Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Shelter 2.0

The discussion on that last post me started on thinking more seriously about the next step, which I probably won't take until at least spring (hey, I just got settled in!).

The virtues of a small nylon camping tent are that it's very cheap, very portable, and reasonably easy to set up and take down. Only one of those three virtues (cheapness) is important to me, since I'm not hiking in anywhere and since the installation is semi-permanent.

The primary vice of a small nylon camping tent is that it's not especially wind- or water-resistant. I've treated mine with water resistance stuff, sealed some seams with tape, and put an additional ground cover underneath its built-in floor, and it's performed well under steady, even occasionally heavy, rain since then. It stays dry inside. It's drafty, but hell, it's a tent.

The other day I erected a tarp lean-to on the north side to deflect some wind and precipitation, but it's been neither especially windy nor especially wet since then. The forecast for two inches of accumulated snow yesterday was wrong -- a few flurries, leaving a barely visible dusting on the tent exterior. So that hasn't been put to the test yet.

So anyway, where was I? Oh, yes -- I've probably taken "wind and wet" resistance as far as it can reasonably go, with the exception of lining the interior walls with "emergency blanket" material if that becomes necessary. I'm up against the inherent limitations of a light nylon structure.

So, the next step is graduating up from a light nylon structure to something more durable.

A tipi, as Kent suggests in that other post's comments, would be really cool, but it would also be really tall and I live in a town with ordinances that specify the number of holes per square inch in window screens (no, I'm not kidding). Unless I'm prepared to claim that I'm a Blackfoot medicine man and the thing is my religious obligation, a tipi is probably out. I need a structure that sits low enough -- six feet max, I'd say -- to not be deemed a visual nuisance.

A wickiup would be pretty neat, too, but I'm leaning toward something like a geodesic dome ... and look at the link what arrived in my email this morning to encourage that drift of thought. That's nylon (or some other light fabric), portable and expensive, but I still kind of like the concept.

Enter Instructables!

That is something I can build from free and cheap materials -- some castaway cardboard, some glue or fasteners, some tape for sealing the seams, and lacquer and/or a tarp or plastic covering for additional waterproofing. Since it's a "play dome," one roof triangle is omitted; I'll keep that triangle but make it removable, so that I have a closable skylight. And I'd leave fold-in tabs on the bottom pieces to stake it to the ground through.

It's basically a 2v geodesic dome with a height gain from a base of rectangles. If I configure the 2v dome part of it for an 8-foot diameter (plenty of room to stretch out), I get 4 feet of height. Make the rectangular base 1 foot in height and I'm at five feet; 2-foot rectangles get me to six feet. And I'd have right at 50 square feet of floor space (I think the current tent has 42).

If I want to get really fancy, I can minimize the number of individual pieces, making fewer cuts to produce longer seams so that the attachment points act as reinforcing "ribs" and make it a stronger structure.

I suspect I can build the thing for less than the $25 I spent on the tent, depending on things like whether I want it to be easily to disassemble and reassemble (e.g. using brads instead of staples or glue for fastening the segments together).

I'm excited enough about the possibilities that I may start getting the pieces together now and install it sooner than I say I'm going to.

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