Nylon Tents Vs. Canvas Tents: Which Are Better?

campfire burning at night
You have to love the hypnotic dancing of a healthy campfire at night.

Today, tents come in all shapes and sizes and they are also made from different types of fabrics. Two of the more popular fabrics that are used for manufacturing tents include nylon and canvas.

Nylon is a 100% synthetic fabric, while canvas is a type of woven fabric typically made from natural (cotton) and synthetic (polyester) yarns.

Each of these fabrics provides different advantages & disadvantages. Deciding between them will depend on what your requirements are.

Canvas Tents

Before synthetic materials were introduced to the market, most of the tents were made out of a canvas cotton material. They were popular and highly functional. However, once the synthetic, man-made fabrics were used for manufacturing tents, canvas started to lose its popularity. The introduction of polyester and nylon tents gave way to cheaper, smaller and lighter products.

Since canvas tents are regarded as more heavy-duty, they are regarded as the better option when you require more protection. These fabrics are more durable and thicker, which makes them a better choice when camping in weather conditions that are unpredictable and adverse. The canvas tents are a popular option for long-term trips. Once these tents are pitched you will start reaping the benefits when it comes to this type of fabric.

The Pros And Cons Of Canvas Tents

Choosing a camping tent will involve a level of compromise. Here is a list of the pros and cons of canvas tents to help you make an informed buying decision:

Benefits of Canvas Tents


Canvas is a highly breathable fabric and provides exceptional ventilation and airflow. This also helps to regulate humidity on the inside of the tent and help to stop condensation from forming on the interior tent walls.


Canvas tents are made from durable and strong natural materials. Canvas will also not fade or deteriorate easily due to UV rays. Also, it is important to know that should your canvas tent tear, it is far easier to mend or repair when compared to synthetic fabrics.


Cotton canvas will not degrade when exposed to consistent sunlight, and the material is generally hard-wearing. If you plan to go on long-stay camping trips, the canvas tent might be the ideal option for you and your family.

Drawbacks of Canvas Tents


The biggest drawback of the canvas tents would have to be the weight associated with this type of material. These natural materials are heavy, which means that canvas tents are more realistic for trips that involve car camping. Any backpacker or hiker that carries their own tent over several miles, would not benefit from a heavy canvas tent.


The time that it will take you to set-up or pitch a tent is another valid consideration. Canvas tents, typically require more energy and time to set up and takedown.

Canvas tents are harder to clean, too. At least much harder than other styles of tent.


In addition to the heavier weight of a canvas tent, the size of these tents is often what eliminates these as a choice for different types of campers. These tents are generally more suitable for camping parties of 4 people or more.


The cotton canvas tent options cost a lot more when compared to the man-made materials. Canvas is not an option if you are on a shoe-string budget.

Kodiak Canvas 8 Person Tent
This is our favorite heavy duty canvas tent – big enough for the whole family!

Nylon Tents

The camping tents manufactured from nylon happen to be far more common when compared to the canvas tents. Nylon is a synthetic material that is not only lightweight but also packs away with ease, making them a much better option for backpacking and hiking.

This material is also quick-drying, and a far more cost-effective choice to the natural options.

The nylon tents also come with various technical features like ripstop, which helps with preventing holes and tears in your tent. There are also more opportunities for technical innovations when manufacturing tents from a material like nylon. The majority of the top-of-the-range camping gear and tents are made from synthetics, rather than canvas.

The Pros And Cons Of Nylon Tents

Nylon tents are linked with very different negatives and positives, which is why it is important to explore these fully before you make a buying decision.

Benefits of Nylon Tents


Among the biggest benefits of the synthetic tents would be how much they weigh when compared to canvas tents. Nylon has an excellent weight to strength ratio, and they are far easier to transport around. When you pack one of these tents down, they can fit easily into your backpacker load.


Tents made from nylon materials are far cheaper when compared to the canvas tents. You can buy a nylon tent of great quality at a price that is far lower when compared to canvas tents.

Weather Protection

Nylon is a much thinner material, so it provides limited protection when it comes to weather that is particularly bad. However, many of the nylon tents come with a durable waterproof coating. Nylon is also faster-drying, which helps to reduce the risks associated with mildew and mold.

Drawbacks of Nylon Tents

Insulation Is Limited

A lightweight and thin material like nylon does not provide much warmth. The lack of insulation often means that a nylon tent can become uncomfortably warm and stuffy when the weather is hot, or allow all the heat to escape in colder weather.

UV Damage

Even though some of these tents feature UV protection, the majority will start to deteriorate from exposure to the sun. This type of damage will cause the material to rip and tear.

Not Breathable

Nylon tents are not that great when considering ventilation, as synthetic materials are not very breathable. This can lead to condensation and a stuffy environment inside the tent.

ALPS mystique tent with orange rain fly
ALPS Mountaineering are some of the best tents out there and our pick for our favorite small nylon tents.

Final Thoughts on Canvas Tents vs. Nylon Tents

Now that you know more about canvas tents and nylon tents, it becomes easier to choose a tent to match up to your personal requirements. Nylon tents are a better option if you wish to travel light.

These tents are also a better option when you plan to camp alone, providing you with adequate shelter from rain and wind. If you are a car camper and you do not mind spending more money on a tent, the canvas tents are the ideal investment for these types of camping trips.

The improved insulation and increased protection when it comes to severe weather, make this type of tent a better choice.

Other Camping Articles of Interest