Linyera Project Lavvu
The idea of making my own tent started while hitchhiking and sleeping outside in Scandinavia, during the winter months. My backpack was so full of emergency warm clothes and stuff I put there while I an was inexperienced winter traveler that I had to rethink bringing my tent. I thought "well, if I can't make a fire inside or pitch it where I'm protected from the elements, then there's no reason to bring a useless 2kg tent". I was right, I found out that I was better off looking for places to lay down and sleep, or just do it in the open while properly layer-dressed and inside my sleeping bag. I was also right to think for the first time about making a fire inside a tent. Knowing that no commercial tent that I'm aware of could take one. I kept the question open until I realized that there where tents all around me that provided that and many other great features, only that those where not common in mainstream society.
Naturally, I became interested on the subject, to the point of realizing that (in my opinion) such dwellings or tents are a perfect traveling solution (or even living) that is not being offered commonly in the market (there are few, but no big brands and not in your local store, mostly people like me who would make and sell).
Lavvus, Tipis or whatever name they have around the world, have been perfected by people who is not only much wiser than the average capitalist, but who also had better interest as she or he would live in it or was for the interest of the community to do it properly. Its obvious to me that if a commercial brand would offer a portable tent as such, it would end a long line of future products, as there is not much more to develop. Meaning less profit on the long run (not so sure about that anyways).
So what's so great about such kind of tent? Well, to start, you can have a fire inside. Maybe you are not excited as I am about it, but for me is an essential element of life. I like to keep fire on my daily life, specially while traveling. You can use it for cooking, heating the inside of your tent (heating stones and/or leaving hot ember and keep it warm all night as well), dry your clothes or gear, provide light for whatever you are doing, making private hot showers, even steam bath or just simply enjoy the fire. One of the other main reasons to consider it is the fact that there is much more space inside. In mine, for example, I can stand and stretch in it, lay horizontal and roll around, invite many friends to sit in a circle for dinner (4 was comfortable, 5 to six is a limit I believe) and all that without sacrificing any weight or space on my backpack. Seriously, the whole thing takes similar or less space than my previous tent (Quechua ultralight pro T2) and weights less than 2kg total. its dimensions are 2,20 meters height by 1,50 meter radio (3 meters long in any direction), definitely an upgrade in living space on the road compared to the common ultralight tents.
It might surprise you than it can be so small and light when packed while being so spacious once its setup, but the surprise is over when you consider its design. Most tents have two layers to avoid condensation problems, something that is solved in a one layer tent by allowing air to flow from the bottom of the tent and let it go out on the top, also providing fresh air, letting smells go out, etc just with two small openings that can be regulated depending on the situation. Also, most tents are made with rainproof materials or coatings. both things add weight to that tiny looking tent. consider how many square meters total the material used on such tents and you have the same or more than you would need on a portable lavvu / tipi. The rain proofing is a good thing but not really necessary, as the angle and tension of the tent walls will force water to run down and off your tent (coating or a tightly knit fabric will help to avoid both sides of material getting wet, but is optional as it does not really affect you while inside).
Another thing to consider for the above mentioned is the material. I have chosen cotton fabric as I'm in a personal path to avoid synthetic materials, also because I don't think fire and nylon is a good combination. But if you don't mind petroleum based products and would like to invest in some super synthetic material that is fire resistant and lightweight, you can achieve even less packing weight and space (check out tyvek or fire retardant nylon if you are interested, both would seriously reduce weight and packing space). Anyhow, cotton canvas (or even better: hemp. But I cant afford it at the moment) seems to be a great choice. My first tent was made with some tightly knitted cotton fabric, it was totally rain proof without any coating, the tent was not transparent at all as my latest one where depending on the direction of light you might be able to see some shadows inside, specially with a fire inside in which case the tent lights up like a lamp. In this one (the first one) you could make a fire in the night and go absolutely unnoticed, even by people walking right next to it. And here is the surprise, that tent only had about half a kilo extra weight for such features!. Anyways you can consider the pros and con's of transparency, while the first version was good for total privacy and to avoid being seen with a fire in the night, the inside was pretty dark even during daylight (except if door was fully open). In the latest version, I have slightly less privacy (is not that bad really), the tent has a lamp effect when making a fire or turning a light on the inside, which is the case of almost any other tent and can be even enjoyed if you are in a place where the "lamp effect" is welcome. But the best of all, is that during daytime, inside is just light enough, with a touch of brown that has a nice look. So depends on what you want or need.
The following Lavvu is my second version, both where sewed by hand, first because I didn't had a sewing machine and second, because its totally possible. Anyways I don't discard the possibility of reinforcing all stitches when I can use one. In my first version, I used a 10 x 1.50 meter roll of cotton cloth that I found while cleaning out a house. For the current version, I bought a 10 meters by 1,60 meter roll of lightweight cotton canvas.
Measurements are the same on both, 2,20 meters height by 1.50 meter radio (3 meters wide in any direction). I will show the layout (as soon as I get a way to draw it on a computer) and how I cut the roll in sections so that when sewing it all together becomes something like a pacman. What is different on each design is the chimney, which got greatly improved thanks to a friends recommendation (Thank you Luciatron!).
So, the following is my second version of portable Lavvu, with emphasis on light weight, better chimney effect control and maximum comfort for two people.
This is the main part of the tent, is around 5 meters by 2,50 meters.
A closeup of one of its seven sections. all of them sewed together with a total of 4 hooks in between, distanced by around 70 centimeter from each other (in the long side). Each section is 2 meters long with a base of around 1,30 meter and something around 40 centimeter on the top part, forming a trapezium quadrangle
A hook closeup. The hooks serve different purposes according to their place. the ones located at the base are there to fix the tent to the ground with spikes, the the ones at the top hold the strings that hook the tent to the center pole and the ones in betweens are used to tie rope and pull the tent on any direction when necessary (to keep straight/tight or to make the tent more bell shaped to give a bit more space inside)
The main idea of the strings is that they are tied to the top hooks, which are in between each section of the tent, from there they all converge in a piece of bamboo that fits inside the center pole.
The strings are the new feature in this design, the idea is to provide a 360° opening at the top. Another feature that was added thanks to this improvement is that thanks to a special kind of knot, each string can be individually tightened, allowing to correct the shape of the tent in difficult terrains and making it much easier to set up (without such a thing, to correct the shape you have to change the spikes position).
I'm using 8 spikes to hook the tent on the ground plus 4 extra ones in case I need to tighten the tent with rope using the extra hooks, also one extra spike works to set up the hat (read further)
Tents of this kind don't use centerpole, usually they have many poles that give the shape of the tent to later on be covered by the canvas or wall material. It is impossible to conceive a lightweight tent of this kind with such design, so I use a center pole or hang the piece of bamboo from a tree or something on top of the tent, avoiding the use of the center pole. Anyways this possibility is not always available so I carry a very lightweight 6 part center pole that works all the time.
I was lucky enough to find such lightweight aluminum poles that fit into each other (except one where I had to come up with a solution you can see in the picture). But if you don't find such things, just get two floor sweepers and produce many of the same kind you see on the bottom pole in the picture, is just one slightly smaller tube fitting inside so that you can connect it to the next one. I have even considered to replace all of them with bamboo once I find some that fit my needs.
This is how the Lavvu looks like without the hat.
Now you can see it with the hat on, as you can appreciate, the hat is open on one side, pointing outwards. This opening is called Smoke Flaps and they points towards the direction where the wind is blowing, creating the chimney effect which will make a smoky fire inside the tent not a problem (also, if there is no hat and there's a lot of wind, the smoke will be pushed inwards, filling the tent with smoke).
The great thing about the hat is that can be quickly and easily turned into any direction or closed in case of heavy rain (regular rain shouldn't be a problem, specially if the opening is pointed in the direction of the wind blow)
This is the way the hat looks when laying on the floor.
The hat is a piece of cotton that resembles the tent shape, only that is much smaller (a half moon 180cm on the long side by 90 cm radio). On both ends of its flat / long side there are hooks used to tie rope and keep the smoke flaps tight in one direction.
This is how it looks one the inside. There are many things to point out here.
First, there is no floor but nature's ground. Over the years I've learned to consider tents floor very unnecessary, as they don't protect you from water, since my experience tells me that if outside ground has water, it will go trough no matter what. So what to do? same with any tent, go dig some water channeling system on the sides of your tent (anyways I had the lavvu up on a week of rain and the ground never got wet, only happens on uneven ground or swampy areas). The only advantage of totally closed tents is protection against dangerous small animals or insects, but that can be solved by carrying a personal sized mosquito net (which I plan to add in the future). Also, remember that ground means no fire, which is one of this tent's main benefits.
Second, the pole might look a bit on the way, but considering the actual space around it is not a real problem. Also is important to note that as long as the pole is being pushed down by how tight the top ropes are, it doesn't matter where is standing, meaning that you can actually move it around and the tent will stay up as, like I said, the pole is being pushed downwards.
Third, every hook that you saw on the outside has its twin on the inside. There is no specific reason for this, hooks are very useful to hang things tie ropes to hang further things, etc.
In the first version of this tent, I cut a line abou meter and a half from the middle bottom of one section and sewed a zipper to act as door. Since the zipper wasn't a two sided one (I had to choose on which side would be easier to open / close) it ended up being quite annoying to go out (I choose outside zipper). Since I couldn't get a double side zipper for a long time, I considered different ideas for a door, and I still haven't decided for one. But turns out that you can come in and out very easily where the two sides of the tent meet. There are many ideas on what to do about the entrance, so far I leave it like this and will update as soon as I change my mind about it (if I do so)
Another option for door / opening, is to simply leave one section of the tent off like in the picture, this can be done with more sections leaving bigger openings. Being an ideal feature for summer time or when you just want some shade.
I used to have a compression bag, but gave it away to my friend who got the previous version of the lavvu. I thought of getting a new one or reclaiming that one, but being this a full DIY project I decided to try to make one. The first idea turned out to work wonders. Simply folding the tent as best as possible, fit it inside a cotton bag and then fasten it with the same ropes I use for the lavvu. who needs to buy one now?
A visual example of how small can it be packed, that's a 0.75cl beer bottle (my water bottle)
Another visual example, this time using my hand (note: I have big hands)
Again, using rope that is part of the tent to pack the poles.