Canvas Tents White Duck Outdoors Review

Canvas Tents - White Duck Outdoors Review

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Have you recently found yourself daydreaming about canvas tents? Perhaps you're a LARPer (AKA live-action role player) or a Civil War reenactor searching for the perfect faux encampment prop. Maybe you're looking for a more functional outdoor shelter, like a wall tent for your next backcountry camping adventure or a backup lodging option for a bug-out kit.

Whatever it is that sparked your curiosity in these old school fabric shelters, we're thrilled it brought you here. Come along as we discuss everything there is to know about canvas tents and introduce you to one of the top canvas tent manufacturers, Whiteduck Outdoors.

A Brief History of Canvas Tents

In our research we discovered that there's no easy way to identify when the first canvas tents popped onto the scene. What we do know is that the Industrial Revolution made canvas fabrics much more accessible to ordinary Americans.

Sorry, folks. While canvas tents may evoke images of Civil War-era campsites, these temporary shelters didn't originate in the U.S.A. The earliest known canvas bell tents can be traced back to the Byzantine Empire in the year 600 AD. After that, these cloth shelters began popping up around the globe. 

The first fabric tents were most likely used by nomadic people. However, it didn't take long for these shelters to gain popularity as temporary wartime and hunting shelters.

Still, let's get back to the American-made canvas tents. These shelters were popularized by the United States Army. In 1865, an American military officer by the name of Henry Hopkins Sibley patented the first conical canvas tent. 

There is little doubt that the earliest Sibley tents were modeled after the teepees of Native American tribes. Complete with small smoke holes, metal tent poles, and pegs, these portable tents appealed to the mobilizing Union Army.

Fast forward to the 21st Century, and you'll notice that canvas tents are making quite a comeback. From music festivals to Civil War reenactments, there seems to be no shortage of these elegant and versatile cloth forts.
10 x 10 Prota Deluxe - White Duck Outdoors Canvas Tents

Check out this White Duck Outdoors "Prota Deluxe" by clicking this image!

Types of Canvas Tents

Since you're now aware of the historical implications and popularity of canvas tents, let's take a look at a few of the most popular shelters within this category of tents.

(The family cabin tent at the left is a great example of a current popular style!)

Wall Tents

Wall tents are some of the most popular kinds of canvas structures. These tents tend to have vertical walls and open gable roofs. In many ways, they are comparable to broad, single-story Cape Cod houses

Bell Tents

There's no denying the beauty of a traditional bell tent. Cotton canvas forms an elegant shape when it is draped over a raised central pole. Reinforced guys lines (which are anchored by large metal pegs) give these tents added stability and a signature style. Needless to say, these edifices are suitable for large gatherings and intimate overnight trips.  

Cabin Tents

Cabin tents, or viz-a-viz tents, come in a variety of forms, all of which feature sloping roofs, vertical walls, internal dividers, and durable floors. These canvas structures are the most likely to resemble traditional nylon and polyester camping tents. 

The "Prota Deluxe" shown above is a perfect example, and we also look at this particular model in a bit more detail below.

Swag Tents

Swag tents are small, portable sleeping units. These tents are popular and widely used throughout Australia. The Outback is a great place for overlanding.


While we couldn't find a current canvas swag design in stock, we found one that is a little bigger than the typical "bivvy sacks" you see today. This one, the the Ionosphere 1 Man Dome Tent by Snugpak, at Amazon, gives you a pretty good idea of the design.

Whose Who in the Canvas Tent World

LARPers

At this point, you're probably wondering who's using canvas in 2020. Or, if you weren't wondering before, perhaps you are curious now, especially if you haven't heard much about these in the past!


LARPers (live-action role players) use canvas tents to make their medieval fairs, pavilions, and re-enactment campsites more immersive. They're the perfect backdrop for musters, jousts, and D&D fantasies.

Campers

While canvas tents aren't the most popular overnight structures for weekend getaways since they take a bit more effort to carry and put up, they're probably the top choice of glampers, or glamorous campers, and overlanders. 

Canvas tents are spacious, accommodating, and closely associated with luxury. If you're someone who wants to enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors without abandoning the comforts of the modern world, canvas tent camping might be the perfect compromise. 

Hunters

Hunters seem to appreciate canvas wall tents, which tend to be spacious enough for large hunting parties and stockpiles of supplies. These temporary structures can withstand harsh weather conditions. Plus, many of them boast wood stove jacks. As such, they allow hunters to warm up and eat a hot meal after a good chase. 

The Hospitality Industry

The hospitality industry seems to have a soft spot for canvas tents. We've seen them used as luxury camping accommodations, wedding and party venues, and festival gathering spots. 


(After I posted this article, I suddenly seemed to notice a number of these! Of course this may be due to a lot more restaurants moving their dining rooms outdoors recently.)

Bug Out Structures

Given the durability and size of these structures, some people include them in their bug-out bags. Bug-out bags, or BOBs, are survival kits that people can rely on in the event of a disaster. If you and your family were displaced for an extended period, a canvas tent might be the perfect place for your layover. 

The Benefits of Canvas Tents


We've covered the basics. Now, let's get into the technical specifications. 

  • Superior Materials

Canvas is an incredibly a heavy material that is traditionally made from tightly woven cotton or linen threads. On rare occasions, you may also come across canvas items made from polyvinyl chloride or hemp. 

Canvas has many different uses, it can be turned into sails, banners, bags, shoes, canvases, and more. However, in our humble opinion, its ultimate form is a tent. 

The most durable and resilient type of canvas is duck canvas, which is a tightly woven material with a smooth finish and high thread count. If you're looking for a canvas tent that can withstand lengthy outdoor excursions, duck canvas is the way to go. 

  • Waterproof

Many people are surprised to learn that traditional cotton canvas is waterproof. The tightly woven fibers expand when they are wet. In this way, they create a waterproof (at least to some capacity) barrier. 

Of course, most modern canvas tent manufacturers take extra measures to ensure that their temporary shelters can withstand rain and snow. 

I strongly advise you not to waterproofing your canvas. Coatings should be applied by the manufacturer. Aftermarket waterproofers cover the small apertures in canvas fabrics. As a result, they rob the cotton of its breathability. 

  • Ventilation

Cotton canvas is remarkably breathable. The tightly woven fibers allow moisture, condensation, and hot air to escape. Light-colored fabrics (canvas is typically cream-colored or white) are also less likely to absorb heat. For this reason, canvas camping tents are often the premier choice for overnight trips to places with high heat and humidity. 

  • Durability

Cotton canvas is not very likely to rip or tear. Either way, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to mend small damages. Check out these step-by-step instructions for repairing torn canvas camping tents, and don't forget the canvas seam sealer.

Canvas tents can last 15 to 30 years, so long as they are properly cared for. If you want to ensure that your tent lasts a long time, make sure to put a fly on it before leaving in direct sun. What's more, avoid packing a canvas tent up if it is moist. Finally, patch any holes (including those from sparks and embers) before they can spread. 

  • Cold Weather Friendly

Have you ever tried to pitch a nylon camping tent in the middle of knee-high snow? Trust me; it is not fun. On the other hand, many canvas tents feature jacks for wood and pellet stoves. Just make sure your tent is fire-retardant before you add a source of heat.

  • Aesthetically Pleasing

I am not willing to argue with you on this one; canvas tents are gorgeous. It doesn't matter if your settings up camp in the blistering sands of Black Rock City or the cool green grass of a village common, your canvas tent is sure to garner a few envious stares. 

On a matter of looks, these white and sometimes creme-colored structures have an air of sophistication. But don't let their looks fool you. Most are hearty as hell too. 

  • Quiet

Nylon tents tend to flap around in the wind. It can be hard to reach REM when your shelter is making noise at all hours of the night. The heavy, taunt walls and roofs of canvas tents are unlikely to move about, even after the onset of bad weather. 

  • Sustainable

Do your racing thoughts of worldwide climate catastrophes have you looking for more sustainable products? Canvas products are biodegradable and, generally speaking, eco-friendly. You can read more about the fabric's sustainability here

Amenities

Standard nylon tents don't offer many amenities. On the other hand, most canvas tents can house electric wiring, lights, décor, and even wood stoves. Many of the models we looked at even had storm windows that allowed campers to enjoy the splendors of natural light while still protecting themselves from adverse weather. In many cases, you can even roll up the sides of a canvas tent to convert it into an open-air canopy. 

The Cons of Canvas Tents

Our research wouldn't be complete if it didn't include a little criticism. Like most outdoor shelters, canvas tents have a few shortcomings. Ultimately, it's up to you to determine if these disadvantages are enough to keep you from these amazing outdoor shelters.

  • Pricey

Do you remember what we said about the Industrial Revolution making canvas tents more accessible to everyday Americans? Well, there are certainly plenty of options. Unfortunately, these structures don't come cheap. To give you an example, Whiteduck Outdoor's basic 10-foot bell tent costs just under $600, a price that's staggeringly high compared to similarly sized nylon tents. That's just one of the company's middle-of-the-road offering, larger, more luxury tents will run you well over $1,000. 


  • High Maintenance

While canvas tents do not deteriorate quickly, they do tend to harbor mold and mildew. For this reason, you must take extra care whenever drying and packing a canvas tent. 

If you're looking to keep your tent raised for an extended period, try to stay on top of the bird poop and sap stains. Keep in mind that canvas tents, which are exceptionally in light-colored and easily stained, require regular cleaning.

  • Heavy

You know those backpackers are always ranting and raving about the weight of their packs? Well, canvas tents are definitely not for them. The most obvious downside to canvas tents is the fact that they are heavy and bulky. These temporary shelters are not ideal for minimalist campers, backpackers, or hikers. Plan to drive right up to your pitch site if you're donning a canvas tent. 


Whiteduck Outdoors Canvas Tents: The Ultimate 21st Century Canvas Tents

Whiteduck Outdoors is one of the preeminent makers of modern-day canvas tents. To get a taste of what consumers are looking for, we looked at some of their popular canvas tent offerings.

Whiteduck Outdoors sells a wide range of canvas wall, bell, cabin, and swag tents. All of their products are made from 100% cotton canvas fabric. The shelters are rugged enough to handle regular outdoor adventures, including camping, glamping, hunting, safari trips, and more. 

The shelters feature plenty of modern upgrades and luxury features. Plus, Whiteduck's weightless water and mildew repellents and fire retardants never spoil the breathability of Dynaguard, the company's proprietary cotton canvas. 

Whiteduck Outdoors's tents come in a variety of fabrics and fabric treatments. They're self-described “sweet spot” fabric is Army Duck double-fill TREATED Cotton Canvas. Customers can opt for water-, fire-, and mildew-resistant coatings, though these cost extra. 

One of my favorite things about Whiteduck Outdoors is that they offer all sorts of replacement parts and accessories. You can add awnings, porches, and even cook shacks to most of Whiteduck's wall tents. 

All of their tents also come as complete packages. You can expect a frame, canvas cover, and floor with every purchase. 

10 x 12 Alpha Wall Tent - White Duck Outdoors Canvas

10 x 12 Alpha Wall Tent - White Duck Outdoors Canvas Tents


White Duck Wall Tents are Very Popular

To give you a better look a Whiteduck Outdoor's canvas wall tents, we decided to in on a specific product. The company's 10-by-12-foot Alpha Wall Tent is advertised as a four-season, multipurpose shelter. At $1,349, it's no cheap thrill. This four-walled structure is made from 100% cotton 10.10 oz. Army Duck Canvas. Naturally, it has Whiteduck's proprietary no-weight mildew & UV resistant, water repellent, and fire retardant finish,

All the tent's seams are double-stitched and reinforced for added security. Meanwhile, an aluminum frame is what keeps the structure altogether. At the base of it all, a free-floating PVC groundsheet keeps campers dry and away from the clutches of nature. 

Like many of the Whiteduck Outdoors's canvas tents, the Alpha features a stove jack, should you want to venture into the north country. If you're more of a warm-weather camper, you'll appreciate the removable bug mesh panels that cover all of the Alpha's windows and doors. 

When I checked Whiteduck Outdoors's online inventory, it appeared that the Alpha was sold out. We're sure that this perennially popular tent will be back by popular demand. 

We also checked YouTube in hopes of seeing this canvas tent in action. We are happy to have found this gem of a video, below. After viewing Whiteduck's footage, we can confirm that the Alpha is a good fit for technical campers, hunters, and glampers alike.

I think it's safe to say that Whiteduck's wall tents should not be judged as Renaissance fair props. Nevertheless, we wouldn't mind watching an armored battle from the comfort of one of these structures.


Check out this video, then rejoin us below...

Nice Selection of Bell Tents

Our review of Whiteduck canvas tents wouldn't be complete without a bell tent. For the sake of this article, we took a look at their 10-foot Regatta Bell Tent. Like all Whiteduck shelters, the Regatta is made from 100% cotton 8.5 oz. Army Duck Canvas. It has a lovely natural beige color and a signature conical shape. 

Regatta Bell Tent - White Duck Outdoors Canvas Tents

Click here to see the Regatta Bell Tent by White Duck Outdoors Canvas Tents

One of the big differences between this canvas bell tent and the Alpha wall tent is a sewn-in PE groundsheet. However, like the Alpha, the Regatta is held up by galvanized steel poles and high-tension guy lines. 

The three-way zippered doors and windows, double-stitched seams, and 5-inch stove jack ensure that the tent is ready for cold nights. Naturally, this all-weather shelter also has enough ventilation to provide comfort during hot, humid nights. 

I was skeptical about this tent's set up. Fortunately, the unboxing video, below, put my mind at ease. The Whiteduck representative in the video sets up the bell tent by himself. The entire process only takes a few minutes. As someone who is constantly braking threaded fiberglass tent poles, I'd be willing to give the Regatta a try.

The Avalon Bell Tent is Also Nice...

I'd be remiss if I didn't show you just one more version of White Duck's bells. Check out the Avalon, shown below. 

One of the things that struck me in this particular picture is that the people who have set up this exceedingly tranquil spot include what looks a LOT like one of the Solo wood-burning firepits that we like so much! 

Actually, this looks like a honeymoon "cottage" photo from a resort? White Duck gave me permission to use these photos, and I don't know exactly where this particular one was taken.

I could stay here. Yup.

Avalon Bell Tent with Solo Wood Stove - White Duck Outdoors Canvas Tents

Avalon Bell Tent with Solo Wood Stove - White Duck Outdoors Canvas Tents


Whiteduck's Cabin Tents

Whiteduck also offers some charming family tents, such as their 10-by-10-foot Prota Canvas cabin tent that we pictured above, and show you again here. Unlike run-of-the-mill family camping tents, the Prota has a nearly 7-foot high ceiling. Its 100% cotton exterior slopes over a durable aluminum frame, complete with standing and ridge poles.

10 x 10 Prota Deluxe - White Duck Outdoors Canvas Tents

Check out this White Duck Outdoors "Prota Deluxe" by clicking this image!

There are all sorts of luxury elements sewn into the tent's skeleton, including 0 rings for décor, lights, and other accessories and a large (72-by-78 inches) awning that will protect you from sun and rain.

As you can see in this next video, the Prota is designed to serve families, hunting parties, and other groups.

We weren't expecting to say this, but the Prota is probably one of our all-time favorite outdoor structures. It's just that it's super durable, roomy, and versatile. Not to mention, it is easy to set up. What's more, it is very affordable as far as canvas tents are concerned.

Whenever I go camping, it's either bitterly cold or unbearably hot. For this reason, I am utterly pleased with the Prota's all-natural ventilation and weather protection.

Some Final Thoughts on Whiteduck Canvas Tents

While Whiteduck canvas tents are undeniably expensive, they also seem to be worthwhile investments. After all, where else are you going to find a tent that can house an entire hunting party?

Unless you're Paul Bunyan, you're probably not going to want to take a Whiteduck canvas tent on a backcountry hiking adventure. A more likely setting for one of these canvas wall or bell tents might be a weekend hunting trip, a music festival, or a Civil War muster.

Wrapping Things Up

Phew! Who knew that there was so much to discover about canvas tents?

As a bona fide canvas tent owner, I'm happy to share the details of my first-hand experience with these elegant yet rugged shelters.

Pack your favorite pith helmet or foldable campaign chair and enjoy the spacious, well-ventilated protection provided by these remarkable shelters. 

Check out the inventory on Whiteduck Outdoors's webpage, and be sure to let us know what you think.

We understand that canvas tents aren't for everyone. If you're constantly fretting about the weight of your gear, you're in and out of new campsites every night, or you're on a super tight budget, then you'd probably better outfitted with something light and synthetic. If that's the case, please refer to our comprehensive tent guide for some different types of tents. We run the gamut from hammock tents to hybrid tunnels.

Of course, canvas tents are some of the trendiest and most versatile temporary shelters out there. They don't have much competition in terms of ventilation and durability. In light of recent events, we can even see people using these tents as makeshift quarantine shelters. 

But that's enough of that - let's hope we can get back to looking at some of the more enjoyable reasons to set up one of these amazing structures soon! 


Thank you so much for reading!