Gear Review: Summer’s Coolest Tech? The Sand-Free Ground Cloth


By Contributing Editor Steve Casimiro, editor of Adventure Journal. See more of Casimiro's gear recommendations in our Ultimate Hiking and Camping Gear Guide >>

The coolest technology I’ve tested this summer isn’t an electronic device, a bike, or something built of carbon fiber—it’s a ground cloth that works better than anything I’ve ever used.

Ground cloth? Yeah, I know, not the kind of product that sets the heart aflutter. But CGear’s Sand Free MultiRug ($44-$74) is amazing. It uses a two-layer sandwich of fabric to create a one-way channel for dirt. Sand, dirt, dust, and grit can slip through the top layer and past the bottom, but they can’t come through the bottom to the top. Much as waterproof-breathable fabrics allow water vapor to escape, but block liquid water from entering, the CGear mat funnels the bad stuff away and won’t let it back in. One trip to the beach will tell you why that’s a big deal. (Note: Rug is a slight misnomer. It’s softer than CGear’s Mat and is thus designated, but really is mat.)

The system was developed to reduce dust clouds during military helicopter landings and takeoffs. Rotor wash creates “brownouts” that are especially troublesome in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, where roughly 75 percent of chopper crashes are due to the severely impaired visibility of brownouts. CGear’s Tactical Helimats come in huge sheets and are remarkably effective—assuming crews can lay them down without getting shot, of course.

They’re built with a simple concept: The top layer has a slightly looser weave than the bottom, allowing particles to pass in one direction. Surprisingly, they never get lodged in the space between, but simply move through like hurried commuters in Grand Central, disappearing out the exit.

Dirt, of course, is a part of the outdoor experience, and none of us would be out there if we were all that finicky. But keeping a little cleaner goes a long way. So far, I’ve used the CGear as a ground cloth for my tent and sleeping bag, as a changing mat for the wet and sandy post-surf wetsuit exit, as the support under a towel for chilling at the beach, and as a welcome mat outside my camper van. After months of use, it still looks new and there’s no dirt clinging to it. You simply shake it out or, worst case, hose it down. And in each case, the mat kept feet, body, and van far cleaner than using a tarp, towel, or nothing.

I don’t even have a major complaint about the CGear, which is unusual. Well, it’s 50 percent PVC and that’s a bit of a problem on the sustainability scorecard. Otherwise, it’s pretty darn flawless: a product that’s unique, works as advertised, and makes a difference in your outdoor life.

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