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Nylon vs. Canvas Shelters | Why Canvas is Better

Nylon vs. Canvas Shelters | Why Canvas is Better

In this topic we will discuss the timeless question of Canvas VS Nylon Shelters.

 The use of canvas tents dates as far back as the 9th century. Having been found in multiple geographical areas across the globe in different forms.

Traditionally Tents/Shelters were made from animal skins. Eventually, that evolved towards cotton canvas as we grew more technologically advanced. 

Canvas tents/shelters have been used for centuries and continue to be a popular choice for camping and outdoor adventures.

Lets Begin with the Pros of Canvas Tents/Shelters

Dutch 2-Man Canvas Tents in DPM Camo

Canvas Tent/Shelter Pros:

Durability: Canvas tents are known for their durability and longevity. They can withstand harsh weather conditions, including heavy rain, strong winds, and even snow. The material is often treated for water resistance and UV protection.

Breathability: Canvas is a breathable material, allowing air circulation inside the tent. This feature is particularly beneficial in hot weather, as it helps to regulate temperature and reduce condensation inside the tent.

Insulation: Canvas tents provide better insulation compared to many synthetic materials such as Nylon. They can keep you warmer in cold weather and cooler in hot weather, contributing to overall comfort.

Quietness: Canvas is a quiet material, meaning it doesn't produce as much noise as nylon or polyester tents in windy conditions. This can be advantageous for those who prefer a quieter camping experience.

Aesthetics: Canvas tents often have a classic and rugged appearance, appealing to those who enjoy a more traditional camping experience. Many people appreciate the natural look and feel of canvas.

Repairability: If a canvas tent gets damaged, it is often easier to repair with a simple sewing kit and patch kit. Small tears or punctures can be patched up relatively easily.

17/90 Survival Lavvu Poncho Canvas Shelter Half

Canvas Tent/Shelter Cons:

Weight: Canvas tents are generally heavier than their synthetic counterparts. This can be a significant consideration for backpackers or anyone looking to minimize the weight of their camping gear.

Setup Time: This is subjective as it may not take longer but we can say the learning curve might be more difficult to set up and tear down a proper canvas shelter. In regard to Yurts, Tipis, etc, canvas tents may take longer to set up than modern, pop-up tents. This can be a drawback for those who prefer quick and easy setups, especially in adverse weather conditions.

Cost: Canvas tents are often more expensive than tents made from synthetic materials. The initial investment can be higher, which may be a deterrent for budget-conscious campers.

Maintenance: While canvas is durable, it requires more maintenance than synthetic materials. It needs to be properly dried and stored to prevent mold and mildew growth. Regular reapplication of waterproofing treatments such as waxing may also be necessary.

Bulkiness: Due to the nature of the material, canvas tents can be bulkier when packed compared to lightweight synthetic tents such as Nylon. This can be a concern for those with limited storage space.

Potential for Mildew: If not properly cared for, canvas tents can be susceptible to mildew and mold. Regular cleaning and drying are essential to prevent these issues.

In summary, canvas tents have several advantages, particularly in terms of durability, breathability, and insulation. However, they also come with some drawbacks, such as weight, setup time, and maintenance requirements.


Now let's talk about Nylon Tents/Shelters. 

Parachute Nylon Shelter

Developed by Dupont in the 1930s, nylon became the next important covering material. Nylon fabric enabled the creation of shelters that were much lighter and more compact, allowing outdoors people to recreate with lighter packs.

However, with every thing has balance. Let's go over some of the Pros and Cons of Nylon Tent/Shelters. 

Nylon shelters, often used in the form of tents, tarps, and hammocks, come with several advantages that make them popular among outdoor enthusiasts. Here are some pros of nylon shelters:


Mil-Tec Recom 1-Man Nylon Tent in Flecktarn Camo 

Lightweight: Nylon is known for being lightweight, making nylon tents an excellent choice for backpackers and hikers who prioritize minimizing pack weight during their outdoor adventures.

Packability: Nylon tents are highly packable. The material is flexible and can be compressed easily, allowing for efficient use of space in a backpack.

Quick Drying: Nylon has the ability to dry quickly when wet. This is particularly advantageous in rainy conditions, as it helps prevent the growth of mold and mildew and allows for quicker packing after a rainstorm.

Affordability: Nylon tents are often more affordable than tents made from specialized technical fabrics. This makes them a cost-effective option for budget-conscious campers.

Tear Resistance: While not completely tear-proof, nylon is known for its tear resistance. This durability is beneficial in outdoor environments where the tent may come into contact with rough surfaces.

Versatility: Nylon tents come in various designs, including freestanding tents, backpacking tents, and ultralight shelters. This versatility allows campers to choose a tent that suits their specific needs and preferences.

Ease of Cleaning: Nylon is relatively easy to clean, and stains or dirt can often be removed with mild soap and water. Regular cleaning contributes to the maintenance and longevity of the tent.

UV Resistance: Many nylon fabrics have good UV resistance, protecting occupants from the harmful effects of prolonged sun exposure. This is particularly important for those camping in sunny environments.

Man setting up Nylon Tent


Durability: While nylon is tear-resistant, it may not be as durable as some heavier and more robust materials like canvas. Extreme conditions or rough use can lead to wear and tear over time.

Condensation: Nylon tents may be more prone to condensation compared to more breathable materials like canvas. This can be a concern in certain weather conditions, leading to moisture inside the tent.

Heat Retention: Nylon tents may not provide as much insulation as heavier materials, which could be a drawback in colder weather. Campers may need additional insulation, such as sleeping bags and pads, to stay warm.

UV Degradation: While many nylon fabrics have UV resistance, prolonged exposure to sunlight over time can lead to degradation of the material. It's essential to follow care instructions and consider the longevity of the tent in sunny conditions.

Noise: Nylon can be noisy in windy conditions. The flapping sound of nylon can be more noticeable compared to quieter materials like canvas.

Overall, the choice between nylon tents and other materials depends on individual preferences, the intended use of the tent, and the specific conditions in which it will be used.

Who is the winner?

Only you can be the deciding vote on that. Personally, some trips I prefer to bring Nylon and or some other synthetic shelter/tent and on other trips, my cavas shelter/tent. 

I can tell you which one I will grab when SHTF.....My canvas shelter/tent...every single time. It'll last generations and able to be fixed on demand.

These shelters are shelters I enjoy myself and with my children. I look forward to passing my canvas shelters down to my children, to enjoy with their children. 

Which one do you prefer? 


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