Snow Load on Canvas Tents

Snow Management While Winter Camping

Posted on: December 9, 2019
By: Jeff Dobbs
Snow Load on Canvas Tents

How Much Snow Can a Tent Hold?

What is a safe snow load on canvas tents?

Keeping snow off your tent is critical when winter camping! The canvas tent pole system can withstand a lot of force from wind and rain, but not the weight of a smart car! A large surface area means a larger possible snow load, which increases the possibility for tent collapse.

No two snowflakes are the same. The same with snow load. Wet snow can be three times heavier than the same volume of dry snow. Thus, a canvas of 45m² ( 50yd²) with just 5cm (2in) of average snow weighing 97kg/m² (20lbs/ft²), would add 680kg (1,500lbs) of weight to a tent.

How to Remove Snow from a Canvas Tent

When heavy snow builds up faster than it can melt, an extendable car scraper with a soft brush is a great tool to brush snow off the canvas on the exterior, or from inside the tent, gently beat the canvas, so the snow falls off the tent.

In order to reduce light snow build-up in winter conditions, CanvasCamp recommends a tent stove which heats the tent and causes fresh snow to melt and run off the canvas. While a tent stove helps reduce snow build-up, it’s not possible to run a tent stove all the time. Also, snow can pile up faster than the tent stove can melt it off.

The Sibley Bell Tent or Tipi with its steep canopy angle and conical shape will collect less snow build-up than a wall tent and is a better option for heavy snow conditions. We’ve taken our Sibley tents into deep snow and find that using a custom 9cm (3-4in) wooden dowel or pole made of hardwood or bamboo increases the vertical load bearing capacity of the center pole; giving you additional support and flexibility in regards to snow build-up removal.

Make sure the guy lines remain tensioned and the tent is pitched properly on a flat surface is essential to the structural integrity of any tent. For more information on how to pitch a tent in deep snow, check out our blog.