In the past, my Pathfinder Club has used an “instant” garage canopy as a kitchen for when we camp. However, the one we’ve been borrowing is in tatters now, so we needed to do something different. I looked into buying a new garage, but most of the ones I’ve seen take about three hours to put up, or they cost $600 or so. Ouch.

So I decided to engineer my own with stuff I mostly had on hand. Last year I bought eight 10′ PVC pipes marked at 1.25″ diameter. I imagine that’s the inside diameter, as that’s a more useful measure in the plumbing industry. We needed these for a Pathfinder activity that was postponed twice and then cancelled. I don’t think that activity is coming back, so I had eight lengths of fairly sturdy PVC to work with. I decided that if I had some end caps, washers, bolts, and nuts, I could turn them into nice poles that would slip into the grommets of a large tarp (which the club has plenty of). So I went to Lowes and bought six of each.

Step one was to cut four of the PVC pipes down to seven feet long. Then I drilled a hole in the center of each end cap.

The purchased items

The purchased items


The bolt is 2″ long by 5/8 inch diameter. Unfortunately, the nuts were metric, and I didn’t notice that until I got home. I was able to round up three 5/8 nuts, but that was only half of what I needed, so I went back to Lowes and got a few more. While there, I found that they did not have any 5/8″ flange nuts in the drawer where the 5/8″ bolts were stored. They had metric nuts, metric bolts, and the 5/8 bolts I bought. Grrr. I ended up getting regular galvanized 5/8″ nuts instead of the flanged ones.

Then I slipped the washer into the end cap and popped the bolt through the hole.

End cap with washer

End cap with washer


Then I fastened the nut on the outside.
End cap assembled

End cap assembled


I tightened the nut on with a socket wrench (had to use a deep socket to accommodate the bolt). Then I slipped it onto the PVC pipe:
Onto the pipe

Onto the pipe


The thought here was the the bolt would go through the grommet on the tarp, and then a rope would slip over the bolt to hold the whole thing in place like this:
Post, tarp, and rope

Post, tarp, and rope


The hat trick was in pitching the structure. I wrestled with it for 20 minutes or so all by myself and managed to get it to stand up. The other thing I bought was a half dozen steel stakes, each 18″ long. I drove those into the ground to anchor the ropes to. Here’s what it looked like when it was finished:
Outdoor Kitchen Shelter

Outdoor Kitchen Shelter


I don’t think I can really describe how I got the thing erected. I started with the two center poles, staked and tied them, accidentally let them fall, raised them again, moved the stakes, let them fall again, rinse, repeat. Finally I managed to keep them standing while I anchored one of the corners and then another. Still, I was able to put it up in about 20 minutes alone. I expect that with kids helping, it might even go up quicker (but kids being kids, this might not be the case).

I used a figure-eight on a bight to form the loop that goes over the bolt, and then used a tautline hitch around the stake. Since I had several short lengths of rope on hand, I had to tie several together to get long enough ropes to reach from the top to the stakes, and for that I used sheet bends. I may bring different rope when we camp next weekend though.

Penny was outside bringing me sticks to throw for her about every thirty seconds the whole time I was working on it. Once I had it up, I threw one for her and she whirled around and ran smack into the center pole head first. The whole tent shook, but it stood fast. Penny shook too, and then tore across the yard after the stick as if nothing had happened. I was pleased that it withstood her collision (which was pretty substantial), and I was also pleased that she recovered so quickly. She might have a sore head tonight though. I suppose I could ask her if she did, but smart as Border Collies are, I don’t think she’d answer.

What I like about this other than the cost (about $15 for the six stakes, and maybe another $10 for the end caps and hardware) is that I should be able to use it with a nearly any size tarp, depending on how big I want the kitchen to be. We have a much bigger tarp that I will use when we get there, and that should make for a bigger kitchen. I may try it with more tarps to form side walls which should keep out the rain more effectively, or I might sink another $80 into a new tarp. But that part of the investment may come later.

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