Black Rock City Shade Structure

Shade Thing made of aluminet &
plastic tarp.  In retrospect it would have
been better to use all-aluminet covering.
Black Rock City Shade Structure

I already have my truck set up so I can sleep comfortably on a bed I've built into the back of the vehicle.

When making camp, I usually I park in the shade and don't sleep in it during the day.  Obviously this wouldn't work in shade-less Black Rock City, so I decided to erect an aluminet shade structure over the top.

It's shaped like a monkey hut morphed into a partial dome.

Parts (quantities will vary by vehicle size):
  • 10-14 10' pieces of 3/4" PVC (enough to make ribs & flagpole). 
    I am fairly confident you could also use 1/2" provided you make straight cuts and use good supports & reinforcements.
  • 4 1"-3/4" reducers
    If integrating into vehicle load-bars.  My Yakima bars have an OD of ~1". 
  • 10-14 straight couplers
    For re-connecting pieces cut down in size for easier transport.  10' PVC pipe is unwieldy.
  • 6-10 4-way couplers
    For connecting all ribs to top frame.
  • 4-6 3-way couplers
    Branches off side ribs and connects to elbows for light posts.
  • 4-6 30-45 degree elbows
    For light posts.  Depending on the bend in your side-ribs you may want different angles to get your light posts as vertical as possible.
  • 10-14 18" straight steel spikes
    Found near re-bar at the big box hardware stores.
  • 18-30' of 14-21' wide 70% aluminet
    I should have used a total width of 26x21'.  Pricey but it really is much better than a standard tarp and it will last forever.
  • Gromets

The shape is fairly simple as you can see in the diagram below.  I simply took a tape measure to the vehicle, estimated how much PVC I'd need and made a couple trips back and forth to the hardware store as I assembled it one afternoon.

Here are a few assembly notes.
  • Cut all PVC as straight as possible.  Use clamps to hold the pipe steady.  This is crucial to getting sturdy connections wherever you use a coupler.
  • Hammer the steel spikes no more than half-way into the ground.  You need to have at least 8" or so for the PVC to securely slip over the top.
  • Lash ropes to the 4-way couplers and steak them straight-down vertically.  While aluminet does pass some air, limiting it's tendency to go airborne, in a good storm you might get enough lift to pull free of your steel spikes. 
  • I used 2 strips of aluminet, each 26' long and 7' wide and 1 strip of green tarp.  I should have used all aluminet.  Each ran along the length of the vehicle - one on each side and one along the hood, roof and rear.  Consider making the center piece a bit longer to help block the sun when it is low on the horizon.  I left the aluminet about 3' off the ground on the sides.
  • I put cheap solar lights from the hardware store ($3-5 each) on four light-posts around the vehicle.  I also put a fancy color-changing LED solar light up on a 15' flagpole.  This really helps to find your way around at night.
See it in action at Wide-Angle Wandering.

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