The Tribe

PLAYA TENTS

Real campers use tents... not those poseur RVs ;) At least that's what we keep telling ourselves. In reality, us fiscally challenged campers use tents.

First, a little background: Back in 1997, three of us shared a "5 person" tent. I'm pretty sure the tent was designed for Snow White's friends, because 5 full sized adults would have to be really friendly to fit in there together. Never again. In the years following, I used the 5 person tent for just myself. It was OK, but far from a good solution.

Here are a few words of caution:

  1. Don't borrow a a friend's tent unless the friend is fully aware that the tent will never be the same again.
  2. Don't plan on being able to remove all the playa dust from your tent no matter how many times you wash it. It's a lost cause. Be one with the dust. Embrace it.
  3. Don't get a tent with mesh sides - you may as well sleep out on the playa!
  4. If using a tall tent, make sure to use extra guy wires/tethers. Try and tether your tent to your car (or better yet, between cars)
  5. A doormat as you enter will help keep playa off your floor. I use a piece of astro-turf. I step on the astroturf, take of my shoes and then move about my tent.
  6. Battery operated LED lights on the inside help. Use different types (Strings for ambient light, but a good lamp helps when looking for things)
Kodiak Canvas TentKodiak Canvas Tents - OMG.  Why didn't I do this sooner???
In 2015 I purchased the 10x10 Kodiak, with a 6'6" height (yay! I can stand upright!) as my abode at Burning Man. The 10x10 was perfect for one person and all of my crap.  It is a little too cosy with two beds + stuff, so if you plan on sharing a tent, consider the 10x14.  The cheapest place I have found them is Competitive Edge Products and the tent arrived 4 days after I ordered it. I also understand that the Kodiak website will give you a burner discount.

Likes

  1. I can stand inside.  Ahhhhh....
  2. Easy to set up
  3. Breathes, but with the doors/windows zipped up, it is both playa dust proof and water proof
  4. Held up perfectly in Playa winds (even the microburst in 2017) and I had no wind protection.


Dislikes:

  1. Heavy (70lbs for the 10x10)
  2. If it gets wet, you need to remember to bring it home and completely dry it out before you re-fold and store.  Otherwise mildew or mold may grow on the canvas

Shoft podShiftPods
My friends who own them, love them. Some early models did not have floors - make sure you get one that does. They keep the dust out well and as with any tent they function best under shade, but do better than traditional tents when in the open.
They are a little more expensive and I have heard reports of delays in shipping/delivery - so please make sure you speak to someone and make sure that you will get your Shiftpod in time.

twin dome tent

My old ($100) setup:

In 2005 I started using a multi-dome tent and successfully used it until 2014, (Ozark trails - $90 at Wally world) and used it for 5 years with virtually no changes. The package was a triple dome tent setup, with interconnecting tunnels. There is a larger middle tent with two identical smaller tents on either side. I only use 2 domes - the larger one is my living/store room, and the smaller one was my "bedroom".

You could do the same with two tents, but the joined tents allows me to enter though my large tent, strip off my dusty clothes and shoes, and then climb through the tunnel into bed.

I use radiant barrier material as insulation between my rainfly and the tent, and on the East side of my tent (protects against the morning sun), as this significantly reduces the heat inside the tent. The insulation allows me to sleep as late as I wish in the mornings (usually around 11am), without any serious discomfort. Since the mornings tend to be dust free, I usually open up my bedroom windows and the door to allow for airflow. I always set up my tent with the door facing towards the west (away from the morning sun) so that I don't get burned to a crisp as the sun comes through my door. People who are sensitive to sound and light should consider bringing ear plugs and sleep masks. Bring spares as you'll likely lose at least one pair.

I anchor my tent to the playa using 3' long rebar stakes at the main corners and one in the middle. I have found that this, along with the weight of my stuff inside the tents, to be more than enough to secure my tent in the playa wind storms. More on rebar below...

bedroomOnce I am done with sleep, my "bedroom" tent is sealed off for the day. I zip closed the outer door, windows, and the tunnel door. This keeps the bedroom relatively dust free. I still use a "cover sheet" over my bedding - a large sheet that I use to cover all my bedding and sleepwear - and this is the last thing I do before I close up for the morning. No matter how well you seal your tent, a fine layer of dust will sneak in, and this cover sheet protects your bedding. At night, I carefully fold this sheet over on itself and move it to the side - for re-use the next day.

Some people I know go one step further and seal off all mesh vents with a nonporous material and a hot-glue gun. This is very helpful if you are using a summer tent that has large vents. My tent only has a small skylight vent under the rainfly, so I prefer trade off the fine powder like dust that gets onto my cover sheet, in exchange for some ventilation. Something about running a catalytic heater in a sealed tent just doesn't sound right :)

My bedroom tent holds a full-sized air mattress with a memoryfoam mattress topper. Not only does the topper make the mattress infinitely more comfortable, it also serves as great insulation in case the nights are really cold. The air in the mattresses tend to get cold and suck the warmth out of my body. I use a fitted sheet and a couple of pillows, with a sleeping bag as a comforter. Next year I will take a lighter bed sheet because there are times when the comforter is too warm, but I am too cold to sleep without any cover.

Hexayurts - The shelters share a common feature: they can be made from standard industrial 4'x8' (1.2m x 2.4m) panels from materials like plastic, polyiso insulation, plywood, OSB, sandwich panels and cardboard. They provide great insulation well and if you seal them well, they keep out the dust. Unfortunately they are bulky to transport and take a little more time to build/tear down.

 
Store room
With a two tent setup, one is your dressing/store room - with food and clothing in plastic bins - this tent gets dusty
Store room
Store Room from a different angle
bedroom
View from store room to bedroom (note: Coleman catalytic tent heater in tunnel blowing into the bedroom)
tunnel
Trash bag in tunnel area
Power
12 volt car charger with cigarette lighter socket. I use this to power my air pump, charge camera batteries, 12volt fan, etc.
Pump
12 volt high speed air pump for my mattress
Rebar with covers
Straight 3' rebar stakes at all four corners, capped with pool noodles to protect people walking by. Light them at night with solar garden lights.

Rebar puller
Removing rebar is easy with a vice grip. Simply rotate as you gently pull the rebar out. (see video below)
Many have moved to Lag bolts with impact drivers.


Other options
Outer tent
Dave uses a large outer "shade/store room" tent...
Inner tent
...with an inner "bedroom" tent
Home made RV
Kenny built a wood "room" onto a flatbed trailer that is pretty well sealed, and even has a real (lockable) door...
RV with AC
...and air conditioning!
Modifying a tent that has a lot of mesh vents
Tent with vents
Matt's tent had a lot of mesh that would have made it a dust bowl at BM so...
Clip nylon over vents
Use clips to secure an fairly precisely cut nylon sheet over vented areas
Hot-glue gun
Use a hot-glue gun and apply glue to the inside - to stick the nylon sheet to the vents
press to seal
Press the mesh to the nylon to secure the bond and seal the openings.
Sealed tent
And you have a dust resistant BM ready tent!

Emergency BlanketMore info on Insulation/Radiant Barrier Materials - Basically you want to use some material that insulates your tent from the heat of the sun. Your bedroom tent needs material on top, and on the East side to protect you from the morning sun. Your tent needs it on top and on the East side (sunrise) and possibly to protect any heat sensitive materials like coolers... so perhaps on the East and West sides too.

  • The major problems with using radiant barrier is securing it to your tent, and not allowing it to shred and MOOP all over the playa. Some friends of mine have come up with an ingenious INTERNAL skeleton for their tent. I am going to try it out this year and plan to insulate my East, Top, and West sides. Follow this link to learn more about this endo-skeleton for radiant barrier insulation
  • Perforated Radiant BarrierSome people use the emergency blanket material but IMHO it is too thin, and your tent sounds like you are in a potato chip bag when the wind kicks up. However this is the cheapest solution since the e-blankets are about $2 for a 6'x3'piece of mylar. If you hot-glue it to the insides of your tent it would be less noisy and you could make a fun-house/hall of mirrors out of the tent... which may end up being a problem if you inadvertently or otherwise consume some magic mushrooms... but I digress.

A couple of accessories you may want to consider adding to your tent setup are a Homer Bucket Swamp Cooler and a few LED solar powered garden lights.  I use the lights to mark out the corners of my tent and/or the guy wires. 

Pulling out rebar is easy!

Click on any image to enlarge

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Version 4 - updated Aug 5, 2018
Copyright None - But drop me a note if you find this to be helpful or have any suggestions
Email: ruvi (at) azburners (dot) org
Member of Camp Walter