Camping Tent Shelter Comparison

Posted on: September 22, 2018
By: Robyn Smith
Camping Tent Shelter Comparison

Camping Tent Shelter Comparison

High quality canvas tents are an investment in future adventure.  After educating yourself on the advantages of canvas vs. synthetic and deciding canvas is for you; the next step is to decide what kind of canvas tent is the best fit for your purposes. Assuming a good quality, water and UV resistant cotton canvas, we’ll compare the three main types of canvas shelters, the advantages and disadvantages for each, and award each 1-5 stars for ease of use, weather resistance, space, stove adaptability, and durability.  Here's our Camping Tent Shelter Comparison:

Ease of Use:

Set up, take down, and packing and storage.

 

Tipi

Sibley Bell Tent

Wall Tent

Set up (one person)

12-18 minutes

15-20 minutes

45-60 minutes

Take down

5 minutes

7 minutes

30-40 minutes

Packing

10 minutes

10 minutes

20-30 minutes

Overall Rating

* * * * *

* * * *

* *

 

Set up and take down times depend largely on the type of ground you’re working with.  The times above reflect flat soft earth which you can easily push in and pull out stakes.  Hard and rocky ground may require using a mallet or hammer to pound stakes down which can take considerably more time depending on your level of fitness and ability.  Snow applications may require you to pack down or shovel out a flat area several feet larger than the footprint of the shelter. 

Remember: Never pack and store any tent that is wet!  Mold will form quickly in a damp environment and ruin your canvas.  If your tent, floor, or guy lines are wet and you need to break camp, make sure you unroll it and let it dry completely at home before packing it for storage in the bag.

CanvasCamp Tipi

Stars: *****

Set Up:  The fastest and easiest pitch of all!  The conical shape and sharply angled canvas stretching continuously from peak to ground relies on a single center pole.  Simply stake the groundsheet flat and raise the center pole and the tipi is well pitched for most conditions in 12 minutes.  With a few extra minutes of work the tipi can be further secured with optional guy lines to hold it down in strong winds or heavy snow accumulation.  Keep in mind, if you want to use the guy lines you will need to attach them to the tipi the first time you use it.  This one time set-up task can take about 30-40 minutes for the average user.

Take Down:  Pull out the center pole and rip the stakes from the ground in under 5 minutes. 

Packing:  Folding and rolling the tipi tight enough to get it back in the bag is an art to master and will get easier with practice.  Once you have your strategy down it should take an additional 10 minutes to roll and pack back into the bag. 

 

Sibley Bell Tent

Stars ****

Set Up: A slightly more involved process than the tipi, the Sibley Bell Tent is still fast and easy to erect with just one person.  (Only the 600 Twin models require an extra set of hands to raise the dual center poles.)  The ground sheet must be staked, the center pole and A-frame door pole raised, and the guy lines staked and tensioned for a proper pitch.  The spring loaded poles on a CanvasCamp tent snap together easily with just a little guidance by the user.  An expert can get the job done in under 15 minutes, a first timer should be able to do it in 20 after watching our set-up video on YouTube.  The Ultimate will need the guy lines tied on the very first time you set it up which can take 20 minutes.  The PRO series is ready to go with the guy lines attached straight out of the box!

Take Down:  Rip out the guy stakes, take down the poles, then take out the groundsheet stakes. 

Packing:  Same as the tipi.  Practice makes perfect.  Strength and stamina further cut time.

Wall Tent

Stars: **

Set Up:  Almost always a job for at least two people.  Wall tents of varying sizes, makes, and models all have one thing in common: lots of parts to put together and keep track of which makes set up a long and involved process reserved for good weather, ample daylight, and lots of time. Poles are joined with joints to create a frame which the canvas is then laid over and attached to.  Guy lines are optional on some models and provide additional stability for the broad flat vertical walls which act like sails in the wind.  Floors are typically not attached or included and can add significant time to set up and is not included in our set up estimates.

Take Down: a lengthy and involved process nearly equal to that of set up.  Plan for at least 30 minutes with experience, 45 minutes for the average user.

Packing:  Most wall tents do not include storage bags or boxes.  For long term storage some manufactures recommend hard sided storage containers which can be cumbersome.  Our Mess III comes with a canvas carry bag, but know that this tent is not pack-and-go like a tipi or sibley bell tent.

Weather Resistance:

Quality canvas has natural waterproofing abilities.  There are a wide variety of treatments that influence breathability in addition to water, mold, and UV resistance.  You can find more information on canvas performance here.  Assuming equal canvas across shelter styles, weather resistance comes down to shape and groundsheet.

 

Tipi

Sibley Bell Tent

Wall Tent

Shape

Conical

Bell

House

Wind

* * * * *

* * * *

* *

Rain

* * * *

* * * * *

* * *

Snow

* * * * *

* * * *

* *

Ventilation/AirFlow

* * * *

* * * * *

* * *

Overall Rating

* * * * *

* * * *

* *

 

CanvasCamp Tipi

Rating:*****

Wind: The conical shape of the tipi is ideal for sustaining high winds, be it gusty or sustained.  Aerodynamic from peak to floor with the ability to add further stability to the shape with optional guy lines make the tipi top of the class.

Rain:  The steep angle of the canvas sheds water quickly.  The downside is the door shares that angle so rain falling directly down will fall inside the tent if you leave it open, or you are getting in and out during a storm.

Snow:  The tipi also takes the top spot for snow conditions.  You will want to clear snow accumulation away from the walls to prevent moisture from creeping up, however, a tipi with guy lines affixed can withstand drifts that form overnight.  The steep canvas angle prevents accumulation from building up and compromising the structural integrity.

Ventilation/Airflow:  The tipi cap is completely removable and can be opened and closed with long ropes affixed to the ground.  An integrated mesh door allows you to keep the bugs out and let the breeze in.  The floor zips out completely so the sides can be raised with an adjustment of the guy lines, however, this functionality is not as effortless as the Sibley Bell Tent.

Floor:  The thick PVC floor comes 4” up the wall and is impenetrable to water and vapor.  You’ll stay dry even in standing water.

 

Sibley Bell Tent

Rating: ****

Wind: The round bell-like shape and 2 foot side wall holds up exceptionally in high wind.  The thick guy lines and heavy duty stakes available on the PRO series secure the tent firmly to the ground making this tent second only to the tipi in wind resistance. 

Rain:  The steep canopy that makes up the majority of the canvas structure sheds water quickly and easily.  3 inch eves extend past the side wall so you can leave the windows open and stay dry even while it’s raining.  The a-frame door pole supports a vertical entrance so rain falling directly down won’t enter the tent as you climb in and out.  A sibley connector can be added to create additional shelter as a porch or awning.

Snow/Ice:  The angle of the canopy allows light accumulation to shed.  Be sure to use a tent stove to keep ice and snow from accumulating.  Heavy and sticky snow will need to be brushed off to prevent collapse; a telescoping brush like those used to clean off cars is a great tool.  Drifts forming against the side wall from blowing snow will need to be cleared.  Overall, a great performer.

Ventilation/Airflow: The hallmark of the Sibley Bell tent is ventilation and airflow!  This tent has no equal in hot weather!  The floor unzips easily and the side walls roll up for maximum ventilation.  Vents on the peak as well as windows along the side walls are all covered in no-see-um mesh to keep it breezy and bug free.  The 600 Double Door and Twin series have additional doors and windows for added ventilation.

Floor:  The same bathtub style PVC floor on the tipi comes 4” up the wall will keep you dry in even the wettest of conditions.  The PRO series has an extra thick PVC that holds up to high traffic, sticks, and rocks without punctures or tears.

 

Wall tent

Rating:**

Wind: Big tall flat walls catch wind and put strain on the pole frames.  Although solid pole construction and added guy lines lend to the stability of the structure, this tent is not ideal for windy conditions.

Rain:  The angle of the roof sheds and the vertical walls shed water well. Most wall tents do not have integrated/zip in floors like the Sibley Bell Tent and tipi’s.  They rely on separately constructed platforms or a system of tarps and sod cloths at the bottom of the tent to keep water out.  Not an ideal set up for extreme rain or standing water, although a raised platform can combat this. 

Snow:  The pole frame supported roof of wall tents can become weighted down and create a sling effect that holds snow until you clean it off.  Drifts of snow will form and rise quickly against the broad vertical side wall in heavy or blowing snow.  Both the tipi and the Sibley Bell tent out perform a wall tent in snow conditions.

Ventalation/Airflow:  Windows and doors can keep a wall tent well ventilated.  Rolling up the walls is possible on many models but those features are not always easy and intutitive.  The Sibley Bell tent reigns supreme in this category.

 

Space:

 

Tipi

Sibley Bell Tent

Wall Tent

Pacing Space

* * *

* * * *

* * * * *

Footprint

* * * * *

* * * *

* * * *

 

Pacing space is generally considered to be the amount of room an average adult can stand or walk around inside a tent. In all cases, the larger the diameter and height, the more pacing space.  Given the same diameter, the wall tent with it’s high vertical walls provides the maximum amount of pacing pace.  The Sibley Bell Tent with it’s 2’ high side walls and tall center pole is a close second.  The tipi’s continuous steep wall angle from peak to ground pushes the pacing toward the center pole.

The footprint is the total space including guy lines a tent occupies on the ground.  Tipis and wall tents do not require guy lines in certain conditions, so the footprint is equal to diameter of the floor.  With guy lines attached an additional 4-6 feet is added to the footprint diameter depending on placement.  The Sibley Bell Tent requires guy lines which should be staked at least 4 feet away from the tent, adding a minimum of 8 feet to the total foot print.  Bell tents pitched in groups can share guy line space and can be pitched 4.5 feet away from each other so the footprints overlap like Venn diagrams.

 

Stove Adaptability:

Stoves are a complex dynamic in the tent world.  In the tipi, the stove can be centrally placed and piped directly out the top with a specially designed tipi sleeve without cutting or modifying the structure.  Bells and walls require cutting a hole in the canvas and fixing a stove jack to pipe out the flu safely.  All three types of canvas shelter work well with stoves and there is no clear winner or loser amongst them.

Durability:

 

Tipi

Sibley Bell Tent

Wall Tent

Durability

* * * * *

* * * *

* * *

 

Assuming quality canvas and components, simplicity is key from a structural integrity perspective.  Generally speaking, the fewer components and angles in a tent translates to fewer opportunities for failure. 

CanvasCamp Tipi

The conical shape evenly distributes force from above such as wind, rain, snow, and gravity.  A single centerpole and groundsheet pegs are all that’s required in most conditions to hold the canvas, making it unlikey to fail.

Sibley Bell Tent

The bell is actually an evolution of the tipi and retains much of the structural integrity by employing a conical canopy.  An A-frame door pole and guy lines add to the components, however, the round shape, low walls, and simplistic design make it one of the most formidable tent structures to date.

Wall Tent

Losing or damaging one of the many parts, poles, and connectors can prove disastrous for an already arduous and complicated assembly process.  The broad vertical walls catch wind and put extreme pressure on the canvas and joints leading to failure.