Introduction: Monkey Hut

Picture of Monkey Hut

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

Picture of 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:

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

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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!


MichaelL281 made it! (author)2016-03-04

Very Nice OP. I have a similar one I constructed for Burning Man as well. But instead of using the T and X connectors, I used The next size up pipe cut into 18" lengths as slip joints. And instead of have a segmented center rib I use two additional 10' lengths. Then I lash the two center ribs with cut recycled bike inner tubes. Having the two poles that are lashed with the inner tubes allows the structure to flex in the wind and not pull apart. The rubber holds to the pipes quite well and binds on itself to lash in place.

I then use spring clamps to hold the agro mesh to the outside hoops(reusable, no cutting zip ties and risking cutting your shade). Once clipped over the net and pole, they can be rotated to the inside to hold tension.

Then I used bungee balls to hold the agro net to the frame through the grommet holes in the bottom.

Also worth noting. You can use a tarp as the foot print of the monkey hut. and use it as bre defined points to drive your rebar through. It gives great spacing for the ribs that is completely uniform.(and in my case lined up withing an inch or two with the grommets on the agro netting.

JamesA41 (author)MichaelL2812017-12-28

This is a neat design, especially if you have the extra pipe lying around.

I've built before for hoop house greenhouse use as well as with electricians conduit though don't have photos I can find just yet.

The next one I want to build I was thinking about using re-bar throughout the whole length since I am planning a more permanent structure. I read about this style for greenhouses since heat can be an issue and help prevent deformation over time if permanent.

I was also thinking pouring a pea gravel or mortar fill down the tubes also to make rigid.

For a solid cover design, then the more challenging aspect would be stucco or shotcrete over the maybe burlap cover. I haven't determine this last step yet. I was thinking can use spray foam also and a stucco over that. I've been wanting to spray foam over a large tent and make a swedish style underground dugout style cabin root cellar. That is where I got this later idea.

AzraS4 (author)2017-07-06

Hey! Interested in making this for this year's burn. How tall did it come out to be? How much taller do you think you could make it to retain it's integrity?

I'm not sure the exact height, but my 6'5" tall boyfriend can stand up straight inside and we have also parked a car under it which is great for sleeping in. I have seen taller ones built out there, but I'm not really sure how they are built. This will be my third year out there with this same setup and they have stood up very well to the harsh environment! The hardest part every year is finding a vehicle I can take that will fit the 10 foot pipes!

ShayB12 (author)2017-04-29

Thank you for sharing this! This is cheaper and easier to transport than a carport!

Yes! The only issue I have is finding a car big enough to fit the 10 foot pipes in, haha

marie lynne (author)2016-08-06

Well done! Just have me an idea for a way to make a support system to cover a picnic table that has trees in the area to tie off on! hmmmmm! thanks again!

liteluvr (author)2016-02-21

I love the idea you have here. One idea you might ponder... at the cross and tee unions, instead of using the bungee cords, you could predrill a vertical hole through the fitting and pipe (assembled) and use a bolt and wing nut to secure the two together. When disassembled, just leave the bolt and wing nut assembled in the fitting.
Just a thought.

That is defintiely a good idea! We were limited with our construction techniques since we cut and built everything on the playa with no power tools, but if we plan ahead this year, that's definitely an improvement we could make!

Instead of bungee cords, I'll bet 'pre-assembling' it at home...and running bungee cord (purchased in a roll, without 'hook ends') through all PVC....could give you a framework that would be as easy to assemble on a trip as a tent. And everything pulled apart and folded up in a similar fashion to the poles to a dome tent.

It might have to take a bit of thinking to come up with a way of securing the internal bungee cord at the "feet", but I can think of a few possibilities....held in place just above the rebar by pins, something like that....but it would make throwing the framework up faster, and possibly done by just one person.

sheplady77 (author)2016-08-06

Great job, Danger is My Middle Name! I especially like the idea of using shade netting. I had one of those outdoor picnic area 10 X 10's once upon a time and it really kept the heat in, as well as almost tearing completely up with wind. All I wanted was the shade. This is a great idea, thank you!

Sneezy Phil (author)2016-08-06

Looks good. How high is the shade in the centre?
I'm in Australia and your Schedule 40 doesn't seem to translate well here. Hardware stores have Class 9, Class 12 and Class 18. Going by the price you quote, I am assuming you are going with the thinner walled PVC pipe???

MichaelA29 (author)2016-03-20

Pretty darn Cool!

Pa1963 (author)2016-02-21

If youre going to leave rebar ends exposed like that cover the ends! Get some of those orange safety caps, throw a bucket over the end, use an empty drink bottle. Too many people have been injured by fallking on these.

wertyleigh (author)Pa19632016-02-23

I'm sorry, but did you read the whole instructable? Not trying to be snarky, but an assessment but just asking. They used the rebar to hold the whole structure together. The pvc piping goes over it, so no need for putting random stuff on it. =)

Yeah, I mention this in the Instructable.

Pa1963 (author)2016-02-21

Why not use glue on the pipe fittings? They won't come apart in the wind like duct taped connections might.

Yup, stopmoeric, said it better than I could. We had to be able to take it down at the end of the week and if we had glued it all together we wouldn't be able to fit it back in the car to take it home! haha

stopmoeric (author)Pa19632016-02-22

Because PVC glue melts the pipes together and basically can't be removed. You'd have to cut each connection and redo it. Doesn't make the whole thing very reusable. I suppose you could try other glues, but I don't think anything else would work. PVC is a tricky material. The tape just makes it extra snug, but removeable, or at least that's how it seems to me.

maxman (author)2016-02-21

I was wondering about something like this to protect a car from hail damage. Any thoughts?

Kinnishian (author)maxman2016-02-21

This would work fine for that, but you may be better with a sturdy costco carport. They are more efficient in space, and not much more expensive.

a particular benefit of the monkey hut is wind-resistance, used in the setting of the Nevada desert. For most people this is not a benefit in their home setting.

Monkey huts are not very good at shedding water and weight (like snow) though they can be setup to do OK. I just mean that the average assemblage and tie down is not great at that. The car ports are easier to setup for water shedding, in my experience.

michael_click (author)2016-02-21

These are very "linear". Has anyone experimented with using them in an "X" or "plus" orientation? Is there an easy cover for the barrel-vault area in the middle?

michael_click (author)2016-02-21

This is a cheap and easy method of setting-up temporary greenhouses. This can extend your growing season in areas of more inclement weather. They are also used for growing illegal crops that might have to be abandoned on discovery.

DYANKAI (author)2016-02-21

I made one of these back in 2005, the only differences are that mine had 1x4 boards all the way around the bottom standing on edge and I framed one end in wood cut to fit a door I hung. mine was pretty large 2@ 20x30 tarps overlapping the long middle rib. I used 3' rebar and 1" sch 40 pvc. one could park 2 cars tightly side by side and still have a 18'x 15' living space, I put pallets down covered in cardboard to keep little crawly things at bay= worked great. called mine a Quonset no wind, water or critters got inside mine.

bobski_horner (author)2016-02-21

Seen this idea being used to store wood logs over winter , versatile for a lot of things,greenhouse etc.

CalF2 (author)2016-02-21

why not use the right size fitings instead of duck tape ?

ErinFurian (author)2016-02-21

aaah yes now i see how it goes together! nice instructable. thank you for sharing!

Jobar007 (author)2016-02-09

Using Shade Netting probably helped with the winds a lot since it is netting and not a solid cloth. Have you tried the same with a tarp or something similar?

I haven't tried using a tarp personally, but I know a lot of people do. I was just worried about the wind catching it and blowing it away. Also, tarps can be very loud when they blow in the wind! haha

That's what I was wondering. Here in Oregon, it rains a lot. I was wondering how well your construction technique worked with a tarp to see if I can adapt it to spring/fall camping.

jwatt4 (author)Jobar0072016-02-21

Try both. Use a narrow tarp down the center of the roof and put the shade netting over the whole thing. Get protection from rain and less wind drag than a full tarp. The netting will also stop the tarp from barking in the wind. :-)

rayj0007 (author)2016-02-18

I made one years ago, but I couldn't check "I made it" because I don't have any pictures. Mine was 10 ft high and 20 ft wide. I used similar fittings and 1 in pvc pipe. My design had stringers at 10 ft up each side wall and one at the peak of the arch. The total arch length was 30 ft, made up of lengths of 10-5(peak)5-10. The were spaced on 10 ft centers. The joints were glued. It was built as a semi permanent structure to keep rain and snow off items stored outside. It was covered with cheap poly tarps. It served well except for problems with wind. Even in sub zero temps the pvc stayed flexible enough to allow the structure to deform to shed it's wind load. That was the problem. Even in light winds the ribs would bend in 12-18 inches at shoulder height. Anything stacked near the sides would have the ribs and the tarp rubbing against it. If the item had any sharp corners or edges it poked holes and tore the tarp. During one winter storm with winds of more than 40 mph the pvc bent so much that the structure resembled a teardrop with the windward side bent down so far that it was only 3-4 feet above the ground where it was bent over to the other line of anchors.

I considered guy wires or closer rib spacing, but considering time and materials cost compared to steel pipe or wood frames it wasn't worth the effort. I rejected internal bracing because I wanted to maintain the open span so I could get a vehicle in. The final conclusion was to abandon the design due to it's inability to handle wind loads.

MilfordCTLocksmith (author)2016-02-18

Nice one.

sires6 (author)2016-02-17

Link to chromatest is broken

shizumadrive (author)2016-02-13

Hmmm never heard a Quonset called a Monkey Hut before. Learn something new everyday. And the instructions are interested for a quick cheaper quonset

Carleyy (author)2016-02-11

Great job!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm just a lady who likes making stuff. I got my degree in engineering but also enjoy cooking, sewing, knitting, gardening and backpacking, among ... More »
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