Side Tent

A few photos and text about a home modified side tent for a 1988 VW Westfalia.

The project started with a "Wood's Screenhouse with Awnings" purchased from Canadian Tire for $199 CDN. It measures 11' X 11' (3.4 X 3.4m) with centre height of 7' (2.15m). It is not truly waterproof, but I have some water repellent liquid I intend to apply to the roof one day.

Click on the image to see it full size.

Side tent as a bug screen

It originally had a zippered front and back. Originally the mosquito netting front could be opened up the middle with the zipper and rolled and tied back to the corner poles. However that meant there was no strength across the bottom of the tent at the front to prevent the poles from splaying out. So, a piece of 1" nylon strap was sewn across the lower portion, between the red nylon and the darker plastic rain flap, leaving about 36" free in the middle. Now when the zipper is fully up, a person can walk through the opening carrying a table or chair - taking care not to trip over the nylon strap!.

By removing the back completely and restitching some of the seams it was made to fit the contour of the side of the van.

It is held up with sectional fibreglass poles arched over the top and along each side. It stands on sectional steel poles, originally one at each corner. By making brackets to clamp on the side of the van, two legs were eliminated.

The finished tent.

The tent corner braces are made of three brass tubes silver soldered to a brass plate. Perhaps lighter material such as aluminum could have been used, but I am unable to weld aluminum. Here, they have been coated with black plasti-dip to prevent scratching the van paint.

Two clamps were made of dense 3/4" thick plastic. It splits horizontally to allow the upper half to clip over and into the rain channel. It is held tightly together by the screw knob at the bottom.

The brackets & clamps.

The brackets can be attached to the rain channel with the pop-top up or down. One fits between the passenger door and the sliding door, the other fits just in front of the air vent at the rear.
(The scratches in the paint were done by the previous owner with some kind of bracket he had used.)

The screw knob at the top holds the tent corner brace into a slot in the plastic bracket.

The mounted brackets.

Velcro attaches the tent fabric to the inner edge of the pillar at the front of the sliding door. Industrial strength self adhesive Velcro was stuck to the pillar. The other piece is stitched to the nylon fabric.

A piece about 10" long at the top and another piece 2" long at the bottom is sufficient. The curve of the body holds the fabric into the groove behind the rubber seal. The sliding door can be closed with the tent in place, and when the tent is removed and the door closed, the Velcro does not show.

Attaching the rear was a little more difficult. It required stitching a pocket of heavy duty fabric to allow the sliding door to open fully into the corner of the tent. Then Velcro was used to attach the tent to the side of the van, following the body seam just in front of the air intake vent. Strips about 18" long at the top, 2" in the groove at the middle, and 2" at the bottom were used. These remain visible when the tent is removed, but do not look bad.

Velcro attachment, viewed from inside.

To make the back of the tent bug-proof against the van, a tube pocket was sewn in the original back flap near the roof, and the rest of the flap cut off. A sectional rod is slipped through the tube pocket, and the ends of this rod slide into the plastic brackets. The rod then lies in the rain channel, providing very secure bug protection.

A 'skirt' was stitched into the back of the tent, reinforced by a 1" nylon strap. The ends are clipped under the body, behind each wheel-well with elastic cords and plastic clips. Then the 'skirt' is clipped to the van body under the sliding door all the way from the front, behind the front wheel-well to the rear, in front of the rear wheel-well.

A separate piece of nylon was sewn in the shape of the rear wheel arch. It is held to the arch of the wheel-well with 6 X 1/4" rare-earth magnets sewn into the hem. The bottom of this piece fastens to the 1" nylon strap with Velcro.

The whole arrangements makes it very insect tight.

Tent skirt.

The original side flaps (shown rolled up, above) unroll and fasten to the bottom corners with elastic cord and plastic clips. This allows privacy in the tent - unless you light a lamp in there to provide a 'shadow show' on the tent walls!

The whole thing takes one person about 15 minutes to assemble, and a second person 5 seconds to hold one corner up while attaching the tent frame to the clamps on the rain channel.

Extra guy ropes from the front corners provide stability in windy weather, and extra sectional poles can be placed at the corner of each flap on three sides and held out by guy ropes to provide a larger shade area.

By using these poles in place of the clamps on the van, and extra guy ropes, the whole tent can be left standing while we drive the van away. A nylon back was sewn to the top of the opening, and ties stitched down each side. It can be rolled up for use as an annex, or rolled down and tied when the tent is left free standing.

Originally the tent and poles came in the green bag, but I can never get it all compressed back into that bag!

The tent and poles weight 31 lbs (14Kg).

Bagged up.

The owner takes no responsibility for anyone else making these modifications.
Photos provided by owner. Contact the postmaster for permission for use.

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F. Griffiths

Last updated December 5, 2016

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