Thursday, February 2, 2017

Next Major Canoe Gear Project: Convertible Wall / Baker Tent - Part 1

With winter in full swing, I've dove into another gear related project for future trips - a new shelter for shoulder season usage.

First off, I'd like to give credit to the inspiration source for this new project. Robin L (operator of has often posted pics and outstanding tripping videos featuring his customized canvas hot tent. The shelter started off as an 8'x10' but Robin felt it was too big and heavy for solo use so he cut it up and re-stitched it to a 6' x 7' with a reduced height of 54 inches.

Original 8x10 hot tent
Photo Credit: Robin L

Instead of using the standard steel pipe for an internal frame, he ended substituting with more weight manageable pine closet rods...

Photo Credit: Robin L

An old nylon tarp serves to fully waterproof the roof and with a small wood stove, he is comfortably setup for chilly temps of early or late season paddling.

Photo Credit: Robin L
Image Source Link

Inside his tent looks super comfortable with the cot, wool blanket, stove and other accessories.

Photo Credit: Robin L

The setup looked so good that I've decided to try and make a custom homemade version. Not sure if it will be a success but it will at least serve as a prototype of sorts for a future decision to go with a proper tent maker.

As a sidenote, I've also liked the idea of the classic Baker or Campfire tent (popularized by Bill Mason) which is essentially half of a wall tent.

Baker Tent Plans

After many sketches and ideas bouncing in my head, a decision was made to make a sort of hybrid shelter that could be a fully enclosed wall tent along with an option to convert to a Baker with open side and canopy. That way, I'd have one tent that could be multipurpose.

To meet these needs, the planned dimensions were to be 7' x 7' x 6' high with 3' side walls. It helped that we have a small 7ft ping-pong table in the basement that served as a work station. Once again  I would be using a Canadian-made drop cloth (12' x 14') that is unlike any others I've seen in stores. The weave is tighter in a twill pattern rather than an open cross weave more commonly seen with other brands. It is also heavier so a full tent at this size would be quite a load.

Canadian Made Bennett Brand Twill Woven Drop Cloth

Other wall tent pics on the internet showed that some folks suspend their tent from a ridgeline and use side supports to prop up the walls. I wanted this flexibility built in too so copied the idea of grommets on a ridge flap as well as side flaps or eaves. This way if the full pole frame is too heavy for a trip, there is a lighter weight option using  a few side poles.

Canvas Tent suspended with ratchet strap
Photo Credit: DamnYak 

Also noticed that many other DIY canvas tents sometimes have sidewalls from nylon or other material to reduce weight while preserving the breathable canvas roof in order to limit condensation. So to save some weight, one back wall, two side panels and a single removable door were to be made from a polyethylene tarp. I ended up with a heavier duty 12x12 weave of polyethylene tarp from Amazon that again seemed better than the supply at local stores. I had calculated that a 10x20 tarp would be sufficient for the material needed and provide some leftover in case of a mistake.

Poly Tarp for the side walls

Don't have a sewing machine so the only option was to attempt to use heavy duty fabric adhesive tapes. Before proceeded with the main build, I attached a piece of canvas onto a sample of the poly tarp using a flat felled seam

Image Credit:

I ended up using a combination of both peel and stick and iron on adhesive tapes and found that the heat activated tape helped to fuse the plastic poly to the canvas really well. The seam felt very strong and did not come apart after much tension and stretching. I left the test sample outdoors for a week where it was soaked with rained, frozen overnight, thawed out during the day and even buried in a little bit of snow we've had. Then I threw it into the washing machine. The seam kept holding strong so that gave me the confidence to proceed.

Before doing anything on the main tent, I washed the massive 12'x14' dropcloth multiple times in hot water and dried it using high heat. In the end, it shrunk 6" in width and 9" in length. The new length worked out so that when I accounted for the various seams allowances, side eaves, and a top ridge flap of grommets, the canvas tarp would cover the roof and one side wall without having to cut any fabric lengthwise.

Then work began on the poly tarp back wall and side panels.  Here is a photo of one of the side panels after cutting. The vertical flap in the foreground is a two inch folded flap were the ground grommets would be installed for pegging in the ground. The remaining 12" sod cloth in front will fold back into the tent preventing drafts and openings on uneven ground.

Working on a side panel

Here the rectangular back wall piece from the poly tarp is being cut and shaped. White Gorilla tape was used around the cut perimeter edges

After these parts were cut out, I began the process of attaching the pieces. The flat felled seam required a lot a repositioning and flipping over to get right but everything worked out in the end. Below the rear canvas roof is being attached to the poly back wall.

Mentioned earlier that 3 of the side panels were to be made from poly tarp. The remaining door would be from left over drop cloth material. This is where I plan to eventually put a stove jack for when a future wood stove is in the tent.

More pics and discussion of the internal frame in a subsequent post.


Jonas Sjöblom said...

Very nice project! Another option for the walls, if you want to keep them cotton too is to make them in a lighter fabric. Cambric for example is very light and very tight. I don't know how it is compared to plastic though.
I'm looking forward to see how this turns out!

Murat said...

Thanks Jonas! I had no idea what Cambric was so needed to google it.

David said...

Murat, go get your self an old used sewing machine, you can get a great machine for $50. Please do your self a favour lol!!
Good looking project!!

Murat said...

I tried David. Picked one up on Kijiji that I thought would work but screwed up on the buy. It is apparently a piece of crap that I couldn't get to work on the double seams. Now I'm officially scared of sewing machines!

toomuch said...

Murat - I know a bit about sewing machines and you can indeed buy a good one for $50 - $100. Look for vintage singers models 4423, 4432, 5532 or 301. These are simple heavy duty machines with metal parts and still have great reviews online. They can handle canvas and leather. Stay away from machines with rust and always test the machine if you can. You should always bring any machine you buy in for a tune up if at all possible usually around $50. One more hint, get a walking foot for the machine, you will not regret it.

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