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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > DIY Trekking Pole Tent > Owner Review by joe schaffer

DIY Trekking Pole Tent

by Joe Schaffer
June 29, 2016

NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(at)yahoo(dot)com
AGE: 68
HEIGHT: 5'9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.4 kg)
HOME:  Bay Area, California USA

    I started backpacking at 11. I enjoy California's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to match my age in nights out each year; about 30 solo. With a comfort priority I lug tent, mattress, chair, etc., scheming to get longer outings as light as possible. Typical summer trips run 5-8 days; 40 lb (18 kg), about half food and water related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day. I winter base camp most often at 6,000 to 7,000 ft (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lb (23 kg); a mile or so (1.6 km) on snowshoes.

The gear:sled pull
   1-person trekking pole tent
Made: July, 2012

   Weight: 1 lb 14 1/8 oz  (854 g)  includes tent, curtains, guy loops and lines, six aluminum pegs.
   Length:  84 in (2.13 m)
   Width:  36 in at head end to 30 in at foot end (91 to 76 cm)
   Height at peak:  46 in (1.17 m)
   Materials: (estimates)
       a) 70D 2000 mm coated ripstop nylon; 8 roll yards (7.3 m)
       b) 50 gm mosquito netting; 1 1/2 roll yards (1.4 m)
       c) 70D nylon taffeta; 3 1/2 roll yards (3.2 m)
       d) zipper tape; 8 ft (2.44 m)
       e) 3 zipper sliders
       f) 1/8th in (2 mm) stretch cord; 3 ft (1 m)
       g) 1/16th in (1 mm) static cord; 18 ft (5.5 m)
       h) 6 aluminum hook pegs
       i) seam sealer.        

Materials Cost:
   About $100 USD.

Product Description:
   This single wall solo tent utilizes a single trekking pole (as I only hike with one) for height, and six pegs and guy lines for structure. The trapezoidal "floating" tub is two pieces of nylon 12 in (30.5 cm) high around the ends and low side, 15 in (38 cm) on the high side, with peg loops at each bottom corner, though I don't use them; and guy loops at each top corner, vestibule and low side vent cover. (Floating means the tub hangs from the upper guy loops.) The ends are each one piece; the low side is two pieces; with all four pieces and the netting reaching up to the trekking pole. The low side has a mesh vent about 24 sq in (0.02 sq m). The high side is two pieces of mosquito netting rising vertically, separated by a zipper running from about the peak at the trekking pole to 2 in (5 cm) above ground, making a turn to run 24 more inches (61 cm) parallel to the ground toward the foot end. This makes a door on the foot end that will partially roll up, held by a tie and loop. A two-piece uncoated taffeta awning provides a small amount of gear storage under cover, as well as shielding the netting from most rain. The head end piece is integrated with the guy line and cannot be rolled up or let down. The foot end piece can be unzipped and rolled up, held by a tie and the same loop used for the door; or let down to hang flat against the netting. For nasty weather, optional curtains can be hook/loop attached to the foot end, the head end and the low side vent. A triangular mini-awning of uncoated taffeta sewn into the horizontal seam shields the low side vent netting from weather and also strengthens the low side middle head sideguy line, integrated with the vertical center seam. A 6 x 6 in (15 x 15 cm) netting pocket is sewn into the tub/netting seam and the head end zipper tape.

Tools required:
   Scissors, steel tape, long straight edge, sewing machine.

I cut this from a pattern I made, and found making the pattern quite challenging. The length of the triangular pieces required a level of measuring precision exceeding my capacities. I tried setting up a string skeleton measured with a steel tape, but somehow the dimensions wound up not translating exactly. In fact I had to redo the awning several times to get it close to right. Sewing this up for me was a nightmare, struggling to figure out french seams upside down, backwards and inside out; and 3 layers on the awning. A simpler seam may have resulted in less torture, but I wanted the strength as all of the tent's tension applies to seams. The result is not retail, but has held up through some tough conditions. Running the top angle all the way to the ground (more common) would simplify production and pitching, but significantly extend the footprint without adding a compensating amount of useable interior volume.
Field Conditions: 
    I've used the tent 67 nights in conditions ranging from warm to nasty. The first three pictures show the tent at 10,000 ft (3,050 m) Outpost Camp on Mt. Whitney, USA, where temps ranged from 22 to 40 F (-6 to 4 C); a few snow flurries and brisk sprites, but mostly dry with mostly sunny days. The heaviest weather came as a surprise of 8 in (20 cm) of snow on an April trek in SE Yosemite near Chiquito Pass at 8,000 ft (2,440 m).


    This tent is remarkably roomy, enough so that in a severe pinch two people could shelter in it, though only one mattress will fit. The ventilation system of a small netting vent on the low side, large amount of netting on the high side and uncoated taffeta for the awning encourages circulation and keeps condensation and "plastic bag" feel to a minimum. Perhaps half the time the tent stays dry and comfortable inside. In humid, cool conditions, the upper walls can get drippy with condensation; and of course in strong sun the smarm meter can edge toward the red zone. Most water sheds off the awning, but big drops can spatter. Wind driven rain can spit mist through the netting. In these conditions, the uncoated curtains effectively block what moisture might otherwise have come through, while still allowing a diminished amount of circulation. I carry the curtains if I expect weather and deploy them if rain starts blowing through the netting. (I don't know if the tent could get tight enough with coated curtains to cause oxygen deprivation issues, but that was in the back of my mind as supporting the reasons to use uncoated nylon.)

    Guy line tension creates the tent's structure. The only firm point is the trekking pole, held in place at the top by the pocket formed by the conjoining pieces, with the pole tip anchoring the bottom in the dirt. Saturated nylon tends to get heavy and saggy and the tent compresses as the nylon stretches. Polyester would stretch less, but may not have the strength to sustain the design in heavy weather. Snow weight squeezes the tent down to less than cozy. In the picture at left the weather caught me by surprise and I strung the footprint over the tent during the night hoping it might deflect some of the weight. I don't know whether that helped, but as buried as I got, the shelter did not abandon its duty to keep its occupant out of the weather.
    When I'm with other campers I need to be away from their traffic so as not to pose a tripping hazard from six guy lines. I have cut strips of white plastic grocery bag to flutter on the lines. I also use 1/8th in (2 mm) elastic loops about two inches in (5 cm) length as a buffer for high wind and trips. The guy lines are 1/16th in (1 mm) nylon string, which requires great care to avoid tangling. It's worse than para cord, but lighter, less bulky and plenty strong enough.

    I find the best way to pitch the tent is to peg the guy lines for the upper corners and low side; raise the tent with the trekking pole and tension the tent with the awning guy. When I've used the tent enough times to remember where to set each peg, I can have shelter in literally two minutes. I don't peg the tub to the ground anymore as that seems unnecessary and actually makes getting a tidy pitch even more tricky.

    I'm very satisfied with this shelter for its light weight, interior volume, minimal packed bulk and durability of fabric. I am ruminating the merits of cutting weight and bulk by about half with cuben fiber; held back by worries I might muck up some rather expensive material in a complicated project to save a pound (450 g).

Quick shots:
    a) light
    b) effective shelter
    c) pitch learning curve

Read more gear reviews by joe schaffer

Reviews > Shelters > Tents > DIY Trekking Pole Tent > Owner Review by joe schaffer

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