Portable Blind with seat for Wetlands/Marsh

      I really do like my Walkstool, and use it all the time when shooting from a tripod set low for a low profile. However, there were times when I wanted to set up on the edge of a shallow marsh, and I knew my Walkstool, or any seat with legs for that matter, would sink right into the muck.

Marsh Blind setup at Lake Mattamuskeet
     Then one day, while watching Doug Gardner's Wild Photo Adventures episode one - Waterfowl of Eastern North Carolina, I was inspired with an idea for a solution. Doug talked about using a mortar mixing tub as a floating equipment carrier. After a little thought, I decided if I was going to tow this thing along behind me anyway, why not take the idea one or two steps farther? I could turn it into a portable blind with comfortable seat that wouldn't sink into soft wet marshy ground.
Finished blind with canopy down,
showing seat folded down and up

     I started with a 24x36-inch plastic mortar mixing tub purchased for about $13 (available at most building supply stores). I already had a very comfortable boat seat that I used on the ground, but it only worked well if I was on the edge of a bank or drop-off where my legs could hang down a little and be a bit lower than my body. This folding seat was ideal to mount inside the tub for seating.

Seat mount assembly lifted
up to show details
     First I cut a piece of 1/4-inch plywood to just fit inside the bottom of the tub so it couldn't shift around. Next I screwed and glued four 2x3 "posts" to the plywood base. Then a 12-inch square piece of 5/8 plywood was screwed and glued on top of the posts. This formed the seat mounting platform. The posts were high enough to position the seat just above the top edge of the tub. The seat was then screwed to the 12"x12" plywood to complete the seat assembly.

     Then I made a cardboard template to get the shape needed for a bracket that would support the canopy frame. From the template I cut out a piece of 5/8 plywood to make the bracket, which screwed to the front seat posts under the seat. The ends of the bracket curved up and out of the tub. This gave me a place to hinge the canopy frame so it can fold up or down. I glued and screwed a 1x2 to the plywood bracket "ears" to reinforce the plywood where the hinge bolt would go, which was rather narrow where it curved up between the seat and the edge of the tub. This also gave me a thick enough block to drill for the bolt used as the hinge. Finding a suitable angle to drill the bolt hole to hinge at the correct angle was the hardest part of this project. Everything was at an odd angle because the curved canopy frame pipe was not directly vertical, but was angled slightly as shown in this diagram. It took a bit of trial and error, and hole reaming, to get the bind out of the hinge point.

Illustration of seat mounting
platform and hinge bracket
Illustration of CPVC canopy
frame and canopy lashing
     I made the canopy frame from two 10-foot lengths of 1/2-inch (15mm) CPVC pipe, which is very flexible. (Do NOT try to use 1/2-inch PVC. It is not flexible enough for this. Be sure to get CPVC.) This was also purchased at my local hardware supply. The front frame loop of CPVC was cut 7' 5" long, which made a loop just tall enough for my seated height. Depending upon how tall you are, yours may have to be longer so your loop is tall enough for you to sit under comfortably without hitting your head. The back loop was cut shorter, only 6' 9" long, as it hinges on the front frame loop above the front loop's hinge and nestles just inside the larger front loop when folded down so they both would lay flat.

     The canopy frame was then covered with Hunter's Specialties Camo Leaf Blind die-cut material in Advantage Max 4-D pattern (the same as was used on several other projects on this site). I used 1/8-inch nylon camo cord to lash the material to the front canopy frame loop. I used more of the camo cord to tie the back canopy frame loop to the rear of the tub so the frame would only hinge forward as far as needed. I wove the cord through the material die-cuts to support the material, and lashed the material to the back canopy frame with it as well. Once the front and back canopy loops were lashed to the material, they were held in place and worked in unison. Pulling up the front canopy loop raised the whole canopy. Once raised, two small bungy cords hold the front loop in place so it won't flop back. Yet, if I forget to unhook the cord and try to fold down the canopy, it won't break anything either, because the bungy cord will stretch.

     The completed unit is a breeze to use. Just flip up the seat back, then flip up the canopy, hook the two bungy cords and it's all ready to go. I takes only seconds.

Seat mount assembly lifted up     
to show hinge bracket     
Another view of the canopy     
frame hinge bolts and bracket     
     Top down view of canopy frame hinges
     Another detail of the hinge

More Photos:
      These photos show additional details. I have intentionally left out most measurements, bolt sizes, etc. since this article is meant to be only a starter for your version. For example, you could make a seat from a plank covered with padding and vinyl instead of using a boat seat. You could use 1/2-inch PVC with 45° elbows to make your canopy frame instead of the flexible CPVC I used. Use your own creativity to make something that suits your situation and needs.

      Three of these photos show different views of the canopy hinge bolts. The black bungy cord is clipped onto the end of the pipe for storage when the canopy is down.

     The lower left image shows the canopy frame up. The top end of the bungy cord is hooked into a hole in the pipe and the bottom end is hooked into a hole in the tub rim to tension the frame in the up position. The second bungy cord is only a spare, stored on the frame, in case a cord breaks, or to supplement the tension in windy conditions. You might notice that I covered some of the pipe with a black material, but this is not really necessary. I was experimenting with an idea. Usually I paint the pipe frames I've used in these projects, or covered them with camo tape, but you could just leave it the original color. I'm not sure it matters, so long as it's underneath camo material anyway.

     In these center photos ( below) I stuck my foot out so it would be obvious there was a photographer inside. Otherwise, you can't really tell. This blind, along with the lens cover and tripod skirt, makes a very effective, comfortable, compact and portable blind for marshy, wet environments. The tub doubles as a gear carrier whether the canopy is up or down. WIth the pull rope, the tub should glide easily over grass and float on water, minimizing the amount of weight you would otherwise need to carry by hand, or on your back.

Canopy frame in up position
Side view of blind with photographer, tripod and super-telephoto.
Low angle view of frame
Detail of cord lashing camo
material to frame
Angle view of blind with tow rope
Angle view of blind with photographer, tripod and super-telephoto
Detail of storage area behind seat
Front view

Despite its compact size, the blind feels cozy without being confining  
  Lightweight Folding
One-man Blinds

     There is storage behind the seat to transport some gear - at least a large backpack or dry-bag full. You can also use bungy cords, hooked under the tub rim, to secure your gear if it's stacked. With a little creativity, you can make your own version of this combination "floating carrier/collapsing blind/comfortable dry seat" for marshy ground. With the addition of the matching camouflage lens cover and tripod skirt, you have a highly effective and complete camouflage blind that is very inexpensive to make.

     If you're interested in some featherlight portable one-man blinds, check out this article for these two folding blinds pictured at right.