The Old Parachute Dome Discussion

Ideas, advice, tips, and tricks regarding shelter, shade, tents, and camping. Yes, this includes RV's too.

The Old Parachute Dome Discussion

Postby melodiousdirge » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:46 pm

Hello all, first post here. BRC Virgin trying to make it for 2011's burn.

I'm looking at building a 24-30 foot dome to encompass my vehicle, tent, and some lounging space for me and friends, both at burning man and potentially on other camping expeditions.

I've read all the "cons" surrounding the use of cargo parachutes for shade cloth, but I've also seen a number of people use them and say they worked fine. So, I want to explore each parachute "con" and see if I understand and can address it. (Cuz let's face it, a 30 foot parachute for under $100 is going to be cheaper and easier than making any other form fitted dome cover.)

1) Catches wind: So do tarps - I'm afraid I don't see the problem with this. The issue I guess is that parachutes flex more readily than tarps so they flap and whip and create pockets between the struts of your dome. If the parachute were sized very similarly to the dome and pulled tightly to resist pocketing, would this con go away?

2) Not waterproof: Fair enough. For my purposes this might be OK, as my tent will be set up beneath the dome. It would at least shelter away the worst of the weather I'd think. Thoughts?

Also re: waterproofing, one could spray on a water repellent to improve, if not completely eliminate this issue. Thoughts?

3) Noisy in the wind: Again if it was pulled really tight and tied off well, would this still be a problem? Think of stretched tent fabric - it's quite similar to parachute fabric.

4) Doesn't block 100% of sunlight: Fair criticism, this is a down side for sure. Is it good enough though, or are we talking 50% light transmission? One way I would consider addressing this is putting a tarp over part of the structure before putting the parachute over top. This means the parachute takes care of the form fittingness while the tarp creates a small, completely sun-proof area. One could also use 2 layers of parachutes if they were cheap enough. Thoughts?

5) Tangly - PITA to put on: To be fair I think any one piece dome cover of this size will be a major PITA to put on. Dragging it over the top with the aid of ropes and poles seems to be the way to go... and honestly if it takes an extra half hour to get in place, I don't really care. Making a form fitted vinyl or poly cover will take many, many hours, so this is really a minor consideration.

FWIW I would try to arrange the structure so that wind could blow through the bottom by way of a gap beneath the 'chute, or through ports cut and sewn around the perimeter.
More ideas than time.
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Postby phil » Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:03 pm

Check out the stuff here:
http://www.cieux.com/bm/bmtoc.html#abodes

There are a couple of people with parachute instructions. There are other descriptions of other shade structures. Please let me know how your shade works out after the Burn. I'll post your experience if you want.

On the issue of sun coming through. I've shared Argyre's parachute on several occasions, and also the chutes of others'. There's a problem in infrared rays. The heat from the sun is from IR, and chutes don't block IR. Sunburns come from UV, which is the other end of the spectrum. Chutes don't block UV, either. shrug - you still get some protection under a chute, and there are definitely advantages. I don't know that Argyre's ever blew down, so they can be rigged to stay up.

Good luck and have fun.
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Postby Savannah » Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:23 pm

Welcome to eplaya, melodiousdirge.

The lack of waterproofing will probably not matter, especially if your tent is decently rain-resistant. My tent alone resisted 2 unusual rainstorms last year (one was rather brief; so I covered my bedding with evaporation pond plastic and went to visit friends. The other was heavier & seemed to last for several hours the Saturday night before Gates opened).

I've enjoyed parachute-covered domes for shade twice in my early burns (I was not the one who set them up) & I remembered parachutes to be less noisy than tarps, very pleasant overall, and to provide decent but obviously not 100% shade, so wear sunscreen anyway.

Stake your dome frequently & extremely well with rebar & rope, because even a metal dome is not heavy enough to stay down in a really good storm, and if it flies it could kill someone or destroy a vehicle. You'd think this wouldn't need saying, but I ran across a harrowing story on Tribe.net about people clinging to an unstaked dome to hold it down and yelling for back-up--but not being heard right away because the wind was really loud.

Incidentally, are you saying you want to put your vehicle inside the dome? There might be a good reason (who knows) but the vehicle might be better used as a slight windblock for the dome if you place it between your structures and Center Camp (the storms tend to come from that direction).

Check out this link from the main site. The third link at the bottom of it ("Desert Structures") looked especially useful.

http://www.burningman.com/preparation/e ... uring.html
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Postby Karma » Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:33 pm

Also dont forget, if you build a 30' dome, a 30' parachute will not come close to covering it. Chutes are measured differently.
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Postby Sic Pup » Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:34 pm

I have no practical experience but from a stictly logical perspective I'm not sure I would want to use a material designed specifically to catch air on the playa (not as a stucture, anyway). But what do I know?
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Postby Eric » Thu Mar 17, 2011 2:51 pm

Image

One or two year old parachute after a wind storm, 2006.

Just sayin'
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Postby jkisha » Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:09 pm

A picture is worth a thousand words. Thread closed!
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Postby melodiousdirge » Thu Mar 17, 2011 4:28 pm

Thanks for the feedback everyone. I'll follow up on those links a bit.

Karma - point taken. Do you happen to know how a parachute canopy is measured? Maybe some googling is in order.

Sic Pup - addressed already; anything that will keep out rain will also catch wind (I.e. tarps). Something like aluminet won't catch the wind but also won't catch the dust or rain.

Eric - photo makes a powerful point, thanks for that. Must have created a MOOP nightmare. I wonder if the parachute had been backed up with an inner liner like blankets or tarps whether it might have held up better. Either way it makes a good case for 16oz vinyl instead of flimsy nylon.
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Postby melodiousdirge » Thu Mar 17, 2011 4:46 pm

Savannah wrote:Welcome to eplaya, melodiousdirge.


Thanks! With any luck it will be welcome to the playa in a few short months.

Savannah wrote:Stake your dome frequently & extremely well with rebar & rope, because even a metal dome is not heavy enough to stay down in a really good storm, and if it flies it could kill someone or destroy a vehicle. You'd think this wouldn't need saying, but I ran across a harrowing story on Tribe.net about people clinging to an unstaked dome to hold it down and yelling for back-up--but not being heard right away because the wind was really loud.


Probably apt advice for anyone. I was planning on a 4/9 3V dome with 2 rebar stakes at each vertex that touches the ground (half of the ground level vertices do not touch the ground). Also, plenty of spare stakes.

Savannah wrote:Incidentally, are you saying you want to put your vehicle inside the dome? There might be a good reason (who knows) but the vehicle might be better used as a slight windblock for the dome if you place it between your structures and Center Camp (the storms tend to come from that direction).


I suppose I could really use some input on this from experienced burners. Having my vehicle (currently planning on driving a Chev Tahoe) inside the dome would allow me to:

1) Use it as a covered, secure storage for my stuff
2) Keep it out of the sun and dust so it's almost usable during exodus
3) Use a 12V inverter to power some little things inside my dome
4) Stand on the roof to help assemble my dome (going to try this at home before I come to the playa without a ladder!)
5) Sit inside with vehicle running in the shade to enjoy some A/C. (with appropriate Carbon Monoxide precautions)
6) In case of serious weather or noise catastrophe, sleep in the back of the truck instead of my tent.

Of course it exposes the vehicle to some risk of incidental damage during dome assembly and dis-assembly, as well as having it squarely in the middle of my playa living space, AND requiring that I make a minimum 24' dome instead of 16' or 20'.

Thoughts on cohabiting with my truck during BM2011?


Savannah wrote:Check out this link from the main site. The third link at the bottom of it ("Desert Structures") looked especially useful.

http://www.burningman.com/preparation/e ... uring.html


At a glance, 'desert structures' looks like a very good resource; even if I don't find what I need, it should be interesting. Thanks!
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Postby Savannah » Thu Mar 17, 2011 5:22 pm

Well, I'm glad you're going to give this a test run at home. Keeping your truck under the dome will not keep the dust out whatsoever, mind you (the stuff is as fine as baby powder) but keeping the truck closed as much as possible, and putting sheets over the seats will help a little with cleanliness, however. Some people try to tape things over vents and whatnot with varying success (and paintstripping).

I'm sure other people will weigh in before long, but if you wanna track down additional info on this site, here's a trick I like to use. Click on "Search" above. Use "parachute" (or "dome") as your search term. Narrow your search term by Q&A Tips & Tricks forum, in the drop-down menu provided, rather than searching the whole site. You will still get a ton of results--thread titles. Now use Command-F (on a Mac) or I believe it's Control-F on a PC to look for threads in the search results with "dome" or "parachute" in the title. That way you look at only 5 things on the immense page, not every line. There's years of dome and parachute threads. :)
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Postby melodiousdirge » Thu Mar 17, 2011 5:54 pm

Searching isn't nearly as much fun as starting new threads though... surely NOBODY has thought of the same questions I have. . . Right?

Thanks for the pro-tips on searching. Will give that a shot this evening. ;)
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Postby melodiousdirge » Fri Mar 18, 2011 1:28 pm

Alright, I've done a bunch of searching and (more) reading [search function on this forum works much better than others I've used - thanks Savannah]. I guess the gist is as follows:

Structure part is easy - conduit is by far the easiest to get and cheapest material for a rigid dome structure. Extruded aluminum, stainless tubing, or a million other materials will also work. Everyone and their dog has a writeup on how to do this efficiently.

Cover part is a bitch. Most usable fabrics are expensive in that kind of square footage. Tarps don't fit well. Best bet by a long shot seems to be billboard tarps. Cutting and seaming is a ton of work but makes a nice cover. Parachute is sort of a half-assed measure that works OK, is easy and cheap but has some issues.

A lot of people say they will post updates as they progress on making a cover, but there's not a lot of follow up in many threads. I infer from this that a lot of these covers never get completed, or don't work out as planned. I should probably interpret that as a warning sign...

One thing I've seen suggested but nobody has shown photos of is industrial shrink wrap. It's actually cheaper than tyvek (google boat shrink wrap) but the BESTEST part is the shrinking part. An idea I have is to make a loosely dome shaped cover with a minimum of seams out of boat shrink wrap, then place it on the skeleton with some blankets underneath, then go over it with the heat shrinker. The blankets would mean when the cover was removed it would be slightly larger than the skeleton for workability. The only think I need to make sure of is that the shrink temperature is not so low that the desert sun would shrink it. Thoughts?
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Postby melodiousdirge » Fri Mar 18, 2011 1:30 pm

As a newcomer feeling entirely too large for my britches... is there any interest in a sticky thread about this? It would be relatively easy to compile 50 or so different threads into a concise sticky. I wouldn't bother for my own info, but there are definitely a lot of repeat questions I think I could answer.
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Postby Bob » Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:18 pm

I say go for it, but do a dry run a couple months before the burn, and have a plan for pulling it off the dome quickly in case of a severe storm.

Knit shade mesh would pretty much conform to the shape of the dome, try to get it 12' wide. Could stretch a swath or two over the parachute.

Re: "Desert Structures" -- I authored that page, but the org linked to someone's pirated version. See the link in my sig. Many links on the page might be broken, I haven't done an update in a while.
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Postby Sic Pup » Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:21 pm

It's good to see that you're practicing self-reliance.

One is always better off looking for information rather than validation.

I really don't know much about shrink wrap (other than the guys on the farm used to use it to wrap pallets of boxed veggies) but I'm curious as to how you would get the hot gun where it needs to be to shrink the wrap.
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Postby Bob » Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:23 pm

You said "hot gun".
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Postby melodiousdirge » Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:12 pm

[quote="Sic Pup"]It's good to see that you're practicing self-reliance.

One is always better off looking for information rather than validation.

I really don't know much about shrink wrap (other than the guys on the farm used to use it to wrap pallets of boxed veggies) but I'm curious as to how you would get the hot gun where it needs to be to shrink the wrap.[/quote]

Very good point. I need to research how hot "hot" is for heat shrinking. One might be able to use a variant of a tiger torch with a wand attachment to reach up high. Obviously a great deal of care would be required for this.

My biggest concern is still that between the time I made the heat shrink cover and the time I got to the playa, it would sit in the back of my car on a hot day or somesuch and lose it's shape.
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Postby theCryptofishist » Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:43 pm

We are pretty much at our capasity for sticky threads in this sub-forum. When you click on it, you might not know that there are new posts.
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Postby Martiansky » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:41 pm

I made a dome to take in 05 and used billboard vinyl and cut and sewed it to fit. Worked great! It was a 2 piece cover, 1 wrapped all around the sides and clipped to the frame and then there was a top piece. I sewed a zipper in for a door. I also sewed in a couple of zip up screen windows for some ventilation(but it was warm in there but maybe a swamp cooler wouldve worked). I used tarps for flooring.
Unfortunately I dont have any pictures that I can post right now.

While I was at Bm we had a dome-tour put together by Robotland(he built a snowman dome with 3 domes of varying sizes stacked, very cool) and we saw different domes sizes and coverings. Anywhere from tarps draped around and bungeed to a larger dome with what I think was that shrink wrap boat stuff. It was right over the dome with no blankets. They had a vent up in the top for heat.
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Postby robotland » Sat Mar 19, 2011 7:03 am

Martiansky wrote:I made a dome to take in 05 and used billboard vinyl and cut and sewed it to fit. Worked great! It was a 2 piece cover, 1 wrapped all around the sides and clipped to the frame and then there was a top piece. I sewed a zipper in for a door. I also sewed in a couple of zip up screen windows for some ventilation(but it was warm in there but maybe a swamp cooler wouldve worked). I used tarps for flooring.
Unfortunately I dont have any pictures that I can post right now.



My favorite part of MSky's dome was the billboard motif'...It was WWF wrestlers or something similar, and while it was elegantly white outside the inside was all "flexing meat". Hilarious!

One point about tarps- If you use one huge tarp to cover a dome not only will it NOT fit well but you'll have all of the attendant wind load issues that you would with a 'chute. I generally use several smaller tarps overlapped, which allows wind to slip under and around the gaps during a big dustup. Anchoring them with spring clamps allows for endless adjusting. But I've recently fallen in love with Aluminet....

About car-in-dome: I can certainly see advantages, and have even considered this myself. Generally speaking, your car will stay parked for the entire week...but should an emergency arise, you're not going to want to partially strike your dome in order to get out. Just sayin'.

...Now I'm waxing nostalgic about the Parade Of Domes...that was fun, and we should do it again! There's a funky giant sphere-and-tower structure that I only spotted while in the Exodus line last year that I'd really love to investigate! (Anybody know those guys? Somewhere in mid-city, towards the south? A three-story structure?)
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Postby AntiM » Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:28 am

melodiousdirge wrote:As a newcomer feeling entirely too large for my britches... is there any interest in a sticky thread about this? It would be relatively easy to compile 50 or so different threads into a concise sticky. I wouldn't bother for my own info, but there are definitely a lot of repeat questions I think I could answer.


If someone wants to post links to all the threads, and asks a mod very nicely,
the mod may be inclined to merge them into a sticky. Maybe.
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Postby graidawg » Sat Mar 19, 2011 9:02 am

AntiM wrote:
melodiousdirge wrote:As a newcomer feeling entirely too large for my britches... is there any interest in a sticky thread about this? It would be relatively easy to compile 50 or so different threads into a concise sticky. I wouldn't bother for my own info, but there are definitely a lot of repeat questions I think I could answer.


If someone wants to post links to all the threads, and asks a mod very nicely,
the mod may be inclined to merge them into a sticky. Maybe.


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Postby Martiansky » Sat Mar 19, 2011 9:18 am

Hey Robo, remember the one dome covered with the shrink wrap stuff?
That was a pretty big dome they covered with it and it worked as far as I could tell.
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Postby AntiM » Sat Mar 19, 2011 5:25 pm

graidawg wrote:
AntiM wrote:
melodiousdirge wrote:As a newcomer feeling entirely too large for my britches... is there any interest in a sticky thread about this? It would be relatively easy to compile 50 or so different threads into a concise sticky. I wouldn't bother for my own info, but there are definitely a lot of repeat questions I think I could answer.


If someone wants to post links to all the threads, and asks a mod very nicely,
the mod may be inclined to merge them into a sticky. Maybe.


have i mentioned lately i think you are great Aunty em ?


Great and powerful?
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Postby Bob » Sun Mar 20, 2011 1:33 am

I feel sticky.

May I have sticky sticky thread?
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Postby robotland » Sun Mar 20, 2011 5:16 am

Martiansky wrote:Hey Robo, remember the one dome covered with the shrink wrap stuff?
That was a pretty big dome they covered with it and it worked as far as I could tell.


I've thought about using palette wrap too...but it might prove annoying to apply. I'm having flashbacks to wrapping lab equipment cabinets with c-board and p-wrap by running around them about 50 times- NOT something you'd want to do after a big lunch!
P-wrap and boat wrap almost work TOO well....if the covering doesn't block UV and IR then your dome becomes a greenhouse!

Maybe this year I'll finally drag out my sewing machine and start connecting the zillions of pieces of "Sunbrella" marine acrylic that I rescued from my old banner company job...MartianSky's certainly proved how great the results of SUSDAS* can be!


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Postby Elliot » Sun Mar 20, 2011 10:00 am

:D
My 2 Cents -- definitions:

Please keep in mind what sort of wrap we are talking about. It is my experience that many people think of pallet wrap when they hear the term shrink wrap.

Pallet wrap, more commonly called stretch wrap, is the thin clear stuff about 12 or 18 inches wide -- used to secure boxes on pallets. No heat is involved. (Except the body heat from applying it, yes.)

Boat wrap is a white sheet most commonly seen on new boats coming from the factory. As I understand it, this is shrunk to shape with heat, kind'a like shrink tubing for electrical insulation.

Did I get that right?
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Postby melodiousdirge » Sun Mar 20, 2011 3:34 pm

Elliot wrote::D
My 2 Cents -- definitions:

Please keep in mind what sort of wrap we are talking about. It is my experience that many people think of pallet wrap when they hear the term shrink wrap.

Pallet wrap, more commonly called stretch wrap, is the thin clear stuff about 12 or 18 inches wide -- used to secure boxes on pallets. No heat is involved. (Except the body heat from applying it, yes.)

Boat wrap is a white sheet most commonly seen on new boats coming from the factory. As I understand it, this is shrunk to shape with heat, kind'a like shrink tubing for electrical insulation.

Did I get that right?


Yup to my knowledge that is correct. The boat wrap is also used for storing boats overwinter. It also is sold for applications like hurricane tarping of homes, and wrapping hay bales. It's 6-7 mil thick and is usually quite cheap, about half the price of Tyvek. The best info I can find indicates it shrinks between 160 and 235 Fahrenheit, depending on what kind you get. I'm thinking a white sheet wouldn't shrink in the sun, especially if it was supported by your structure, but things like flaps may distort if you choose to cut some.
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Postby melodiousdirge » Sun Mar 20, 2011 3:47 pm

I guess one other major consideration is just how "sealed" you want to make your cover.

I've seen a few examples of domes designed to let the wind blow through, like this beautiful example:

http://www.lostmachine.com/projects/orbbject/index.html

But then many others who have made their dome cover completely raintight, with vents that can be opened do let the breeze through. Like this other lovely example:

http://www.fetchaphrase.com/dome/a-composition.html

I guess I wonder what people's experiences are with the two approaches. I do really like the blow-through example, as it would take a lot less abuse during a wind storm, but it would also be very little protection from the dust and rain (shade only). It also seems like the blow-through dome would probably be cooler during the day, but maybe not, depending on what material was used for covering.

Experience from the masses?
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Postby Martiansky » Tue Mar 22, 2011 8:16 am

I put my dome up as my avatar for you to look at if you can see it in that little picture!
If I knew how to post pictures Id put a link to it on this thread.

Maybe someone could give me info how to link it to a picture I have on my computer? Thanks.
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