Shade Structure Info

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Trevor's Thoughts and Musings

If you are camping, you will want to put your tent under a shade structure. If your POD doesn't already have a shade structure, this info is for you.

First off, a good shade structure will make you much happier Burner. It'll be your home at Burning Man. It can also be an art projecty-sorta thing; create a shade structure you can be proud of.

If you search around the internet, you'll find various shade structure designs. I've tried several; some have been failures. Windstorms are common at Burning Man. They will tear some structures apart, and carry others into the air like Dorothy and Toto. Design is important.

So here's my recommendation:

Build a 10 x 20 metal frame that you assemble like Tinker Toys. Here's what you need:

  • 13 of the 1 3/8" inch metal fence post poles from Home Depot. (approx $10 each)
  • metal connecting joints from (see info below for exact items)
  • 1 10x20 silver-coated tarp, also from

The silver-coated tarp is attached to the metal frame by bungee cords, zip ties, or rope. The corners of the metal frame are roped down to rebar stuck out at an angle.

This whole project should cost $200-250. Split amongst the people in your POD, and it's pretty cheap.

I've seen people try to build these with PVC and it doesn't work very well. With the metal frame, you can use it year after year. And the silver-coated tarp is about as dark as you're gonna get.

If you have 2 of these 10x20 structures, you can place them 10 feet apart from each other and tie a tarp between the two of them; now you have a 30x20 square of shade.

Last year we had very good luck with sloping tarps off the sides and creating a tunnel of a bunch of these linked together with walls going to the ground on either side. This created an excellent shaded area which was pretty resistant to the dust and winds and we could chill in there even during storms.

Direct links to the product pages on

In case is out of some items, here are some alternatives (generally a bit more expensive):

Look for flat-top designs, you don't want any steeple in your frame, as that just catches the wind. The completely horizontal top offers almost-no resistance to the wind.

Here is a copy of my hardware order from last year.

Product Name: 9 inch Black Ball Bungees

      Item#: BB9 
      Unit Price: $0.27 
      Quantity: 40 

Product Name: 1 3/8 Flat 4 Way Center Side

      Item#: F4J 
      Unit Price: $6.00 
      Quantity: 2 

Product Name: HDX 10x20 8 oz. Poly Tarp

      Item#: HDX1020 
      Unit Price: $28.00 
      Quantity: 1 

Product Name: 1 3/8 Flat 3 Corner

      Item#: P3J 
      Unit Price: $5.50 
      Quantity: 4 

Product Name: 1 3/8 Tubing Splicer

      Item#: FCJ 
      Unit Price: $3.00 
      Quantity: 11 

Those are last year's prices.