Why Canvas Tents Rule

Why Canvas Tents Rule

Canvas Tents vs. Nylon Tents: Why Canvas is the Best Tent Material

Tents made from cotton canvas are breathable, waterproof, environmentally friendly, and insulating. Most camping tents are made from plastics (nylon, polyester) which are cheap to manufacture but lack the durability and weather resistance of canvas. Learn why Canvas makes the best tent material - and how canvas tents compare to plastic tents.


Breathability

Canvas Wins

Four Season Breathability

Canvas Tent Breathability

Winner

Humidity is the most critical factor in environmental comfort for humans. Humidity impacts sweat evaporation which is how the human body regulates temperature. Unlike plastic tents, canvas allows small moisture particles from breath, sweat, and cooking to escape directly through the tent fabric. Keeping you dry and comfortable in any environment.

Breathable Canvas Tent Material
Nylon Tent Material Breathability

Plastic Tent Breathability

Loser

Non-breathable vapor-impermeable plastic fabric prevents moisture from sweat and breath from escaping the tent. High humidity means sweat won’t evaporate, making it feel even hotter (or colder) inside than outside. Plastic tents don’t breathe; they rely on vents to circulate moist air out and draw fresh air in. These vents then need to be covered by rain flys to keep water out. Silly.


Cold Weather Camping

Canvas Wins

Tent Stove Compatible

Canvas Tent Heat Efficiency

Winner

Canvas tents can be safely used with wood burning tent stoves keeping you camping in comfort through all four seasons. Cotton is also a poor conductor which makes it a better insulator than plastic.

Cold Weather Canvas Camping Tent
Nylon Cold Weather Camping Tent

Plastic Tent Heat Efficency

Loser

Plastic melts and burns easily making them incompatible with stoves and unsafe to heat. To overcome the lack of breathability inherent to plastic, nylon tents are geared more staying cool than staying warm.


Waterproofing

Canvas Wins

Waterproof Canvas

Canvas Tent Waterproofing

Winner

The surface tension of a rain drop prevents the water from passing through the tight weave of quality canvas. The water droplet beads and runs off the steep slope of the canvas canopy – keeping you dry naturally. Heavy rains cause the cotton canvas fibers to swell, further tightening the weave in wet conditions.

Waterproof Canvas Camping Tent
Waterproof Nylon Camping Tent Fail

Plastic Tent Waterproofing

Loser

Plastics do not absorb water well. Initially rain will shed, but after the fabric has been saturated it can hold moisture and further limit breathability, increasing humidity, making plastic tents feel damp inside. A compromised rain fly or blowing rain storms make vents - necessary for humidity regulation in plastic tents - vulnerable to leaks.


Durability

Canvas Wins

Durable Canvas

Canvas Tent Durability

Winner

Tents made from cotton canvas are tough, rip resistant, and repairable. Pre-treated and re-treatable, a properly maintained canvas tent can hold up to years of use. Rips and tears from falling branches or extreme winds can be sewn up by hand in the field with a simple needle and thread and few strokes of candle wax for waterproofing. Complex repairs or customization can be tackled with a sewing machine.

Durable Canvas Tent
Broken Nylon Tent Durability Fail

Plastic Tent Durability

Loser

Ripping and tearing easily, synthetic tent fabric is nearly impossible to repair to full working order permanently. Small tears (less than 1”) can be patched with tape, however, the tension on the fabric often means tape is a short-term fix which must be applied in dry weather for the adhesive to stick properly. Although nylon tents are cheap to buy - any damage can result in a ruined camping trip and require a total tent replacement.


Ventilation

Canvas Wins

Tent Ventilation Mesh Wall

Canvas Tent Ventilation

Winner

In addition to the natural breathability of cotton canvas, CanvasCamp tents are equipped with large no-see-um mesh covered vents and windows, and some with 360 degrees of mesh wall. Customizable ventilation allows you to fine tune your airflow to match the weather in seconds.

Canvas Tent Ventilation
Plastic Tent Ventilation

Plastic Tent Ventilation

Loser

If you have ever woken up in a plastic tent feeling damp – you have been a victim of insufficient ventilation and breathability. Because synthetic fabric doesn’t breathe, plastic tents are entirely dependent on small vents to release humidity and circulate air. Often blocked by rain flys and sleeping bags, vents are often insufficient and inconvenient.


Strength

Canvas Wins

Canvas Tent Pro Strength

Canvas Tent Strength

Winner

A well built canvas tent made of quality cotton, burly steel stakes, and thick poles stands up to extreme weather and heavy use that would flatten the majority of plastic tents. Canvas tents are the tent of choice for military, humanitarian, and expedition use because they are tough as nails and reliable. Shelter is the #1 priority in the wilderness and canvas tents consistently deliver.

Canvas Tent Strength
Weak Plastic Tent Strength

Plastic Tent Strength

Loser

Poles with a smaller diameter than a Slurpee straw, a thin plastic tent fabric, and miniature aluminum stakes simply don't hold up to harsh weather and years of abuse. Plastic tents are typically designed to provide the minimum amount of protection necessary to get you through by sacrificing comfort, durability, and strength in pursuit of cutting weight. The idea being although your shelter is lacking you can endure long enough to get to more appropriate shelter.


UV Resistance

Canvas Wins

Canvas UV Resistant

Canvas Tent UV Resistance

Winner

Quality canvas has a protective treatment to withstand sun damage and can be easily retreated to maintain that protection for years to come.

UV Resistant Canvas Tent
Plastic Tent UV Damage

Plastic Tent UV Resistance

Loser

Damaging UV rays degrade plastic fabric tents quickly while canvas endures. Once weakened, plastic fibers are prone to breakage and aftermarket treatments can do little to prolong the life of the tent.


Weight

Plastic Wins

Heavy Duty Canvas Weight

Canvas Tent Weight

Loser

Canvas is heavy. The average Sibley Bell Tent can be pitched in under 15 minutes and packs down to fit in a standard car trunk – but you wouldn’t want to carry it on your back. When 80% of camping takes place within 100 yards of a home or a car, weight is a non-issue for most camping adventures. When weight is essential for multi-day treks beyond basecamp - the lighter the better.

Heavy Duty Canvas Camping Tent
Light Weight Plastic Camping Tent

Plastic Tent Weight

Winner

Synthetic wins out when packing your tent in a good distance. Ultralight tents are the hands-down favorite for backpacking where compromising comfort and strength for weight is essential.


Environmental Sustainability

Canvas Wins

Sustainable Cotton Canvas

Canvas Tent Sustainability

Winner

Canvas tent fabric is made from the seed hair of the abundant and drought hardy cotton plant. Quality canvas tents are retreatable and repairable extending their useful life beyond plastic tents which frequently require replacement. Cotton is also biodegradable – meaning when it’s time to retire your tent it will return to the earth rather than slowly degrading in a landfill leaching plastic and chemicals into the environment for years to come. CanvasCamp is the only canvas tent manufacturer to bear The Seal of Cotton™.

Sustainable Cotton Canvas Tent Material
Plastic Camping Tent Trash Pollution

Plastic Tent Sustainability

Loser

Most modern camping tents are made from Nylon and polyester - plastics made predominately from petroleum – a non-renewable resource. Although plastic tents are cheap to produce, manufacturing involves chemicals and waste known to be harmful to humans and the environment. Once a plastic tent has reached the end of its useful life it sits in a landfill as it slowly degrades into smaller pieces called microplastics. Microplastics are now detectable in air, water, soil, wildlife, and even human poop around the globe. 882 billion pounds of plastic is produced annually and 80% ends up in landfills or litter - plastic tents included.