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My favourite type of accommodation on longer tours is camping in forests near the road, wherever I happen to stop that day. No searching for hotels, no booking, no missed closing hours, no stress. Classic tents are usually either too big and heavy or too expensive, so I made an experimental minitent from a polyethylene tarp - cheap and easy to obtain in most hardware stores.


The first temporary prototype has been in service for seven years (2013..2020). This is how it looks:

A thin rope is duct-taped around the edges of the tarp, providing reinforcement and anchoring loops. Three loops on each side are just enough, the one in the middle of the narrow end can be omitted, the one on the wider end is important - it prevents the tarp from sliding down along the supporting rope. This rope must be run between two solid objects of appropriate height (which somewhat limits your choice of places) and the tarp is then thrown over it and pinned down. At first I used sticks picked at the campsite for pins, then switched to classic metal ones because picking and sharpenings the sticks cost more time than is lost in slower ride due to the extra quarter kilogram of iron on board.

The tarp of these minimalist dimensions (I wouldn't recommend making it any smaller) weighs 380 grams, can be folded and rolled into your sleeping mat and provides space for one horizontal human and all the luggage a bike can carry. Ventilation is good enough, wet clothes are usually a little bit drier in the morning instead of wetter.

Short showers are no problem, the tarp is perfectly watertight, even hailstorms don't harm it. Of course, the water must go somewhere, so don't build the tent in a pit or you will get a pool. Longer rains are somewhat problematic because the tent is too low to sit in, so dressing or eating becomes an acrobatic feat (when it doesn't rain, I do all these things outside). Next version of the tent will be slightly bigger to address this. Another potential problem is the supporting rope's material: if it wicks water, it will distribute it across the whole inner surface of the tarp, and the raindrops drumming from above will spray it in your face (doesn't wet you, but keeps waking you up).

Another improvement for the next version, except the slightly increased size, will be different shape of the upper edge (so that it wouldn't retreat down in the middle, shrinking the available roofed space), sewn edges (duct tape delaminates over time) and some other colour than this screaming blue. Things to keep are the tarp material, overall shape and design.

Of course, you can go another way, keep the whole 4×4 metre tarp and get a garage for both you and the bike, but that's a completely different class :-).