Nutshell: Theaded Monkey Hut

The Problemspace:

The problem with using 5 foot pipes is that using them to recreate the 10 foot length with something close to its original structural integrity requires special effort. You can’t just pop on a standard plumbing pipe coupler (or any fitting) and expect it to hold up to playa level stress. The suggestion that I followed last year was: drill holes and attach sleeves with cotter pins to the tops of the bottom 5 foot pole. Overall, the approach worked, but I was constantly re-seating and checking whether or not my pipes were set correctly or at least correctly enough and given that I was drilling small holes through two layers of PVC pipe, its not exactly a task to do without a power tool.

In fact, the whole hut turns out to have this issue to some degree. Typically, the issue of a compressive force to hold it all together is dealt with by utilizing the tarp and friction created from the addition of duct tape. For the standard setup, this all just so happens to land the whole design into a certain sweet spot where it all tends to work extremely well. Cut the pipes in half, and now you’ve increased the need to better apply some kind of force to hold the pipe segments together again.

TMH Core Design Feature — Internal Compressive Force — Internal LInes

The TMH rises to the challenge by creating a new internal, compressive force that holds the entire structure together: tensioned lines within all of the PVC that are connected to each other and to the rebar anchors.

In Support of an Internal Compressive Force

  • The line must be able to be tensioned after everything is set up

Solution: connectors that expose the inside of the pipe so you can reach in and grab the line. Then use T-Connectors in such a way that one acts as a handle that you attach the line to and then twist until the desired line tension is achieved.


  • The line must be able to be tied to the tops of the anchors in a rock-solid way that will still fit within the space left between the pipe being fit over it and the rebar/stake it is attached to.

Solution: The Icicle Hitch (and related knots/hitches) is a low profile hitch that is one of the best (if not the best) choice to use when pulling a cylinder (the rebar) in the same direction that it points in.


Secondary Design Feature — Connectors (couplers)


However, to make this really work, there had to be a better methodology for reconnecting the pipe segments. What is important to realize is that the only task a connector like this has is to stay in place so that it holds the two pipes being connected in place. It doesn’t have to pressure the pipe segments together, it only has to keep them lined up so that when force is applied (weight and internal line tension), the segments connect and forces are then able to be transferred through them.

I have several ways to do this, and I’m sure others can come up with some that are even better. However, the easy way is to use 1′ pipe segments and put them into a 1.25 sleeve that must be at least 6 inches long, though longer is decidedly better if possible (a foot being close to ideal) and then insert a 3 inch long piece of paracord that gets sandwiched between the two pipes.

An Example Arch

Here’s a badly draw diagram that puts it all together:



Stakes anchoring both ends of the arch are connected by a line tied to them that runs the length of the arch.

To take this to its full potential, the spine that connects each arch houses a central line that is rigged (typically in a zig-zag type of pattern) such that when the ribs are tensioned, the central line is also tensioned. By doing this, the entire structure then can respond to external loads more as a whole rather than only at the point of contact.

(See my TMH announcement “At Last! — The Threaded Monkey Hut!!” for the full document describing the conversion of a MH into a TMH.)

Car Jacking!

This year, I will be bringing a small piece of sturdy metal that I can fit over my rebar.



In the event that despite all other efforts, if that rebar won’t budge, I will use that piece of metal and my car jack to get the rebar out.



  1. Since the metal makes an angle with the car jack, it will want to slip away from the rebar. If this happens, simply tie the top of the car jack to the rebar.
  2. The car jack is still pushing the rebar up at a slight angle to what it was driven in with, so periodically  rotate the car jack partially around the rebar and try again. This seems to make things proceed more quickly.
  3. If I have to do this, I will be sure to clean and re-grease my car jack.

Tarpe Diem! (BurningMan Tarp Tip)

Tarp the Day!

I showed up to Burning Man with all my Monkey Hut material ready to go. I even had brand new tarps still in the packaging so when basking under the hut, we could enjoy that new tarp smell.

It all worked great, until it was time to pack up and leave. Suddenly this well behaved, new best friend that had given me shelter was no long friendly. It now wanted to take up 10x the space that it did before we had met.  Somehow we crammed everything back into the car and made it out, but what had been the size of a couple large books now ballooned into the size of a tall kitchen trashcan.

Carpe Tarp!

There is a secret formerly only known to map makers and truckers. The old school map makers still aren’t spilling the beans, even as they drift off into the sunset and are no longer relevant. Thankfully, the trucker moral code doesn’t prevent them from blabbing. Unfortunately, their presentation skills are a bit lack luster. There are videos and tutorials you can find through Google. however, I’ll sum it up here quickly and in modern terms.


Essentially, you orient the tarp in “Landscape” mode, and fold the outside left and right edges into the center but don’t overlap the edges. Repeat one more time. Now do the same thing except in the “Portrait” orientation. Keep switching back and forth until it’s too small to fold anymore.

Once folded, I usually tie it up tight with some paracord with some loops in it and get some mechanical advantage on it so that it stays tight.

This method works better than a fan or flag fold.

Carpe Everything Flat and Foldable!

Once I saw what a huge difference it makes to fold the tarp like this, I ended up applying it to everything flat that I fold for storage: bed sheets, tent, air mattress, maps. It really is a remarkable difference.

The Threaded Wha-who’s-it?


Ok, here’s the low-down: the original Monkey Hut’s one, true weakness was how it joined anything together. I assume this is at least in part in recognition that standard PVC fittings are completely inadequate for the job. Unfortunately, the overall approach of just using long 1.25 pipe and duct tape is not all that great but for the purposes of the original hut, they were ok enough.

Once you cut the 10 foot pipes in half, the number of join points skyrockets. What just barely worked before doesn’t scale out and automagically apply itself to these new needs.

My solution is twofold:

  1. Use paracord as the way to “friction lock” pipes (hopefully not to actually lock them, but to temporarily bind them in ways to suit our needs)
  2. Run a line within each rib and the spine to apply an internal, compressive force that is dedicated to the task of keeping the various parts of a hut’s PVC rib drawn together and anchored to the ground as a unit.

In order for #2 to be doable, you have to use a knot that is especially good at holding on to a pole (in our case, rebar) and pull it in the same direction that the pole is pointing. It also has to sit close enough to the pole/rebar such that the 1 inch PVC can still slip over it. For this task I use the Icicle Hitch as described here: Recently, I’ve moved to something that more resembles a Klemheist ( since it is tied with a loop, but it is still tied more like an Icicle than Klemheist, as shown at the top of this post.

There are more than these two tricks at work for the overall design, but these two design approaches provide workable, scalable starting points that make it possible to extend the original Monkey Hut design into more specialized forms such as a travel-friendly version where no pipe is longer than 5 feet. It also reopens the door to larger structures that may not have to require extensive, external reinforcement features be introduced. It’s still just PVC being used in ways that it wasn’t designed for, but with these approaches, I think we can successfully push it a bit more.

At Last! — The Threaded Monkey Hut!!

Like squeezing a kidney stone through my brainhole…..

This has been my obsession for most of the year. It is a handful of design additions and construction techniques meant to enable the burner who must travel with no PVC pipe longer than 5′ and additionally, they might be going straight to the Playa from their big box store of choice.

Over the next few days, I’ll pull the contents of this out into individual blog entries. But now, in hopes of doing the most good in the least amount of time, this is the on-ramp to Threaded Monkey Huts for everyone!



Making a shady camp shadier