July 9th, 2020
Different Types of Wall Tents: Fabrics, Frames and Treatments
Navigating Canvas Wall Tents and Understanding Their Differences
Where To Start: Deciding On What You Want
Comparing wall tents for sale is like trying to buy a new phone. It inevitably leads to an avalanche of data that sweeps you away with jargon. What with fabric, size, setup and design to contend with, while debating the virtues of different types and treatments of the canvas, choosing the right frames, and understanding standard features, not to mention evaluating add-ons and maintenance, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Fear not. We’re going to walk you through the different aspects to consider before purchasing your wall tent.
Choosing the Right Fabric For Your Wall Tent
Canvas is a heavy, woven fabric that was traditionally made from cotton but is now also made from man-made fibers like polyester. The construction of canvas fabric takes into account the thread count per square inch and the tightness of the weave. This is important for determining the ability of the fabric to keep heat in and rain out.
Canvas is also called Duck, from the Dutch word “doek” and has been used in the manufacture of sails, tarps, wall tents, backpacks and heavy clothing for centuries.
Cotton Army Duck Canvas
Army Duck fabric, also known as "shelter duck," is a versatile, medium weight, multi-purpose duck canvas fabric with a tight, plied yarn weave construction, which makes it extremely sturdy and resistant to tearing. It is a double fill canvas, which means the threads are doubled by twisting two threads into a single thicker, stronger thread.
In simple terms, army duck canvas is considerably more durable and reliable than regular cotton or polyester canvas. This makes it more ideal as a material of choice for tents that are intended for extended outdoor use.
This is why we use army duck canvas for our tents at White Duck - the fabric allows for a sturdier, more durable build while still reaping the benefits of regular cotton canvas, like breathability and a natural aversion to UV radiation.
Polyester Canvas is a blend of natural cotton and man-made fabric. It combines the breathability of cotton with the durability of polyester, so it offers easier care and less wrinkling than cotton-only material. The upside of polyester canvas is that it is lightweight, durable, breathable, tear-resistant, and less susceptible to shrinkage, mold and mildew.
Which One Should You Go for?
The material you choose for your tent mostly depends on your needs, and what you’re hoping to use the wall tent for. For example, if you’re travelling in a small group and need a tent that’s easy to transport, your fabric of choice may differ from someone who’s looking to set up a week-long holiday home in the tent.
The advantage of polyester is that it’s generally less expensive, which makes for more affordable tents. It’s also easier to transport because it’s lighter and it generally requires less maintenance.
The disadvantage is that tents made from polyester or man-made fabrics aren’t good insulators, so they can get extremely hot or cold depending on the weather outside. The material isn’t very breathable, so condensation can build up on the inside of the tent. These tents also tend to deteriorate faster and lose color through exposure to the sun.
In contrast, cotton canvas is the more traditional tent fabric which is likely due to the many advantages of choosing this material. Cotton is an excellent insulator, so the temperature inside the tent tends to make for a comfortable living situation. Canvas tents are more resistant to UV rays and perform better for extended periods outdoors. Also, cotton is a breathable fabric that can absorb water, so condensation issues usually don’t come up.
The primary disadvantage of owning a canvas wall tent is that they can be bulky, so transporting a larger tent to a campsite can be problematic without the right resources. Cotton or canvas tents also tend to be more expensive than those made from man-made fabric - although this is usually compensated for by their long lifespan.
Deciding On the Frame of Your Wall Tent
Wall tents can also differ in the kind of frame used for the structure. Choosing the right frame is a major consideration when investing in a canvas tent. Generally, there are three primary components of a wall tent frame: the internal frame, angle kits and the lodge pole frame.
The internal frame of a wall tent can be made from galvanized steel or aluminum. It’s generally a good idea to use an internal frame since it provides the most roof support. Other frames, like an A-frame or lodge pole, don’t make use of angle kits, which means they provide less protection against heavy winds or snow loads. Oftentimes, it’s necessary to buy the internal frame separately from the tent as it usually isn’t included in the packaging. However, at White Duck, our Alpha Wall Tents are supplied with heavy-duty aluminum frames at no additional cost.
Angle kits provide extra support to the frame of the tent and help prevent roof sagging by allowing for an increased snow load-carrying capacity. In some cases, angle kits need to be bought separately and cut down using measurements provided with the kits. It’s also possible to find tents that are supplied with the angle kits and frames.
Lodge Pole Frame
A lodge pole frame tends to be used by people looking to either set up their own frames, or perhaps use the tent as a permanent outdoor shelter. Lodge pole frames can be coupled with angle kits, although it’s good to keep in mind that the frame should be 1-2% smaller than the actual size to adjust for canvas shrinkage.
Types of Treatments to Consider
What treatments the wall tent has been subjected to also plays an integral role in determining its lifespan. Treatments for water repellency, mold, mildew and UV resistance impact not only the breathability of the tent but also have long-term implications for the strength, longevity and overall integrity of the shelter.
For this reason, it’s important to consider which treatments are used and also the quality of those treatments. As an example, White Duck’s wall tents are built with cotton army duck canvas. The canvas is coated with anti-mildew, waterproofing and UV-resistant treatments. It’s also flame retardant, for additional protection.
Water Repellent and Mildew Resistant
A Paraffin finish may be applied to tents for water and mildew resistance but, due to its heavy nature, tends to add significant weight to the tent. Anti-mildew treatments keep the cotton canvas from mildew damage after exposure to water, which helps preserve the tent for the longer-term. Generally, untreated canvas tents tend to shrink 10-15% after getting wet.
Fire Water Repellent
Wall tents tend to be used for extended periods of time, which also means stoves, heaters and AC units are often used inside them. This is why choosing a tent that’s been treated for fire-resistance is critical. That being said, a canvas wall tent is not fireproof and thus shouldn’t be exposed to a flame for long.
The Difference Between Waterproof, Water Resistant and Water Repellent
- Water resistant: the ability to resist the penetration of water to some degree, but not entirely.
- Water repellent: not easily penetrated by water, especially as a result of being treated with a surface coating.
- Waterproof: impervious to water; it doesn’t allow water to pass through.
While most canvas tents tend be coated with cost-effective water repellent treatment, this adversely affects the natural breathability of the cotton canvas. White Duck's tents use a special chemical treatment that, while ensuring water repellency, still maintain the breathability of the tents. As part of this process, we also treat the tent for protection from rotting and accumulation of fungus.
Written by Mike Williams
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