Data Sheet

#5 Choosing your tent materials

#5 #5 Choosing your tent materials


Polycotton or coated-cotton
An alternative to traditional 100% cotton canvas is polycotton, or lighter-weight cotton with a weather-resistant coating. These materials have many of the qualities of 100% cotton canvas but tend to be lighter in weight and lower cost. Many family tent manufacturers have polycotton or coated-cotton units in their ranges, such as Outwell, Sprayway and Vango.

A modern cotton tent

A modern cotton tent

Before the 1960s, tents were generally made of natural fabrics such as cotton canvas. TheCamping and Caravanning Club’s founder Thomas Hiram Holding even used silk for his lightest tents.
Today cotton tents are available from specialist manufacturers like Cabanon, Karsten and Bell Tents. Cotton canvas is a wonderful fabric for tents because it remains cool in summer, keeps the warmth inside in winter and rarely suffers from condensation. One result of this is that you do not generally need an inner tent in a cotton canvas unit.

Canvas is also a better sound insulator, so cotton tents often seem quieter inside than nylon or polyester ones. A cotton canvas tent will normally outlast one of man-made fabric, sometimes by several decades, but it will weigh significantly more and probably cost a fair bit too.

A 1930’s cotton tent

A 1930’s cotton tent

Cotton tents can also require more maintenance than ones of man-made fabric. For example, a new cotton tent will need to be weathered to prevent it leaking. This involves soaking it a couple of times, allowing the threads in the canvas to swell slightly and close any tiny gaps where water can seep through.

Cotton’s final winning feature is its smell. You cannot beat the scent of a pure canvas tent to transport you back to childhood days outdoors – even if you did not camp then...

Groundsheetsweb groundsheet 1 GAP_0116

Groundsheets in most tents today are of sturdy PVC. You will probably want a fully-waterproof groundsheet in your sleeping area, but if you have a choice, it is worth considering a breathable one elsewhere because it will keep the grass beneath your tent in better condition for future campers.

If the ground is already particularly muddy, you may want to have a footprint – which could be purpose designed or simply a piece of polythene from a DIY store or builders’ merchant – to go under your groundsheet to keep the mud at bay.
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