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Thread: Classic vintage CANVAS TENTS

  1. #1
    Bartender PADDY's Avatar
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    Classic vintage CANVAS TENTS

    Gentlemen, I've been considering getting an old fashioned traditional canvas tent for some time now.
    Only two years ago a relation of mine had an original 1930's (complete with wooden pegs..etc) Scouting Bell Tent. When I asked him recently if he would think about getting rid of it (to me!), he asked me "why do you want that sort of old rubbish?" and then proceeded to inform me that he had 'cut it up' and taken it to the local council dump!! The pegs were the only useful thing, as they had made good fire starters.

    I KNOW, we ALL will have some sort of horror story like that!!

    Anyway...I'm after an original (if I can get one) bell tent or wall tent from the 30's-40's (probably from the UK, as they are too heavy to post).

    Last resort is, that there are companies in the UK who are making them to the old specs, but at 300 and upwards, that's A LOT OF WONGA!!

    I've really started to get back into my tent camping, but fancied something a little bit different to my old one man tent (which can be more like a bivvy bag!). Thanks, Paddy.
    "Hot ginger and dynamite, There's nothing but that at night,
    Back in Nagasaki Where the fellers chew tobaccy and the
    women wicky-wacky Woo."

    An Earl Grey in a sea of Latte...

  2. #2
    Call Me a Cab Atticus Finch's Avatar
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    When I was scouting, we camped in WWII-surplus, canvas, pyramidal tents....the kind that weighed as much as a small truck, had ten-foot center poles and ventilation holes at their peaks. Summer days, the temperature inside those tents would be twenty degrees hotter that the air temperature outside. Winter nights, the temperature inside the tents would be twenty degrees colder than the air outside.

    Never could figure the physics behind that.

    AF
    The South: Heat and Spanish moss. A Strange hot land of courtly manners and sudden violence, elegance and anger.

  3. #3
    Practically Family MPicciotto's Avatar
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    My father is a canvas man (boat covers and such) and I as ww2 reenactor can also attest to this. Canvas rots! It will look fine but can easily be torn by hand. Dry rot infects even the most fastidiously cared for vintage canvas. I would seriously recommend a repro. If you are not too particular (like reenactors can be) and are just looking for a retro canvas tent check around the sutlers or vendors for various wars and eras. Lots of nice tents from wars besides WW2 and the whole Renaissance era available as "repro" Might find one of those used.

    Matt

  4. #4
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    Old canvas sucks. There's a reason no one uses it anymore.

    A decade ago I went "old school" and sewed my own canvas tent. I made it from the pattern of that canoe guy. A "campfire" tent. Even found a supplier of the old Canvac, or whatever it was, to waterproof it. Man, did it suck. Stunk to high heaven and leaked.

    Couple years later went new school and bought a little a-frame to bike camp and camp at Friendship for the shoot, and it was great.

    Forget old school. Buy new.

  5. #5
    Bartender PADDY's Avatar
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    Well...

    I know that the newer canvas ones have various anti-rot and mould treatments, but 'oh the expense' of them...

    Jury's out on this one still...
    "Hot ginger and dynamite, There's nothing but that at night,
    Back in Nagasaki Where the fellers chew tobaccy and the
    women wicky-wacky Woo."

    An Earl Grey in a sea of Latte...

  6. #6
    One Too Many Mr Vim's Avatar
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    We had shelter halves in the Army. They were leftovers from the 70's or 80's, I cannot recall what era. But those things were always rolled up in the compnay storeroom for months at a time and they never molded. Then we would drag them out, issue them, hike to some god forsarken neck of the woods and use them for a week, get them good and muddy wash them off and store them again. To my knowledge they never rotted once.

    Now the smell? That was a separate issue. A heady mix of locker room and vomit.

    Ah, It's times like this I am so thankful to be in the Coast Guard now.

  7. #7
    Practically Family shortbow's Avatar
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    I must demure strongly from the nay-sayers. Good canvas properly handled and sewn will make superior tents as well as many other things. OLD canvas will rot, for sure. New, quality canvas is wonderful stuff when properly constructed of good cotton. In the States and Canada there are heaps of great companies now making tents and lots of other outdoor equipage from canvas; some, like Filson and Duluth Pack have been around for nearly a century and if their stuff was crap, they woulda been history long ago.

    There are many, many really good tents in some great lightweight designs currently being made in the U.S. for the reenactor set and others who appreciate the aesthetics and practicality of canvas shelter. Just Google around a bit and you'll see what I mean.

    I also started scouting back in the '60's under surplus WW2 pup tents and have since camped hundreds of days all over N.A. under canvas. If it didn't work great, no matter how much aesthetic appeal it has I would not have stuck with it.

    I won't go into it all here, but I can tell you this in all candid and factual sincerity:
    -If you get the right design made from the right canvas from the right hands, a canvas tent, from one man size to huge guide tents, is totally superior to modern synthetics. But don't believe me. If you thoroughly and objectively research the subject, you will find that what I say rings true. And, from what I've seen of your orientations on here Paddy, your just the kind of guy who would dig this stuff.

  8. #8
    One Too Many H.Johnson's Avatar
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    Indeed. There are also companies in the UK making some fine traditional bell and ridge tents in canvas.

    Like yourself I have a lot of experience of using sleeping (literally) under canvas. I concur that the material has many excellent properties.

    I don't see why some people can accept that (say) Ventile(R) cotton functions well as a material for garments and yet won't accept that similar fabrics would perform in a tent.
    'If you trip over a stone, an Englishman put it there' - Iranian proverb.

  9. #9
    Practically Family shortbow's Avatar
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    Over night I remembered a great book I have called "Camping in the Old Style,"
    by a fellow called David Wescott, published by Gibbs-Smith, P.O. Box 667, Layton, Utah, 84041, came out in 2000. Orders: 1 800 748-5439.

    If you can find this book, it will address all questions and much arcana regarding canvas tents et al. It is also beautifully written and put together with lots of vintage photos.

    If any FL'r wants to see it, but cannot find it, I would be willing to lend it to he who would pay postage both ways and provide me with a $50 deposit.

    Only reason I ask for the deposit is that I've "lent" too many books that I ended up never seeing again, and this one is not a book I want to lose.

    Cheers.

  10. #10
    One of the Regulars
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Vim
    We had shelter halves in the Army. They were leftovers from the 70's or 80's, I cannot recall what era. But those things were always rolled up in the compnay storeroom for months at a time and they never molded. Then we would drag them out, issue them, hike to some god forsarken neck of the woods and use them for a week, get them good and muddy wash them off and store them again. To my knowledge they never rotted once.
    Waittaminute!! Y'all washed 'em off? What kind of pansy BS is that? We just rolled 'em back up and turned 'em in. Couldn't get away with that IRT central issue, just company level issue. I never saw another shelter half after basic, god willing, they were all burned...

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