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Two important things to consider before buying a tent; canvas fabric material and treatment.

Canvas is a heavy, woven fabric that was traditionally made from cotton, but is now also made from man-made fibers like polyester. Canvas construction includes number of threads per square inch and tightness of weave and is important in 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 for sails, tarps, tents, backpacks and heavy clothing for centuries.

Army Duck is loomed using smaller yarns creating an ultra-smooth texture perfect for creating fine portrait details in gallery grade primed and unprimed artists canvas. Army Duck Canvas fabric is also popular in numerous applications and products such as tote bags, tarps, outdoor awnings, tents, linings, outdoor boat covers, upholstery and slipcover fabric.

Heavier canvas is not always better and the quality of the tent is determined by the weave and by the water, fire resistant and/or anti-mildew treatments.

10.10 oz. has an excellent strength to weight ratio and has proven itself the superior fabric for making tents. The 10.10 oz. canvas we use is the “sweet spot” for being lightweight yet durable.

Make sure you know how much your canvas is expected to shrink. 3% shrinkage is normal. Canvas made from polyester should not shrink much.

  • Water-resistant:able 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 for such a purpose with a surface coating.

  • Waterproof:impervious to water.

    Before buying a tent, make sure the fabric is Water Repellent, Mold, Mildew & UV Resistant as a treated canvas tent with proper care and maintenance will easily last our average user a lifetime. Any treatment should ensures the canvas natural ability to breathe and has minimal harmful effects on the canvas itself. TREATMENTS play a huge role in how the canvas performs over the life of the tent.

    Waterproofing is a paraffin wax treatment which makes the tent impervious to water, however, due to the wax applied- the natural breathability of cotton is severely affected. Water repellent is a dry silicon treatment which ensures canvas natural ability to breathe without contributing to the fabric’s disintegration.

    Other things to consider are the type of treatment used to make your tent resist the effects of ultra-violet (UV) light from the sun, repel mold and mildew, or retard the spread of fire is a critical factor not only for its impact on breathability, but also on how long your tent will hold up and perform best in terms of strength, ability to breathe, overall integrity, and longevity. Inferior treatments impede breathability and cause more rapid deterioration of the canvas when exposed to the elements, making the tent both less comfortable and reducing its usable life.

Why Cotton Canvas tents are better?

  1. Canvas tents can be better suited for long camping trips because of their heavy duty, durable materials. Simply put, they are going to last longer than nylon or other synthetic materials. People that live at campsites during the summer should look at investing in canvas tents.

  2. Canvas tents generally perform better in winter conditions. Heavy duty canvas fabric will block out the cold and wind better than nylon.

  3. Canvas style tents- particularly cabin style canvas tents – provide a great design that has more room on the inside – and a lot more headroom for people that don’t like to walk around hunched over.

  4. Canvas tents are better in the winter, but they are also very functional during the summer – meaning you can have a 4 season tent for all your camping needs.

  5. Durability – if you buy the right canvas tent, you can go years before you need to replace it. Small holes and ripped seams in a canvas tent are also easier to patch up than holes and damaged seams in synthetic material tents.

  1. Weight – Canvas tents can weigh over 100 pounds, they are a lot heavier that synthetic tents, and that can also make them much more difficult to store, transport, and setup.

  2. Price – canvas tents are much more expensive than most nylon and other synthetic material tents. However, you won’t have to replace these tents for a long time if you properly take care of them. They really are made for more serious campers.

Canvas Tent vs Polyester or Nylon Tents

The vast majority of tents are made out of man-made fabrics, either polyester or nylon based. For family tents, you will typically find Polyester. Nylon is used for lightweight backpacking tents.

  1. They are not good insulators. This means that tents can get very hot when it is warm, and chilly when it gets cold.

  2. The material is not naturally breathable. Condensation can build up on the inside of the tent – sometimes enough to cause puddles.

  3. They can deteriorate and lose color over time through exposure to the sun’s rays.

  4. The lightweight material means they flap around a bit more in the breeze…which can be a bit noisy if you are trying to sleep.

  1. Cheaper: you can get a lot more affordable tents with man-made fabrics

  2. Lighter: from smaller backpacking tents to even larger family tents, these man-made fabrics are a lot lighter and less bulky than natural based fabrics, making tents made from this material a lot easier to get to the campsite.

  3. Quick to dry out.

  4. Less maintenance: Can be more resistant to mildew and rips.

The man made fabrics will be made or covered with coatings to increase water and UV resistance. The quality of these coatings can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and tent to tent.

Man-made fabrics are graded by how water resistant they are, known as the Hydrostatic Head. Some tents will have more water resistant fabrics than others.

Canvas is the traditional tent fabric, and it has lots of great properties for a tent.

  1. Cotton insulates extremely well. You won’t get as hot on a warm day, nor as cold when it is chilly.

  2. Cotton is a breathable fabric and can absorb water. This means that you are unlikely to have an issue with condensation.

  3. Due to its weight and insulation properties, canvas/cotton tents can be quieter, and not so noisy if there’s a breeze.

  4. The fabric can last a long time and is more resistant to harmful UV rays.

  5. A new canvas tent can smell a lot nicer than the chemical smell you sometimes get with man-made tents).

  1. Cotton and Canvas is very heavy and bulky. This means transporting a large tent to a campsite can be problematic – possibly enough for you to no longer fit it in the boot of your car. It can also make pitching a bit more work.

  2. You normally need to ‘weather’ the canvas before using it. This involves leaving a new tent out in the rain (or under the garden hose) so that the canvas expands and fills in the holes in the stitching and fabric. Without doing this, your new canvas tent could leak.

  3. Cotton and Canvas requires more maintenance. As it absorbs water, you need to dry the material out before putting the tent away, and this can take a lot longer than man-made materials. Without doing so, you will get mildew in your tent.

  4. It can be easier to snag and cause a tear, which can turn into a big tear.

  5. Cost – cotton or canvas are a lot more expensive than man-made fabrics.

  6. Coatings and Treatments on Cotton Tents

  7. Cotton tents shouldn’t be coated with a waterproof membrane as polyester tents have since the cotton needs to remain breathable and are already UV and water resistant.

However, some manufacturers have applied a light waterproofing treatment to the cotton. The cotton still retains its breathability, but the treatment means that water will bead off the tent if there is a light shower or morning dew. Innovations like this make cotton more practical for family camping as it helps reduce the drying out time. It’s extremely important for campsites that insist you leave your pitch early in the morning.

Poly-cotton is a hybrid between man-made polyester and cotton. Essentially a poly-cotton fabric is a cotton fabric with some polyester weaved into it. All the good qualities of cotton (or canvas) can be found in poly-cotton tents. They have some of the bad points too (such as cost, weight, and maintenance), but the polyester in the weave makes them slightly more resistant to mildew than pure cotton or canvas, and the polyester also helps reduce the risk of large rips.

How to take care of your canvas tents?

Remove Dust from Your Tent

Canvas materials collect dust, and the best way to remove it is to first shake the unfurled tent out to remove as much dust and debris as possible. Next, use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to go over all of the canvas fabric to remove the remaining dust. Vacuum inside and out.

Canvas is sturdy and resistant to stains, but any fabric is subject to absorbing liquids that cause staining. When fungus forms, it grows throughout the very fibers of the material and leads to staining and decay. Prevention is the first step to take, but if fungus or stains develop, there are simple steps you can take to solve the problem if it is discovered early and acted upon.

Keeping your tent clean and dry is the best way to prevent mold and mildew from forming. Even a slight amount of dampness can cause it. Mold and mildew spores thrive in moist conditions. When there is heat or humidity, the risks are increased, so it is best to keep your cleaned and dried tent stored in a cool and dry place when it is not in use.

When your canvas tent becomes stained, it will need more than cleaning. It will need to be thoroughly washed. Depending on the size of your tent, you can either use a bathtub or a kiddie pool to do this. Place a small amount of water in the container, then put your tent that has been dusted and vacuumed inside. Use a mild detergent in liquid form and apply to all stained parts with a scrub brush or a sponge. Continue scrubbing until the stain is gone. Rinse the detergent off your tent with a hose or shower head. Thoroughly dry the tent before storing.

When you see mildew or mold, it's time to act quickly to prevent further damage. All the ingredients you need are in your kitchen. Combine 1/4 cup white wine vinegar with 1 cup of water and mix inside a clean spray bottle. Shake the solution to make sure it is mixed well. Lay the tent out on a clean surface and spray all of the areas affected by the solution. Allow the cleaner to stand on the tent for several minutes to loosen and kill the mold and mildew. Next, scrub the areas with a brush, washcloth or sponge and continue until all mold and mildew has been removed. Afterwards, fill the bottle with warm clean water and rinse the areas that have been treated and dry with a clean cloth.

When the canvas on your tent rips, it causes leaking. The solution is to repair the problem as soon as you find it, to prevent it from becoming bigger. Make sure that the material around the damaged area is clean and dry. Smooth the canvas and apply repair tape to the ripped area on the inside and the outside. It should completely cover the rip/hole. Smooth the tape down and apply a coat of seam sealer to the tape edges on both the inside and the outside. Allow to dry.

Zippers also need to be maintained. Inspect before and after every use to make sure that they are in good working order. Check the seams for any fraying or signs of separation. You should always keep the zippers of your tent dry so the metal parts do not rust.

How to season your canvas tent

If you have bought a new canvas tent/shelter/annex then one of the first things you will hear that you have to do is “season it”. This is not a complicated procedure, and shouldn’t put you off purchasing a canvas product.

When you first buy this shelter, it’s been put through a lot of needlework by the manufacturer, sewing all the seams, attaching separate sections of canvas together, with a lot of thread. That means a lot of little needle holes. Nothing huge, but all those holes are places where water can penetrate. These needle holes are unavoidable. But entirely fixable.

So to ‘season’ your tent, it is about reducing the size of these tiny holes by adding water that will cause the canvas material to contract, but the thread will expand. When both of these things happen, the needle holes minimize.

Follow these simple 5 easy steps for successful seasoning of canvas tents:

  • Set up your canvas tent

  • Soak your tent with garden hose, you do want to saturate the tent, so allow a good 5 minutes of forceful water from your hose on the tent. It is imperative that when you wet your wall tent you thoroughly soak the seams. There are small needle holes where the seams are sewn together.

  • Allow the tent to now dry fully and repeat. A good soaking is a must! The tent should be fully dried between every soaking. Wetting down the tent causes the cotton fibers to swell which makes a tighter weave increasing water resistance. Thoroughly soaking the seams normally closes the needle holes which will prevent seam leakage. Soak the seams on both the outside and inside of the tent.

  • Ideally, your tent should now be waterproof after 3 soakings, and subsequent drying out 3 times. The canvas and thread have contracted and expanded to fill the holes – naturally.

  • Look for any leakage inside the tent, if there are any leaks despite seasoning your tent, the best way is to get a candle and rub it along the seams. The wax of the candle provides a coating to repel the water.

Seasoning your canvas tent is an important part of the purchase but once complete, it would be able to withstand many a torrential downpour without a problem.

Zipper Issues- How do you take care of zippers

When it comes to camping, the quality of tent zippers cannot be compromised. Imagine tucking in for the night after a very rainy day of camping, only to find that the tent zipper refuses to zip close and its teeth has come loose. Without a repair kit and replacement zipper on hand, the campers will soon be in for a very wet, cold, and windy night.

It’s important to look for high quality and top grade zippers while choosing your tent. There are some which are simply not stable and can break because of pressure as they start to become rusty and tarnish due to the exposure of light. There are mainly two types of zippers,

  1. Coil Zippers

  2. Tooth zip, which is also known as the Vislon or “chunky” zip

Always keep the tent and its zippers free from grit and dirt. After using the tent, shake it out to remove the dust and dirt, and wipe the zippers with a piece of cloth.

Don’t force zippers if they refuse to budge. If fabric somehow gets caught in the teeth, gently work it out instead of pulling on it. The slider or coil can be easily damaged if the zipper is pulled too hard.

Use zipper lubes so the tent can be zipped up smoothly and without snags. However, do take note that applying lube or any other grease-based product on the zipper makes it more prone to dirt and dust. Wipe and clean the zippers fairly regularly if lubrication is used.

Here are some quick tips that will not surely prevent your zipper from early damage.

  • Never force your zipper: which means don’t over stuff your tent as this will put weight on zipper especially when closing the tent. Never force your zipper that is stuck, instead do it gently, hold the zipper’s track using your one hand and back the slider up. Free the stuck textile by sliding the zipper from one side to the other.

  • Regularly clean your zippers: Without proper maintenance your tent zipper will less likely live longer especially when it continuously accumulates dirt and grit between its zippers. Regularly clean your zipper as it takes a very less time to clean it and remove all impurities that accumulate into the teeth which may impede the free movement of your zipper. Sea salt can be one of the destructive elements to your tent zippers, so make sure that you do the cleaning after your tent gets near to the sea. Use cool and fresh water when rinsing your tent zippers.

  • Lubricate the zipper: This tip is one of most effective ways of prolonging the lifespan of your tent zipper. Zippers also deserve to have healthy teeth and body, so go an extra mile in taking care of it by applying a dry grease on zipper tracks and post ends. While applying lubricant is generally helpful, it is also important to take the type of lubricant into account if you decide to use one. Manufacturers have come up with several products which they design specifically for outdoor gears, and these items are what typically works best for your tent zippers. Some campers, hikers, and backpackers do not recommend the use of wax as this lubricant may cause dirt to get stuck in the zipper while scented wax has the tendency to attract bugs and other insects. Greasing your tent zippers up is a great way to protect your gears. Greasing up the tent zippers is one effective way to keep them running. Before applying any lubricant, make sure you have cleaned the zipper because you want to avoid catching any dirt in your tent zipper. You may have also come across various zipper lubricant products. You may use pastels or powdered graphite. Others use beeswax which they can soften using a hairdryer or a heat gun to make it quick-to-apply whereas some people prefer using Teflon-Silicone Lubricant which allows easy handling of the tent zipper.

Read more about zipper issues and remedies in our blog:

How to clean mold or mildew from your tent?

What is a Flysheet? Advantages of a flysheet.

Flysheet is an extra sheet of material stretched over the outside of a tent to keep the rain out. It protects tent against weather and dirt, also prevents sparks from stove pipe from burning pin holes in the tent. It’s important to have a flysheet if you are a hunter or planning to camp outdoors for an extended period of time. Here are some advantages and disadvantages that you might want to consider:

  • Prevents sparks from smoke stack from burning small holes in canvas – even fire retardant treated canvas will get pin holes – always use a spark arrestor

  • Helps prevent canvas from leaking and serve as a moister barrier

  • Helps keep canvas clean

  • Small air space between tent and fly helps keep tent warmer in Winter (if wind is calm)

  • Reduces the possibility of rain water or snow coming into your tent through side windows or stitching needle holes

  • It protects the canvas roof from harmful UV rays

  • Tent fly can block light and make the inside of the tent darker, it helps if fly is lighter color or translucent

  • Tent fly adds more weight, more ropes and more set up time

  • In windy weather, the fly can billow up and actually move the smoke stack – must take care to tie-down the fly properly and to secure the smoke stack

If you are in windy conditions, we strongly recommend not to have gap between the tent and fly as the wind will get under the fly and cause loud flapping and possibly ruin your fly.

Bell Tent

  • 10.10 oz. Army Duck double-fill Cotton Canvas

  • Treatment: Water Repellent, Mildew & UV Resistant

  • Reinforced webbing at all areas of tension and wear (ridge pole, storm flap, end wall corners and eaves)

  • Reinforced D rings or bungee cords – stronger than grommets for tie-downs

  • Sod Cloth – A flap of canvas or vinyl (ours is vinyl) at the bottom edge of the tent – used to seal the tent edge by overlapping with the floor material, by covering with dirt or weighted down with rocks – keeps wind and insects at bay

  • Groundsheet: heavy duty free floating PVC floor to keep the tent warm inside and for added protection

  • Heavy YKK Zippers and buckles on storm door weather flap

  • Heavy YKK Zippers and Velcro on window flaps to keep out the cold wind

  • Ridge pole opening with flap or sleeve to fit tightly to pole and to cover the empty hole when using internal frame

  • Extra Windows for cross ventilation on hot days

  • Heat resistant/ Fire proof Stove Jack for stove pipe (5 or 6 inch) in roof or wall. Includes flap for protection against rain when not in use

  • Screen Door and windows (mesh) to helps keep the flies and insects out

  • Waterproof tent and poles carry bag

  • Toolkit with all stakes and rubber mallet to stake down the tent

  • Fireproof mats for Stove: stove is likely to burn holes in the floor, it’s always good to buy an additional mat to protect the tent

  • Rain fly – protects tent against weather and dirt, also prevents sparks from stove pipe from burning pin holes in the tent

  • Porch: provides an extra space, or separate vestibule or room located in front of the entrance of the Alpha Canvas Wall tents. It provides a separate area for relaxing, enjoying the view, storage space or cooking/eating area.

  • Cook Shack – extra space that attaches to existing wall tent

  • Hanging Organizers

  • Hanging Shelves

  • Bell Tent

    Floors are a great way to protect you and your gear dirt free and dry if you set up on wet ground and keep bugs, rodents, other insects away from the tent. Always buy a floor that is heavy duty vinyl (not canvas or thin material) to ensure durability. Low quality or thin tarps available at stores will puncture if you have small rocks under your floor. We highly recommend using fire mats under the stove and not put a stove directly on top of a flammable floor for fire safety.

    Fold the sod cloth to the inside then place the floor on top of the sod cloth. In this manner, any water is forced under the floor. Also, bugs are forced under the floor reducing the number of insects entering your tent. They set up easier, clean easier, are easier to replace if damaged and can be used in other instances as a tarp. For these reasons, the loose/detached tent flooring is far and away our #1 choice. Our floors are made specific to your tent so that you will not be left a few inches short, or be with unnecessary excess material to manage. A loose/detached wall tent floor would lay on top of the sod cloth that is standard on your canvas wall tent, and the base plate on legs of the foot frame hold it securely in place. It would cover the interior footprint of your canvas wall tent edge to edge and corner to corner.

    Sewn-in tent floor keeps insects and water outside of your wall tent, but come with some drawbacks that we think outweigh that benefit. A sewn in floor will add about 25% more weight and bulk to your tent and cleaning will require the wall tent to be set up.

    The floor is designed to provide tent flooring to the back ¾ of your Wall Tent, and leave the front ¼ area as bare ground. This bare ground space allows safe use of a camp stove, as well as a “mud room” area for boots, wet clothes, firewood, etc. We always recommend to always use a floor that does not have a stove cut out or zippered area because water and bugs can come in through openings in the floor.

    Sleeping Capacity vs Tent Size

    The size of a wall tent you need depends on several basic factors.

  • How many people need to sleep in the tent?

  • Are you sleeping on the floor or sleeping on cots?

  • Are most of the people adults or children?

  • Will the tent be for sleeping only or do you need space to congregate or to cook?

  • Is the tent going to be for your family, a group of scouts or a group of unrelated adults?

  • Are you going to use the stove?

  • Before buying a tent, consider 20 square feet (sq ft) per person for sleeping and 30 sq ft per person if more space was needed for cooking or other activities.

    Table 1. Tent Size, Square Footage and Number of People each Tent can sleep.

    Tent Size (ft) Tent Size (sq.ft) Capacity @30 sq.ft Capacity @20 sq.ft
    10×12 120 4 6
    12×14 168 5 8
    14×16 224 7 11
    16×20 320 10 16

    While shopping for tents, take into account the space required for the stove, the safety area around a hot stove, the maximum number of cots or sleeping pads you could fit into the tent and the number of cots.

    Cots may be more comfortable than sleeping on the ground, even on sleeping pads, but cots take up more space. The average sized cots range from 72” – 75” long and are about 25” wide (which is 12.5 -13 sq feet) and XL (and larger) sized cots are about 80” – 85” long and 31” - 40” wide (which is 17.2 – 23.6 sq feet).

    People usually buy wall tents for camping or hunting during winters. To survive the cold, stove is a must that keep the inside temperature of the wall tent warm. While deciding which stove to buy, you need to consider the space it will take. Wood stove comes in different sizes depending upon your need and requirement. The standard wood stove will require 36 – 40 square feet space. It is recommended that some of the largest (16×20) tents may need two stoves and our new wall tent features two pre-installed stove jacks at NO ADDITIONAL COST.

    Best way to decide which tent to buy is to draw floor plans to see how many cots, tables and accessories would reasonably fit into different sized tents.

    Table 2. Tent Size, Space for Stove, Maximum Number of Cots, Recommended Number of Cots and the Space per Recommended Number of Cots.

    Tent Size (ft) Space for stove (sq. ft) Number of cots Space required per cot (sq. ft)
    10×12 36 2 42
    12×14 36 4-6 33
    14×16 38 5-7 37
    16×20 38 (Small), 76 (Large) 8-10 35

    Please check our Alpha Wall Tent product page to understand capacity options. If you still can't make up your mind on the tent size, call us and we can discuss your requirements and make recommendations.

    Wall Tent Frame Types:

    There are 3 types of Wall Tent frames.

    • Internal Frame: the frame is made of galvanized steel or aluminum. A lightweight aluminum tent frame can be easily packed.

    • Angle Kits: It is recommended to have a rafter angle kit installed every 6' or less to prevent tent roof sagging and to increase snow load carrying capacity.

    • Lodge Pole Frame: Normally used by people who are making their glamping sites and want to make their own frame. Or people who want to use this tent as a permanent outdoor shelter.