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MYOG Tarptent Rainbow
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jeremy duncan
(jeremyduncan) - F

Locale: Midwest
MYOG Tarptent Rainbow on 01/26/2010 01:43:54 MST Print View

Hey, guys. A newbie here. Be gentle.

How hard do you think it would be to build a dumbed down Rainbow?

I like the Rainbow, because you enter on the side. I am a side sleeper, and I think it would be real nice to be able to lay there and watch the sunset/rise. I also like the headroom the rainbow offers. Similar to a dome tent, but without the wasted space. Where we camp/backpack, you usually have to change in your tent and that is very hard for me to do if I cannot sit up.

By dumbed down, I mean it doesn't have to have all of the luxuries of the professionally made version.

-Don't care if the floor clips up. I do want a bathtub floor, but it can be "raised" at all times. Making it convertible just seems like extra complications.

-Doest need to be free-standing. The real version has allows you to put trek poles at the ends to make it freestanding. I rarely have trek poles, but almost always have good stake-holding dirt.

-Doesn't have to be SUPER light. As long as it under 3lbs, I am happy.

OK, so obviously I not going to wind up with anything too close to the Rainbow. I just want to make something simple, inspired by that design. Maybe there are similar designs out there I am missing. My main priorities are:

-Cheap. I am poor. I carry a 5lb $25 tent, right now. I know I am going to have to spend a few bucks to make something light, but the point of my research and effort is to save money.

-Height and width. I like to be able to sit up, and I like to sprawl out when I sleep. The Rainbow's dimensions are about perfect. On the plus side I am short. 5'9" I was thinking something about 4'x7' floor with a height of 3 1/2'

-Ventilation- I sleep hot and I camp in warm weather. I could sleep right outside with a light blanket in 45-50 degree weather and be fine. My main concern is airflow. The daytime temp is usually around 75-95 when we camp. We have even camped in a few open fields. When it's about 90 out and that sun starts blazing about 6am. (a good 3/4 hours before we like to get up)

-Bug proof- Yeah, lots of skeeters and critters where we camp and I cannot sleep in a bug suit.

-Privacy. I need to be able to close it up at night, or when changing. We do lots of family camping. Plus I need protection from the boogie man. He can't get you if he can't see you.

-Side door with a view. The whole purpose of this thread is that I want a side entrance. Otherwise I would just go build the original Taprtent.

Again, maybe there is something out there I am missing.If there was something that fit this criteria that I could buy, then AWESOME. I just can't find it...under $200, anyways.

My only concern with the Rainbow is it's one pole. Seems like it would want to tip. Anyone have experience with it?

Btw, I have already checked out:
DIY Tarptent and

I recently joined 3 backpacking forums, and posed this question in all three. Sorry if you have to see this post more than once.

Thanks in advance for any help you guys provide. I promise I will try to become a productive member of this community once I get some more experience. I will post pics and a walk-through of anything I make, too.

Edited by jeremyduncan on 01/26/2010 14:54:32 MST.

Lucas Boyer
(jhawkwx) - MLife

Locale: 38.97˚N, 95.26˚W
welcome Jeremy on 01/26/2010 08:43:10 MST Print View

Welcome to the fray Jeremy. I'll warn you, making your own gear is habit forming. If you notice urges to deconstruct gear that you've picked up at the store or find yourself in the aisle pondering what you could do to make this item into a backpacking project, then you are exhibiting acute signs of a long term obsession with perfecting your kit.

Sounds like you might want to go the route of Joe V.'s Hexamid tent:

It doesn't have the privacy you're looking for, but you could build that in by extending the beaks to the ground on the door side. I'd also look at the Oware Pyramid shelters and MLD mids as well. The pyramids will give you the privacy and "protection" from MR. Boogey. As for skeeters and chiggars, you'll have to build a mesh skirt and attached floor into the design. Good luck and post photos.

jeremy duncan
(jeremyduncan) - F

Locale: Midwest
MYOG Tarptent Rainbow on 01/26/2010 15:08:32 MST Print View

Thanks. I can definitely see myself becoming obsessed with making my own gear. I have always been a do-it-yourselfer. Usually more a of a wood and screws, guy, so getting the hang of sewing has I've done a (horrible) backpack, and will probably do a few easy projects, clothes, ect, before I tackle my tarp tent.

I did run accross the zpacks design in my research. I thought it might be easy to work a door flap into the design. The no-see-um floor concerns me, though. They say to use your groudcloth over it, but I would think an unnoticed rock or twig or anything just about would damage it.

Another design I have considered, and am perhaps leaning towards, is the Six Moons Design Lunar Solo. It looks to be about the same, minus the arch, but way more simple to build.

I really like the reworked Coleman Cobra that Tim Marshall made for someone in THIS THREAD.
That might be a little beyond my skill level, though.

Edited by jeremyduncan on 01/26/2010 15:17:57 MST.

Matthew Bishop
(mattsbishop) - F - M

Locale: Northern Frontrange, Colorado
Re: MYOG Tarptent Rainbow on 01/26/2010 17:12:56 MST Print View

Awesome! Sounds like a fun if large project. I haven't used a TT rainbow nor made my own tent before, so I will speak generally.

I try to avoid curves since they complicate pattern making, but the rainbow doesn't look too bad. Just keep in mind that tent fabrics tend to stretch and getting a taught result will take some work.

I'm not very good at saving money doing it myself, but there are some things I know. Poles are expensive. I would try to reuse your old tent's poles. One alternative pole idea I still need to try is using Bamboo from a nursery. The ends could plug into hose (plumbing section of the hardware store) sockets attached to the ridge seam. It would be cheap, but I'm not sure if it would be strong enough. Fabrics: most of us would use silicone coated (sil-)nylon, but that may be a bit pricey ($7-9/yd x 58" wide). You might save some money with a polyurethane coated nylon, not sure how much. You could save even more money using Tyvek, but it's only water resistant and not as strong, but tape-/glue-able.

As for side-to-side stability in the Rainbow, that should be taken care of by the guy lines. You pretty much can't build a light enough tent (by our standards) that is also free-standing. You need guy lines, so take advantage of it.

Another design option you should study for ideas is the good old tipi. Four- or six-sided, you can use straight-sided fabric panels and have doors front and back. Sew a net skirt around the base and you can lift it off the ground and still keep the bugs out. Don't forget the peak vent; cool fresh air flows in from below, warm stale air flows out the top. The bathtub floor is a puzzle. The commercial stuff just uses a full net tent inner clipped inside the waterproof outer. I would want to suspend the bathtub walls from mesh sewn part way up the outer walls, but you may have issues with condensation running down the walls into the mesh and seeping into the floor.

If you use fabric for the tent, that means sewing. If you haven't sewn before, I'd practice before stitching into those great big panels you'll make your tent out of. Zippers (assuming you use them) make this harder, and I'd definitely get a special zipper foot for your machine if it doesn't already have one.

There's much more I could say, but it all depends on what you need to know. Hope that helps, and good luck!

Edit: I see from your other comment you've already sewn one thing and plan more. Hardly the 'newb' I had in mind :-P

Edited by mattsbishop on 01/26/2010 18:57:59 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: MYOG Tarptent Rainbow on 01/26/2010 17:30:30 MST Print View

Hi Jeremy

You are DOOMED!


Tim Marshall
(MarshLaw303) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota
Re: Re: MYOG Tarptent Rainbow on 01/26/2010 20:37:36 MST Print View

poles aren't too expensive. Quest outfitters has them and i don't think they're cost prohibitive.


Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
MYOG Rainbow on 01/26/2010 21:03:02 MST Print View

Your later post suggests you are a beginning sewer, so without the tailoring skills of a Steve Noall, don't expect to end up with something awesome. If you are like most of the rest of us, the time you end up putting into it will not justify the small amount of money saved (Just the costs of materials will be over $100). The Rainbow is a lot more complicated than one might think, and short of buying one and taking it apart, quite difficult to duplicate with the same taut pitch of the original. Have seen used Rainbows for sale on the web, and buying one would save you many hours of effort.
But if you are determined to go ahead, suggest you add a longer cross pole at the Rainbow top so that rain cannot fall directly into the inner during entry and exit. Also, all silnylon is not equal - test a small quantity before buying. The coated Ultrasil from Rockywoods, for example, is more porous than some fabrics with only a DWR coating. The Mountain Laurel Designs web site has good info on fabrics.
Again, if you are not skilled at sewing, suggest picking up a used or low cost tent you really like the design of, and limiting your project to just making a silnylon fly for it. That way, you can cut up the old fly to get the exact shape of each piece, the labor will be reduced by more than half, and you will produce a very light tent, especially if the inner is mostly netting. The new fly will give you a lot of weather resistance, so long as the original floor is still in good shape (that could be your next project).
You could always start with a simpler tarp design, but your post suggests you have rejected that approach.
So hope the above gives you some options.

Kimberly Wersal
(kwersal) - MLife

Locale: Western Colorado
Re: MYOG Rainbow on 01/26/2010 21:25:40 MST Print View

There are certainly rewards to making your own gear... AND there are rewards to letting the professionals do it... Check out the Tarptent Cloudburst for $175 on the gear swap.

jeremy duncan
(jeremyduncan) - F

Locale: Midwest
MYOG Tarptent on 01/26/2010 23:23:51 MST Print View

Thanks so much for all the input, everyone. Some very helpful suggestions. Having researched some more, I think I have narrowed it down.

The Rainbow is going to be way too hard for me. I should have known that from the begining. Ha.

I ran across the UL version of the Coleman Cobra someone commissioned Tim Marshall to make. Very nice work, btw. I was super impressed. I considered trying my luck at copying that, but it is, realistically, beyond my skill level.

I could buy the Eureka Spitfire for under $100. It looks to be VERY similar to the Cobra. Probably a little heavy, but I could try to customize it to a lighter weight over time. There is the Sierra Designs Lightyear, too, but it is a about $70 more.

If I do make my own, I am now leaning towards replicating the SMD Lunar Solor. It fits all of my criteria, and looks WAY easier to make. It was actually recommended to me by someone who has made a few of them. I'm working on a design in Google Sketchup, now.

If I do go the MYOG route, I know I am going to use silnylon 1.0 (prolly the cheaper 2nds) for the top/fly, but can anyone reccomend somehting durable and light for the floor. I have seen where people used the 1.3oz silnylon, but that still seems a little fragile.

btw, a special thank you to whoever suggested (I can't see the other posts for this screen) the zipper attachement for my sewing machine. I would have never thought of that.

Edited by jeremyduncan on 01/26/2010 23:32:13 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: MYOG Tarptent on 01/27/2010 01:58:10 MST Print View

Hi Jeremy

> can anyone reccomend somehting durable and light for the floor.

I use the same silnylon for the floor as for the fly. It LOOKS fragile, but many years later it's still there. (OK, a few small patches...)


jeremy duncan
(jeremyduncan) - F

Locale: Midwest
MYOG Tarptent (SMD Lunar Solo) on 01/27/2010 02:55:13 MST Print View

Thanks Roger. I will do that, and just use a Tyvek footprint.

I changed the subject line. Hope that's not frowned on. Didn't want to start a new thread and muck up your forums.

Anyway, someone recommended I download and try Google Sketch Up for working on a design. Here is what I came up with so far. Suggestions are welcome and appreciated. This is still very much a work in progress.

I borrowed the first picture from the SMD site. I changed some of the dimensions, so it is not proportional. The others should be.

dimentions 2d
complete 3d
floor and net 3d

I've never used this program before, so I couldn't figure out how to create a few things: Vent, web tiedowns, pole (I just made a straight line down the middle for the pole).

I know I probably forgot to label some of the dimensions. I didn't want to overcrowd it. The program tells me what they all are...I think.

Edited by jeremyduncan on 01/28/2010 17:29:03 MST.

Ty Wagner
(ty27wagner) - F

Locale: Wisconsin
MYOG Tarptent on 01/27/2010 22:03:55 MST Print View

You might check out Henry Shires tarptent for 2 design sells a kit for $80 plus shipping ( . Here's my post on the one I made:

>> Bender <<
(Bender) - MLife

Locale: NEO
Re: MYOG Tarptent on 01/28/2010 00:02:29 MST Print View

I have been planning something similar.

I am planning on making 2 tents so I purchased enough sil-nylon from to get the $4.61 a yard price. The first one is based off of my old Kelty Zen. This one will be single wall and maintain bug netting & a floor. I am well under way but still have to finish the floor & tie outs. This will make a perfect 2 person 2.5 pound tent. The drawing above is going to make a nice solo shelter.

Edited by Bender on 01/28/2010 00:03:58 MST.

Derek Goffin

Locale: North of England
MYOG Tarptent on 01/28/2010 02:07:35 MST Print View

I have been thinking about tarp tent design. Jeremy has drawn his tarptent it has 4 walls where mesh is sewn to the outer. I would have thought that if it is simply sewn condensation will ,if you are lucky, run down the fly but when it hits the mesh it is unlikely to go through but will run down onto the groundsheet. What if you only attached the mesh at the 5 corners at the height shown. Hem the mesh between folding outwards with an extra inch of mesh to the piece and sew the mesh to the fly half an inch lower than you were going to. Now you have made a sort of mesh gutter. Condensation will run into the gutter run through, and drip off outside the mesh and perhaps stay outside. If the mesh is not supported enough at only 5 points intermediate supports could be added.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: MYOG Tarptent (SMD Lunar Solo) on 01/28/2010 07:57:10 MST Print View

See this thread for possible other ideas regarding cheap material and construction techniques. I plan to duplicate my Lunar Duo this way at some time. It will be much lighter and cheaper.

Good luck on your quest. I bet you'll learn a lot.

jeremy duncan
(jeremyduncan) - F

Locale: Midwest
MYOG Tarptent on 01/28/2010 16:44:35 MST Print View

Thank you to everyone for your help, advice, and...warnings. Haha.

I decided to purchase a tent. The Eureka Spitfire. Got it new on Ebay for $90 after shipping and handling. It isn't the lightest, or the greatest, but it fits ALL of my criteria and has all positive reviews. I love the Rainbow (and Lunar Solo), but I just can't justify spending that kind of money on a tent, right now.

I am pretty new to backpacking and sewing, alike. I've made a daypack. It was costly, time consuming, and turned out just ok. I think I better do more camping, to fine tune my needs, and do more sewing before I tackle a project of this scale.

My next sewing project will most likely be a 5x9' silnylon tarp/poncho for my hammock. That should give me more practice sewing these materials and satisfy some of my MYOG urges.

Anyone wants to use my design, of course, go for it. I'd love to see my idea (even if it was inspired elseware) out to use. Call it the Rev. Jeremy Duncan Tipi Tarpent. Or the "Rev. JD TP"; for short. Haha. I would be more than happy to email the actually Google Sketchup document to you so you can get the exact dimensions, have a 3d model, and make any adjustments (I saw someone above recommend something different with the mesh) My email is

Thanks again!

Edited by jeremyduncan on 01/28/2010 16:59:06 MST.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
MYOG Tarptent Rainbow on 01/28/2010 16:59:20 MST Print View

As much as I was one of those people that posted the "warnings" , looking at your drawings I would encourage you to make a "full scale model "* of your tent but using the cheapest materials you can find (any cheap nylon) . Once you get the fly right you can make the pattern out of that and eventually purchase the right material. Getting hold of some cheap silnylon scraps will help too, from what I hear it is a pain to sew.
That may take some time so you can first enjoy your Spitfire and then you will still be able to get some money back if you want to sell it. In the meantime you can poke around the Eureka shelter to get an hands on idea of how they are put together.
*"Full scale model " This is from the Ripping Yarn episode when schoolboy Tomkinson built a "full scale model" of an icebreaker.
Only funny if you like British humour..

jeremy duncan
(jeremyduncan) - F

Locale: Midwest
MYOG Tarptent on 01/28/2010 17:35:10 MST Print View

Making a "prototype" out of cheap material is an excellent idea. The Walmart by my house has some $150 bargain material that is an additional 20% off. I should stock up on about 20 yards or so, just for practice stuff.


Bryant Burton
(moabrocks) - F
My try ... on 01/30/2010 22:46:54 MST Print View

I made something like what you have sketched up. I was trying to lighten things up for a Windrivers trip last year. It ended up being about 1.5 lbs and worked out pretty well. My next version will be taller and hopefully a little better ventilated.


- Bryant

Edited by moabrocks on 01/30/2010 22:49:47 MST.

Joshua Griffin
(JoshuaJayG) - F

Locale: The Sticks
Nice on 01/30/2010 23:19:20 MST Print View

Bryant, that is pretty much the tent design that I am looking for. What fabrics did you use? How much? Do you have any specs? Where did you find problems in building it?