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Frequently Asked Questions

180° View of inside of 5R Shelter


Modular Shelter System

Customize your shelter: Choose the components that meet your needs.

What does the ISO standard say about sleeping capacity?

The ISO tent standard 5912 defines several standard shapes to represent a sleeping person, depending on the category of the tent. The occupancy is the number of times this shape can be fitted into the floor area. We use this standardised calculation to calculate how many people can sleep in our shelters.

In our smaller shelters, the number is limited by the shape of the shelter, and there is a generous amount of extra space left over. In our larger shelters, it is easier to fit the person shape efficiently into the shape, with only a small amount of unused space.

Please check the diagrams in our specification sheets to get a better idea of how much space there is in a particular shelter.

How tall are the different configurations?

The height of a shelter depends on the number of sides, and if sidewalls are used or not. The height is not affected by the type of elements used.

With sidewalls:

  • 5 sides 2.1 m
  • 6 sides 1.9 m
  • 7 sides 1.6 m

Without sidewalls:

  • 5 sides 1.7 m
  • 6 sides 1.5 m
  • 7 sides 1.2 m

Can I purchase TTW modular shelters in a shop or another online supplier?

No, the only place our Modular Shelter System is available is from us here at The Theory Works®. We designed the product, and by selling it directly we can give the best prices, advice and the best possible support.

Do I need to use walking poles as a central support?

Since most of our customers want to use walking poles to hold up their shelter, we don’t supply any kind of pole. The poles need to be adjustable in height, and have some kind of basket that supports the rings that slip over the pole tip. For most closed shelters, two poles and our Pole Union™ are required to make a long enough central support.

Of course, it’s possible to improvise a central pole, or even suspend the shelter from something like a tree branch, but for most people we recommend 2 telescoping walking poles and our Pole Union™ as the best solution.

Another options for a sturdy but less packable shelter pole is a tarp pole. These work well so long as they suit the height of the shelters planned.

Most tarp poles are either long, heavy, or not very adjustable in height. The height of the shelter can vary from 1.2m to 2.1m depending on the number of sides of the shelter and usage of side walls – 1.2m for the 7-sided shelter without side walls up to 2.1m for the 5-sided shelter with side walls.

As an example, for 5 and 6 sided shelters you can use Hilleberg or Wechsel tarp poles, if you construct a disc for the element rings to sit on. Please note that these shelters need to be assembled with side walls as the minimum lengths of these tarp poles is 1.8m.

Can I use my foldable (not telescoping) walking poles as a central support?

Yes, so long as at least one pole has a basket to support the top rings. However, its important that your pole setup can adjust at least from 10 cm lower, to 10 cm higher than the shelter requires, to allow for tensioning the fabric, and for uneven ground (for shelter sizes see FAQ “How tall are the different configurations?”). We normally suggest telescoping poles, as they have a very large range of adjustment.

Do I need to purchase a pole joiner?

If the shelter you wish to build is no higher than a single walking pole, then you do not need to join the poles together.

It is also possible to use cord to tie the handles of poles together. We suggest tying the pole straps together first, then using cord to firmly tie each handle to the shaft of the other pole.

A pole joiner is faster and probably more secure. The pole joiner also functions as a storage sac for pegs, and the Insect Ceiling.

Optimize your shelter: combine different components for different trips.

What do I need to build an open shelter?

An open shelter requires 1 or more Shelter Elements, some pegs, a few meters of cord cord and your own walking pole.

An open shelter requires 1 or more Shelter Elements, some pegs, a few meters of extra cord and your own walking pole.

For example, a 2:R and 1:R element gives 3 sides. We would suggest 2-3 meters of cord (to hold up the pole) a Pole Union™, and 12 pegs.

What do I need to build a closed shelter?

A closed shelter requires Shelter Elements with a total of 5, 6, or 7 sides, a Pole Union™, a Rain Ceiling™, pegs and your own pair of walking poles.

In addition, an Insect Ceiling™ can be used to weatherproof the top vent, and a Groundfloor™ will make pitching easier and provide a perfectly fitted floor.

For example, three 2:R elements gives 6 sides. We suggest 3 pegs per side – 18 in this case.

How do you calculate the number of pegs needed?

For a closed shelter in different pitching situations, multiply the number of sides as follows:

Using sidewalls:

  • minimum number of pegs = number of sides x2
  • maximum number of pegs = number of sides x4

Sidewalls on ground outside:

  • minimum number of pegs = number of sides x1
  • maximum number of pegs = number of sides x2

Sidewalls on ground inside:

  • minimum number of pegs = number of sides x 1
  • maximum number of pegs = number of sides x3

Pitch your shelter: Set up your shelter to match the weather and site.

How much of a height difference does it make using the sidewalls?

The sidewalls add about 400 mm (40 cm) to the height of a shelter. This adds significant headroom within a shelter, and also makes it easy to roll up the sidewalls for extra ventilation, like a tarp.

When should I use the sidewalls?

When there is not too much wind, the sidewalls make a roomier shelter. It also makes it easy to create extra ventilation in warm weather.

When should I use the sidewalls inside the shelter?

When the weather is windy and wet, pitching the roof panels directly to the ground, and laying the sidewalls on the ground inside gives the best protection against both wind and rain.

When should I use the sidewalls outside the shelter?

In campsites exposed to wind, pitching the roof directly to the ground creates a smaller but more stable shelter. When the sidewalls are on the ground outside the shelter, smooth rocks or snow can be placed on the sidewalls, to hold the shelter firmly in place, and keep wind out of the shelter.

How stable is the pole joiner?

The pole joiner was designed so that as much force as possible goes through the webbing. The buckles used have both a tension lock tightening and cam lever design. Pull hard to tighten, then lock the cam lever so that the webbing cannot slip.

Enjoy your experience: Adjust your shelter to maximise comfort.

How does the ventilation work in closed shelters

The modular shelter system was designed to give balanced and controllable ventilation.

A combination of low level vents, and a large central vent at the top of the shelter optimises airflow with both natural convection (warm air rising) and the venturi effect (suction from the wind). As each shelter element has one vent, larger shelters tend to have more ventilation.

The ventilation can be controlled by opening or closing the low level vents. Adjusting (or removing) the Rain Ceiling™ can increase the top level ventilation One or more sidewalls can also be rolled up to increase ventilation in warm conditions.

An important thing to note is that ventilation often has little effect in preventing condensation. See the next question about condensation

Do the shelters get condensation inside?

Like every kind of tent, condensation can form inside a modular shelter. Even open tarps with unlimited ventilation get condensation, both underneath, and on top (where it is called dew). Condensation is primarily related to humidity, and cooling of the fabric by rain or a clear sky at night.

Condensation is more noticeable in a “single skin” shelter. But it is generally not a problem when there is sufficient space inside the shelter to avoid touching the fabric. On clear, still nights, we suggest using the sidewalls, so that there is more room, and less brushing against the roof of the shelter.