Gear Review: The 8 Best Canvas Tents (For All Seasons!) In 2019
During a multi-family camping trip a couple of months ago, a friend of mine brought along his old trusty nylon tent that he and his family had recently bought for a trip out West. He had raved about that tent claiming it to be spacious and roomy while also holding up to just about any weather condition. Because the camping trip was for a week, I decided to purchase a canvas tent because I had read that they were way more spacious. The thought of spending seven days cooped up inside a tiny tent with my wife and kids did not exactly feel like a great way to bond as a family.
Once we got the campground and got set up, I had to endure the jokes of my buddy who laughed at our canvas tent and claimed it looked like a Boy Scout tent from the 1960s. The next two days, however, it rained mercilessly without end. We canceled our planned hiking trips and spent most of the time between the tent and the nearby camping ground lodge that offered decent meals. By the end of the second day of rain, my buddy and his two kids came “knocking” at our canvas tent door. Once inside, they marveled that they could actually stand up straight instead of sitting in a crunched position while their heads touched the moist ceiling of their suddenly not-so-waterproof Nylon Tent.
Once the rain finally shut off, they went back to their classic nylon tent and enjoyed the rest of the week, but the lesson was well learned from my buddy: for long and extended camping trips, canvas tents offer numerous advantages over the lighter (and much smaller) nylon tents that have become much more popular in today’s camping world. Below, we offer a complete breakdown of the benefits of canvas tents. We also offer full reviews of the top canvas camping tents on the market today.
Canvas Tents for Camping Comparison
The below links will bring you to Amazon:
- Dream House Heavy Duty Glamping Cotton Canvas
- Alpha Kilo 4000 Canvas 6 Person Bow Tent
- Peaktop 10’x30′ Heavy Duty Outdoor Party
- 1-Person Canvas Swag Tent
- Kodiak Canvas Truck Bed Tent
- Teton Sports TeePee Tent
- Trek Tents
- SpringBar Highline 6 Canvas Tent
What Makes a Great Canvas Tent?
Before we begin to extoll all the benefits of advantages of canvas camping tents, it is important to temper our enthusiasm. As with any piece of camping or outdoor gear, not all products are made alike. Just as there are cheap nylon tents whose poles will break the first time you try to put the tent up, there are also canvas tents that do not live up to the hype.
Great canvas tents offer a number of benefits and advantages that we will look at in detail below. For now, you should know that the best canvas tents should have three general characteristics.
- They should be made from 100% cotton or at the very least have a cotton fabric content that is well above 50%. Unfortunately, many manufacturers claim that they made canvas tents when the actual amount of cotton (the main material in canvas) hover around 10% of the total.
- The best canvas tents should be large enough for a normal sized adult to stand up in. Any size canvas tent is going to be much heavier than nylon or polyester options. If you are going to have to deal with the extra weight during a camping trip, you might as well find one that is big enough where you can feel like you are in a tiny home.
- Lastly, the best canvas tents should come with a weathering kit. Cotton is obviously not as water resistant as other synthetic materials, but it can be easily made to be weather resistant through these kits. If your product does not already come with a weathering kit, the tent should recommend a compatible weathering product and how to apply it.
What is Canvas?
So, canvas tents are made from cotton, but what exactly is canvas, and how is it different from other cotton products, such as the T-shirt that you are probably wearing right now?
Canvas is a very durable fabric that is plain-woven. While artists will use canvas for their paintings, outdoor enthusiasts most often think of canvas as the go-to material for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other items that need sturdiness and strength.
Almost all canvas is made primarily from cotton or linen, though it has also been made from hemp for extra strength. Today, you can also find poly-canvas which is a blend of polyester fibers and cotton canvas fibers that are tightly woven. Compared to other cotton fabrics like denim (for jeans) or regular cotton (for T-shirts), canvas is plain woven rather than using a twill weave. If you do not know a lot about the tailoring weaving industry, this simply means that canvas is usually much more durable than any other cotton product. Furthermore, there are considered to be two main types of canvas weavings, plain and duck, with duck canvas having threads that are much more tightly woven.
Is it Better for Winter Camping?
Almost all major tent reviews focus on the benefits of a certain type of tent for camping during the warmer months of the year. However, true outdoor enthusiasts understand that the winter months can bring a completely different sense of wonder to natural landscapes. If you are the adventurous type and enjoy being outdoors even when the ground is frozen and snow is predicted, a canvas tent will almost always outperform polyester or nylon tents.
Due to its sturdy nature, canvas tents will be much more adept at withstanding the harsh climatic conditions that are common during the winter. Furthermore, canvas has much better insulating properties than other types of tents. Whereas heat and cold will move through polyester tents as if it weren’t even there, canvas tents will keep your tent warmer during cooler nights. On the flip side, they will also be better at keeping your tent cool during those muggy summer nights.
Lastly, a canvas tent is a great option for winter camping if you plan to add some sort of heat source. Whereas a nylon tent will quickly burn the moment it comes into contact with fire (even a spark can do major damage), canvas tents are much more resistant to fire. While they will obviously burn if left in contact with fire for an extended period of time, with a bit of precaution and common sense, you can easily put a small heat stove in the center of your canvas tent to stay warm when the temperatures drop below freezing.
As we mentioned above, one of the main advantages and characteristics of canvas tents is their extra size. Because of the roominess of these tents, you can plan on being able to incorporate several useful features that will turn your tent into a livable home-like environment.
While camping is a great excuse to spend some important time together as a family or in the company of close friends, it can be uncomfortable when 12 people are all sleeping shoulder to shoulder in the same space. Several of the best canvas tents include multi-room designs that allow for a certain bit of privacy. Some of these tents have flaps that can be opened and closed. Thus, during the day you can have one large open space for eating, conversing, or simply being together. During the night hours, however, you can enjoy a bit of privacy.
When camping in a region where night temperatures can get chilly, having a stove jack built into your canvas tent is a great way to keep your living space cozy and warm throughout the night. While you might not be able to walk around barefoot and in your underwear, a stove jack will allow you to keep a fire inside your tent to drastically increase the inside temperature. A stove jack is a simple piece of gear that will allow you to extend a stovepipe up through the roof (or out a side wall) of your tent. These features can either be sewn into the wall or foot of a tent. They need to be made from a material that is completely fire resistant or coated in fire retardants.
One of the main advantages of polyester tents is that they are extremely lightweight. Many tent manufacturers praise the aluminum pole frame that comes with these tents and weighs virtually nothing. Canvas tents, on the other hand, are heavy and need a sturdy frame that will be able to withstand the extra weight. When you are searching for the best canvas tents, internal frames are usually best as they will be best suited to supporting the extra roof weight. Another consideration with the frame is how long it will take to set up and how many people are needed. If you planning on camping in a large group, it might not be a big deal to take half an hour. If, however, you are taking your two young kids camping, you might want to search for a canvas tent with a framing option that claims easy setup.
With any piece of camping gear you purchase, you want to make sure that you are not breaking the bank. The tent, however, is easily the most important piece of gear for any camping trip, so spending a little bit more should be a priority. Canvas tents are usually a little more expensive than polyester tents. However, you can find a wide price range of these products. From extremely high-end canvas “glamping” tents (glamor camping) that can easily cost upwards of $5,000 dollars, to inexpensive teepee style canvas tents that cost under $100, finding a balance between cost and value is important and will mostly depend on your needs and your budget.
As we mentioned above, most canvas tents will not be naturally waterproof. The breathability that comes with cotton fabric also means that you will have to take extra steps to protect your tent. Many manufacturers of these types of products will include a weatherproofing kit. If it does not, you should be able to find a weatherproofing product for under $50 dollars. As a general rule of thumb, one gallon of weatherproofing material will cover between 400 and 500 square feet of material. While this might seem like a hassle, it is a one-time job that you most likely will not have to repeat for at least a decade.
Lastly, you will want to find a canvas tent that is durable. The good news here is that almost all canvas tents will outperform polyester tents in terms of durability and resistance. If you want an extremely well made canvas tent that will withstand some serious camping weather, check with manufacturers to see if they use duck canvas as this will have a tighter weave and thus add an extra layer of strength.
Canvas Tent Reviews
Taking into consideration all of these factors and characteristics of the best brands these types of tents come in tents, we now offer a complete review of the eight best canvas tents currently on the market today.
Top Pick for Heavy Duty:
Dream House Heavy Duty Glamping
If you are looking for a heavy duty canvas tent that will make you feel at home even if you are camping in the middle of the wilderness, the Dream House is the best option for you.
This glamour camping tent comes in three different diameter sizes between three and five meters, depending on the size of your family and the roominess that you need. It also incorporates a PVC groundsheet material and galvanized steel tubes for an interior frame. The high-quality cotton canvas fabric has an exterior coating of 3000 mm polyurethane coating, which means that the tent comes already waterproofed.
Furthermore, the zippable groundsheet allows you to unzip the tent during certain times of the year to roll up the side walls of the tent to let more breeze in. During colder seasons, this durable top canvas tent will keep the cold winds at bay while the sturdy frame will easily be able to withstand high winds.
Top Pick for Outfitter:
Alpha Kilo 4000 by Bushtec Adventure
The Alpha Kilo 4000 is a six-person bow tent that looks like your normal polyester family tent. However, this tent is made from waterproof and fire retardant ripstart canvas. It is manufactured by Bushtec Adventure which is a company specializing in canvas tent products. The canvas material that makes up the tent is stated to be military grade and the tent is framed by a powder coasted spring steel frame.
This bad boy easily houses six people and also comes with a unique extended porch area where you can clean up and take off your shoes after a long day of elk hunting, hiking, or other outdoor activities. Bushtec Adventure makes no sacrifices with this tent as it also includes a certain level of UV protection for the canvas and a PVC flood proof floor. The interior height ios seven feet high and it has a unique double roof design to allow for extra ventilation. If you plan to use this great canvas tent for winter camping trips or hunting excursions, you can also adapt an internal heating unit on the inside. Despite the 90 pounds of total weight, the total setup time for this great canvas tent is easily under 30 minutes.
Top Pick for Outdoor Party:
Peaktop Outdoor Wedding Tent
Canvas tents aren’t only for camping trips, hunting excursions and other outdoor adventures, but can also be used for weddings and other outdoor events when rain or cold might ruin a great party. The Peaktop Outdoor Wedding Tent is an inexpensive yet useful outdoor canvas tent that looks more like a pavilion than an actual tent.
While this top product isn´t made from cotton, the canvas material is woven from polyethylene fibers making it fully waterproof and naturally resistant to UV rays. Furthermore, powder-coated steel frames give a sturdy structure that will help this tent stand up to the elements. The 10 foot by 30-foot size offers more than adequate room for all of your hosting needs.
Canvas Swag Tent:
Kodiak Canvas 1 Person Canvas Tent
One of the distinguishing features of most canvas tents is their ample space and roominess. However, the company Kodiak Canvas recently designed a canvas tent made for one person. This unique swag tent is almost seven feet long and three feet wide, and is a perfect option for hikers or backpackers that want a minimalist tent size, but prefer the feel of canvas over the polyester and nylon tents that tend to monopolize the market for hikers tents.
This tent even includes a two-inch foam mattress pad with a flannel cover, meaning that you will be able to leave the sleeping bag behind when heading out for an overnighter during a balmy summer evening. Small zip windows are located at the front and the food of the tent allowing for maximum airflow and temperature regulation. Furthermore, this cool product is made from 100% duck canvas, meaning that it comes with a super tight weave that offers maximum durability and strength.
Top Pick for Truck Bed Tent:
Kodiak Canvas Truck Bed Tent
Taking a road trip with a group of friends might be something on your bucket list. However, forking over money for a nightly hotel or an expensive campground can quickly run up the budget on your six-month road trip across the country. Fortunately, Kodiak Canvas also manufacturers a unique canvas tent designed to be installed on a truck bed.
This truck bed tent is compatible with several makes and models of best-selling pickup trucks including the Toyota Tundra, Ford F Series, Chevy Silverado, Dodge Ram, and the Nissan Titan. The tunnel-shaped design allows for an incredible 5 feet of interior headroom while the D-shaped door and covered entry make it surprisingly easy to get in and out of the home that you set up in the back of your pickup after a long day of driving. The tent itself is secured to the side of the pickup truck with clamp-on rails and 3/4 inch steel tube poles for the frame.
As an Aside, you can find out more about truck tents form reading this article.
Should You Go Teepee Style?
The Teton Sports Teepee Tent
If you are looking for a tent style that your kids will love Teton Sports offers a unique Teepee style canvas tent that combines functionality, performance, durability, and a fun design. The 12-foot by 12-foot model offers 113 square feet of interior space. Furthermore, this great product is made from treated cotton canvas fibers so that the tent is naturally water resistant.
The tent is incredibly easy to set up with a two pole assembly that can be set up by two adults in under fifteen minutes. Furthermore, this canvas tent is also extremely versatile as you can use it as a teepee tent or as a canopy cover. The limited lifetime warranty that comes with this product means that you will most likely be passing this tent on to your grandchildren after a lifetime of memories made with your own children.
As an aside, you can find more about teepee tents here.
Top-Rated Canvas Tent:
Trek Tents are one of the most well-trusted manufacturers of canvas tents on the market today. They make a wide variety of canvas tents of different sizes and designs, The 246C Model, for example, is 10×14 feet, with a pitched roof for ample headroom. These tents might not be flashy, but they are extremely durable and well-designed. On a performance level, these tents are designed for four-season camping.
They come with a vinyl-coated canvas floor and one-inch steel poles for a durable frame that is easy to set up. All of their different sized canvas tents come with large screen windows with storm flaps that can be zipped up or down and a No-See-Um mesh interior. Furthermore, there are several sewn-in pockets for convenient interior storage. The center ridge pole of the tent also ensures that you will never have issues with sagging of the roof of this tent.
Top Pick for Cheapest/Most Affordable:
SpringBar Highline 6
Lastly, we come to a unique canvas tent that has a retro feel to it. The SpringBar Highline 6 is a great canvas tent that is made from 100% duck canvas. This company has been manufacturing canvas tents since 1961, so not only do they have the expertise to manufacture quality products, but they also offer extremely affordable products.
While you can certainly expect to pay more for this canvas tent than for a cheap nylon tent you find at the supermarket, this is easily one of the most affordable canvas tents on the market. It also has a heavy-duty vinyl waterproof floor, durable steel poles steel stake loops and steel stakes that will protect the tent during even the harshest weather conditions.
Opting for a canvas tent is certainly not for everybody. If you an avid backpacker who cares about keeping your pack weight low, then a canvas tent might not be the option for you. However, if you are heading to a drive-in spot at a campground, the extra weight of a canvas tent will also mean that you get extra durability and protection. Any one of the eight tents reviewed above will deliver a quality product that will last you for years, if not generations.