Living in a Tent Trailer on the Playa

Ideas, advice, tips, and tricks regarding shelter, shade, tents, and camping. Yes, this includes RV's too.
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Living in a Tent Trailer on the Playa

Post by Reneegab » Thu Sep 06, 2007 6:09 am

Living in a Tent Trailer on the Playa

This year we bought a tent trailer to live in on the playa. I looked everywhere for advice on how to windproof it for those crazy dust storms and really couldn't find a good post with experienced advice on what to do to keep it solid. So now that we have experienced our first year living in a tent trailer at burning man, I wanted to write a little something about how we did it, and open up a discussion to others who have used tent trailers or are thinking about using one next year.

My fiancée and I bought a 1970 Starcraft tent trailer for this year’s Burning Man. This trailer is 37 years old, and we got it for 300 bucks, so you may be able to imagine the condition it was in when we got it. It had a ton of problems, but we knew we could deal with them. The good outweighed the bad by far. First of all, it gets you up out of the Plust (that's right- Plust = Playa + Dust). I have learned after a few years at the burn that plust can make you cough, give you a sore throat, give you trouble breathing, dry out your skin, and make your experience way more difficult, so if you can do something to minimize that part, why not?

Next, it has it's own stove, a sink with a water tank, and ours had an empty space that was perfect for building a shower with a drain and a place to hang our solar shower bags. Yay, we didn't have to go outside to take a shower, we could do it inside out tent. Big bonus. And last, but definitely not least, the ability to put stuff in a trailer and not have to over pack and weigh down our van made it worth the $300 alone!

So we were ready to deal with the problems that were inherent to the trailer itself. Since it is so old, and the mechanism that lifts the roof is made out of aluminum, and was not in the best condition to begin with, we had a huge concern that it may twist, bend, distort, or fall over in a windstorm. My fiancée came up with a simple solution that worked great. He put some 3/4 eyehooks on the outside of the top lid, in each corner by the aluminum supports. We got some thick, braided polyester rope, and tied each corner down to rebar stakes that we hammered into the playa. This made our trailer very secure, and even though we had some real killer windstorms this year, our aluminum support mechanism had no damage.

We had read that a lot of dust had got into some other tent trailers that had been taken to the playa in years past. Although we know dust is, of course, inherent to the B man experience, we wanted to minimize its impact on our good time. When we were getting ready, we went through and covered as many holes as possible. There were gaps in the canvas where 37 years of shrinking canvas had left big spaces. I bought some canvas that almost matched the original canvas, and did a huge re-patch project with my sewing machine. I used that iron on patch stuff to patch little rips and tears, too. That left a few gaps where the aluminum supports met with canvas, for which I invented some removable dust covers. I measured the sizes in the gaps and cut squares of canvas for them. Then I put Velcro all around the edges, and sewed and stapled Velcro to the corresponding canvas and hard top areas. Also, the pull out “wingsâ€
:) Renee

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Post by CapSmashy » Fri Sep 07, 2007 2:17 pm

Nice write up. I had eyeballed a few of those (older models like yours) on Craig's List prior to the event but I hesitated wondering how they would hold up.

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Post by BitterDan » Fri Sep 07, 2007 2:32 pm

I saw a few tent trailers this year and I noticed that some people would collapse them down during the storms. I don't know if helps with dust or anything but if you were worried about the stability of the structure collapsing it was a good way to ensure it didn't blow over or take off like a kite.

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Post by Kinetik V » Fri Sep 07, 2007 10:51 pm

My girlfriend and I made it through this year in a small tent trailer...thankfully we had a big cargo trailer parked to the South of us that helped block a lot of wind. (Thanks Steve). But even with stakes, bungee cords, ratchet straps, and covering everything but one side with a huge silver tarp, it was not an experience I will repeat on the playa. Next year I'll either have the vintage aluminum trailer ready or I'll have a small RV / school bus conversion. Pop-ups may work for some but for my group....we'll pass.
Kinetic V
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Post by anghasch » Mon Sep 17, 2007 10:02 am

I brought my 12' pop-up out there this year after spending the entire summer remodeling it.


We did take some precautions of course. We guy wired the four roof corners down and even brought 2 x 4 to wedge in at the four supports, just in case. We also taped up everything we could.

We happened to be "home" for both dust storms and had a blast watching them come and go. The pop-up did great!! All our precautions worked like a charm and I was not the least bit worried of any damage.

With minimal clean up during the week, it took us 1 1/2 days to completely clean it and start camping again the very next weekend!!

I am however done with the project and ready to move on to another one, may need to sell this beauty and get another one.

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Post by bear » Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:53 am

Bump? Any updates from tent trailerER's?

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Post by Bob » Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:00 am

There are other tent trailer / popup camper threads.

Search on "popup camper", select "Search for all terms", display results as Posts (not Topics).
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