Timeless Camping with the Canvas Tents of The Past

As a member of the Acorn Patrol Classic Outdoor Camping Interpretive Group, I take part in a number of demonstrations a year during which we invite the general public to observe us camping in canvas tents and using gear and clothing appropriate to the “Golden Age” of camping from 1880 to 1930. Those were the days before plastic and nylon, when equipment was made of wood, metal, glass and natural fibers. During these occasions, two questions are invariably posed by visitors.

The first is, “Are you really going to invest the night here?” The answer is always, “Yes.” We demand spending a night or more at a demonstration so we can enjoy camping while visitors experience all the sights, sounds and gives off a timeless campground. Inevitably, the second concern is, “What will you do if it rains?” The answer is always, “That’s what we brought camping tents for.” We wish to show that canvas camping tents are water resistant, breathable and long lasting. Further, they are sustainable in that they are made from a natural fiber that does not break down in sunlight, as nylon does. If kept clean and appropriately kept to prevent mold and mildew, a canvas camping tent will last for generations.

Canvas History

Canvas was made from hemp in China as early as 3,000 B.C. The word “canvas” is a corruption of “marijuana,” or the Latin word for hemp. By 1,500 B.C., cloth was made in India from cotton; although flax was also used, cotton ended up being the requirement for canvas cloth.

Canvas tents were used by the Roman Legions, Medieval armies and soldiers of the American Revolutionary War. Enough canvas camping tents were used in the U.S. Civil War to satisfy the military surplus market for many years, however by 1900 companies such as Abercrombie & & Fitch were producing well-crafted, comfy camping tents for the increasing number of recreational campers. Tents were made in an unexpected variety of styles to meet every need from circuses to canoe campers. (For this intro to canvas tents, I’ll omit tipis and yurts.)

Those of a certain age who have actually camped in poor-quality military surplus canvas camping tents might recall their moms and dads admonishing them not to touch the inside roofing of the tent when it was raining– doing so might make it leakage. This held true in a lot of cases since the thread utilized in the canvas was course and loosely woven, permitting adequate space for water droplets to break devoid of the threads and slip between.

Modern Canvas

Modern canvas, like the higher-quality canvas available in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, has a much greater thread count than earlier canvas and is splendidly waterproof, particularly when “sunforger” treatment is included to repel water and resist mildew and mold. Canvas can not be made totally fire-resistant, however canvas treated with flame retardant is recommended.For most recreational

uses, 10.38-ounce canvas suffices, although it is readily available in much heavier weights for added toughness. Canvas is an outstanding choice for car, tent and pack-train camping, but weight and bulk make canvas camping tents impractical for backpacking, although a little canvas tarpaulin comes in handy when hiking. Horace Kephart(1862-1931), author of the 1906 timeless Camping and Woodcraft, had a light-weight Egyptian cotton– balloon fabric, it is sometimes called– camping tent made by Abercrombie & Fitch that he could pack solo into a backcountry camping area. The tent is now part of the Horace Kephart Collection at Western Carolina University( see image ). The business Tentsmiths manufactured camping tents from this kind of lightweight, 4.5-ounce cotton until just recently; nevertheless, the material is now hard to discover. Camping tents are built of various pieces of canvas sewn together, and double sewn, flat-felled seams are the strongest.

Peg loops or grommets are required to connect down a tent. Metal grommets existed in the Civil War, but reenactors need to research their period when selecting a camping tent. Mud flaps at the bottom of the walls, integrated with a ground cloth, produce a closed, water and windproof flooring. Canvas Camping Tent Designs The easiest canvas camping tent is a tarp, which can be pitched with one end staked and the other connected across a canoe lain on its side;

or the tarpaulin can be curtained over a line connected

between 2 trees with the sides staked– this is often used by Outward Bound with nylon tarpaulins to accommodate large groups.Another effective tarpaulin setup has with one end pegged to the ground and the other suspended from a tree branch, or held up by a pole or sheers( crossed poles embeded in the ground in the shape of a scissors)in the manner of a George camping tent. An airy, warm-weather setup can be made by sewing a loop to the center of the tarp with a line tied to an overhanging branch, and the corners held up by sticks with lines going to stakes in the ground. The Wedge Tent The wedge is a timeless, simple however versatile style consisting of a rectangle-shaped section of canvas with door flaps. Attempt hanging a wedge from a line in between two trees or held up with a ridgepole atop 2 upright poles, and then

staked to the ground. An

advantage here is that the wedge can be constructed with uprights more than 6-feet high that allow a camper to stand up inside. Door flaps at both ends supply ventilation for warmer weather condition, or one side of the camping tent can be propped up with poles and staked down with lines to offer an open, however dry plan. A lone camper can pitch a wedge camping tent in 10 minutes by loosely staking down both sides. The slack allows the camper to then put together the ridgepole and uprights and slip them into position inside to erect the camping tent. To tighten up the canvas, get rid of the stakes on each side one at a time and move them further out.

Including walls to the sides of a wedge offers a lot more functional space, in the exact same way a house with vertical walls has more functional interior space than an A-frame does. The Wall Tent The wall camping tent, often illustrated in period films and safari pictures, is the classic style and is used by Rocky Mountain trout-fishing and searching outfitters. With its roomy interior, the wall camping tent is most likely the finest choice for long-lasting camping. Adding a fly to the front of a wedge or wall camping tent considerably increases the living area by offering a” front patio” for cooking, working and relaxing in the shade, or leaving the rain.Two kinds of open-sided tents have actually been popular over the years. The Baker in a big size provides shelter for a whole group. It is made complex to set up, but as soon as in place, it’s extremely roomy. A smaller sized alternative is the Whelen, named for Colonel Townsend Whelen(1877-1961), who established the design based on strategies drawn by Charles

Sheldon in the early 1900s. In addition to his military profession, Whelen was a prolific outside writer and editor and wilderness explorer in North and South America. A passage in Outdoor camping in the Old Style by David Wescott with foreword and contributions by Steven M. Watts, informs us more about the Whelen: “It can be set large and high for maximum access to the radiated heat from a fire, or closed tight to shed wind and rain driven by a passing storm. The style enables the use of shears, ridgepoles, person ropes or upright poles to pitch the structure.”More Tent Details Wedge tents, wall camping tents and comparable styles need upright poles and ridge poles. Poles are built of numerous kinds of wood and are usually made from 2-by-2-inch lumber. Take care to round the upper edges of ridgepoles to avoid abrading the canvas. Upright poles end in an iron spike that goes through the ridgepole and the peak grommets in the camping tent. Stakes can be wood, or metal.

Cotton, hemp, sisal

or other natural products make great camping tent ropes. When wooden slides are added, changing the tension on the ropes is simple. A slide can be quickly made by drilling two holes in a four-inch area of an old broomstick and then running each person line through the holes in a slide. Wrought-iron lantern hooks and clothes hooks make for hassle-free tent living.Tent bed linen can be as easy as a”tick”

or large cloth fabric stuffed with straw or pine needles for insulation and cushioning placed put a waterproof ground clothFabric For longer stays, a wood and canvas military-surplus-style cot with 2 sheepskins stretched end-to-end is the most comfy choice. The sheepskins offer insulation, in addition to a cushioning. This style of cot functions holes on the corners that accommodate sticks to hold a rectangular mosquito net suspended above the camper. A cot elevates the sleeper above any ground wetness throughout tough rains, and a carpet adds the final touch for tent living. Range pipe inserts can be added for usage with sheet-metal stoves in severe weather condition. Of course, no tent setup is complete without the soft glow of a kerosene lantern after dark. This article is from the summer season 2018 concern of American Frontiersman Magazine. Get your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.

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