Home Equipment Ropemaking

Very Basic Tent

Sketch a simple, one pole tent.

Figure 1: Tent.


I don't remember where I first saw this design, sometime while I was doing things with the Boy Scouts. But there isn't anything about it that couldn't have existed in the late 1700s. All the material, and all the techniques used in building it are period correct.


Many of the tents at Colonial era gatherings are nice, big, comfy tents, with room for two beds, a box or two, maybe even a stove. This is not one of those.

I portray a rural ropemaker, who doesn't have a lot of money, and nothing to haul a lot of equipment in. The tent needed to provide reasonable shelter for one person, maybe two, and a little bit of equipment. I wanted enough room to sit up, but don't need to stand up. It had to be something that could be packed on a mule with the rest of my gear. (I haven't built out the whole inventory of the stuff I haul around yet. I might end up needing a second hypothetical mule.)

Several people have marveled at the small size of the tent. Yet it has more floorspace than many modern two person backpacking tents.

Plan for a simple tent.

Figure 2: Layout of the Tent. Xs Mark Tie Points.


I wanted to be able to easily open and close the door from either the inside or the outside, in the dark, with cold fingers. Earlier versions of this tent used the "pebble" method, Figure 6 below, to attach strings to tie the door closed. This either meant you could only tie the door closed from one side, or there were gaps for rain and wind.

The web sources at the bottom of this page are for similar set ups using a simple rectangular tarp. The earliest source is 1916, but this tent could easily have been made in the 1700s from an old piece of sail.


All dimensions are nominal.

Construction Details

Set Up

To set up the tent:

The first time I set up my tent, there was a six inch gap under the door. So I cut six inches off the bottom of the pole. Problem solved.


When taken down and rolled up, the tent makes a bundle six feet long, nine inches in diameter, weighing 20 pounds.


I haven't used this tent in real wet weather. Yet. So far it's come through heavy dew and moderate to strong winds just fine. Updates as they become available.

Update: This weekend slept quite comfortably in 20 mph wind and half an inch of rain.



Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (1916)
Waterproof Tarpaulin Tent - Page 10.
Accessed 18 July 2021 from

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (26 September 2013)
Woodsmanship 101 - "take a tarp"
Accessed 18 July 2021 from

Fordyce, C. P. (1922)
Touring Afoot
The Tarpaulin Tent - Page 82.
Accessed 18 July 2021 from


Colophon Contacts