebos.
This proper stuff lasts 30 to 40 years, but a 600gsm PVC tarp to cover a 14ft RIB will come in at £150+, partly postage cost due to the sheer weight.
The weight can also be a real problem when dragging the tarp over a wet boat on your own.
This is where the Yuzet range of tarps comes in.
Available in a range of sizes from 1.8m x 2.4m to 7m x 9m, and the usual range of colours from the ordinary clear or blue to pink camouflage, its UV protection process is carried out as part of the fabric manufacture making it integral to the material, not sprayed on top.
Yuzet claims a five year lifespan from their patented cross linked film, which has a strange ribbed surface and barely discernible pattern of larger Xs across it in certain lights.
Cutting to the chase, I built a car port two years ago and covered it with a clear Yuzet tarp.
Apart from two tape repairs from where a scaffolder dropped a metal pole clamp through it from 15ft above, the fabric is going a bit green with moss in places, but it appears to be as strong as the day I put it up, despite the odd bout of 60-knot winds.
So far so good…
After this first stern test I have invested in several more Yuzet tarpaulins.
The most important fact to state is that they are very lightweight – just 120gsm or 70gsm for a slightly cheaper version branded as a ‘Builders Tarpaulin’.
When you get it through the post, it feels so light you think you could push a finger through it just rolling it out.
But they aren’t as fragile as they feel, and the light weight is of course a boon for getting it over awkward-shaped items short-handed in a gale.
It’s quite a soft film with no internal reinforcement scrim, so these tarps do stretch more than others – you can thumb a permanent dent in it quite easily.
Yuzet frames this ‘conformability’ as a benefit, but I’m not so sure.
When I’ve set up winter covers for open boats with them, I’ve always put a few more support ribs in, and they seem to behave OK with this sort of management.
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