The awning extension project was fun to do and I’ve been wanting to attempt something more challenging. The rainfly on the Front Runner roof tent seemed like a good contender for a new DIY challenge.
The crash course last year on how to use a sewing machine from my mother and sewing a triangle awning extension isn’t the experience level where you’d think making a rainfly was possible. However, the way I figure it is without something you want to make it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get better at it.
There’s a high probability of failure here, cutting the shape, measuring it right, choosing a suitable material and of course sewing it together. Undeterred, I gave it a shot.
The first choice to make was the material. I haven’t been too impressed with the original rainfly material as it collects pools of water over the doors. I suspect this is due to it being quite thin so it stretches and sags a little in a heavy downpour. You just have to remember to poke the fly to drain any pools that have collected or you can get a nice shower in the morning when you tear down camp.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly not a fault with the tent, you don’t get wet and being lightweight is one of the best things about the Front Runner tent.
However, maybe material with extra thickness and weight to it will hold it’s shape better and avoid these pools?
The next decision is the colour. The tent is grey, the Jimny is black and my awning material is a khaki colour. I didn’t want another plain colour and knew it would be impossible to colour match it with the awning so I started looking at camo patterns.
I’m not into the psycho prepper look so this process of elimination took a while. I browsed dozens of styles and weights of waterproof material. Ordering samples of the ones I thought might work.
In the end I settled on a Camouflage PVC Backed, grey camo style from UK Fabrics Online. It’s a heavier material than the original rainfly but it’s only a marginal increase. Additionally it’s worth noting that no light will pass through this material so it will be darker in the tent than it is with the original rainfly. That’s actually something I wanted.
I measured the original rainfly and estimated 6 metres to allow for mistakes. The bulk of the project cost came in at £57.92.
Starting the project
Often times when taking on projects you have a lot of unknowns and doubt starts to creep in. That’s when procrastination sinks it’s teeth in. This was one of those times.
After looking at the roll of material for a few weeks and hearing that lockdown might begin to ease in the UK shortly I kicked myself up the arse to make a start.
Cutting the shape
First step was visually deconstructing the original rainfly to try and learn how it was pieced together.
Their design looks a bit like this with the side sections creating a peak in the centre. After laying the material over the original rainfly, measuring and checking 100 times, I had all my pieces cut ready to start putting it together.
I left 25mm excess on the joining sides for a double felled seam, see video below. Apparently these are a good style seam for this kind of project.
I’m an optimistic person but to be in with a chance of making this project successfully I needed something to make the sewing a bit easier.
YouTube is my goto place for inspiration and sure enough I found a video that introduced the concept of seam tape that helps keep everything in place while you sew it and washes away afterwards.
I bought some rolls on Amazon for £6.99. Result!
Sewing the sides
I sewed the 4 pieces of the side sections together first. Meaning I can get a good run down the entire length of the rainfly when it comes to attaching each side to the main piece.
So far so good. I made sure to leave excess material to shape them accurately once all three pieces were attached together.
The double sided tape made a huge difference. It’s still tricky to sew in a straight line but without it I know it would have been an abomination. Look at this section below! For transparency this is not representative of the entire stitch quality, just a lucky streak.
With both sides sewed and the tape lined up ready, it was time to attach them to the main section.
&%$* you sewing!
I’ll not lie, this part tested my patience. There’s so much material it felt like I was in a fetish club, drowning in a sea of PVC shame.
Anyhow, stitch by stitch it started to take shape. I only lost my temper a few times and snapped just 1 needle. I also discovered you can sew for ten minutes without realising that circle thingy with thread on inside of the machine is empty ??♂️.
I’ll not dwell on this stage. It took ages, I’d sooner forget it ever happened. Stubbornness pulled me through and I ended up with what looked like the right shape!
The original rainfly has 20mm webbing sewn down each side end to end for securing it to the tent. In advance I’d ordered 10M of Heavy Nylon Webbing. I expected it to be a ball ache to sew on given the thickness of it but it went on a dream!
Pole sheaths… loops, unsure of the correct name
The tent has 3 pole sections that keep the rainfly elevated above the main tent. They require 3 long loop sections running across the main panel. Easy to make, it’s simply a 10cm wide by 126cm long strip of material folder in half and sewn horizontally across the middle section. Evenly spaced 86cm apart.
Finishing the edges with bias binding
If you take a look at your side awning and most tents you’ll notice a thin line of material sewn on to finish the edges off nicely, it’s called Bias Binding. Even though the camo material I bought doesn’t look like it will fray the black bias edging adds a professional finish.
Once again I used the tape to stick in all in place before sewing.
At this point of the project my spirits were starting to lift. Maybe this will work out after all. It’s beginning to look like a duplicate of the Front Runner rainfly, I just hope it fits!
Metal eyelets and plastic buckles
To provide tension to the sides of the rainfly there are six pieces of webbing measuring 7cm long with metal eyelets that the tent poles slot into.
Thankfully with the leather craft hobby of mine I had these to hand. The size I used was 8mm in a gunmetal colour. Sewed into place as seen below.
The final piece of the jigsaw is 6 plastic buckles that fix the reinforcement webbing to the tent. These attach at each corner and in the middle at the top peak of the fly.
It’s always the very last things that hold projects up. I snapped 3 needles and had a right job attaching the 2 middle pieces of webbing.
It’s a bit messy and I’ll need to add some seam sealer in a few places, but… it’s finished. Ta da!
Does it fit?
Ye of little faith, of course it doesn’t fit. Just kidding it bloody did, first time! It literally clipped straight on. To say I’m surprised is an understatement.
Obviously it’ll need testing properly on a trip but having inspected it very closely I’m confident it’ll hold up to some punishment. Only time will tell but that’s all part of the fun of making things.
Style wise I quite like the fact it looks different to the every other Front Runner tent. They’re popular for good reason but it’s nice to be unique. I appreciate the camo style isn’t to everyones taste but we love it. The grey of the tent matches perfect with the light grey in the camo.
So that’s a wrap for this project, it’s been mostly great fun and as always I hope it gives you some ideas for personalising your own camping set up.