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I'm looking for some input to determine which type to camping tent I should purchase specifically for car camping. I really like canvas tents as many of their features are very appealing but I know they do have a number of drawbacks. Below is a summary of what I have found in my research.

My Background

I do not need this tent to be portable (i.e. carried long distances) as this is intended for week-long trips with the family when camping in a single location, most often (but not always) at developed campgrounds. My only constraint is with the packed size as I'm currently driving a small crossover SUV which doesn't quite have the carrying capacity of a pickup truck.

The Comparison

Canvas Tents

Pros:

  1. Large - Lots of room internally with near vertical walls.
  2. Waterproof - Easily maintained waterproofing using a product such as Kiwi Camp Dry.
  3. Temperature - Cooler in summer and warmer in winter as compared to Nylon.
  4. Durable - If well maintained (not put away wet, will last decades).
  5. Repairable - Simple needle and tread can be used to make field repairs.

Cons:

  1. Heavy - Thick (but durable) material and steel poles contribute significant weight.
  2. Bulky - For similar reasons to #1, they take up a lot of space when stored.
  3. Price - Substantially more expensive than Nylon counterparts.
  4. Stinky - Can develop an odor that's borderline impossible to remove, particularly if ever stored wet.

Nylon Tents

Pros:

  1. Weight - Very light, small tents are event backpack-able.
  2. Price - Cheap enough to almost be disposable. Large tents are not dirt cheap but are still 1/2 the price of their canvas counterparts.

Cons:

  1. Not as durable - Waterproofing breaks down over time and seam leaks are difficult to repair.
  2. Small - Large tents are almost (but not always) dome tents to take advantage of the small/lightweight curved fiberglass poles.
  3. Temperature - Hot in summer and cold in winter. Slightly invalidated for summer as only "hot" when the sun is shining and I'm not in the tent anyways.

My Use Case

I'm leaning towards a Kodiak Canvas 9x12 cabin tent with a ground cloth and the attached screen porch option. If anyone has any hands on experience with one of these tents specifically, I'm interested in how it stands up against the aforementioned points.

I elected for this specific model because the attached porch can optionally be setup or tied back to the main tent meaning that I could use it when no other screen rooms are available and we need a bug-free location for cooking and storing gear under a roof.

The Real Questions

  • Can anyone offer some advice regarding their experience with the points in my comparison? I've never stayed in a canvas tent so I am likely missing some important details.
  • Do you think that my decision to go with the large canvas tent is a wise one?
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What other tents are you considering? –  jlbnjmn Mar 15 at 3:29
    
Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed with the available choices in the area of synthetic tents. It looks like I may be headed that route. Have you any points that are important? –  julienj Mar 19 at 0:52
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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Is camping to you about the campsite or the outdoor activities?

You've addressed the significant points, but I think the issue can be reduced to two factors:

  • Time required to set up and take down
  • Physical size

Canvas will generally lose both due to the added bulk. So why use a canvas tent? As anyone familiar knows, they're amazing when you're inside them. The more hours you plan to spend in the tent awake, the more attractive canvas becomes as an option.

For short trips where the tent is primarily used for sleeping, they tend to be more of a hassle than they're worth. The longer you stay, or the more time you plan to spend inside, the less of an issue the time and bulk become.

That leaves trip duration as the deciding factor. How short of a stay is too short for canvas? Personally, I wouldn't set up a canvas tent for any stay that was less than three nights, and only then if it was a trip that revolved around the campsite. If it's an average trip with lots of daytime excursions, I wouldn't use canvas for anything under a week.

Oftentimes when I go camping with a larger group, one or two canvas wall tents will be set up as the living and dining areas for everyone, while synthetic dome tents will be used for separate sleeping quarters.

If camping is about the campsite, then go with a canvas tent, it'll make for a great experience and, if properly cared for, will last a lifetime. If camping is about outdoor activities, go with the synthetic dome tent and spend the extra money on other gear.

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Exactly the information I needed. I appreciate you putting it into perspective with the timeframes for length of stay. Thank you! –  julienj Mar 19 at 0:51
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If you are staying in one place for a long period then use a canvas, if it only involves short stay at various sites for example take something easier to put up and pack down

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