While my DIY silnylon tarptent is still serviceable, the changes I made to the original Jones Tent II design, resulted in a flawed design. The lowest part of the ridgeline is about a foot forward of the rear of the tarptent instead of at the rear pole. I’ve wanted to learn how to properly make a catenary cut roofline since I set up my diy tarptent for the first time. In this post I review the YAMA Bug Shelter; a diy net-tent kit with a catenary cut roofline. This is post 5 in my do-it-yourself backing gear series. You can read parts 1 (modified Jones Tent II), 2 (Alpine Ruck Sack), 3 (GVP pack) and 4 (sleeping quilt).
YAMA Mountain Gear sells pre-made, ultralight backpacking gear and DIY kits. Order a kit, download the pattern and read the online instructions for their Bug Shelter kit here:
Note this pattern is for personal use only.
For the purposes of my review, I’m going to summarize the instructions, tell you what I did differently (if anything) and share my general thoughts about sewing the project.
Full disclosure… I didn’t buy the YAMA Bug Shelter kit. Currently this USA-based company doesn’t offer offer international shipping. I had some leftover materials from my previous backpacking diy projects and I’ve been gathering the remaining materials for this project over the past four or five years.
Let’s dive right in.
Step 1 Cutting the materials
I purchased enough khaki silnylon for two projects. Before I transferred the Bug Shelter markings to my silnylon, I cut the length I needed for this project. The easiest way to do so was fold my silnylon in half width-wise and pin both selvage edges together. I measured 3.1 m along the fold and along the selvage edges and joined these marks together. I pinned along the line I had just drawn and then cut along it.
I had forgotten how slippery silnylon is. It’s so slick that none of my fabric chalks or fabric marking pens and pencils could mark it. Neither did a ball point pen. Permanent markers work well. None of mine had a fine tip so I used a fine tipped CD marking pen.
Since my silnylon was already folded in half lengthwise, I drew half the Tub floor onto it, pinned along the inside of my lines and then cut threw both layers both layers of silnylon at the same time to create a symmetrical piece.
I purchased black mosquito mesh for this project. When I sewed my modified Jones Tent II, I purchased gray mosquito mesh. It was easy to transfer patterns to the gray mesh using a permanent marker. Unfortunately dark colors don’t show up on the black mesh. While my white chalk fabric marker did mark the black mosquito mesh, it was difficult to see the white marks over my pale flooring. I resorted to the time consuming process of making paper pattern pieces and pinning them to the mesh. A piece of rope came in handy for correctly drawing the ridgeline curve.
Step 2 Floor to sides
Before I sewed my Bug Shelter, I practiced the top-stitched french seam on some scraps of cotton and then on some scraps of silnylon and mosquito mesh. Next I filled several bobbins with thread and changed my machine’s needle to 70/10.
Even though I pinned before basting (the first step for the top-stitched french seam) the silnylon is so slippery and the mosquito mesh so easily deformed by pinning, that it was hard to align them correctly. I ended up having to redo one of the long seams. The easiest way to ensure proper alignment seems to be to sew with the mosquito mesh on top of the silnylon.
I also pinned the second step of the top-stitched french seams.
In addition to the black 1/2” grosgrain ribbon that I’d purchased for this project, I has a short length of red 1/2” grosgrain ribbon. I decided to use red for the side pullouts and door loop. I melted the ends of my grosgrain over a candle flame to discourage fraying.
Step 3 Pockets
Pocket positions include left, right and ridgeline. There is enough mosquito mesh for all three if you so desire. I know that I like to sit up inside my shelters and prefer to minimize the amount of stuff hanging from the ridgeline so, I opted to sew left and right pockets.
Step 4 Head-end seams
I pinned the first two steps of the top-stitched french seams in their entirety. I don’t have a preference regarding which side the door opens on. One of my mosquito mesh side walls was cut more accurately than the other. I decided to make this side the hinge side. I only pinned the third step of the top-stitched french seams at the ends. I had trouble finding 3/8” grosgrain so I used 1/2” grosgrain whenever 3/8” was called for.
Step 5 Foot-end seams
Now that I had mastered the head-end seams, it was easy to repeat the steps for the foot-end.
Step 6 Peak reinforcements
I misread the instructions for the foot-end reinforcements. They were supposed to be tucked under the flap of the top-stitched seam when I sewed the third step of the top-stitched seam. I had to rip several inches of stitches in order to sew this step correctly.
It wasn’t clear from the written instructions whether to sew the head-end reinforcements to the inside or outside of the Bug Shelter. I sewed it to the inside, but didn’t like how it looked. I ripped it, flipped it and sewed it to the outside of my Bug Shelter. That way the exterior of the front panel has a border of visible silnylon at the top and at the bottom. Similarly, the exterior side walls have visible silnylon at both ends.
Step 7 Zipper installation
The first part of zipper installation is finishing one end of the zipper tape. It was hard to see the edge of my zipper tape through the khaki silnylon so I held the zipper tape-silnylon sandwich to the light and drew a line on the silnylon along the edge of the zipper tape.
I used a grease pencil and white chalk to draw the door opening on the silnylon and mosquito mesh respectively. I cut a 1/4 circle with a 6” radius out of paper and used it a template for the 6” radial curve connecting the horizontal door line with the vertical door line.
After I cut my door, I noticed that my door-tie was sewn incorrectly. The grosgrain with the bungee cord needs to be on the inside of the Bug Shelter. I corrected this step before continuing to sew the zipper.
It took a few tries to get the zipper pinned correctly. I used my narrow zipper foot to sew the zipper in place.
Step 8 Ridgeline seam
I pinned the front section, back section then middle section of the ridgeline seam. Next I pinned the remainder, distributing any excess mosquito mesh from my imperfectly cut side piece evenly.
Step 9 Peak tie-outs & interior hang loop
I like the options of using tie-outs or grommets, depending the environment I’m using the Bug Shelter in. For my grommet loops I used 4” long and 6” long pieces of 1” wide grosgrain for the head-end and foot-end peak, respectively. I basted my pairs of tie-outs together before sewing them to my Bug Shelter. (My grommets arrived in the mail after I completed this project.)
Step 10 Stuff sack
I added a hand-written fabric label to my stuff sack so that I would know that it’s for my YAMA Bug Shelter (and not the other project I’ll be sewing with the remaining khaki silnylon).
This step isn’t mentioned in the tutorial. I know from previous experience that sewing creates millions of tiny holes in the otherwise waterproof silnylon. This step needs to be done in a well ventilated area, so I’ll be doing it outside. I’ll add some additional photos to this post then too. In addition to sealing the seams, I’ll add pattern of wavy lines on the inside of the shelter’s floor. They’ll help keep my sleeping mat from sliding around.
Here are some photos of my completed YAMA Bug Shelter.
It’s a non-freestanding shelter so it was hard to set it up under tension inside. In it’s stuff sack with the tie-outs and guylines attached it weighs 296 g (10.4 ounces). It will weigh a little more once the seams are sealed.
The instructions were well photographed and most of them were clear. Despite being a large project and having to redo some steps, it came together quickly. Cutting the floor, bathtub sides, and solid part out the door out of a single piece of fabric is an ingenious design.
I think the YAMA Bug Shelter is a great shelter option for those backpackers who want light weight without sacrificing insect protection. Going the diy route makes this shelter much more affordable than purchasing premade shelters with similar specifications. The mesh walls don’t provide as much privacy or precipitation protection as a solid material, but there are plenty of tarp options to pair this shelter with. In fact, I’m going to review one diy tarp option in my next post.
Do you backpack? Have you made any backpacking gear?