Contributed bystepahead0 (Phil Jones), 12/06/01

Introduction      (Picture Page)

This shelter began as an experiment to see how I could make a lightweight tarp/tent from just a picture of a similar tarp that someone had shown me. It took lots of planning and paper models before I actually started cutting the silnylon. It is based on the picture that Photon (Don Johnson) first published on the BackpackingLight discussion site of the Gurwell tarp.

I started with the dimensions of a regular sleeping pad, 20" by 72" and added some tossing and turning room. Working with the minimum height of my trekking pole, I used this as the height of the foot of the shelter. I wanted some headroom at the head of the tent, so I settled for a 40" high. Now I had a triangle to work with. This basic design was put down on paper and modified slightly to accommodate for standard material widths.

I also wanted a shelter that was going to keep me dry in windy weather, so I designed the sides to be folded down if necessary. After the final production, it was easy to see that the lengths of the sides are sufficient enough to protect the contents of the shelter without the need for different setup configurations. Therefore, the extra tie down loops along the edge of the main roof section are not necessary.


Material List

1.1 oz. Siliconized ripstop nylon 5 yd.

No-see-um mesh 2 2/3 yd.

¾" Grosgrain ribbon 2 yd.

Polyester thread (250 yd. spool) 1 ea.

¾" Hook (like Velcro) 2 ½ yd.

¾" Loop (like Velcro) 2 ½ yd.

250 denier nylon 1/3 yd pound goods

Note: all seams ½" flat-felled seams unless noted otherwise. Some basic sewing experience is assumed.


Step 1: Cutting the Materials

1.1 Cut out all fabric pieces according to Figures 1, 2 and 3. Figure 1 and 2 are each cut from one piece of material that measures 84" by 66" each. Figure 3 is cut from a piece of no-see-um mesh that is 55" by 96".

When cutting sections G and H, leave them rectangular and cut the tapered angles after assembled to the roof of the tent. Also, Section M and N are angled as well. To cut these angles, hold a tape measure at the center of the mesh (13.5 inches) and measure down the side of the mesh until the 20" mark crosses the edge of the mesh. Fold it in half and cut both sides at the same time. Use this to measure the front panel and cut it at the same angle.


Step 2: Building the roof of the tent

    1. Start by laying out the pieces of material that will make up the main tent roof. These are the sides sections (A and B), the main roof section (D), and the mesh side panels, K and L. Refer to figures 9, 10 and 11 at the end of this document to get a general idea of the shape of the roof. Refer to figure 4 to get an idea of how to start your first seam. (See the flat-felled seam part 1 below for an idea of how to do this.) Lay out one side of the tarp and sew it before moving on to the other side of the tarp. I also find it helpful to use a stapler that lets the ends of the staple turn out. It is easier to staple the seams before sewing than to pin them. The staples pull out as I am sewing the first seam.
    2. All three pieces of material will be sewn together with a flat-felled seam that folds on the bottom side of the roof. To accomplish this, make sure that you lay the main section of the roof (D) down with the outside facing up. Then lay the outside section of the roof (A) on top of this with the outside facing down. In other words, the two outside faces should be facing each other. Then lay the mesh section (K) with the inside facing up and the long diagonal edge along the outside edge of the roof. The mesh should overlap each end by about 2 inches. Line up the material like that shown in figure 4. Be sure and leave ½" of the main roof section (D) sticking out from the edges of the other two pieces of material (A and K). This flap will be folded over later to make the flat fled seam. Measure ¼" in from the point where all three layers overlap and sew a straight line.
    3. Now, fold the main roof section (D), from under the stack and in the opposite direction from sections A and K (see figure 5 and Flat-felled Seam part 2). Fold the flap left over from the main roof section around the edges of the other two pieces of material and fold this flat against sections A and K (see Flat-felled Seam part 3). Notice in the drawing that section A and D are now upside down but that the flat-felled part of the seam is on the underside of the tarp. Sew this seam again to hold down the felled part. Be sure and stretch section D and A apart while sewing the second part of the seam. If not, there will be some bunching along the seam and it won’t look good and will be more difficult to seam seal.
    4. Repeat steps 2.2 and 2.3 for the other side using sections B and L to attach to the main roof (section D). Before sewing this side, I used some scrap mesh and made a small pocket that hangs inside the tent from the roof. It is handy for storing small items that I normally carry in my pocket.
    5. Now it is time to attach the foot section of the roof. This is section H and section N. Use the same procedure as above by lying the inside of the main roof section down and then lying section H on top of this. Section H should have its inside facing up. This is the same as above, both external sides are facing each other. Lay section N, the mesh end panel, on top of this. You will have to pin or staple this together since the roofline will have to follow the angled sides of the mesh. Sew your first seam and follow up with the flat-felled stitching.
    6. This is the best time to connect the mesh at both rear corners. Make both corners a flat-felled seam. Each seam should only be about 1 inch long.
    7. Before attaching the front sections, you will have to sew sections E, F and G together to form the front of the roof. The 15" side of panels E and F are to be attached to the ends of section G. Follow the same method as above by lying the two outside faces of each section together and make your first row of stitching. Follow up with same process of making a flat-felled seam.
    8. To complete the front of the roof, lay down the main body with the outside facing up. Lay the combined sections E, F and G on top of this with its outside facing down. Lay the mesh, section M, on top of this and pin or staple the three pieces together.


Step 3: Adding the pullouts

    1. Now it is time to reinforce the sections where the pullouts will be placed. The obvious pullout spots are at the four corners as well as the center of the front and the back sections of the roof. Cut out small triangles from a 5" by 5" square piece of reinforcing material. I used the 250 denier material for this. Since the corners are not right triangles, you will have to trim the short sides of the reinforcing material to the shape of the corner. Sew all four corners and the pieces at the centers of the front and back sections of the roof to the underside of the roof.
    2. The four remaining pullout spots can be found by measuring the length of the sides of the roof and dividing by three (approx. 30 inches apart). Cut out four more triangles and sew them to the bottom of the roof section.
    3. Once all of the reinforcing material has been added, the outside edges must be sewn. Figure 7 shows the detail of how to fold and sew this seam. Use about ½ inch allowance along the outside edge. This seam is to add strength to the roof edge and to prevent unraveling along this edge.
    4. Now cut the grosgrain webbing into 7 inch long strips. Use a flame to slightly melt the edges after you cut them to prevent the edges from unraveling. Loop each piece of webbing and attach it as shown in figure 6 below. Use bar tacking in two locations to spread the stress applied when the guy lines are tightened. When attaching the loops at the corners, angle them so that they will pull the tent out and forward. In other words, the loop should be evenly spaced in the corners so that they have equal parts of material on either side of the loop. I attached my loops to the underside of the roof, however they could just as easily be attached to the top side of the roof.


Step 4: Closing up the netting

    1. You may need to set up the tent to perform this next step. I set up the tent using my trekking poles for support. Start with the foot end of the tent and collapse the pole to its shortest height (around 18"). I tied my guy line to the rear or the tent and tied a clove hitch around the handle of the trekking pole. Then I tied a taut line hitch on the lower end of the guy line and staked it out. I then angled the guy lines at the rear corners so that tension was applied to both the rear and side edges of the tent. I then opened my other trekking pole to the 130 mark (approximately 40") and placed the handle where the reinforcement material was for the front center pull was located. I staked out the front center and then angled the two front corners so that tension was applied to both the front edge of the tent and to the side edges also. Using the additional side pulls adds more tension to the tent roof and pulls the sides down just a little more.
    2. Now you are ready to measure the height of the netting so that the front door can be finished out. You will also be able to measure for the proper size of the floor material. First, make sure that you can comfortably enter and exit the tent. You may need more headroom. If so, adjust your trekking pole accordingly. Leave about ½" more netting on the front mesh then the sides. This will be needed to hold the velcro securely. Pin the velcro in place on all three sides. Before you take the tent down to sew the velcro, measure the distance around the mesh. Measure the sides as well as the front and the back. The sides should be about 84 inches and the front and backs should be about 25 inches each. The netting should not reach the ground but should be a uniform height from the ground. The sides of the floor will come up on each side and on the front and the back to meet the netting. If these lines are not straight, you may want to trim them appropriately.
    3. Take the tent down and sew on the velcro. I found it better to put the hook piece on the door flap and the loop piece on the net walls. Fold over the edge of the netting under the velcro to give a finished edge look.


Step 5: Adding the floor

    1. Since the floor and the tent are the same length, you will have to add some material to each end as a floor wall. This keeps any splashing rain and runoff water from reaching the inside of the tent. I added 5 inches to each end. The length of the 5 inch piece of material only needs to be as wide as the netting on each end plus seam allowances on each side. That should be about 27 inches. Refer to figure 8 to see how to start the seam for both ends. Once you have both ends attached, you should have an empty box shape to the floor.
    2. Now it is time to attach the floor to the netting. Start in one of the back corners and work forward. I used the flat-felled seam along this seam as well. Do not attach the netting in the front to the floor. Instead, attach the loop section of velcro to the floor so that the door attaches to it to close. Once one side is attached, start in the same corner working in the other direction. This will complete your sewing.


Step 6: Seam Sealing

    1. This is the fun part. To seal the seams from water seepage through the thread, you will need to coat the seams with silicon chalking thinned with mineral spirits (paint thinner). I used a 6 oz. Empty tuna can and poured about one ounce of mineral spirits in it. I then squeezed about one ounce of GE silicon chalking into the can and started stirring. The chalking will eventually dissolve in the mineral spirits and be the consistency of white glue. I used a 1" foam brush and applied a generous coating to all of the seams. It really helps if you set up the tent first. This way, the material is being stretched and the sealant can get into all of the needle holes easily. Don’t forget to do the seams on the floor as well. After I finished all of the seams, I re-applied another coat to the seams again. I also applied some of this mixture to the floor of the tent to prevent my sleeping pad from sliding around. Several big S patterns will do the trick.




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