A flysheet in a tent has a double function:
1) Protect the inner body of the tent of being directly exposed to the inclement weather.
2) Offer thermal isolation for the users.
First function is the most known one, but it is really hard to find a tent that has a flysheet capable to meet the second. In spite of that, quite a few tents do not satisfy well at all the first.
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The reason is very simple: A flysheet is like a roof in a house. Can any of us imagine a roof in house that is not well fixed and that does not maintain its shape when the wind blows or rain, hail or snow falls? Of course not!, nobody would think in building a house where the roof can easily move, making waves and forming pockets where the water can accumulate and produce leakages in the interior.
This appears to be obvious for a house, but, why it is not so for a tent?
It is common to find tents that have a flysheet that works more or less well when it rains... not intensely, but it is very easy also to find many tents that have a so called flysheet that easily get loose when the wind blows or the rain drops heavily, and it is quite difficult to find many capable of standing well a hailstorm. In fact, in these cases, this piece of fabric cannot be called properly a ‘flysheet’, but just a ‘second fabric layer over the tent’ with mostly a psychological function for users.
To have a flysheet in these tents working effectively it is necessary that users keep themselves very aware of weather, in order to quickly readjust the tensors of the flysheet as soon it is not stretched enough and also they have to be very careful to avoid touching inner layer as they could connect the inner to the outer layer provoking a leakage. In fact it is not very comfortable to go camping and to have to suffer these unpleasant jobs in the middle of the storm instead of feeling protected inside.
To put things clear: In order to have a flysheet that really performs its first function, it has to keep stretched tight under inclement weather conditions (when it is really expected to perform its function), but traditional constructive solutions for tents do not solve this problem without the careful monitoring of the users, ready to tight the guy-ropes and tensors when the flysheet begins getting too loose.
To solve this question the trick is going back to the concept; to understand well what this piece of fabric is intended for, and then, to design it in such a way that really works as expected. Without human intervention!
Otherwise we, as designers and manufacturers, will not be offering to the users what they need: A reliable tent that takes care of them when the weather is not an ally.
Next week I will talk about the forgotten one by most of the manufacturers, the second function of a flysheet.
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