Making my Own 3 Season Tent – Part 5: Supplies

Over recent weeks I’ve been firming up what I’m going to need to build the shelter, and yesterday I finally cracked and put the order in. Here’s a rundown of the main items…

Fly

There was a bit of last minute dithering over the main fly fabric though, the choices considered being:

  • 1.1oz Silpoly (20D x 20D) [weight 42 g/m2]
  • 1.6oz Silpoly (40D x 40D) [weight 60 g/m2]
  • 0.8oz or 1.0oz DCF [weight 27 or 34 g/m2 respectively]

These have been the main contenders for a while yet, having ruled out silnylon early on – I just can’t be doing with all that stretch, sag and extra wet weight. I’ve had a couple of shelters in silpoly and it’s fine – I just needed to decide on which grade to go for.

In terms of the silpoly, it’s a simple choice between something light that may not be quite as robust for later in the year, and a heavier but much more robust (and possibly marginally easier to sew) option. For a while I was dead set on the 1.6oz silpoly, but ultimately came to my senses – it’s unnecessary extra weight and I probably don’t need the extra robustness – I have 20D silpoly shelters that have stood up perfectly adequately to a good strong breeze, and even a snow load. But the key point is I’m expecting to use this shelter in spring/summer and maybe early autumn, so if I’m out in fruitier conditions I’d probably take something else anyway. The 40D is overkill.

1.1oz Silpoly

But the lure of DCF refused to go away. I have a bit of a on and off relationship with DCF – on one hand loving the strength, weight and simplicity, but at the same time not being quite as keen on the relative transparency and the whole crinkly thing. But deep down I have to admit there was a desire to build the shelter in DCF purely for the potential wow factor. But, of course, that only comes if I make a decent job of it.

After my initial sewing escapades, I have to admit that the lure of something which might not need any, or at least very little, sewing was getting stronger. But in the end I saw sense – it’s simply not the material for a first time project. At around $17 per half yard, compared with around $7 per whole yard of silpoly, the key question was: do I want to spend 5 times as much with all the risk of cocking it up ? Or do I want to spend a fraction of that, and then potentially upgrade later ? The fabric alone for the shelter would have cost in the region of $400 if I’d gone for DCF.

So eventually I saw sense and plumped for the 1.1oz silpoly. I have over-ordered, buying 50% more fabric than I think I can get away with. I reckon I need 8-9 yards and bought 12. I’ve gone for Charcoal Gray, which is a reasonable compromise between the boring stealthy colours and something with a bit more verve.

Inner

The floor for the inner is going to be made from 1.6oz HyperD PU4000. It seemed like the best balance of waterproofness, abrasion resistance and weight. I bought 6 yards which should be enough for two bathtub floors – one for the main inner, and one for a standalone bathtub floor that will work as part of a modular inner system (more about that later).

The walls of the main inner will be a combination of 1.1oz ripstop nylon in orange (5 yards), and 1.0oz Monolite ripstop nylon (8 yards) mesh in charcoal gray. I also have some yellow Hilleberg inner tent fabric which works out at about 1.3oz. I bought extra orange nylon and Monolite as I expect to “upgrade” some other inners, and also make a stand alone mesh inner just from the Monolite. The Monolite seems to be a magic fabric which is easy to sew, robust (enough to make a hammock), breathable.

1.0oz Monolite Nylon Mesh

I haven’t yet decided whether to use the orange or yellow for the inner, and which one then to use to “upgrade” other mesh inners – the plan is to see what they look like when I have them and work out the most pleasing distribution. At the end of the shop I threw in a few yards of 0.9oz Noseeum mesh too, just in case.

The main all-season inner will use #3 zippers in an inverted T arrangement. Although, I haven’t yet ruled out also going for a zipperless option there too. But roll zipper is cheap, so it wasn’t worth agonising over. I bought some cheap delrin rods on ebay (no link – there’s many to choose from). These will be used to form struts on the corners of the inner to give it the bathtub shape. These are as cheap as chips.

Guyouts (external and internal)

Guyouts will use Linelok 3’s attached to Mil-Spec grosgrain. Unfortunately, the only thing I couldn’t get from Ripstop By The Roll was the exact 1/2″ grosgrain I wanted, so I ended up settling for the 3/8″ which is a bit narrower than I wanted. I’m going to look around to see if I can get any 1/2″.

Apart from the eternal battle over the main fly fabric, the thing that’s given me most headaches are the fixings for attaching the inner. My Tipik-tentes Aston has side release buckles for those internal attachments, and I quite liked the idea. They offer a more secure way of leaving the inner attached than hooks would. They don’t need to be particularly heavy duty or take much in the way of load.

Attachment of the inner by side release buckles (as in Tipik-Tentes Aston – a pinched screenshot)

But, there’s another consideration – the doors. As I’m not having a zip and am “simply” going to overlap them, they will require some sort of tie-out mechanism. Moreover, it would be useful to have a mechanism that can lead to easy opening and closing. Ideally, buckles could work here too, but only really if one side accepts cord. And such a thing exists: ITW who make Line loc 3’s make a Line loc 3 WSR Buckle – a combination of a non-adjustable buckle and a line lok 3. this is ideal. But can I get them anywhere ? No. I’ve found a couple of places in Europe (Adventurexpert and outdoorline) that have them but both are subject to a £135 minimum order (so they don’t have to deal with UK VAT), and another one (Extremtextil) that’s not shipping to the UK at all right now for exactly the same reason. The two sites that are shipping, I couldn’t find enough stuff I wanted / needed to take me over the minimum order value. Yes I resisted the temptation to buy a new rucksack, sleep mat or tent.

Line Loc 3 WSR Buckle

That left the US. Zpacks also sell them, but paying more for postage than the product itself is one of those lines I’m reluctant to cross. Again I couldn’t find other products on their site to make the order up to a respectable value. Mainly because anything I liked, I’d hope to be in the position to make for myself in the not too distant future. I also have a bit of an in-built and (largely) baseless dislike of zpacks, or at least some of their evangelists. Gossamer Gear, from whom Outdoorline’s stock comes also don’t have them any more.

Of course there are plenty of other solutions I could employ, but I’d grown attached to the whole “cord one end, webbing the other” thing. I ended up on etsy buying a slimmed down fitting that does the same job. I also picked up some grosgrain there too.

The final cord/buckle solution from Etsy

Cordage

To be fair I could probably rustle up enough guyline to do the job just from what I have in my gear repair box. But this was one of those “while I’m buying, I might as well get exactly what I want” moments. So I threw some Amsteel 7/64″ (2.7mm) into the basket too. This is pretty much the perfect thickness to use all round the shelter. Since it came in a decent range of colours, and was a reasonable price, I filled my boots: getting grey (silver) to match the shelter colour; red to match my Aston; yellow because it works with anything; and orange because it’s my favourite colour. Although this seems frivolous, it does enable me to adopt some colour coding to certain tie outs on the tent to aid fast pitching. And you can never have enough spare cord anyway 😉

Amsteel 7/64″ (2.7mm) cord

I’ve also bought a selection of hooks to work with the cordage – especially to use when “flying” the doors. I’m not sure yet quite how I’ll do this, and they were cheap enough to just buy everything that looked like it might be useful.

Sewing Stuff

Thread will be Gutermann MARA 70, and as you have probably guessed by now, I bought colours to match as closely as possible the fabrics. RBTR actually have colour-matched MARA 70 based around their HyperD fabrics, which are the same colour names across other fabrics too. I went with Gray, Blaze Orange and Spectra Yellow, and threw in some Black too. A pack of 90/14 sewing machine needles completed the basket.

Gutermann MARA 70 thread

Yikes, that’s a lot of stuff

Yes it sure is, but I don’t want to have to make several orders and incur the delivery costs and lead time each time. I focussed on trying to make sure I had everything I thought I would need, or might need, both for this and further projects in the near future. I threw in a few packs of other things like d-rings, some shockcord etc.

While I was there, I browsed the Samples section, and added some samples of some other fabrics – a DCF sample pack, as I still have those dreams, a set of silpoly colour swatches, and a custom sample pack of some other fabrics I could see myself using. I am expecting to cock up this build, and to want to have another go, and I’m assuming that I will understand where I went wrong and how to avoid it next time, meaning that sexier fabrics come back into play for a second go. Of course I hope that I won’t mess it up, and that I end up with something serviceable. But in that event, I’m then going to want to make more gear, so I don’t think getting the samples is a bad idea either way.

There will be some stuff in amongst that lot that I will find I don’t use, but I expect to be able to sell on any excess, especially as some items are tricky to source locally in the UK. This was, though, very much about one big shop at the start to set me up.

Where it came from

As you’ll see from the links, I got most of what I need from Ripstop By The Roll (RBTR). Some of the stuff I could have picked up elsewhere, but given that a large proportion needed to be imported, I opted to get as much from one supplier as possible rather than go to various places. I looked at Dutchware, Quest, DIY Gear Supply and various more niche suppliers, but ultimately none had anything like the range that RBTR have. The FAQ pages of RBTR are also a useful source of info on the materials themselves and the techniques. There is also an extensive library of customer projects that can help visualise what you’re building and even shed some light on what materials are like in practice. Also, don’t discount the reviews on each product page – scrolling through those yielded some good insights as to what people use the material for – ie they helped build confidence that what I was going for was suitable.

European suppliers I’ve already mentioned. Extremtextil is easily the most comprehensive, and arguably well-known. But they’ve also decided not to engage at all with the UK’s new VAT regime, and so they’re out. Adventureexpert are great for the hardware – rings, hooks, buckles etc, and sell some fabric too, but even if I’d bought the big ticket items there to get me over the £135 threshold, it would have cost more and I’d still have had to go to the US for at least part of it.

For UK suppliers, the best options seem to be: Pennine (leaning a bit more towards traditional rather than UL), Profabrics which is mainly a sailing outfitters, and the dark recesses of more general outdoor gear retailers. A good source of MYOG stuff can be the sites of cottage providers who sell their excess materials. Treadlite is a good example. Most of the smaller more ubiquitous bits can be sourced relatively easily on eBay, Amazon or AliExpress. Also, don’t rule out Etsy for some of the more niche items.

Sewing Update

I’ll do a further update when I’ve made a bit more progress with sewing practice, but suffice to say I sewed a few seams and hems this weekend, and the results were a lot better. Still a bit wonky in places but getting there. My main concern now is how to control much more slippery fabric as pins have been my friend on the cheap cotton. I can’t really do that to the same extent on the silpoly and will have to use clips.

I also watched a couple of videos at the weekend – one gave me the idea of getting a felling presser foot for the sewing machine, which I’m looking at. The other was YAMA Mountain Gear’s video on the top stitched French seam which seams like a possibly easier alternative to the flat felled seam, albeit with more sewing.

So plenty still to work on while I’m waiting for a big box of stuff from the US.

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