My 2017 resolution is to camp more, but with that comes a host of expensive camping gear that I need to buy, starting with a tent. We’re a family of four, and because we need everything from chairs to frying pans, I’d like to save money where I can. A nylon tent seems like the obvious answer (because they’re cheaper), but should I be looking at canvas instead?
Both materials have their strengths and weaknesses, so there’s no right or wrong, it’s just a matter of picking the right fabric for your needs. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each…
1) Nylon is lightweight and space friendly, while canvas is heavier and far stronger. Nylon is also more likely to tear, scuff or scratch, while canvas can endure years of punishment.
2) If you’re going to camp frequently, a canvas tent will last longer. Plus, remote campsites (like those often found in northern Namibia) seldom have manicured lawns and ideal tent-pitching conditions, instead you often have to pitch your tent on gravel, or hard-surface terrain. A nylon tent will be fine initially, but over time, regular remote-camping use will damage a nylon tent.
3) As you mentioned, nylon tents are generally cheaper initially, but they also fail to hold their failure. If you ever want to sell the tent, a canvas tent will hold its value for longer.
4) Canvas tents are often harder to erect and pack away. The tent is heavy and the poles are usually made of steel, making it a labour intensive job for one person.
5) Canvas tents are usually sturdier than their nylon counterparts; however, if you’re just one person, a small single-man nylon tent can offer a very low-profile (wind effective) design.
6) Nylon tents can be noisier in windy conditions, making it hard to sleep.
7) Canvas tents are easier to mend with a sewing kit, and it’s far less likely that a tear will grow in size (Ripstop material). Nylon tents are harder to fix, and any tear is likely to get bigger if not repaired straight away.
8) Nylon tents are less likely to rot in storage. Canvas tents must be 100% dry before storing.
9) Nylon tents tend to transfer heat more readily, making them much hotter than canvas tents when pitched in direct sunlight. Canvas tents also breathe better than nylon.
10) Canvas tents are typically warmer in cold-climate conditions.
11) Nylon tents are more likely to form internal condensation if there’s inadequate ventilation.
12) During heavy rainfall or partial flooding, a nylon tent is more likely to seep in water, while a canvas tent (if properly treated) will remain 100% water proof.
13) Nylon tents are less eco-friendly, as they’re made from petroleum-based products that do not naturally degrade.
Nylon tents are great for infrequent campers, or those who prefer lightweight (minimalist) travel. They’re especially great for hikers and bikers; however, for long-term durability and frequent use, a canvas tent is a great investment.