Canvas vs. Nylon Tents: Key Differences You Must Know!

Canvas vs Nylon Tents

Last Updated on September 9, 2021

Outdoor activity enthusiasts often need to buy lots of gear to enjoy their hobby safely. Regardless of whether your passion is camping, hiking, backpacking, or hunting, your tent is one of the most important pieces of gear you will buy. It is also a piece of equipment with a large outlay compared to many other pieces of kit. Therefore, it is essential you make the right choice. You need a tent that is practical, warm, and comfortable. So, you must consider the conditions in which you will camp, whether you are a lone traveler or a family group, and how often you will use this item. One of the most important factors to consider when choosing your tent is the materials from which it is made. Two of the most common materials used for tents are canvas and nylon. When these two fabrics are directly compared, which is the best for tents?

What is Nylon?

Nylon is a synthetic fiber, which means it is man-made. The term ny;on is used to describe a family of synthetic polymers that you can melt into the shape of fibers or into many other shapes. As this is a cheap and versatile material, it is used to manufacture many things.

What is Canvas?

Canvas is a fabric made from natural materials, such as flax, hemp, cotton, or other similar yarns. This strong and unbleached fabric is very durable, so it is used not only for tents, but also for boat sails and to create surfaces for oil painting.

The Pros and Cons of a Nylon Tent

There are many benefits to having a tent made from nylon. These include

  • Cheap- Nylon is one of the cheapest materials used to make tents, so tents made from nylon are ideal for those on a limited budget.
  • Lightweight- Tents made from nylon are lightweight. This means that nylon tents are a good option for backpackers and hikers who need to keep the weight they are carrying to a minimum.
  • Quick drying- When people are camping, they want their tent to dry quickly before packing it away so that it doesn’t get everything else wet or start to smell. Nylon is a quick-drying material, so it is ideal for tents.
  • Low-maintenance- Nylon tents do not require a lot of care. They do not rip easily, so you won’t waste time repairing your tent each time you use it. They also do not get mildew easily, so you won’t need to clean the material regularly.
  • Water-resistance- Most nylon tents are treated to improve water-resistance to keep you dry in your tent. How water-resistant a nylon tent is will vary from one manufacturer to the next.

Although there are many advantages to choosing a nylon tent, there are also some downsides to this material. These include:

  • Poor insulation- Compared to many natural materials, nylon is not a good insulator. This means the inside of a tent has extremes of temperature, so they get very hot in warm weather and very cold in cold weather.
  • Not breathable- Nylon is not naturally a breathable material. As a result, the inside of your tent may get condensation.
  • Flapping- Due to the lightweight nature of this fabric, nylon tents are prone to flapping in the wind and the noise of this may disturb your sleep.
  • Deterioration- Over time, a nylon tent will begin to deteriorate. They will also lose color from exposure to the sun’s rays.

The Pros and Cons of a Canvas Tent

Another popular material for tents is canvas. There are many advantages to choosing tents made from this material. These include:

  • Good insulation- Canvas is a much better insulator than nylon, so it will keep you warmer in colder conditions.
  • Breathable- Canvas is a natural material and this means it is more breathable. This is the reason a canvas tent does not get condensation like a nylon tent.
  • Durable- Compared to nylon tents, canvas tents do not deteriorate as quickly. They also do not lose their color from exposure to UV rays.
  • Quieter- As canvas is a heavier fabric than nylon, it does not flap as much in the wind. Therefore, there is less noise to disturb you in the night.

While there are many benefits to opting for a canvas tent, there are also some disadvantages. These include:

  • Heavy and bulky- The biggest disadvantage of canvas is its weight. Not only is it heavy, but it is always bulky. This means it is only suitable for car camping as these tents are far too heavy for backpacking and hiking.
  • Preparation- You need to weather a canvas tent before you use it, and this can take some time. It involves leaving the tent out in the rain, so the canvas will expand so that there are no holes. If you do not do this, the tent will leak the first time you use it on a camping trip.
  • Maintenance- You need to spend time drying out a canvas tent before putting it away. They are also more prone to mildew, so need regular cleaning.
  • Price- Canvas tents are more expensive than tents made from nylon or other synthetic materials.

Canvas vs. Nylon Tents

To decide whether a canvas tent or a nylon tent is best for you, it is important to make a direct comparison between the two. Therefore, you should consider the following points.

  • Weight- If you are a backpacker or a hiker and need to carry as little weight as possible with you on your trips, then a nylon tent is the better option. A canvas tent is too bulky and heavy for these activities. However, if you are car camping and weight is not an issue, then you may prefer a canvas tent.
  • Water-resistance- Nylon tents are generally treated with a water-resistant substance while canvas tents are not. However, canvas tents have natural weather-resistance once weathered. Although it takes more effort to make a canvas tent water-resistant, the result means there is little difference between nylon and canvas tents.
  • Durability- Nylon is a synthetic material that will deteriorate faster than canvas and is more likely to tear. Therefore, a canvas tent is the most durable option.
  • Warmth- Without a doubt, a canvas tent is the warmer option as it offers better insulation. Also, as it is a breathable fabric, it will not get condensation inside during heat changes.
  • Cost- If cost is your biggest concern when deciding which tent to buy, then nylon is the better option as nylon tents cost significantly less than canvas tents.

Final Verdict

Both canvas tents and nylon tents have pros and cons. What will suit some people will not suit the next, so which you choose is down to personal preference and which aspects of a tent are the most important to you. Overall, the better option for hikers and backpackers is nylon tents and this is predominantly because they are lighter and more compact than canvas tents, which are heavy and bulky. However, if you want a tent for family camping, both options are worth considering. Although a canvas tent is more expensive, they can also keep you warmer and do not make flapping noises that will keep you awake in the night. The lack of condensation is another big plus point for many people. Although nylon tents are most modern campers choice, you should not dismiss canvas tents without checking out the options.

You might also be interested in reading:

Best Budget Backpacking Tents, Best Cold Weather Camping Tents, Keeping Warm While Camping


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