Making Another Tent Inner: Part 3 – Learnings and Field Testing

I’ve now had a chance to use the inner for a couple of nights and have some thoughts. Now I wouldn’t usually review a product after so little usage, but my experience from my first inner build was that the flaws became apparent quite quickly, and more usage only made me appreciate the things I’d got right even more.

Lessons from the Build

To be honest, I think I learned most lessons from the first build, so anything coming out of this one was relatively minor. But here they are anyway:

Things that worked well:

  • Zipper choice: going for #5 worked a treat, and it was definitely easier to deal with and I think I got a neater result. The only thing it wasn’t good for was when I needed to sew perpendicular (ie across) the zipper when closing the closed end. My budget sewing machine struggled with this.
  • Zipper placement: despite my fears, the process of planning in the zipper and sewing to the edge of a piece of fabric, rather than sewing onto the middle and cutting through, worked well. Mind you, the inverted “T” was just as fiddly to finish neatly as I expected.
  • Seams: adopting the top-stitched French seam was definitely better than the rather Heath Robinson double rolled seam thing I did before.

Things that didn’t work so well:

  • Fabric usage: I ordered 5m of the yellow ripstop fabric and pretty much used it all. By which I mean, I was left with various triangular offcuts that won’t be much use for anything else, and very little of the main roll of fabric unused. If the build had gone wrong and I’d have wanted to redo it, I wouldn’t have had enough fabric, and would have had to cannibalise the failed one. At €4 a metre, I probably could have bought more. Similarly, I used virtually all the groundsheet fabric, so wouldn’t have been able to go again without cannibalising (and hence ending up with a smaller inner). This was more expensive at €8 a metre, but there’s less wastage. I did at least have some of the 1.6oz HyperD left from the previous build, although not quite enough for the size of inner I was making this time.
  • Zipper sliders: I should have made sure that I finished the open ends of the zippers early on, to prevent accidental flying off of the sliders – which necessitated me cutting into the already closed off end to re-attach the slider. Muppet.
  • Door tiebacks: I only added one tieback each side at the top of the yellow panel. In hindsight this wasn’t quite high enough for a single tieback. I added two each side on my first inner and that would have been a better idea here too.
  • Forming the top of the inner where the 4 sides meet was just as problematic as before.
  • Need to allow even more spare fabric the more a side slopes. I cut off all of the seam allowance in one place. Oops.
  • Marking up the side panel trim lines (the tricky non-symmetrical ones) in pen was a mistake, as I cocked it up several times and now have pen lines showing on one side panel (albeit inside).

Things neither good nor bad, but to consider next time:

  • Corner stiffening: although the formed corners seemed decently stiff, in practice they haven’t imparted much overall stiffness to the bathtub sides., but I suspect rods would have drooped too, the way I would have done them.
  • Running each zipper the whole way to the edge of the fabric certainly avoided the issue of closing a gap and certainly gives a nice open front to the shelter, but it meant I had zipper in the seam area when joining the sides, which was difficult to sew. Conversely, though, running the zipper all the way to that seam provided a ready made “stop” to that end of the zipper.
  • Amount of mesh: my initial thought when I pitched the inner in the garden was that I could have cut the amount of mesh further. However, it’s certainly less meshy than the first version, and the mesh is better placed.

Thoughts from using the inner in the field

I spent two nights in the inner on my recent trip to Dartmoor. The first night I pitched in the dark on a spot I wasn’t sure was entirely level, but it all went up ok. I found I had enough space inside, even with the slight sag on the rear corners.

I had been concerned that the solid fabric panels at the bottom of each side weren’t high enough, but actually even though both nights were really cold and with considerable breeze the second night, I didn’t feel any colder than the ambient (but still very cold) temperature. I felt I’d got it about right.

The second night, we pitched on White Tor – a rocky one without much flat grass to put a tent on, let alone the 6 needed for our group. I somehow managed to bag the nicest patch of actual ground for myself, and a fellow, but at the expense of being higher up and therefore, more exposed to the ENE wind. Having by far the tallest shelter in the group, it was ironic that I probably got the most exposed spot.

Despite this, it was actually a pretty cosy night in. We pretty much all retired to our tents once the sun went down – it was bitterly cold and too much to stand around in. Inside the inner, I had a really good “night in”, with just the right amount of space.

No new issues or slight niggles came to light on the second night. And I’d even got used to the door tieback problem, and simply used the two clothes pegs that I carry as standard.

All in all, it was enough of a test to tell me that I’d got the inner about right – it was warm enough, big enough, and easy enough to use.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, a homemade inner was always going to be imperfect compared with a professionally made one. So it’s useful to loop back to my original objectives in making my own one.

Firstly, I wanted a (largely) solid-sided inner to fit a specific shelter, the manufacturer-offered inner being all mesh. On reflection, that’s what I got, and moreover I wouldn’t have been able to get this without making it myself.

Secondly, I had specific sizing requirements, and nothing I found professionally-made quite hit the spot. This homemade one fits exactly to how I wanted to use the space under the shelter.

Thirdly, I wanted to have an inner that’s positioned unusually under the shelter. Typically an inner for a pyramid will either sit right behind the centre pole – in the back “half” of the tent – or will sit slap bang in the middle, leaving a meagre porch fore and aft. These are the exact two options Liteway offer with their inners. What I wanted was a hybrid – to have the inner sitting at the “back”, but to come forward of the centre line. Or to put it another way, I wanted a centre inner, with all the porch space shifted to one side (the front). Which is exactly what I got.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.