Sunday, September 20, 2015

Polish Lavvu Tent

After seeing previous posts about the Polish surplus rain cape/shelter half tents (AKA "lavvus") I decided to get one. It's currently hard to find them in the US, so I ordered a complete set from a Polish eBay seller on 9/8/15. It arrived yesterday here in Pennsylvania. Priced including shipping was about $70. (As of this writing Sportsmans Guide lists the Polish rain capes with an expected in-stock date of January 2016. I'm hoping to use mine before then, so I splurged.)

This is the Polish equivalent of the old US military shelter half tent pup tent, used from the Civil War up at least until the 1990s. I like the Polish setup better. It has more floor space and headroom, and each half is also intended to be used as a rain cape.

The two halves were unissued. One was dated 1974 while I couldn't find a date on the other. They had that four-decade-milsurp smell, so I washed them in warm water using Fel's Naptha Soap, and ran them through the dryer on medium heat. I was hoping that this would also tighten the weave of the canvas to make them more weatherproof.

I set up the lavvu in my backyard this afternoon with the help of my 11 year old daughter Amanda.

Rolled up next to a common rubber mallet for scale:

Unrolled, showing the collapsable aluminum poles and stakes. One pole in each set has the smaller end plugged, while one has a removable plug in the base. The former is used for the top while the latter is the base. One of the top poles has a small split but it shouldn't affect the function.

The stakes are curved so that when stored inside one of the pole sections they don't rattle. Unfortunately, the stakes are flimsy and don't hold well. Also, one half came short one stake so to set up the tent we borrowed a peg from my daughter's Walmart dome tent. After setting up the tent and deciding that the supplied pegs suck, we ran out to REI and bought some replacement pegs made from steel, and a bag to hold them.

The new stakes are a lot more robust, hold better, and still fit through the grommets on the lavvu. They were a buck each, plus $4.95 for the carrying bag.

To setup the tent, we first buttoned one side together and laid it out on the ground. It looks like a milsurp Pac Man.

Then stake out a couple opposite sides and then put the assembled pole up, and put in the remaining stakes. One person could do it alone but having a helper makes it easier.

Hold off on driving the stakes all the way home until you have all of them where you want them. You want the tent as taut as possible, to maximize interior space and help rain run off. It could be a little tauter in this pic.

Note that I pitched the tent with the extra cape found on each half inside, opposite of how you'd wear one half as rain cape. This way, the arm holes will be more water tight.

I also tried it with leaving the flap open.

With an 11 year old for scale.

It was nice and dark inside which is great if you want to sleep in. A lantern could be hung from the center pole. With the door flap closed there isn't much ventilation and it quickly began to get uncomfortably warm inside. (It was about 77*F and sunny.) On the other hand, this should be a great tent for cool/cold weather. A candle lantern suspended from the pole would help to take the chill off if in wasn't too cold.

I've seen several places on the 'net where guys have made small wood stoves from .50 caliber ammo cans and run the chimney through a stove jack out one of the arm holes. That would be nice in subfreezing temps but would make it a one-person tent.

The lavvu has plenty of space for me and one kid, plus some gear. I'm 5'4" and can stretch out fully even when I'm not near the center of the tent. I think the intended use of sheltering two soldiers would be pretty cramped.

One potentially useful mod that I've seen is to sew a loop at the peak to suspend the tent from an overhead support, allowing you leave out the pole in the middle, for more room inside.

I am hoping to get it to the woods after we have a couple of frosts to kill off the creepy crawlies.

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