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Wall Tent Material Comparison
Canvas has been the material of choice for wall tents for centuries. But it’s no longer the only option. Is it the best choice for you? Here are the pros and cons of each material and what to consider when choosing a wall tent.
canvas It is a traditional material of wall hangings. It is strong and durable. I have seen canvas tents that are 30 years old and still in perfect working condition. Canvas can be treated (before production) to make it flame-, water-, and mildew-resistant. If you decide to go with a canvas tent, I would certainly recommend choosing one that has been treated to this degree, not just waterproof.
Canvas comes in a variety of weights, usually listed in ounces. The weight of the canvas used is usually listed as part of the tent characteristics. It is important to determine whether the weight of the material advertised for the tent is the pre- or post-treatment weight as this can make a big difference. For example, a canvas that weighs 10 ounces after processing may initially be a 7-ounce canvas. A canvas that weighed 10 ounces before processing could weigh as much as 14 ounces after processing.
Because it’s 100% cotton, canvas is especially good at absorbing some of the internal condensation from drying clothes or boiling water. It also retains heat well, and the weight of the canvas fabric helps it tumble in high winds.
Canvas wall tents provide excellent shelter, but must be cared for best.Canvas must be completely Dry before storing to avoid mold and mildew growth. Many times this requires pitching the tent after you get home from your trip, and depending on the season and climate, it can take anywhere from one to three days to dry. Once mildew has invaded the canvas, you can stop the growth of mildew, but you will never be able to remove the stain. Also, if the tent has never been treated, you may need to periodically “re-waterproof” it with a product like Canvak. Generally, treated canvas requires little to no maintenance of this type, depending on the quality of the treatment.
Lite Exclusively from Montana Canvas. For many outdoor camping uses, Relite is the perfect tent fabric choice. Developed about 15 years ago, this unique polyester fabric is extremely lightweight and ideal for animal-carrying and eco-friendly, low-impact camping. The Relite’s lighter weight also makes these tents easier to handle when setting up and tearing down.
Soft, flexible and easy to clean, Relite has the same good tear strength and longevity as canvas. Since Relite is more durable and resistant to damaging UV rays than other commonly used lightweight tent materials such as nylon, it is the choice of many outdoor enthusiasts. Since it’s not as heavy as canvas, it might be more prone to tumble in windy conditions, but attaching it securely to the wall takes care of that.
As a polyester based fabric, Relite does not have the ability to absorb moisture and internal condensation can be an issue. However, using a wall tent that I discuss further below seems to solve most condensation problems.
Like canvas, Relite is pre-treated to be flame-, water-, and mildew-resistant. While it won’t grow mold, I do recommend letting the wall tent dry before storing to avoid a musty smell the next time you use it. The Relite does not need to be resealed for waterproofing, but the seams will need to be treated the first time you use the tent and resealed when needed.
montana mix Also exclusive to Montana Canvas. This combination of materials gives you the best of both worlds. The walls of the tent are made of Relite, while the roof is made of canvas. Made of lightweight Relite for the majority of the tent, the overall weight of a wall tent is significantly reduced (approximately 40% lighter) than a canvas wall tent. The canvas roof provides a more breathable material overhead to absorb condensation, and it gives the wall tent a more traditional look than the 100% Relite wall tent.
While we recommend that you let your tent dry before putting it away, with Montana Blend, you can set up your tent so that only the roof is exposed to dry, so it requires less space.
Whenever I talk about wall hangings, I always recommend wall hangings. Tent is an additional material that you can place on the roof of your tent for insulation, protection and to extend the drip line. The added insulation of the fly on the Relite tent seems to solve the condensation problem, especially when using wood as the heat source. Using the fly on a canvas tent will keep the roof clean, the roof dry and the walls dry. If your tent is dry when you get home, you won’t have to find a place to set it up to dry. Not to mention, wet canvas weighs a lot more than dry canvas. All fabrics will benefit from the UV protection provided by flies.
When helping someone decide which material to choose, the first factor we discuss is weight. When weight is an issue, options are usually limited to 100% Relite or Montana Blend wall tents. The weight of a wall tent is usually because people are packing up to their campsite, or because the weight of the tent is an issue during set up and tear down. All three fabrics are an option for those whose weight isn’t an issue.
The next factor we discuss is maintenance. The Relite Wall Tent has minimal maintenance. With the Montana Blend Wall Tent, any maintenance will be primarily focused on the canvas roof. Canvas wall tents are the highest maintenance when it comes to fabric care.
Once these factors are considered, personal taste comes into the equation. Sometimes the classic look of a canvas tent is enough to attract attention, even outweighing the extra weight and maintenance costs. Or maybe you like the color options available in Relite fabrics. No matter which material you choose for your wall tent, make sure the material is well-made, properly treated, and fits your needs.
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