Canvas Tent Help

3:05 p.m. on March 23, 2013 (EDT)
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So I'm looking to making my own backcountry tent to suit my own style and was looking into just the right materials. I have the design already. My parents work in a sailboat sail repair and construction factory, so pending the decision on materials I'm good to go, as they will help with the construction. My question is, I love canvas, as the military uses them and it seems like a durable material. I want something that will last me many years of frequent backcountry camping and take a lot of abuse.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Rod

6:24 p.m. on March 23, 2013 (EDT)
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What is the question(s)?

 IMO you want sunforger canvass in 10 ounce, treated for UV rays and fireproofed. This stuff will be heavy compared to a lot of nylon or polyester tents, but you can have a fire closer, perhaps inside depending.

I don't know 'your style', but my style so far as canvass goes is tarps cut square with lots of loops, at least every 3 feet.

My preferred size is 12 feet x 12 feet real size. Not what was 12x12 before sewwing.

2 of them plus a bit more can make one of these, but you will need a truck to transport it all.

[IMG]http://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll275/Mac_Muz/DSC01137web.jpg[/IMG]

You will have to click that link. I don't know how to make the photobucket account pic show up here.

6:56 p.m. on March 23, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for the reply Lodge Pole.

My question was what material to use to construct the tent. Something that would last. I forgot to mention but my style is minimalist, love loading that canoe and head to the Everglades for a few days, sometimes I use the chickees (above water platforms) on the "inside" of the everglades, other times I island hop on the "outside", that being said, I would not mind a smaller sized tent.

I wouldn't mind if it was a bit heavier but I don't want to use a truck lol.

Thanks buddy.

Rod

7:14 p.m. on March 23, 2013 (EDT)
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Wow that was a huge setup on the pic.....lol.

Nice ...but huge.

Rod

8:23 p.m. on March 23, 2013 (EDT)
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I found some canvas tarps at Home Depot. I'd have to water proof it but its heavy duty. Debating between the 10oz or the 15oz.

Rod

8:38 p.m. on March 23, 2013 (EDT)
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For weight savings and other reasons, I would suggest Egyptian cotton. See http://tentsmiths.com/egyptian-cotton-tents.html for info.

10:07 a.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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I have one of those hd canvas tarps, ive had it 15 yrs. I dont carry it packin cause its really heavy. I used to keep it in my truck when I built houses, I would throw it over my cut bench when a rain shower moved in. I didnt have to worry about anything poking holes in it thats for sure. Then I carried it in my bass boat for a while, it was perfect to go from the windshield to outboard for a rain shelter. The downfall is that it weighs five times as much as my silnylon tarp that is twice as big. If your lookin for durability thats what you want, I think its the heavier one, I cant imagine anyone wanting anything heavier/thicker than this one. I have tied a 70 pound sliding,compound miter saw into it and hauled it onto a roof to cut some complicated trim. Sharp edges, points and all it didnt even leave a mark on that beast. That being said a ten by ten tent made with four of them plus roof would be far too heavy to carry very far, and it is not at all compressible. It would be huge! There is a small curvilenear tent I forget the name, but its canvas on sale on clist nh, for $29, that would one option for a canvas tent.

10:08 a.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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I agree with tentsmiths and know them personally. Nice folks and you could call. In fact the tan color canvass it their 12 x 12 tarps, but canvass.

 Very tightly woven Egyptian cotton not oiled tents of theirs have been to the North Pole.

Still if it were me and I were solo, and in the everglades and wanted a tarp tent of this cotton it would still be 12 x 12 square.

I have have canvass 10x10 tarp tents and find them a little tight for just me and my gear.

Go to my profile and you will see my new kelty 12 x 12 which is not cut square and I didn't know that it would not be cut square, so in the 'Diamond Set' I can not pull it as tight as it should be, but you will get the basic idea.

Or one of the 2 tarp threads in beginners is a mini report with a few of the pics.

Egyptian cotton still weighs more than nylons and polyesters, but it is more durable in the long run and far more durable than painters drop cloths.

The tan canvass is well cared for but has been mine and in yearly use since 1995. Because I use line loops in the tarp loops there is 0 wear, other than smoke stains on each of the 4 canvass parts.

Either of the 2 tan canvasses can be set up as a Diamond set each of i go solo somewhere.

If you are a serious minimalist, I suppose you could go as small as 8x8 which will cut weight, but not get you much room in a Diamond Set.

ALL Tentsmiths cloth is fire treated except for the oil cotton and maybe the Egyptian cotton.. For a fact that oil cotton will burn right up fast...... I still have and wear a frock rain coat they made for me, which I lit up, reaching across a fire. I made no effort to repair it, so i would have a reminder of my folly. ;-)

10:33 a.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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backcountry,

Listen to Lodge Pole.  sunforger is as good as it gets in the world of canvas.  There is a lot of UV in Florida and it eats tents.  I have been using canvas for 40 years.  I would suggest a Baket style tent with good bug netting.  Something in the range of 8x8 or 9x9, but tall enough to stand up in .

The old Bill Mason style campfire tent shows some good examples.  Google it.

11:38 a.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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Thank you so much for the info guys. I will be reviewing all th information and will report what I decided to go with. I will be canoeing so I can be a little flex on the weight. Ill report what I'll go with and then report how it worked out. Meanwhile I will scour this forum, so much great info here.

Rod

11:42 a.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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Lodge Pole, just browsed through your pictures, very nice tent ....and sailboat..

Rod

7:32 p.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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back country, That kelty tarp doesn't set up quite the way I hoped but it will due... I have other tents in the modern style and then that lodge which is 4 separate pieces, as (2) 12 x 12 canvass tarps, and (2) old tee pee liners used as ends/doors.

It can be closed up and have a fire any where in the center line.

If the weather is nice there is no sense having a fire inside taking up space I can live in.

I am new here, and have assorted other pics, but not here yet. I do living history with dates usually of 1750-1840. I can go back to about 10,000 years if something requires that date, but I stop at the industrial age 1840.

If you go cheap drop cloth you may find it will need to be water proofed. In that case using linseed oil with burnt sienna is a pretty nice color, and you would want to add baking soda to neutralize the acid in the oil.

That will last a long time and keep bugs at bay as well but don't get it on fire ever......... Burn right up super fast...... it will also take a few weeks to dry, and you may find you need to rub it with as round a rock as you can find.

That will add weight too.

Little side note: burning cotton is a one of the hotter fires, and being in a cotton tent on fire is no fun.

1:58 a.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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I got some of the Egyptian cotton from the guy at Tentsmiths about 12 years ago. Egyptian cotton is very strong and lightweight. The only other cotton I would consider is Ventile, which is similar, but not exactly the same. I would avoid canvas. While the latter is certainly durable, the former cottons are lighter and nearly as strong. Additionally, they are easier to sew and pack. And the canvas tents will be very heavy when wet, as they absorb lots of water. As far as design, if you are very minimalist, I'd suggest a Whelen tent. The tent I made, and is used north of 60 still, is a Baker tent, also known as a Campfire tent and a Mason. As a paddler, you are probably familiar with Bill Mason and plans can be found in his books for a  5 X 7, a 7 X 7 and a 9 X 7. I made the middle one and put in a heavier floor, and a different design for the netting, but is otherwise the same.

If you want a winter tent, a wall tent and a small folding sheepherders stove with a roof jack is the way to go. Sod flaps(snow flaps) help make them cozy. You can go with a heavier material for these.

Note that with any of these, you don't want synthetic panels anywhere.

11:53 a.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Erich,

Good post.  I have a nylon Whelen lean-to that weighs around 2-3 pounds.  I have used it backpacking and for overnight ski trips with a fire in front.  Fancy living. 

I like Bakers and grew up with them.  When I was about 12 my Dad would take us out of school to go deer hunting and we always camped with a Baker tent.  Dad liked to bring a bale of straw to sleep on.  He learned that trick from his Uncle Ralph an old railroading man.  We used to have my grandfather's Baker tent that he bought when he came back from WW I.

11:59 a.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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ppine said:

Erich,

Good post.  I have a nylon Whelen lean-to that weighs around 2-3 pounds.  I have used it backpacking and for overnight ski trips with a fire in front.  Fancy living. 

I like Bakers and grew up with them.  When I was about 12 my Dad would take us out of school to go deer hunting and we always camped with a Baker tent.  Dad liked to bring a bale of straw to sleep on.  He learned that trick from his Uncle Ralph an old railroading man.  We used to have my grandfather's Baker tent that he bought when he came back from WW I.

 I still have a roof from what was a CCC wall tent. I had the entire tent, but the walls fell to bits shortly after it became mine. It's very cool you have a tent of a even earlier vintage.

12:37 p.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Canvas wall tents are rather ubiquitous up here, with many people thinking that they are the only tent worth while for bush travel. But I have found that they require too many pegs and poles and guy lines. They also have straight side walls which catch the wind like a sail; something I have witnessed more than once. And they weigh in at 50lbs or so; that is alright when you travel mostly by snow machine, but when you are hiking or even canoeing it's another thing all together.

I tried to get my hands on some light weight Egyptian cotton from Tentsmith, but they were out of stock at the time. However, I did find an unlikely source with Amazon. I purchased some Egyptian cotton bed sheets with a thread count of 1500 or better. On sale, the total materials ran about $300 CD. With this I made my own A-frame or wedge tent a la Calvin Rutstrum. I prefer this design to the Baker and any wall tent around. I modified Rutstrum's design by making it more like the old Trailwise Fitzroy with sloping poles to tention out the ridge line so all I need to do is peg out the ends and sides. In serious weather I can guy out the sides. I also added flaps along the perimeter to pile snow on. This makes a cozy retreat on stormy days.

I have a thimble for the stove pipe to go through and a small sheet metal stove. All together, stove, pipe and tent weigh under 20 lbs.

 

12:53 p.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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One great thing about a Baker, or a Whelen, which is like a minimalist Baker, is that the front is open, but protected from rain. That way, it is possible to look outside, even in a storm. MSR makes a nylon version of what is essentially a Whelen. Too bad they don't call it that. I have one of the Colonel's books, and while sometimes a bit pedantic, it was what inspired me to start canoe tripping four decades ago. Wall tents, the larger Bakers, and a few others of older designs, have the advantage that they are tall enough to stand up in. That is also important as you don't want to brush against the material, otherwise it can wick water through. The Egyptian cotton is better for this reason, than a coarse canvas. One difference between something like a Baker and newer tents, is the philosophy behind them. Canoeist Bill Mason, did not like the term "camping" because he felt that the term implied hardship. He preferred "living in the outdoors" and tents like wall tents and Bakers were designed to by used day in, day out, for months at a time, winter and summer. I have experience with a campfire and a cotton Baker, and the sloping roof really does reflect heat back into the tent where you sleep. I would assume that the Whelen is capable of the same thing. 

If you make one, make sure that you use cotton thread(linen is very tough) not the waxed thread that is often used in sailmaking. The reason is, that a synthetic or waxed thread will not expand when wet, and you will have potential for leaks. Also, be aware of the warp and weft of the material when cutting the panels.

As North says, both Bakers and wall tents are more subject to wind, so I wouldn't use either of mine on the Barrens. They also tend to be a bit pole heavy, the Baker needing a ridge pole and two support poles. Weight of my 3 person Baker in Egyptian cotton, less poles, is 12 pounds, the nylon two person, half that.

Here's a photo of my nylon Baker(not suitable for fires) rigged for rain. Pelly River, YT 2007.


slide0042_image064.jpg

1:52 p.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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My Rutstrum A-frame tent is 7 x 9 feet, minus a bit for stitching. It stands about 6.5 feet allowing most people to stand up in.

I also put a door in both ends. This might seem superfluous, but allows you to open up an entire side, lean-to style. The tent weighs about 7 lbs, the stove and pipe about 13.

Erich, the Pelly River is nice, but I have fond memories of the upper South Macmillan; the mountains are just great.

 

3:24 p.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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So, your lean-to almost makes a Baker with one side pulled up, less the rear wall!

North, the Pelly trip was good one, though I prefer smaller rivers. Only one other party, a German couple, over 12 river days. This summer, it's either the Big Salmon, or the Beaver/Stewart Rivers back to Mayo. Do you know anyone who has done that? It's either a fly in to Clarke Lakes out of Mayo, or an overland route. The latter I've heard, but have no first hand knowledge for, from Gus Karpes, that it is a 40 km swamp,  paddle/portage from McQuesten Lake to the Beaver.  Only an Austrian guy has done it, according to Karpes, but there may be others. McQuesten Lake is accessed by a 20km track/trail. From maps the swamp section to Clarke Lakes looks to be only about 10k and has some potholes and push me,pull you creeks. How was the South Mac?

12:15 p.m. on March 26, 2013 (EDT)
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It takes a lot of looking to find a discussion this good on the internet.

I once checked out a book by Townsend Whelen from the Ballard library in Seattle back in about 1976.  I moved several times and never returned the book until 2 years ago.  His lean-to is great but needs bug netting for the North country.

Another great canoeing tent is the range tipi that is shaped like the old Forester tent with one center pole.

I was looking at a scrap book last night of my friend's trip in a light plane to the NWT.  We were talking about Coppermine, Inuvik, Fort Liard and Yellowknife.  Musk ox and caribou in the restaurants.

Last night I was reading out of "Fire in the Bones", the biog of Mason.

 

12:52 p.m. on March 26, 2013 (EDT)
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On Your Own in the Wilderness, is a great read, though quite dated. One way many of these tents were used in bug country, was to have a piece of netting you would pull over yourself. You can see this style of sleeping in this film about Albert Faille, who lived in Nahanni Butte(and later Fort Simpson).

http://www.nfb.ca/film/nahanni/

All these older tents are quite pole heavy. In many places in the North, established camp sites will have poles for erecting a Wall or other similar tent. The trees are often small Black Spruce, or sometimes Lodge Pole Pines further south and so tent poles from dead trees are readily available. I often use them for setting up tarps on gravel bars where there are no standing trees.

1:17 p.m. on March 29, 2013 (EDT)
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For open air camps like that, when your shelter is some form of tarp, we use a mosquito bar. There was a mail order store in Winnipeg called S.I.R that stocked them. Nowadays, you have to make them yourself. I find camping in this way, with a tarp lean to, such as the Whelen or a tarp tent, brings one closer to the outdoors. But, maybe I'm just waxing nostalgic?

Ppine, I have a freezer full of polar bear, grizzly and muskoxen. It's about all we eat these days. I even had some muktuk a while ago, but it is not my favorite.

2:16 p.m. on March 29, 2013 (EDT)
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You guys that camp in bug seasons should try coating a canvass with linseed oil. I have no idea why but camped out in the umbagog area in maine in black fly season they just left me alone.

Meanwhile my brother and his friend going modern with bug dope a nylon tent with screening were eaten alive.

I did have a small smudge fire going but it went as i fell to sleep wrapped in the oiled canvass and i didn't get the chomp.

I slept in a off white worn cotton trade shirt and a breech clout, under oiled canvass as it was hot, and the canvass was just a smaller tarp or a foot print as many here would call it.

Before that trip going modern and taking a Elgin 1.25 hp outboard i used to have the bugs were so bad I fired up that motor and ran it on a tree limb all night up wind of the tent.

And that didn't stop the black flies from buzzing on the tent screen all night long. Those bugs drive Moose insane here.

Once i came upon a muddy moose laying on the ground just off the trail and took it as a pine log. When it got up there was a exaggerated shadow. Almost cartoon like, which was 100,000,000,000 black flies on that poor moose settin' back down.

I hate being at the bottom of the food chain.

8:28 p.m. on March 29, 2013 (EDT)
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North 1,

You must be pretty far North.  You are right on with the closer to the outdoors arguement.  I love lean-tos and Bakers.  You don't miss anything.

I have spent a lot of time around bears, black and the humped variety.  The polar bears are still the mystical, scary, sacred unknown to me.  I can't imagine eating one.  Are you tribal?  Do you live with people that are?

Can you give us some idea of your location that you diet is composed of musk ox, polar and griz?  Holy shit.

10:59 a.m. on March 30, 2013 (EDT)
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North 1,

After giving your last post some thought, I am confused.  Why would anyone in the Arctic eat bears when you are surrounded by all that deliscious caribou meat?  Federally protected bears at that.  Please explain.

1:26 p.m. on March 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Ppine,

I live north of 68 degrees. We have all three species of bear in our area; unique in North America. Although, by "area" I mean 1000's of km. The land up here is big so I tend to think of area in large units. Polar bear and grizzly are closely regulated by the government, but we are allowed to hunt them providing we obtain the requisite tags.

Few people here eat bear meat; they think of them as pests, and shoot them only for the hide, where as I find it tastes just like beef and would eat it all the time.

Caribou hunting has become too political, so I prefer to stay out of it. I think bear meat tastes better anyhow.

As for muskoxen, we do an annual harvest out of Sachs Harbour and sell the meat to the local store.

The muktuk is from the annual whale hunt, usually Beluga.

To cook up bear meat I put it in a slow cooker and let it simmer all day. It is very tender and makes a great stew.

6:03 p.m. on March 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Sorry, OP, for this digression, but I would like to ask North1 a question, because who knows when I'll be able to ask anybody this again.

I've eaten black bear, and I've eaten seal (and enjoy both very much), and I always imagined that polar bear would taste like a cross between the two, because of diet. Is it so? Is it a black, rich meat like seal? Just very curious. :) Thank you.

9:01 p.m. on March 30, 2013 (EDT)
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Islandess, I would be happy to answer your question.

Polar bear tastes like any other bear. At least to me. It runs dark and lean with a thick layer of subcutaneous fat. In other words, not marbled like beef, but still similar in taste. The flavour in most meats comes from the fat which I usually trim off. It does depend, however, on how one cooks it, and as I stated I normally make bear stew. I have also eaten raw polar bear, in which case it tastes like cold iron.

Polar bears also prefer to den in the snow as apposed to a canvas tent. ; )

7:29 p.m. on May 9, 2013 (EDT)
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North1 said:

My Rutstrum A-frame tent is 7 x 9 feet, minus a bit for stitching. It stands about 6.5 feet allowing most people to stand up in.

I also put a door in both ends. This might seem superfluous, but allows you to open up an entire side, lean-to style. The tent weighs about 7 lbs, the stove and pipe about 13.

That's a great weight for a tent that size. Love the extra height. 

I'd be interested in seeing a sketch of the design. Any idea where I can find one?

11:04 a.m. on May 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Peter, I will post some pictures on this site once the snow melts around here and I can set up the tent. We have had a very long winter, but the temperatures are slowly rising above freezing. We are now entering bad dog sledding time.

4:40 p.m. on May 10, 2013 (EDT)
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I found a few photos, but I'm interested in how to build one. Would you know of any technical drawings? All the pics I can find seem to have heavy wood-frame doors.

10:29 a.m. on May 11, 2013 (EDT)
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I liked Lodge Pole's mentioning of tipi liners as being handy for use with canvas tents.  I have used 3 of them to close up a Baker for use in cold weather.  Not exactly air tight but useful with a wood stove.  Also handy for privacy if there are people around and for shade.

10:30 a.m. on May 11, 2013 (EDT)
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In the New Way of the Wilderness, Rutstrum mentions two tents. The All Weather Tent, which he also calls the Reflector Type. It is a essentially a Baker with the extendable sides and awning. This looks like the Campfire Tent of Bill Mason, and may be where Mason got it. The other tent is the Convertible A Tent, which is an A tent that can be erected normally, but can also be laid on its side, one wall forming the sloping roof, the other the floor and so making a reflector tent, similar to a Baker, or a Whelen. Set up in the standard way, one wall can be raised to form an awning.

12:19 p.m. on May 11, 2013 (EDT)
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The 7 pounds thing is getting to me too. I need to see this.

This tent with stakes and tyveck foot print under it weighs around that much.
DSC08602web.jpg

This tent is all one piece of cloth, less the home made tyveck .

The tipi liner comment by ppine amused me as with out that liner in a tipis you get a shadow show. Well you get that in any tent with out a liner too! :-)


Lodge1.jpg

This us what ppine is talking about. This has 2 tipis liners as the whiter cloth ends, and is 2 tentsmith 12 x 12 tarps as the tan cloth (both canvass) I don't really know what each piece of cloth weighs, but i would assume each one is over 7 pounds.

This set up resembles a double bell wedge, but really big, and the 12 x 12's are turned back at 9 feet, which makes 2 tan parts so either side can be smoke flaps.

The tan parts can both be open at the same time, but as shown only one side is up and open. The ends can both be rolled back to be open from either side and both can be open at the same time too.

Closed up snug you can have fire in the center line. I mean a fire, not a stove. This takes 11 poles to set up and 3 more for smoke flaps. There are extra poles in the picture. Stakes only hold the canvass out. In addition there are 3 more 9 foot poles on the inside when it is closed which just lean on the ridge pole so the canvass can't sag.

You NEED A Truck to move this around. of a canoe and in a place where you can cut poles with no govt hassles. I use it for primitive events.

On the other hand I could take any 1 canvass and make a shelter of it easy. I would choose one of the 12 x 12's, and have. I go 2 up anywhere mostly so the 12 x 12 size is a minimum for luxury and comfort as I see things.

If I go solo somewhere I don't need a tent anyway.

5:46 p.m. on May 11, 2013 (EDT)
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The A-frame tent I am referring to is a simple design with no floor or foot print. The weight is minus poles which I cut myself when in the trees. As I stated before, it is made out of long-staple Egyptian cotton bed sheets with a thread count of 1500. At about 4 ounces per yard, it is fairly light wieght. I just stitched the sheets together into a 15' x 9' rectangle to make a tent 7' wide at the base x 9' deep with a peak of about 6.5 feet. The remaining material went into the doors on either end. I also made the ridge with a bit of a curve so it was easy to pitch taught.

I hope this helps.

6:08 p.m. on May 11, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks, North1. Sounds simple enough. Your Egyptian cotton sounds like it would work sort of like Ventile in a rain. 

12:58 p.m. on May 12, 2013 (EDT)
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Peter, Egyptian cotton and Ventile are very similar, though I think that Ventile is actually a tighter weave. Tentsmiths is able to get very light Egyptian cotton, similar to North's about 3.5 ounces as I recall. I put a heavier floor in my Baker, which I now regret.

1:48 p.m. on May 12, 2013 (EDT)
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That was my thought, Ehrich. The trick with Ventile is that the fibres expand when wet, making an even tighter weave. I don't know whether that would apply to Egyptian cotton. 

7:06 p.m. on May 12, 2013 (EDT)
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Yes, Egyptian cotton(as well as all cotton) expands when wet and so becomes water resistant. The tighter the weave, the more it expands. Long staple cottons. like Egyptian and Pima, are stronger, and when woven tightly are more water resistant. Repeated washing will compromise this. I've compared my Ventile fabric to my Egyptian and it is heavier and I would say, a crisper finish, so I would guess to be an even tighter weave. 

8:32 p.m. on May 12, 2013 (EDT)
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8732761419_2b2ebd9116_c.jpg

I can send original PDF if anybody is interested. Haven't figured out everything about uploading links to files.

That is next. But the price seems about right.

1:52 a.m. on May 13, 2013 (EDT)
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www.wintertrekking.com is a great site to ask about canvas tents. One of their sponsors, Snowtrekker, makes them-pricey, but very well made based on what the owners sy about them. Some of the members have made their own from varying designs and know where to find the materials for making one yourself as well as different brands, including surplus military tents.

 

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