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Wall Tent Material Comparison
For hundreds of years, fabric has been the material of choice in curtain walling. But it is no longer the only choice. And is it the best choice for you? Below are the pros and cons of different materials and factors to consider when choosing your curtain wall.
Canvas is the traditional material for the wall tent. It is strong and durable. I have seen fabric curtains that were 30 years old and still in perfect order. The fabric can be treated (before production) to be flame retardant, water resistant and mildew resistant. If you decide on a fabric tent, we definitely recommend that you choose one that is treated to this point and not just to be water resistant.
Fabric comes in several weights, usually listed in ounces. The weight of the fabric used is usually listed as part of the store’s specifications. It is important to determine if the material weight advertised for the tent is the weight before or after the treatment, because this can make a considerable difference. For example, a fabric that weighs 10 oz after treatment will probably start out as a 7 oz fabric. While fabric that weighs 10 oz before treatment can weigh up to 14 oz after treatment.
Because it is 100% cotton, the fabric is especially good for absorbing some of the internal condensation created by dry clothes or boiling water. It also retains heat very well and the heavy weight of fabric helps it to billow less in a stiff wind.
A fabric wall tent provides excellent shelter, but must be properly cared for for best results. The fabric should be completely dry before storage to avoid mold and mildew growth. Many times, this requires setting up the tent when you get home from your trip and, depending on the season and the weather, it can take a day or three to dry. Once the mold has attached to the fabric, you can stop the mold growth, but you can never remove the stain. Also, if the tent has never been treated, you may need to “re-waterproof” it regularly with a product like Canvak. In general, the treated fabric does not require maintenance of this type depending on the quality of treatment.
Relite is available only from Montana Canvas. For many outdoor camping purposes, Relite is a perfect choice of tent fabric. This unique polyester-based fabric, developed about 15 years ago, is extremely light, making it ideal for packing in animals and eco-friendly, low-impact camping. Relite’s lighter weight also makes these tents easier to handle when setting up and taking down.
Soft, flexible and easy to clean, Relite offers fabric-like tear strength and longevity. Because Relite is so durable and more resistant to destructive ultraviolet rays than other lightweight tent materials such as nylon, it is the choice of many outdoor enthusiasts. Because it is not as heavy as a canvas, it can slide more easily in windy conditions, but stacking securely down the walls solves this problem.
Being a polyester based fabric, Relite does not have the ability to absorb moisture and internal condensation can be a concern. However, using a wall tent fly, which I discuss further below, seems to solve most condensation problems.
Like fabric, Relite is pretreated to be flame retardant, water resistant and mildew resistant. Even if it does not grow mold, I recommend drying the wall tent before storage to avoid a musty smell the next time you use it. Relite does not require retraction for water resistance, but the seams must be treated once the first time you use the tent and must be closed when necessary.
Montana mix is also a Montana Canvas exclusive. This combination of materials offers you the best of both worlds. The four walls of the tent are made of Relite while the roof is made of fabric. With most of the tent made of lightweight Relite, the overall weight of the wall tent is significantly reduced from that of a canvas tent (about 40% lighter). The fabric roof provides a more breathable material to absorb condensation and gives the wall tent a more traditional look than a 100% Relite wall tent.
Although we recommend setting up your tent to dry before putting it up, with Montana Blend, the tent could be set up so that only the roof was exposed to dry, thus requiring less space.
Fly Wall Tent
Whenever I talk about curtain walls, I always recommend using a curtain wall fly. A tent fly is an additional piece of material that you put on the roof of the tent for insulation, protection and extension of the drip line. The added insulation of the fly on a Relite tent seems to solve condensation problems, especially when wood is used as a heat source. Using a fly on a canvas tent keeps the roof clean and the roof dry and the walls dry. If your tent is dry when you get home, you don’t need to find space to dry it. Not to mention, wet cloth weighs much more than dry cloth. All fabrics will benefit from the UV protection that a fly offers.
When helping someone to decide which material to choose, the first factor we discuss is weight. When weight is an issue, the choice is usually limited to 100% Relite or a Montana Blend wall tent. The weight of a wall tent is usually because the person is packed in their camping or because the weight of the tent during the installation and the fall is a concern. For those for whom weight is not an issue, all three fabrics are an option.
The next factor we discuss is maintenance. A Relite wall tent offers the lowest maintenance. With a Montana Blend wall tent, any maintenance would be focused primarily on the fabric roof. A fabric wall tent will have the highest maintenance in terms of fabric care.
Once these factors have been considered, personal taste enters the equation. Sometimes the classic look of a canvas tent is attractive enough for a person to overcome the additional weight and maintenance. Or maybe you like to have the color choices offered by the Relite fabric. Whatever material you choose for your wall tent, make sure that the material is well made, treated well and meets your needs.
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