Tents with large mesh panels are not suitable for camping in a desert environment which has extreme dust storms. While mesh vents are usually desired for cooling and to exhaust moisture, they become liabilities in the windy desert. In a dust storm, everything inside the tent will be covered with a thick layer of fine dust in short order. A full-coverage rain fly will reduce dust ingress, but will not eliminate it.
I chose to sew ripstop nylon over the mesh panels of my tent.
Just beware, this does render the tent unusable in most other environments.
The photos below indicate before-and-after views.
Subsequent pages discuss design choices and sewing techniques.
Step 1: Design choices
Overall solutions are obvious:
- buy a tent with no mesh panels
- buy a tent with zippable covers over mesh panels
- cover the mesh panels of your existing tent
The tradeoff here is simple: time vs money. I chose the last option.
There are several choices for cover material:
- thin fabric (like a bedsheet)
- thick fabric (like blanket batting)
- furnace air filters
- plastic sheeting
- ripstop nylon
Tradeoffs here are more interesting: dust-exclusion effectiveness, strength, heat build-up (in direct sunlight), noisiness (flapping in the wind), cleanability (after you leave the desert), weight, appearance. I chose ripstop nylon.
There are several choices to affix the material to the tent:
- Permanent attachment
-- adhesive (silicon caulk, hot glue, epoxy dots, etc)
-- tape (gaffer's tape, monster tape, etc)
-- sewing with thread
- Removable attachment
Tradeoffs involve skill and complexity to assemble, heat resistance, cleanability, and (quite importantly) the ability to reduce heat build-up in full sun. Because I do not occupy the tent during the light of day, I could ignore heat build-up, and chose a permanent attachment. And because I like to clean the tent in a large industrial washing machine after camping, I chose to sew it on with thread.