Makings of a Tent

I need a lightweight tent big enough for me and the pup. I have been drooling at the tarptents from Tarptent for many moons, but they are somewhat pricey especially with the Cdn dollar these days. Plus I wanted a prettier colour.

Why not try make one? I have always liked the creative process of making something. And lots of other people (on the internet) have made their own tents, so I’m pretty sure I can too. Plus I’m on a reduced activity lifestyle these days (due to a knee thing), I had time to focus on construction of a masterpiece.

Cue hours upon hours researching design, fabric, construction techniques etc.  Mostly from the legions of wise folks on the forums on 

I ended up ordering fabric from OWF in Seattle. I am going to have a MAGENTA tent! (After shipping and dollar conversion, it wasn’t the cheapest of endeavours, but they have everything I need.)

Step 1. Design. The main design for the tent came from Henry Shires design from ThruHiker, and the Jones 2 design. As well as lots of tidbits from myog folks at BackpackingLight  This is what it looked like:

Step 2. Prototype.

I thought I would make a prototype out of old tent material, to make sure the dimensions were logical, and to wrap my head around the process. I didn’t make a floor for this one, but it turned out pretty good.  Turns out it was actually easier fabric to work with than silnylon. This sweet (heavy) tent is up for grabs if you want it 😉

Step 3. Cutting, Sewing and Seam-ripping

Supplies (OWF):

  • Walls / roof: Magenta – Sil-nylon ripstotp 1.1oz seconds
  • Floor: Black coated ripstop 1.9oz
  • Mesh: Black Noseeum
  • YYK Size 3 double pulls and coil zipper
  • Black 3/4″ nylon webbing
  • Gutermann Mara 70 tex thread*
  • 3/32″ cord for ties

*I would recommend if at all possible trying to get the same thread colour as the fabric. In my case the guuterman thread did not come in ‘fun’ colours, so I was stuck with white or black contrasting thread.  Having same colour thread would have hid some of the (many) non-straight seams!

Then get going. Start cutting and stitching. And re-stitching. Sil-nylon is very slippery to work with.

I set up the tent many times in my kitchen throughout the process… the kitchen is not quite big enough, but I was able to get the idea of how it was coming along.

Cat curve – A catenary curve makes the tent look sharp. Cutting the fabric on a curve at the top makes it so the ridgeline is taut when you pull it tight, and doesn’t have that bit of loose material on the top. Its all kinds of technical, but to make my curve, I used the catenary curve calculator tool to determine how much of a curve I should use, (based on the length), and hung the fabric up with a string to get the 3.5″ curve depth. Go here  or here to learn more. Or just trust me.


Here are the main types of stitches I used. The flat felled seam was for the ridgeline. The “normal hem” probably has another name, but that is what I used for most of the other seams. Also, get ready for your seam ripper to be come your best friend. You will love it. You will hate it. You will love to hate it.stitch

I also made a nice stuff sack for the tent.  Final weight comes to 28.70 ounces, but will weigh a bit more once seam sealed. See below for obligatory scale photo.

Here it is all set up


In the end the jury is in: she’s a beaut.  Not perfect by any means, but I’m excited to be done, and ready to try it out for future adventures!




There she is. …with her arms open wide…

2 thoughts on “Makings of a Tent

  1. “reduced activity lifestyle” seems so delicately phrased! But also, I have to again marvel at how BEAUTIFUL she turned out to be! A total gem.


  2. Pingback: A few of my favourite [adventure] things – lovelyoutliers

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