Introduction: Camp Table for Backpacking

This lightweight camp table made from tent poles, weighs just 2 lbs, breaks down in seconds to fit in a pack, and is an essential food prep and cooking stand for camping in areas without picnic tables.

This versatile work surface is perfect for cooking because it is close to kitchen counter height (home counters are typically 36 inches). At 30" tall this table sure beats having to tend to a stove on the ground.

Some ultra light backpackers may consider a table an unnecessary luxury who's weight they can forgo. For me, the utility and convenience this little table provides is worth it.

When I camp I am willing to do with out the Lazy Boy, the Zenith, and the microwave..... but at least let me keep the TV Tray Table.

The 14" diameter work surface is more than adequate for cooking with a stove, mess kit and water bottle. Note: Be sure to check the Instructables link in step 10 for two light weight stove designs that have been used with this table.

Photo four on this step shows the table easily supporting the weight of 9 liters of pop.

Step 1: Description

The table structure is primarily old tent poles (Our Boy Scout troop found itself with an excess of tent poles because the fabric portion of several tents had to be retired over the years). Being strong and lightweight they were too good to throw away.

A fabricated wood block couples the tent pole arms and legs to complete the table's support structure. The complete structure weighs 1 lb. including the wood block and all the hardware and stakes.

The actual table top is a pizza cooking tray. The one I found had pre-punched holes for crisping the pizza (which has the benefit of making it lighter) and although it is steel, it only weighs 1 lb. I am on the lookout for an equivalent 14" diameter aluminium tray which would reduce the weight by about 1/3.

I found that the 14" diameter is a good workable size. Anything larger would require a wider leg stance to maintain stability and besides, 14" is the largest size that will fit within the width of my pack.

Step 2: Materials

Full Bill of Materials:

(3) Tent poles - Aluminum 21" long

(3) Tent poles - Aluminum cut to 11.5" long

(4) 1" diameter split ring key ring

(3) Wine Bottle Corks (man made corks work better than natural cork)

12" length of Light Chain

(3) Lanyard Clips

(3) plastic Molly Lags

(3) #10 Wood Screws

(3) Tent Stakes

2x4 Board (should be long enough to clamp while drilling with 3" hole saw)

(1) 14" diameter Steel or Aluminum Pizza Pan

Step 3: Splay Block

1. Use a 3" diameter hole saw to cut the the Splay Block out of a 2x4 pine stud.

2. Drill (3) 3/8" diameter through holes on a 30 degree angle from vertical. The holes should be spaced 120 degrees apart Start the center of the hole about 1/2 inch from the outside edge of the block.

3. Flip the block over and repeat drilling another 3 holes. These holes should be offset to be between the holes drilled from the top side.

The photos in step 8 show the intent of the angle scheme.

Step 4: Legs With Cork Feet

The longer tent poles are the Legs.

1. Drill a 1/8" diameter hole 1" up from the bottom of each leg. The hole should go through both walls of the tent pole.

2. Thread a split ring through the holes in each leg

3. Drill a 3/8" diameter hole in each of the corks. The blind hole should be about 1" deep.

4. Install the corks on the bottom of each leg

The corks prevent the legs from sinking into loose ground and the keep dirt out of the ends of the legs. On a smooth surface like wood or cement, they provide some grip.

I chose corks from Barefoot Wines. Their barefoot logo on the cork seemed appropriate for the "feet" of this backpacking equipment.'

Step 5: Tray Attachment

The shorter tent poles are the Upper Arms.

1. Find a plastic Molly Lag that can be press fit into the end of the Upper Arms

2. Drive a #10 wood screw into the Molly. Do this a few times. You want the screw to be loose enough to be able to remove and tighten by hand.

When the screw is use to hold the tray, the load on the screw is in sheer so there is no real need to tighten with a screw driver, a clamp load is not required.

Note: picture 3 shows the arms with the stakes stored inside.

Step 6: Support Chains

1. Separate the 12" chain into (3) 4" segments

2. Attach the chain segments to a single split ring

3. Attach a lanyard clip to the ends of the chain segments

The support chains prevent the legs from over splaying. This takes the outward load off the Legs and the Splay Block. it greatly improve the stability of the table.

Step 7: Install the Legs

1. Installed the tapered end of the three Legs into the Splay Block as shown.

2. Connect the Support Chains to the split ring at the bottom of each Leg.

Step 8: Install the Arms

Install the tapered end of the (3) Arms into the top holes of the Splay Block.

Step 9: Stake the Legs

This table is stable on its own, however because of its light weight it could blow over on a windy day. To prevent this and to counter an accidental bump, staking the legs is advisable as a measure of insurance.

Push the tent stakes into the ground hooking the split rings to anchor all three legs.

Step 10: In Action

1. Back the screws out of the Molly lags in the Arms.
2. Place the Tray on the arms; align the holes in the pan with the arms, and reinstall the screws.

Ready to go!...

The table is shown here with two lightweight backpacking stoves. It is perfect for food prep. and as a cooking stand, and eating table.

It also works great for anything you want to keep up off the ground. Between meals I keep it next to the tent as sort of a night stand. Throughout the day it holds things I want to have quick access to but don't want to have to rummage around for in my tent or pack (Pocket knife, water bottle, rope, etc.)

By the way... here are the Instructables links for the two light weight stoves seen in the picture below: