Tents- nylon or canvas? | Ford Explorer - Ford Ranger Forums - Serious Explorations

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Tents- nylon or canvas?

What do you use? Do you have experience with both?

When I've camped in a tent, it's always been in a nylon tent. But I've heard that canvas tents are way better- they are easier to keep warm and don't warm up as much in direct sunlight as nylon.

I recently spent a pretty chilly night on Twin Cone inside a nylon tent. I know this could have been made better with better sleeping bags.

I've been tossing around the idea of getting a canvas tent, but storage inside my Explorer is tight- mostly because my camping buddies need the backseat (7.5 year old daughter and 1 year old dog). Does your canvas tent have a floor? Do you use cots to sleep on? Do you have a wood stove? How big is it and how much space does it take up when folded up?

I know I need to look into some kind of better roof storage. I have the factory crossbars but no basket to put on them. I've been tossing around the idea of getting a full length roof basket made that would be low profile and permanently attached for additional load carrying duties.

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..I was going to move this to the "Offroad Accessories" sub-forum but let's see if we can get some responses in this section first..;)

This is just my opinion on the subject: :D

..I grew up with canvas tents but pretty much will only have nylon tents for my travels..

..Canvas tents are really heavy dry, they are expensive to purchase and repair properly, they take up a bunch of space, and will mildew and rot...Not that nylon tents don't have their own issues but there is a number of reasons you can run out and get a nylon tent off a store shelf while canvas tents have to be found..

..True, canvas tents make a great base camp in the deep snow and yes you can heat them up but ask the people who own them what the break down routine and storage is like with wet snow and how heavy that tent is then..:eek:

..Condensation and moisture penetration are other factors to think about too...I don't know if it has changed but it used to be if you were in a canvas tent while it was raining and you touched the roof or sides, it would start leaking inside the tent where you touched it...

..I have seen some nice canvas tents over the last few years though such as "Aussie Tents" that I might have purchased if I hadn't spent years dealing with canvas tents and cots in the past..

..As for cots, the newer cots are lightweight and do not have the canvas nor the post type legs of yesteryear's Army cots and tents but instead have a rolled bar which will help keep from wearing the bottom of your tent..

..You might also consider looking into RTT's (Roof Top Tent) for the top of your vehicle or a pull type trailer...Newer lightweight materials and it keeps you up off the ground..

..Air mattresses are also good as a barrier between you and the cold damp ground..;)


Elite Explorer
November 6, 2000
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Nylon tents are what you want for temporary use, say, camping for a few days or a weekend or just overnight. Canvas tents, for the reasons above and more, are more of a long-term thing, say if you're making a base camp at a mountain and will be there for several weeks, long enough to have something more than a quick-pitch tent but not building a shack or a permanent structure.

Nylon tents will just have a nylon or plastic floor, and you just use an air mattress or blankets to sleep on, with a sleeping bag if needed. Cots are for canvas tents, either because they don't have a floor or have a temporary floor. If you use a cot in a nylon tent you'll generally poke holes in the floor, especially if it's a cot without plastic caps on the ends of the legs.

You'd use a wood stove in a canvas tent, especially a large one. For a nylon tent, use a small portable propane heater or those portable metal heat cans if you must, but generally you'd want to keep hot stuff outside. A nylon tent is meant as shelter from the elements, not the heat or cold. Warm clothing and a warm sleeping bag are the "heat", and a battery operated fan is good in warm weather.

I'm pretty much through with tents and prefer to sleep in the vehicle. If I do get a tent though, it's going to be one of these instant (literally) set-up kind:


They work just like the fold-up nylon windshield shades, you just unfold the circles or make it hit the ground, and it pops up. Great for storage too since you store it flat. They are only good for maybe 2-3 people max, but I'd rather have 3 of these for 6 people than one giant traditional tent.


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October 12, 2010
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And this might just be the sanity check I was looking for.

The guy I talked to does tend to leave his canvas tent set up for long periods of time- like all winter. Mine would be set up for 2 days at a time maximum, with way more 1 nighters than 2.

I'm pretty sure the Expedition Overland guys have/had a canvas tent that they would set up for only a single night. But those guys manage to operate on a budget that is beyond my reach.

What I don't like about RTTs is that once they are installed on the roof, they are more or less permanent. And that additional height is more than my current parking situation in my garage can handle. One of my goals for my Explorer build is that it must remain able to be parked in my garage. Since I don't drive it much, I don't want it sitting outside all the time.

The tent I used recently is the same tent that I used as a kid when I got too big to be sleeping in the popup trailer with my parents. It's your standard 2 man dome tent with the vented roof. I learned a long time ago that installing the rain fly, even when it's dry, goes a long way toward keeping the tent warm at night. There is probably some room for improvement with a different tent- the zippers on mine were a little sticky. The "instant" tents are certainly interesting.

The small propane heaters- the ones I've seen, granted it's been at Walmart, say not to use above a certain elevation. I forget what that elevation is but I remember noticing that it wasn't much higher than Denver itself. This last trip I took, I figure I was camped at roughly 11,000 feet. I don't know why it has rating- but something I should probably check into.

I guess my money would be better spent on the appropriate sleeping bags. The bag my daughter slept in was the better of the 2 and rated for about 20 degrees or so. The one I had was much lighter weight rated for about low 40s (and it got down into the low 40s or high 30s overnight).


I Drive By Brail
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February 18, 1999
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As a kid I had a WWII canvas pup tent that I camped in everywhere from the desert to high mountains in AZ. They are heavy, hard to carry, collect moisture on the inside (great if you need water) and need to be properly aired out after use in any inclement weather. Any surplus canvas tent larger than a pup tent is typically not going to have a floor and the larger ones need a crew to set them up (its a struggle for two men to set one up).
Nylon tents may not hold or repel heat as great as a canvas tent, but there are a few tricks you can do to make your tent camping experience a little more plesent. Gettin a thermarest pad to insulate your body away from the ground will help a lot. A bag rated for 15-20* colder than the projected temp is a must and believe it or not wearing a benie cap or keeping your head inside of a mumy bag will help the most. Tents are really only to keep you dry and out of the direct impact of the weather, its what you sleep in/on that is the key to a good nights sleep in the great outdoors.


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February 9, 1999
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I only have limited experience with a Canvas tent. One of the people who used to come out to our yearly camping trip used one. It didn't have a floor and took 3+ people to setup. It was a nice big tent and they could easily sleep 6 people in it with lots of room to move around. During the day they would fold up the cots and it would be the community tent.

They did put in a stove on year and it was nice and toasty but it just wasn't worth the hassle for 4 days of camping. We now use EZ-ups (put a few up) as our common area..

I have and still occasionly use my nylon tent (when I'm not using the Van). This latest tent has a rain fly that comes all the way down the sides. I found this really helps keep it dry inside. I've been camping when it drizzles/rains the entire trip (2+ days) and since we picked up a tent with a rain fly that goes all the way down we find there is much less water in the tent.

Here is the tent I got (Yes, I got it from amazon).. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000E5GCQM/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1. What I really like about it is the rain fly coverage, the room type thing over the door and the vestibules(sp?) on the ends so I can store things "out" of the tent but out of the rain.

Even the nylon tents will wick water in if you have something against the side which is why I bought a 3 person tent for just me. I can fit another person in there without having stuff against the side.

Something I'm going to try next time I'm camping with the tent is to spray it with "neverWet" http://www.neverwet.com/. Its a new-ish product that is for sale nowadays (Home Depot seems to have it).