Last year, as I was preparing for Burning Man, I was in a bit of a conundrum. I was a co-director of a camp of 10 people, which was a big change. In previous years, I had just gone by myself or with two or three friends, but this year, I was responsible for a lot more people, many of which were going for the first time. It's essential to have shade out in the desert, but it is definitely a challenge to build shade structures that will hold up to the strong winds!
I eventually decided to build a monkey hut, or quonset hut, based off plans I found here. I liked that they are easy to assemble, sturdy, modular, and I could make it as big as I needed to in order to have enough room for everyone to have some shade underneath! It can also be set up easily by two people!
Step 1: Materials
You can make your monkey hut basically as long as you want to, but for my camp, I decided to build two twenty foot long huts, one for people to set their tents under, and one for a cooking and hanging out area. To make one twenty foot tent, here's what I used:
- 10 10' x 1" schedule 40 PVC pipes
- 4 5' x 1.25" schedule 40 PVC pipes
- 5 2.5' x 1.25" schedule 40 PVC pipes
- 2 1.5" T connectors
- 3 1.5" X connectors
- 10 2' x .5" rebar
- something to hammer the rebar (I used a modified fence post pounder)
- 4 4" bungie cords
- duct tape
- zip ties
- 20' x 20' shade netting (you can also use a tarp or canvas, but I prefer to use netting since it allows wind to pass through it and won't be easily blown away.)
- hack saw or PVC cutter
The great thing about this type of structure is that you can pretty much make it as long as you want, in 5' increments, just plan for more supplies!
Optional, but helpful:
- tall, strong boyfriend
Formufit provided us with all of our connectors, as well as our 1.25" pipe. They are amazing, and come in multiple colors, including clear! Their PVC pipes and fittings are furniture grade, very smooth, with very clean edges. I felt bad just using them to build a shade structure! They looked so nice!
Step 2: Measure Area and Pound Rebar
My hut was 12' wide and 20' long, so we started by measuring out a 20' x 12' footprint. We hammered the rebar into the ground about halfway using a modified post pounder. Keep about half the rebar exposed, but make sure keep them covered so no one impales themselves on it.
Step 3: Tape!
Now is the time for the duct tape! Wrap the tape several times around the center 2.5' lengths pipe, wrap the ends of the 5' lengths, and wrap about 1.25' from one of the ends on the 10' pipes. The idea with the duct tape is to get all the pieces to fit together snuggly so you don't need power tools or anything fancy to put them together. I would recommend doing this part before you get out to the playa, but we ran out of time so we ended up doing it once we got there. It would have saved us a lot of time, but it wasn't impossible.
Step 4: Lay It Out
We threaded the 2.5' lengths of pipe with the tape in the center through the connectors and made sure they were snug. We then laid out all the pipes in a sort of skeleton so we could easily visualize where things would go.
Step 5: Set It Up!
It's helpful for the part to have more than one person, and preferably at least one tall person!
Fit the 10' lengths into the 2.5' length with a T connector for one end. Slip one side of the 10' pipe over one of the rebar stakes at the corner. Have someone hold that there and bend the pipe over in an arc and slip the other 10' length over the rebar stake. You should now have an arc with the T connector in the middle. Repeat this process with the next "rib" of PVC with the X connector, then connect the two ribs with one of the 5' lengths of PVC and secure with a bungee cord.
Repeat this process until all of the ribs are assembled and connected.
Step 6: Enjoy the Shade!
We covered our structure with shade netting and secured it wit zip ties. It held up to 10 days of intense winds and provided great shade!