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November 28, 2022

Revenge of the Tent Dwellers

By Sand Pilarski

The sleeping tent.

2004 Update

Isn't it cute? What a lovely, aesthetical structure, quaintly tucked away in the landscaping.

Wait! For about 180 days of the year, this filmy construction substitutes for air conditioners and fans running all night long. For about $20 a year, we've slept in exquisitely comfortable temperatures for six months of the year with clear views of the stars.

The first tent we built was revenge-based, a reaction to the gutting of California's energy users in 2000. This year, we'll build our third tent not because of energy prices, but because sleeping out in the night air is so beautiful that we can't resist it. The first tent lasted only a year because it was really cheap tulle; the second tent was a little more realistic at two seasons, but still could have lasted longer had we made the commitment to take it down each day before the harsh midday sun baked the threads. A commercial tent that we bought to extend the camping-out season has also lasted only two years, with far less usage.

I would like to sleep outside for the rest of my life. For freezing reasons, I can't do that, some months of the year. And then there are the rainy times, when I might terminally mildew. But oh! from Mother's Day to Hallowe'en -- give me the tulle tent and I will be content.

Materials:

PVC diagram
  • 4 twenty foot pieces of 3/4" schedule 40 PVC pipe
  • 6 three-way 90-degree couplings (slip x slip x thread)
  • 6 adapters (thread to slip)
  • 4 90-degree ells (slip x slip)
  • 2 90-degree tees (slip x slip x slip)
  • 1 four-way cross (slip x slip x slip x slip)
  • blue PVC glue

Cuts:

  • 11 sections 2 1/2 ft long
  • 5 sections 6 1/2 ft long
  • 1 piece 3 1/2 ft long
  • 1 piece 6 ft long (last cut)

Don't glue anything until you are able to figure out which pieces go where, which isn't anywhere near as hard as it looks. And then don't glue everything, just a couple end couplings so that you have single pieces to stack when you disassemble it! I used a waterproof marker to write the proper location for each piece so I woudn't have to think about assembly. This was like the best tinkertoy set ever! Now for the material, you may choose mosquito netting, (about $3.95/yard) but we opted for tulle, available at any fabric store, and real cheap at Wal-Mart. We got a bunch on sale for 15 cents a yard in the spring of 2001. This year we had to buy the good stuff for 77 cents a yard. Tulle is super lightweight and does not block ANY breezes at all. The added delight is that you can look out through it and it's nearly invisible.

Netting diagram

Get TULLE, 5 or 6 pieces each cut into 6 yard increments. Have the fabric store make the cuts -- much more accurate. Sew them together on the long sides. On the outside panels, pinch them in at the center and tie with kitchen string. Sew the edges of those pinched panels together -- this makes like a box of fabric for the tent. I used scrap ribbon and sewed it on the pinched part of the panels -- this will secure the tent to the top crosspiece on the tent.

Putting down a groundcloth washed with 20-Mule Team Borax deters most bugs, or you can use camp cots inside. The tulle anchors with a gentle twist and loop around the bottom of the frame.

The tent

The cheap tulle we used in the spring of 2001 lasted for our tent from Mothers' Day until November, when the cold and rain drove us inside. This year's blue and purple model, a somewhat better quality tulle, may last us two years or more. Set up and take down of the tent each day takes about 20 minutes -- less if two people work at it.

Cost savings? Even with the much higher utility rates, we paid less than half what we did the year before. Take that, you rip-off energy moguls. However, the real treasure was not the money saved, but the daily awakening to the wind in the trees and song of birds and incredible play of clouds in the sky.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2002-06-28
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