4 Best Canvas Tents For Camping & Hunting Excursions

By Just In Case Jack | Last Updated: November 10, 2017

Canvas TentsHow To Find The Best Canvas Tent – One That Will Last A Lifetime

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a canvas tent, you’ve come to the right place.

First off, let me start by saying – good for you.

Canvas tents are hidden gems low on the popularity scale – which is a shame.

In our current throwaway society, we overvalue cheap stuff.

While undervaluing the high quality – long-lasting.

And canvas tents fit into that second category.

Because it’s difficult to be popular when the alternative seems so much more affordable.

But those who take time to research and learn will find canvas tents are often

the better investment.

So today, we are going to cover the following canvas tent topics:

**Note: If you want our top recommendations, feel free to SKIP AHEAD HERE.

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What Is A Canvas Tent?

To compare canvas tents to other tents, we first must understand what canvas is.

Canvas is an extremely durable plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other items for which sturdiness is required.

Modern canvas is usually made from cotton or linen, although in the past, it was made from hemp, and now there are some polyester versions as well.

The root of the word canvas originated from the Greek word cannabis, meaning “made of hemp.” This makes sense since the earliest versions of canvas were made with hemp.

Fast forward to today’s canvas tent industry, and you’ll find two main canvas fabric variations used – (however, there are more):

1. Cotton Canvas

Today, cotton is the most common fabric used for canvas tents.

It’s a medium-strength fabric that’s between 10 to 20 times stronger wet vs. dry. New cotton canvas will absorb water on first contact, and the cotton fibers will swell.

Cotton canvas is slower to dry and is somewhat susceptible to mildew or mold if not allowed to dry fully before storage. Cotton fabric is also flammable.

Additional chemicals and coatings are often used with cotton canvas tents to improve water resistance and reduce flammability.

2. Synthetic Fibers

A brand new type of canvas is now used for canvas tents – polyester canvas.

Polyester canvas reduces the initial water absorption, reduces the overall weight of the material, increases the strength, and lowers the mildew concerns.

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canvas tent at a campsite

Why Canvas Tents Are Better (pros/cons)

To understand why a canvas tent might be better for your needs, you first need to understand all the tent fabric options available to you.

Common tent fabric includes canvas, nylon, and polyester (plus many unique variations of these 3 options).

Now, nylon and polyesters are essential variations of plastic polymers. It’s the basic material you find in all the cheapest, lightweight tents on the market.

There are some differences between nylon and polyester, but for this article’s purpose, they are essentially the same – thin, lightweight, plastic fabrics.

On the other hand, Canvas is a heavy, plain-woven fabric typically made from cotton, hemp, or a blend (again, some newer ones are polyester-based).

So, you can break your tent material options into two categories: cotton vs. plastic.

So, let’s compare these two types of tents carefully, to understand the pros and cons of each.

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Canvas Tents Vs. “Plastic” Tents

Pros

Let’s begin with a few benefits of choosing a canvas tent over other types.

More Breathable                   

Canvas tents are more breathable than man-made nylon or polyester tents. Remember, canvas is most often cotton based, and this cotton woven pattern, by design, has tiny holes in it.

Nylon is a man-made fabric based on polymers and thus provides essentially no natural air transfer through the material.

This means they will trap less moisture and have less condensation inside the tent. So you avoid the stuffy humidity you can get with plastic tents.

Quieter

Due to cotton’s properties and the canvas’s thickness and weight, canvas tent walls create a better sound barrier than other types of fabrics. It naturally dampens outside sounds, and the canvas walls won’t flap as much in the breeze, and when they do, the flaps are quieter.

So, you’re more likely to sleep through windy conditions and hear less of your noisy neighbors in a busy campsite (especially in the early morning).

Better Insulators

Canvas is a much better insulator than nylon or polyester.

So they remain cooler for longer in the hot direct sunlight vs. man-made tent fabric. They also stay warmer longer in the cooler evenings.

Polymer tents don’t retain warmth or stay cool very well, so you end up with much larger, quicker temperature swings.

Have you ever tried taking an afternoon nap in a nylon or polyester tent? It can be sweltering with the sun beating down and the warmth getting trapped in the tent.

A canvas tent’s temperature swings are much smaller, making for a more comfortable camping experience.

Higher Durability

Canvas tents have two major durability advantages: UV rays and punctures.

First, man-made fabrics deteriorate in harmful UV rays. So, leaving your nylon or polyester tent in direct sunlight day after day will reduce its useful life.

This process weakens the fabric, which creates more sagging and becomes more susceptible to rips and tears.

Canvas can handle those harmful UV rays. Yes, over time, the sun’s rays will cause some slight discoloration of the canvas, but it won’t affect the durability and useful life of your tent compared to “plastic” tents.

While both canvas and nylon/polyester fabric will rip if met with a sharp object, a canvas tent won’t rip or tear as easily.

This is where a canvas tent excels; if properly cared for, they can be a one-time, lifetime purchase.

I’ve never met anyone at a campsite who’s still using the same cheap plastic tent from 30 years ago…

Can Add A Heat Source

You could add a tent heater to your canvas tent.

Or many larger ones are designed to include a heating tent stove. This is due to the larger size of most canvas tents and the materials used.

You’ll find these large canvas tents include a stove jack vent flap in the tent’s roof. This allows you to generate and trap this heat inside the tent.

Of course, you must always follow the manufacturer’s specs carefully to avoid any mishaps, but it’s a nice bonus for those who like to camp, hunt, or fish in the winter.

You can even live comfortably in a tent with a stove in the dead of winter; the same cannot be said for nylon or polyester tents.

Cons

Of course, there are pluses and minuses, so let’s cover the minus.

Weathering

Brand-new cotton canvas tents must be weathered before they are completely leakproof. This is because of the small holes in the cotton weave pattern in the new “unweathered” canvas.

But this is normal and just a one-time concern.

You need to set it up in the rain (or hit it with a water hose) before you take it on its first adventure. This process will force the cotton to absorb a small amount of water and swell the cotton fibers. This weathering process makes your new canvas tent watertight from now on.

It only needs to be weathered once, and you’ll be good to go from there.

Heavy

On a pound-per-square-inch basis, canvas is much heavier than plastic fabrics. And this weight difference gets more noticeable the bigger the tent.

So, they are a poor choice for backpacking or bugging out. Trust me; you don’t want to carry a heavy canvas tent on your back (or very far to pitch it either).

For camping tents, as long as you can fit them in your car or truck, it’s no big deal. Yes, they can take a bit more time to set up, but it’s worth it for the benefits we discussed previously.

Mold / Mildew

Canvas is more susceptible to mold and mildew if not properly cared for.

This means you must take care and set it in the sunlight to dry before stuffing it back into its carrying case and into your gear storage closet at home.

If you do this, you won’t have any mildew, mold, or rot problems.

Upfront Cost

Canvas tents do cost more upfront. The manufacturing process and material costs that go into a canvas tent are greater; thus, the tent itself costs more.

But if you take care of your canvas tent, it can last a lifetime, often many decades longer than a cheaper plastic counterpart.

Canvas tents are a great option for survival, cold weather, and high-quality camping essentials.

So if you’re looking for a tent you can enjoy for decades to come, invest in high quality, durable canvas tent!

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Best Canvas Tents On The Market Today

Now that you understand what makes a canvas tent so great, it’s time to focus in on the best canvas tents on the market.

We’ll start with a couple of smaller single-person options and then move up to larger canvas tent options (cabin style).

Smaller Canvas Tents (single to 8 people)

The following canvas tents are portable and relatively easy to set up and takedown. They also give you all the benefits of canvas instead of plastic fabrics.

Kodiak 1-Person Canvas Swag Tent

This is a very spacious 1 person canvas tent. It’s 6 feet 8 inches long and nearly 3 feet wide.

The Kodiak Canvas Swag Tent has a zip-open window at the head and foot of the canvas tent to allow for ultimate airflow and temperature management.

It’s made with 100% Hydrashield cotton duck canvas for maximum breathability and watertight protection.

The Kodiak Canvas Swag Tent also comes with a nice 2-inch foam pad and cover.

Here’s an excellent overview video of this impressive single-person tent.

Kodiak Canvas Truck Bed Tent

If you have a full-size pickup truck and want the ability to camp anywhere you can take your truck, then the Kodiak Canvas Truck Bed Tent is for you.

The tent is also made with Hydra-Shield, 100% cotton duck canvas. So you know it’s durable, breathable, and watertight.

Here’s a list of the compatible truck models for the Kodiak Truck Tent:

  • Ford F Series
  • Chevy Silverado
  • GMC Sierra
  • Dodge Ram
  • Toyota Tundra
  • Nissan Titan

And when you think this setup would be too small, the design maximizes interior space with a tall 5-foot high ceiling!

It includes 5 windows to provide excellent ventilation and a feeling of openness. One of the windows faces the cab access window, so you’ll still have access to your truck’s interior if your truck’s rear window opens up.

Here’s a promo video showing you the details of this portable truck tent.

Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow Canvas Tents (4 person / 6 person / 8 person options)

Again, another excellent series of canvas tents made by Kodiak Canvas.

The Flex-Bow Tents are well-made, high-quality tents using the same Hydra-Shield cotton duck material as the previous 2 tents.

The Flew-Bow has 4-person, 6-person, and 8-person tent options. The only design difference between the three options is overall size and height.

For example, the 4-person tent is 9 ft by 8 ft and includes a nice tall ceiling at 6 foot 1 inch. The 6-person tent sports a 10 ft by 10 ft dimension with an impressive 6 foot 6 inches ceiling height. The 8-person tent is 10 ft by 14 ft with also a 6-foot 6-inch ceiling.

The Kodiak Bow Flex series includes 2 large D-shaped doors in both the front and back and 4 windows.

It also includes 2 vent flaps to help control airflow and temperature management.

If your family’s serious about the outdoors, this is a seriously good tent.

Large Cabin Canvas Tents

The next tents are the best options for larger excursions, adventures, events, or temporary housing.

These very large tents tend to be in the shape of a cabin and are big, strong, and durable. They are perfect for hunting outfitters and large group excursions in the cold outdoors.

Elk Mountain’s Canvas Tents 

Elk Mountain Tents makes excellent large-sized canvas tents.

They sell three sizes of their classic rectangular cabin-style tent (13 X 13), (13 X 16), and (13 X 20).

You can fit a lot of people and gear in these tents. For example, you can comfortably fit 10 people in the 13 x 20 tent (without a wood tent stove).

These Elk Mountain Canvas Tents are well crafted and use synthetic polyester to reduce the negative issues associated with cotton canvas (such as weathering it and mildew problems).

This polyester canvas also makes Elk Mountain Tents stronger than the competition.

For example, Elk Mountain Tents use 11 oz canvas with a breaking strength of 449 lbs (warp direction) and 382 lbs (fill direction).

Making it significantly tougher than traditional canvas – which has a breaking strength of 382 (warp) and 241 (fill) for 12 oz canvas and about 210 (warp) and 140 (fill) for 10 oz canvas.

The tear strength is 67 lbs (warp) and 40 lbs (fill), roughly double that of the Sunforger canvas material used by other tent companies.

These large cabin-sized tents include 6 windows that provide as much openness or privacy as you desire.

These tents also have vent flaps at both ends of the tent to provide temperature and airflow control.

Each tent also has a built-in stove jack flap. This allows you to add a wood stove to the corner of your Elk Mountain Tent and provides a nice warm cabin feel even in the dead of winter.

I really like the quality construction of the materials for the Elk Mountain Tents.

They use steel poles for a strong internal frame that will withstand the most brutal wind and snow. And the canvas is both strong and durable polyester, which is stronger and more water-resistant than cotton canvas.

Plus, at Elk Mountain, you also get the best value for three reasons:

  1. They don’t have retailers who take a cut of the profits, so there is no retail markup on their tents.
  2. They don’t need to maintain a storefront (rent, utilities, displays, repairs, etc.) to lower prices.

3) They’ve streamlined the process – all three tent sizes include all the best features. This efficiency saves time and expenses, so they can focus on making more tents at affordable prices.

Simply put, low overhead = low prices.

So if you’re looking for a single-room, cabin-style tent, we highly recommend Elk Mountain Tents.

Speaking of Elk Mountain Tents, they were kind enough to send us a free 13 x 16 Wall Tent to build and review.

Here’s our canvas tent review of the Elk Mountain 13 x 16 Wall Tent. The video includes the full build (in a timelapse) and my review of the tent at the end.

Please watch and click here to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We're Giving Away Our Ultimate Camping Essentials Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.

Who Should Invest In A Canvas Tent (& Who Shouldn’t)

Avid Campers

If you go camping often or plan to in the future, you should upgrade to a canvas tent. For all the reasons stated above, it just makes more sense. It’s quieter, more durable, and a better insulator compared to cheap plastic tents.

It’s better to buy a high-quality tent once and use it for a lifetime than buy a cheap nylon tent every 2 or 3 years.

Fishing Expeditions

One of the great features of most canvas tents is their height.

With most canvas tents, you can stand up in them and store your fishing poles in the tent without breaking them down or storing them outside.

Plus, they’re the ideal shelter for ice fishing excursions. Canvas walls do a much better job of keeping you and your fishing mates warm while out on the lake.

Hunters

Serious hunters know multiday hunting excursions take a lot of gear, food, and supplies.

So, if you want to enjoy your downtime in camp after a long day of hunting, you’ll want a canvas tent. It provides more room for all your gear and supplies, and you can add a stove for heat during cold weather hunts.

Expeditions / Rescue Operations

Canvas tents make the ideal home base for expeditions and rescue operations. Like military operations outside the battlefield, canvas tents are portable structures that can easily become remote command posts.

Special Events

Street fairs, farmers markets, backyard weddings, and small concerts are all great uses for a large tent. They will help keep guests warmer in the colder months and cooler in the hot months.

Most events only last for a short period (day, week, or month); once the event is over, you need to take down the structure. This is where a canvas tent excels, portable and substantial.

Temporary Housing

Whether it’s a natural disaster or you are fumigating your home, you’ll need temporary shelter.

You may be able to move in with a friend or extended family for a few days, or you can break out your canvas tent and make it a cozy, comfortable adventure.

They are roomy, portable, and durable, making them an ideal backup option if you find yourself without a home for a while.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it to this point of the post, I know you’re seriously thinking about getting a canvas tent. And if you’ve read this site before, you know we focus on survival and preparedness.

Regarding survival and preparedness gear, it’s always better to invest in tools and supplies that will last in the harshest conditions. And canvas tents are one smart upgrade that serious survivalists and avid campers should make.

Don’t be turned off by the slightly more upfront investment because the price is what you pay; value is what you get.

With canvas tents, you’re getting much more value for your dollars.

Prepare, Adapt, and Overcome,
“Just In Case” Jack

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There are a lot of natural nuclear shelters in the US that are absolutely free. And one of them is near your home.

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