My one stop solution(actually there may be two stops, but more about that later, look out for something like “turning your sleeping bag into a quilt”) to not pissing my pants whilst trying to wriggle out from under my not so sufficient, made in a hurry a-frame tarp.

As you may be able to see from the somewhat blurred picture below, it’s not a bad rush job at that but it has a number of limitations. At the time I was trying to see just how minimal I could go – notice how I’m using my rain jacket as a groundcloth –  the answer: not that minimal. For one this tarp was not nearly wide enough to give adequate coverage in a Scandinavian environment(read rainy as f..k). Secondly, to form a ridgeline, I just folded over the fabric, this was mainly because I couldn’t afford the loss of width a catenary cut would’ve meant. It really could’ve done with one though.


So what do I want from my new tarp? Well… first and foremost I want more coverage. Secondly I want a side entrance. I want to be able to sit up, swing my legs out into the vestibule, put on my shoes and get out of the tarp feet first. What I don’t want, is to crawl out of the tarp on my hands and knees, fighting to get my shoes on, getting muddy in the process and possibly soaking my back in condensation as it scrapes against the inside of the tarp. What I do want is to be able to get out of my tent in time to not pee my pants – even if it was just a little bit of pee. Because frankly I get disgusting enough when I’m hiking, there’s really no reason to add pee to that fragrant mix of sweat and grime. Also I’m a grown up and grown ups are not supposed to pee their pants.

What’s my way of achieving these goals you may ask – enter the new and improved tarp 2.0

It’s 2,5m(8.2feet) long which should be long enough to cover my height of 1,74m(5.7feet). It’s 1,2m(3,93feet) wide not including the vestibule, which adds another 0,5m(1,64feet) of cover. The height is 1,2m(3,93feet) which is enough that I can sit up comfortably.

Step 1 – Design and sizing

One of the strong points of making your own gear is that you can choose exactly the size and the design features that you want. For me that means I can save a bit of weight by going for quite a minimal design and by tailoring the width, length and height to my needs. For a taller person it might mean not having to always make themselves smaller in order to fit in a standard tent. My point is that your tent need not be one size fits all and mine certainly isn’t so keep that in mind. If you’re taller than 1,74m(5.7feet) or you want more coverage, I can do with less than most I think, you might want to size up.

Step 2 – Fitting your design onto your fabric

The most important thing is of course that you get enough fabric. I cannot stress this enough, you wan’t to make sure you’ve got enough. Coming up ten centimeters short is not worth saving a penny or two. That being said there’s no need to buy more than you need. What I like to do is lay out my tent design flat, factor in seam allowances and fit it onto the fabric that I want to use. Usually the fabric that you buy comes off a roll so you’ll have a set width and “endless” length to play with.

For the design above there are only three different sides or panels but you need two of each. If the fabric that you buy has a very pronounced right and a wrong side, meaning it has the coating on one side and not the other. You’ll want to think about laying out the panels so that the right side is alway facing out. For some fabrics this is important for others it’s more of a cosmetic concern.

Step 3 – Marking and cutting out your pieces

I used a protractor for the angels and measured out the lengths in between the corners with a ruler. Then I cut out the pieces and marked out the cat cuts using a template made out of cardboard I found in my buildings recycling bin.

(Fixes for the 2.1 shallower cat cuts it’s beautiful when I pitch it really tight and wonderful, but it does take away a bit too much height at the foot and head end of the tent.)


Step 4 – Seams

ffseam2I recently bought a new special foot for my sewing machine that makes this step a lot easier. But it’s still just a flat felled seam, you sew once where you’ve marked the seam, cut down the inside flap, fold the other side over, lay the the fold down and stitch through again.

Step 5 – Working yourself into a tight spot and wishing you’d thought things through a bit more… or as I like to call it “ideas for future design improvements”

Next time instead of all of the panels joining in one very tight fitting spot I would fashion the peak out of one piece of fabric and sow the panels onto that piece. That way I’ll feel less like killing myself.


Step 6 – Reinforcing corners


Step 7 – Seam sealing your tarp/tent

Pitch your tent inside out and seal the seams with seam sealer. Leave it to dry, preferably in a dry place. If for a example it starts to rain shortly after you’ve sealed the seams, move it into your parents green house instead.


Step 8 – Use your tent in the wild

More on that later… 🙂

Finished weight ended up at 244g(8.6oz) for the tent alone. 287g(10.12oz) for the tent with pegs. 335g(11.81oz) for the tent with pegs and ground cloth. 390g(13.75oz) for the tent with pegs, ground cloth and tent pole. The configuration that I will likely use the most for hiking is the tent with pegs and ground cloth, but without the pole because I’ll use one of my hiking poles instead. For bikepacking I’ll bring the pole as well. If I get around to trying my hand at fastpacking I might leave the pegs at home and use sharpened sticks for pegs. Also I will quite likely trim down my ground cloth to fit the tent, it’s a bit big right now. Incidentally if anyone is looking for a light weight ground cloth, I can recommend using a survival blanket. It’s light, it’s surprisingly sturdy I’ve had mine for years and if you get chilled during the night you can use it as it was originally intended.