A Bender Tent

Editor’s Note: This writeup was originally posted to LiveJournal in 2014, and then migrated here when I set up this site. I’ve since added a few more notes and pictures.

Building A Bender for Pennsic: A DIY Tent Using a Timeless Design

This summer we built a simple but spacious tent for use at Pennsic, an SCA medieval camping event held annually in late July near Pittsburgh.

Below I outline the historical and contemporary sources we used for the tent design, detail the materials we used, and describe the construction process we followed, with photographs of the finished result.


Our tent design choice followed from several criteria:

  • We wanted something we could build ourselves with only a few days of preparation, put up for two weeks at Pennsic, then store for 50 weeks of each year before being set up again.
  • We wanted something distinctive, not one of the pavilions and wall tents that are pervasive at Pennsic.
  • We wanted it to suggest a family of villagers camping at the annual fair, not a noble household or a military encampment.
  • It should be reasonably period in appearance, meaning that we would use modern tools and materials, but hoped to not stray too far from the forms that might plausibly have been found in a Welsh village a thousand years ago.
  • We needed a large space for use by two people for two weeks, to serve both as our bedroom/dressing room and also as a sitting room on rainy days, with lots of headroom so that we could both walk around inside comfortably without ducking down.

We settled on a “bender” design, using poles bent into an arch and half-dome, with canvas draped over them.

Although not common at SCA events, this type of tent has both an ancient history and a modern DIY tradition, outlined below. Continue reading A Bender Tent