Outdoor Flooring Part 3: Plastic Flooring—Choosing Among Durability, Speed and Security of Connection

An Army HMMWV on Bike Track 2-inch ICM Flooring sheets.

To recap, here is where we are at now on our journey. (For those keeping score at home, this is our third post in a four-part series.) You need temporary flooring for your tent. You have elected to choose a hard material. And out of your three main options—plywood, concrete and plastic—plastic seems to make the most sense for your application.

In this post, we will zoom in on the plastic option.

There are three critical attributes to consider:

1. Speed (how long it takes to set up the floor)
2. Durability (how long the floor components last)
3. Security of Connection (how well the modular flooring pieces lock into each other)

Here is the interesting part (and, yes, shopping for plastic floor can be interesting—stay with us!). You might think that the ideal solution would be optimized for all three attributes. It should be easy to put together quickly; it should be durable and rugged; and the pieces should lock together effortlessly. But that is not the reality- at least not any reasonable price point. You can really only optimize for two out of three of these and still expect to afford it. (In some ways, the choice mirrors the “Fast. Cheap. Good.” dilemma.)

Good, fast, cheap dilemma
The “Good/Fast/Cheap” dilemma is a useful framework when thinking about plastic flooring. (Photo credit: Berkonomics)

1. Installs quickly with good connection security –> do not expect much durability.
2. Installs quickly and durable –> connection security is sacrificed.
3. Durable with good connection security –> slower installation.

Where does Bike Track fall on this map?

Our 2-inch plastic flooring installs rapidly, and it is incredibly durable. However, we do not currently include locking mechanisms (e.g. bolts or cam locks). This is by design, because if we did include them, we’d have to sacrifice on the other dimensions. This is not to say the pieces are not held together. There are friction-fit U channels molded into the modular flooring. But if you pitch a tent on very hilly terrain, it is possible that the connections could come undone. We do have a few workarounds. For instance, you can stake down flooring pieces through 3/8-inch drainage holes (sacrificing speed of install). You can also connect sheets of flooring by connecting drift pins on the underside of the panels. The latter is something of a pain however, because the connectors are on the underside, and so we do not typically recommend that workaround.

A U.S. Army Soldier installs a Bike Track 2-inch ICM flooring sheet on top of grass
Bike Track 2-inch Flooring is incredibly durable and fast to install. It uses friction-fit U-channels to establish a connection from sheet to sheet. (Bike Track, Inc. photo)

Our 1-inch floor, by contrast, comes with optional-use stainless steel locking arms to connect multiple sheets together. The durability remains the same, but speed of assembly is slowed if you elect to use the locking arms. Instead of simply dropping a piece in place, you need to spend a few more seconds getting the locking arm into place.

Bike Track 1-inch Flooring in a desert setting
Bike Track 1-inch Flooring is extremely durable, and gives the user the choice between speed of install and connection security through the optional use of the stainless-steel locking arms. (Bike Track, Inc. photo)

Bear in mind that all plastic tent flooring products exist on a compromise on this triangle. Some products excel in one dimension; some in two; but no one is perfect on all three. In fact, if a product is balanced on the triangle, it is not going to excel in any of them! Therefore, most manufacturers focus on one or two dimensions. Many commercial market suppliers favor the secure connection and speed, while a handful optimize for durability and secure connection (Bike Track’s 1” Flooring falls in this category if the locking arms are used). That’s what makes Bike Track 2” Flooring (and 1” Flooring if the locking arms are not used) unique. We’ve invested a lot to maximize durability and optimize speed, enabling faster setups while ensuring our customers will not need to buy new flooring every few years.

Stick with us as we contrast various Bike Track plastic flooring solutions in the next and final post of our floor journey series.

Need insight into your portable flooring options? Call the team at 888-663-8537.