Even if you’re not a Revolutionary War officer or an early 20th-century African safari-goer, canvas tents are great for camping. I’ll admit, I thought canvas tents were anachronistic before researching this article (if that wasn’t already clear). Turns out, the best canvas tents have their advantages. No, they’re not lightweight, but they do retain ambient temperature, filter sunlight, and endure the elements well. And yes, they are waterproof.
Say you’re camping with your family (or your regiment of 247 brave musketeers and a marching piccolo player). If you want to do an extended stay in one spot, quality canvas tents can feel a lot homier than synthetic ones. Natural fabrics with natural colors will always be more soothing than bright-colored synthetics. Some canvas tents even have sturdier structures or solid floors. Such features facilitate glamping to the max; you can hang a mood-setting lantern inside or even put down a rug! (I’ve done both.)
The best canvas tents give campers the most relaxing experience. If you’re reading this, I’d be willing to bet that’s at least part of your goal. After all, what’s better than enjoying the great outdoors from the cozy security of a sturdy dwelling made of natural fibers?
Without further poetic waxing (and before I convince myself to buy one, quit my job, and move to Walden Pond), here’s the full buyer’s guide.
The Best Canvas Tent
White Dusk Avalon Bell Canvas Tent
The White Duck Avalon bell canvas tent is built to last and deliver high-quality camping comfort. It gives campers options and confidence with a big selection of mesh-protected openings, stove jack, and galvanized steel backbone. All in all, the ten-person bell tent looks prepared for anything.
It looks like White Duck has put careful thought into the tent’s strength and breathability. The door, twelve windows, and four vent openings are all double layered with canvas and lightweight mesh. The structure is breathable and open but also highly reinforced. It uses galvanized poles and White Duck’s proprietary grounding system to absorb shock and withstand heavy weather. This large camping tent also comes with a sewn-in polyurethane groundsheet to keep your feet (or rug or furniture legs) dry.
The 5-foot stove jack is made with fire retardant material and silicone-coated so you can stay warm and cook safely. If you’re the serious glamper type, you’ll probably utilize Avalon’s electrical cable outlet.
White Duck coats the Avalon’s 100% cotton canvas with a water repellent material, so it should be good to go right out of the box. Thought standing 11.2 feet tall in the center, it weighs 98 pounds packed. All in all, the Avalon is a heavy-duty canvas tent for all seasons.
Bell style tent
100% cotton canvas, waterproof treated
5” stove jack
Galvanized steel poles
Dimensions: 11.2” center height, 6.6” door height
Tent Material: 100% cotton canvas, treated
Pole Material: Steel
Packed Weight: 98 lbs.
Kodiak Swag Canvas Tent
Kodiak Canvas fills a cool niche with the Swag 1-Person Tent. Usually, single sleeper tents are designed toward ultra-lightweight utility, with little regard for fit and feel. But with the Swag four-season canvas tent, lone adventurers can enjoy the great outdoors with the soft, natural feel of a canvas enclosure.
Measuring 6-feet 8-inches long and nearly 3 feet wide and tall, this four-season tent is plenty big enough for most burly mountain men. The simplicity of setup is one of its calling cards. Kodiak Canvas builds it as a reimagining of a cowboy’s bedroll. The idea is to simply unroll it, plug the poles in and throw your bag inside. It even has a built-in 2-inch foam pad with a washable flannel cover.
The outer material is cotton canvas, waterproof treated with Kodiak Canvas’s trademarked Hydra-Shield, and silicone sealed. By compromising some of its natural appeals, Kodiak Canvas makes the Swag’s material highly waterproof yet breathable. The floor has a puncture-resistant vinyl insert for durability and dryness. Screened windows at both the head and foot facilitate airflow, and the canopy rolls back to give a wide view of any starry night sky. Its inclusion of a “handy doormat” is borderline endearing.
If there’s any drawback to the Swag 1-Person Tent, it’s the weight. You’re not gonna take this thing backpacking unless you’re really into suffering under heavy loads: it weighs over 20 pounds packed. But it’s still an ingenious system for anyone who likes camping solo and wants a more curated tent built from natural materials.
Silicone-sealed canvas for waterproof quality
2” foam sleeping pad with washable cover included
Good venting options
Dimensions: 6.8” L x 3” H x 3” W
Tent Material: Treated, silicone-sealed cotton canvas
Pole Material: Aluminum
Packed Weight: 20.1 lbs.
White Duck Alpha Wall Canvas Tent
White Duck’s Alpha wall tent is the clear choice for a canvas family tent. Even the most reticent campers should feel at home in Alpha, partially because it’s got most of the characteristics of a house. The cavernous 16- x 24-foot model delivers 384 square feet of enclosed comfort. Nearly all of that space is completely usable — the peak height is 10 feet, and the side walls are 5 feet tall. A PV groundsheet keeps campers’ tootsies dry. A stove jack keeps it warm inside.
Considering all this, it’s a great idea to put a tent-like the Alpha on a constructed platform. With so much material to soak up moisture, the tent is susceptible to mold and mildew. White Duck makes it in graduating sizes, starting at 8 x 10 feet. That size sleeps six; the grandaddy 16 x 24 feet sleeps 18.
The Alpha is a true four-season canvas tent with a storm door and six triple-layered windows. White Duck states it considers a stove jack an integral part of any canvas tent. Naturally, it builds a jack suitable for 5-inch or 6-inch pipes into the Alpha. Galvanized aluminum poles finish out the build.
You can upgrade to either a waterproof or waterproof/fire repellant version of the Alpha. If you’re gonna get the big one, get ready to carry it. Spanning 16 x 24 feet, the Alpha is heavy — the waterproof tent weighs in at 441 pounds, and the fire-repellant version clocks 461 pounds.
Up to 384 square feet of interior space
Sleeps up to 18
Waterproof and fire repellant options available
Dimensions: Up to 16” W x 24” L x 10” H
Sleeps: Up to 18
Tent Material: Treated cotton canvas
Pole Material: Galvanized aluminum
Packed Weight: Up to 461 lbs.
Teton Sports Mesa Canvas Tent
The Teton Sports Mesa is a cabin-style canvas tent built for chill campsite life with electronics enabled. Multiple “e-ports,” as Teton Sports calls them, let glampers glamp to the max and make this model one of the premier canvas tents for camping. The uniform height means no awkward bending over. And a polymer floor keeps the weather from seeping up from below.
The Mesa’s unique cabin build delivers enough interior space for up to 8 without an enormous footprint. At 10 x 14 feet, Teton Sports claims a comfortable fit for six and maximum accommodation of eight. The roof is a uniform 6.5 feet high, so every inch of the interior space is usable. Teton adds gear organizers to keep the essentials straight.
With one front door and one back door, the Mesa fits the bill of a shotgun shack. Elsewhere, built-in vents facilitate airflow. An awning out front increases chillability.
The Mesa looks like a good choice for front-country shenanigans, and electrical ports help drive home the effect. Ports in the corners help campers get their screen time on in the great outdoors. Teton Sports says the 100% cotton is waterproof but does not specify any coating or treatment. Users may need to weather the tent themselves to waterproof it (see our FAQ below for details).
For more top-quality camping equipment, check out our guide to the best inflatable tents.
Cabin style facilitates uniform interior height
Dimensions: 10” x 14” x 6.5”
Tent Material: 100% cotton canvas
Pole Material: Steel
Packed Weight: 76 lbs.
Teton Sports Sierra Bell Canvas Tent
The Teton Sports Sierra is a scalable bell tent, available in sizes that sleep 10-16 people. I’ve been in yurts that would only just do that; for a portable bell-shaped structure, the Sierra is a beast. Bell tents do perform well in snowy conditions, but unfortunately, Teton overlooks adding a stove jack.
Thus, the Sierra is best used as a 3-season tent. Its built-in vents facilitate airflow, and the floor even zips away to convert the tent into an open-air canopy. Teton specifies the material as only “waterproof 100% cotton canvas.” As such, be aware you might have to weather the tent to waterproof it.
The 10-person Sierra is a 12-foot circle with an 8’ 4” roof peak. It has one door, 2 windows, gear pouches, and ports for electrical cords. The double-layer door has zippered mosquito netting for fair weather. As I mentioned, it’s missing a stove jack, which does limit its utility.
But, the 20-footer is legitimately as big as a yurt and can comfortably sleep 12 people (16 total capacity). At its peak, it’s over 11 feet tall. At that size, it’s a pretty lightweight option as canvas tents go at 114 pounds packed. The scalable Teton Sports Sierra should be a go-to for 3 season gatherings where big groups need open-air versatility.
For more great options for winter, check out our guide to the top cold weather tents.
3 sizes available, sleeps up to 16
Double-layer door with bug screen
Floor unzips to turn a tent into an open-air canopy
Dimensions: 12” x 8.4”, 16” x 9.5”, or 20” x 11.2”
Sleeps: 10, 12 or 16
Pole Material: Unspecified
Packed Weight: 56 lbs., 80 lbs., 114 lbs.
Canvas Tent Buying Guide & FAQ
Features to Look for in Canvas Tents
Most of the tents in this guide are made from treated canvas. Waterproof and fire-retardant treatments are common, and many canvas tents are coated with silicone. This drastically changes the natural properties of the canvas. Read on for an explanation of each canvas type.
Canvas is made from one of two distinct materials: cotton or polyester.
- Polyester canvas seems like a bit of a copout for the canvas crowd — it’s not a natural fiber by any means. But it’s lighter than cotton, and because it’s a petroleum product, it repels water even better than cotton canvas. As well, it’s more resistant to mold and mildew. If you want the most waterproof canvas tent you can get, choose polyester.
- Cotton canvas has advantages in terms of sustainability, breathability, and overall feel. The bottom line is that no petroleum-derived product is renewable or easily biodegradable.
Cotton canvas is both. As well, it usually breathes better because its fibers are naturally derived and woven looser. These are major advantages for glampers, who will also appreciate cotton canvas’s soft texture.
However, cotton canvas does require a labor of love: it’s heavy, and it’s susceptible to mold, mildew, and even shrinkage. Careful care is a must.
You may see the term “duck canvas” around. Don’t be fooled: it’s just an Americanization of the Dutch word for linen canvas, “doek.”
Good news: no matter how big or small your group is, there’s probably a canvas tent that will accommodate it. Our featured tents sleep anywhere from one to 18 people.
You can find the right size canvas tent whether you’re housing your team of cartographers, astronomers, and prophets on your doomed voyage to find the edge of the world or just your doggo and partner for a weekend getaway.
Ah, waterproofness. Right up there with keeping unwanted snakes and scorpions out, rain protection is a central consideration for any tent. If you have an untreated cotton canvas tent, you need to “weather” it to make it waterproof.
Why? Because the fibers need to swell together to create a waterproof seal. At first, the canvas weave usually isn’t tight enough to keep water out. But the fibers swell when wet and then hold their new shape.
Though generally, every canvas tent is waterproof, polyester repels water better than cotton. We will list waterproof capabilities in each individual product’s section.
One massive advantage of a canvas tent over a synthetic one is breathability. Why do synthetic tent interiors always condensate and smell, in the parlance of our times, like bigfoot’s dick? Because nylon and polyester do not facilitate oxygen transfer.
But cotton does! Therefore, choose it for the highest quality, breathable canvas tents. No more condensation, no more schmelly schmegma smell; just high-air-quality glamping.
Many canvas tents have mesh zippered openings to keep flying critters out. Some smaller canvas expedition tents have bathtub floors to keep ground-living insects safely (even happily?) outside your tent.
Sun & Snow Protection
When you’re camping in a winter wonderland, a canvas tent can deliver a pronounced advantage over a synthetic one. Because they hold heat well, you’ll be cozy as the powder falls. And because they’re breathable, many even accommodate a wood stove.
Canvas also doesn’t condensate nearly as easily as synthetic material, so you’ll be better off in that department.
Pay attention to the snowpack on top of your tent, and keep clearing it as it piles up! Large canvas tents with a lot of roof areas are especially susceptible to the snowpack. If you don’t know why, consider that water is heavy, and your roof is collapsible.
Canvas tents also offer UV protection that borders on bougie. Consider a brilliantly sunny day. If you’re sitting inside a synthetic tent, you’re slowly cooking in the sweltering soup of your own body heat. That’s because the material can’t block the sunlight or let the hot air out.
Conversely, canvas tents stay cool inside by blocking sunlight and, again, facilitating all-important air transfer. Heat rises, right? All good if you’re sitting somewhere cool and the heat has somewhere to go.
Canvas tent owners need to be particularly careful to store their tents dry. Every tent needs to be stored dry, but the cotton canvas is especially susceptible to mold and mildew.
As well, aficionados recommend natural materials like hemp for guy lines. Beyond those particularities, follow the usual steps. Guy it securely so that it doesn’t flap; don’t put too much stress on zippers or seams, and don’t fold it the same way every time for storage.
The Camping and Caravanning Club put together a helpful guide for tent maintenance. Here’s a link to the PDF.
Canvas Tent FAQ
What type of canvas tents are out there?
All kinds, but really only one: the kind that’s cooler than other tents. Canvas tents commonly come in-wall, bell, or flat-roofed shapes.
And they come in all sizes (our guide features tents built for groups from 1-18 campers).
Some belong in the backcountry; some are grumpy AF. Bottom line: up to you!
How to take care of canvas tents?
It’s very important to store a canvas tent dry; the material is much more susceptible to mold and mildew. The most particular canvas tent people recommend natural fibers like hemp for guy lines. But otherwise, it’s the same as any other tent — just more intensive.
We recommend starting with The Camping and Caravanning Club’s tent care guide. Here’s the PDF.
Why are canvas tents so expensive?
It’s true, cool canvas tents don’t come cheap. For me, experiential enjoyment has to justify the cost. How cool is it to live in a semi-permanent, waterproof outdoor structure made of natural materials and fibers? Instead of sweating inside a minimally breathable plastic capsule that filters sunlight awkwardly, luxuriate in a cool, breathable, shady enclosure that smells organic.
Hell, it’ll trap heat better when it gets cold, too, and if it has a stove jack, you can heat it with a tent stove.
Now from the practical side: if you care for them well, they also last. Canvas resists ripping better than synthetic tent materials. And it’s thicker, so the kind of furry critters that like peanut butter and M&M’s have a harder time chewing through it.
If it does rip, just get out the sewing kit and patch it (detailed info here).
Do canvas tents need to be waterproofed?
Most of the canvas tents in this guide are treated with a variety of waterproof coating. In these cases, just follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
However, if you have an untreated canvas tent, it’s different. Cotton canvas tents do need to be weathered to bring out their waterproof qualities.
What does that mean? The fibers are often too loosely woven to be truly waterproof at first. But when they get wet, they swell and push against each other. Then, as they dry, they hold their shape. When the tent is fully dry, it’s a waterproof tent. Cool, huh?
You can weather a canvas tent by setting it up in the yard, hosing it down, and letting it dry.
How long will a canvas tent last?
Great question. I’ve stayed in some old ones that I’d presume got their starts in the ‘80s or ‘90s.
One in particular — a big wall tent my buddy lived in while doing on-site restoration carpentry in the Adirondacks — still smelled good and kept the weather out. Equipped with a wood stove, armchair, and rug, it was a great place to drink.
Anyway! I digress. Internet consensus suggests about a 20- to 30-year lifespan for most canvas tents. However, a canvas tent can last forever if you take care of it. Many users report their decade-old canvas tents are still as good as new.
- Caring For Your Canvas – Camping and Caravanning Club
- How to Patch a Canvas Tent the Right Way – TentHacker