Hiking and backpacking season is here so I’ve decided to do a series of reviews on do-it-yourself backpacking gear. This is part 1 (Jones Tent 2). You can read parts 2 (Alpine Rucksack), 3 (GVP pack) and 4 (sleeping quilt) here. A co-worker and I went backpacking in the summer of 2006. Despite having trained for the trip for several months ahead of time, carrying the weight of traditional backpacking gear lead to a shoulder re-injury. It was then that I decided to investigate light and ultralight backpacking gear. Keep in mind that there was a lot less commercially available ultralight gear in 2006 that there is now. I was living in Calgary at the time and inside of the Macleod Trail Campers Village there was a technical fabric store called Textile Outfitters (they went out of business in 2008). This meant is technical fabrics were readily available.
I scoured the internet for patterns and tutorials and decided that my first project would be the Jones Tent 2 (a two person-two pound tent). You can download the PDF instructions here:
Note this pattern is for personal use only.
Here are my thoughts on this project. I sewed this project is 2006 so I’m writing this post with considerable hind-site. The pattern makes a silnylon tarptent for two people. If you’re not familiar with the concept, a tarptent is single-walled at the top (like a tarp) and double-walled at the bottom (like a tent). The mesh secondary wall helps keep insects out. This is an appealing feature if you’ll be sleeping in an area with a lot of mosquitoes.
The 12-page instruction sheet begins with an introduction to the project. It explains the author’s motivation for creating the tent, provides some notes on his design process and a few tips on working with silnylon. The next section is features. Here the size, weight, and cost of the project is described. Keep in mind the prices quoted were in US dollars, more than a decade ago. Depending upon where you live, it may not be cost effective to buy materials to make this tarptent these days.
The comprehensive material list is next. I had now issues taking this list to Textile Outfitters and purchasing the fabrics, webbing, zipper tape, and notions for this project. I spend around $225 Canadian, which was much less expensive that if I had purchased a silnylon tent from the United States.
The first step is cutting the material. This step is broken down into 7 steps, and includes a set of comprehensive schematics to help your understand the complex design. The schematics and written instruction are so complete that I had the confidence to modify this tarptent to a 1.5 person, 1.5 pound tent. I’ve used my version of this tarptent on several camping trips and in hind-site I wish I had followed the instructions as they are written. In practice, having two people sleep in a 1.5 person tent is rarely comfortable.
Step 2 is building the roof of the tent. Silnylon is a slippery fabric and at times difficult to work with. Often there were tension issues with my sewing machine and I would have to pick a section of stitches and re-sew it. The six sub-steps were clearly explained and I didn’t have any issues with following the instructions.
Step 3 is adding the pullouts. The pullouts are made out of webbing so the slipperiness of the silnylon wasn’t an issue for this step. The instructions are peppered with numerous illustration and photographs. This section was one where the additional detail of a illustration helped to clarify the steps.
Step 4 is closing the netting and adding the guy lines. Netting is delicate a material. I really had to work carefully to avoid damaging the netting. Part of step 4 involves setting up the tarptent. For best results, the tarptent should be set up outside and staked to the ground. Unfortunately I didn’t have access to tent pegs or a yard and had to make do with setting it up inside and using fitness weights to hold ti down. Having used my tarptent several times, it hasn’t been negatively affected by this improvisation.
Step 5 is adding the floor and zippers. Both sewing the zipper to the netting and sewing the netting to the silnylon can be difficult. As I mentioned previously, silnylon is slippery and I recall having issues with the tension on my sewing machine. The extra photographs and illustrations were helpful and I didn’t have any issues understanding the steps.
Step 6 is seam sealing. By the time all the sewing is complete, the waterproof silnylon fabric is has millions of tiny holes along the seams and everywhere the pullouts and netting attach to it. Seam sealing the tarptent is a critical step. I went through about a tube and a half of silnylon seam sealer.
Here are some photos of my finished tarptent.
As you can see, by changing the width and length of the tarptent, I’ve shifted the lowest part of the roof line forward. In the original design the lowest part of the roof is coincides with the rear pole.
Do you backpack? Have you made any backpacking gear?