As fun as camping can be, the preparations leading up to the trip can be hectic. This is especially true if you’re yet to choose a tent.
The material of your tent is, by far, one of the most crucial features you’ll need to decide on as it affects your comfort, protection, time, and pretty much every other aspect of your stay.
Although tents made from synthetic materials (such as polyester or nylon) are more popular thanks to their affordability and convenience, many camping enthusiasts recommend investing in canvas tents instead.
But are canvas tents better and are these tents worth it? The following list of pros and cons will answer your question.
Related: Canvas tents can be pricey, so it’s important to make sure you pick a winner. Find out which product tops our review of the best canvas camping tent.
We’ve all heard it before while shopping for a camping tent from just about every tent brand out there; “our tent is so durable, it’ll serve you for years!” or something along those lines.
All tent manufacturers say that because they know how important it is for a camping tent to be sturdy and long-lasting.
While synthetic materials can offer good durability for a camping tent, canvas material is on a whole other level. Canvas is a lot thicker and denser than polyester or nylon, which means these tents are much tougher and more resistant to wear and tear.
As such, canvas tents are the more durable option. A well-maintained canvas tent can perform well for decades before it’s compromised beyond saving.
Canvas tents are evidently heavy-duty, but this doesn’t mean they’re invincible.
With repeated use and exposure to weather elements and sharp objects outdoors, the wear and tear are bound to take a toll on any tent causing it to rip. Normally, this would be the worst news for a polyester tent or nylon tent owner, but not if your tent is canvas material.
One of the biggest issues in polyester tents and nylon tents is that they’re difficult to repair in case of a couple of rips. You may even have to leave the camp and go back home because of the reduced protection.
This isn’t nearly as much of a problem with canvas tents because they’re a lot easier to patch up using another piece of canvas and some waterproof sealant.
Canvas tents can also sustain more repair jobs, which plays a huge role in their better longevity.
One of the things that we miss the most when we stay outdoors away from home is insulation.
Our homes are built with insulation to make sure the temperature outside doesn’t affect us too much. In this aspect, canvas tents tend to be superior to polyester tents or nylon tents.
Thanks to their thicker material, canvas tents are more effective than synthetic tents at blocking the heat from the sun as well as preventing warmth from escaping the tent.
This results in a temperature inside the tent that’s cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Even if you leave your tent for such a long time under sunlight that it’s bound to heat up inside, it’ll take longer for that to happen if the tent is made from canvas.
If you’re staying inside a tent that’s poorly ventilated and it’s humid outside, there’s a possibility you’ll soon be sitting in a musty or clammy cloud.
The culprit behind this is condensation, which can turn tents into a smelly, stuffy place that you can’t wait to get out from. This issue often happens in polyester tents or nylon tents with inadequate ventilation as the synthetic tent material itself is not breathable.
On the other hand, cotton canvas tents are more breathable. So even if the ventilation isn’t ideal in the tent, the material can help alleviate the condensation to a less unpleasant level.
When you’re camping outdoors, one of the reasons you’re there is to enjoy what nature has to offer. The fresh air, the sounds, and of course, the sunlight.
So imagine how bumped you’d be when your tent doesn’t let sunlight inside your tent. Not only won’t you be able to see very well unless you use another light source, but it’s also downright depressing!
If that doesn’t bother you, then to each their own. However, if you’re one of the many campers who like to illuminate the interior of their tents with morning sunlight, stick to lighter-colored canvas material instead of the commonly dark-colored synthetic tent materials.
The reverse also holds true. If you’re a late riser, be wary of light-colored tents.
Canvas tents are meant for heavy-duty use that demands improved protection.
This is often associated with camping for a long period in the same place because canvas tents offer excellent protection but take time to set up.
If you’re the type of camper who’s mostly on the move, a polyester tent or nylon tent can be a better choice for staying in a spot a day or two before heading to the next.
But if you know you’ll be in one spot for more than a few days, then a canvas tent is more suitable.
One of our favorite aspects about canvas tents is that the tents are usually very roomy and can comfortably accommodate multiple people.
Also, the tents are typically provided with enough headspace for you to stand up straight while inside the tent.
Canvas tents from Kodiak or Springbar offer plenty of space options that can fit up to 10 or 12 people without being too crowded.
Neither synthetic materials nor canvas is fireproof. But when exposed to elevated temperatures, canvas tents are more resistant than polyester tents or nylon tents.
Thanks to being thick and sturdy, the canvas can withstand heat without sustaining damage. On the other hand, nylon or polyester tent material is prone to shrinking or warping in response to heat.
Impressively, some canvas tents come fitted with stove jacks that accommodate chimneys to let you use a wood stove. Say hello to warm and tasty meals!
Thanks to the thickness and toughness of canvas material, these tents have a great capacity to endure bad weather. This results in improved protection for the tent from UV rays, wind, rain, and even snow.
We do recommend you regularly maintain your canvas tent to prolong its lifespan.
If you’ve ever come across those amazing pictures on Instagram or Pinterest where a large bell tent houses a bed, sofa, table, chairs, and luxury lights, then you know what we’re talking about. That’s right — glamping!
Canvas tents are perfect for a glamping getaway. The ample size of these tents and high durability allow the tents to accommodate furniture and amenities without issues.
You can even trade the dirt or canvas flooring for a semi-permanent wood floor in your tent! None of this is feasible or would look as fantastic if your tent is polyester or nylon.
If you’re into camping, chances are you also care about the environment. In this case, choosing to camp in a cotton canvas tent is a no-brainer.
You see, cotton is a natural, organic fabric that comes from a plant. This makes it biodegradable, which means it’ll decompose in a short time if left to do so. The plants can easily be regrown after harvesting which means cotton is sustainably sourced.
In contrast, polyester or nylon are synthetic materials that are inorganic and non-biodegradable. As such, it can take hundreds of years for these materials to decompose, resulting in all sorts of negative impacts on the environment.
One of the disadvantages of canvas tents is that they require more time and energy to set up. You’ll often need to use more than a dozen stakes to get the tent to stand, which can make camping on hard ground a complicated task.
The reason for this is the thickness and weight of the canvas material, which results in needing more tent stakes to fully stretch it and keep it lifted.
This can happen with polyester or nylon tents too, but it’s more common with canvas tents.
There’s nothing technically wrong with this, but do check the tent in advance – it can catch many campers unaware.
This is another huge disadvantage of canvas tents. After it rains, you’ll need to allow enough time for the tent to fully dry before packing it away. Otherwise, you’re risking mold and rotting that can permanently damage the tent material.
Canvas materials are thick and bulky and these tents can take quite a while to dry.
If the tent material is wet and you have to pack it away, make sure to give the tent a proper airing when you get home. Mildew stains can be a pain to get off tents and can affect the visual appeal of your tent even when scrubbed off.
Finally, weight is probably the biggest drawback of canvas tents. Yes, the tent material is very thick and sturdy, but this also makes the tent rather heavy to carry around.
As such, backpacking with a canvas tent is completely and utterly impossible. Canvas tents are better suited for when you’re camping in one spot for a relatively long time.
So are canvas tents worth it? If you’re looking for a durable tent to keep in one camping spot, canvas tents might be right. If you want to head out backpacking, they’re a definite no.
While we can’t choose on your behalf, we can tell you that the material of your tent is one of -if not the most- crucial features you’ll need to think about before you can go camping. The tent material affects your comfort, protection, time, and just about every other aspect of your stay outdoors.
Which canvas tent should I pick?
Find out which canvas tents we recommend.
Next up: So you’ve got a canvas tent but you want it to last a lifetime. It’s important to make sure you properly maintain the tent to ensure it stays waterproof. Find out how to waterproof a canvas tent.