We often get asked why someone should purchase our tents and not one from somewhere else. We don’t offer the spread of colors some do and may require more poles. Our tents also tend to cost a bit more than others, but are they worth it? We think so, and here’s why.
Let’s start with the material itself. We work almost exclusively with Sunforger cotton canvas. All of our canvas is an ‘Army Duck’ canvas and not a ‘numbered duck’ canvas, which mostly means it is of a much higher thread count and much a much tighter weave even before it is treated. Our 10oz (really 10.1oz) that is used in most tents is Sunforger Flame which meets CPAI certification for fire resistance. This means you don’t need to worry about the fire marshal or event organizer booting you from a tent for not meeting code, but more importantly it means it’s less likely to go up like a candle should an errant ember come to rest upon your roof. All of our 10oz is white, in part because the process for Sunforger doesn’t look as good on colored canvas, but also because we want your tent to last and look good for years to come. White doesn’t get as hot as other colors and it won’t fade in the sun. It also provides a neutral, diffuse light which is perfect for vendors who don’t want to tint their wares. Cotton canvas wears well, is very durable, and looks appropriate through many periods. Notice we don’t say it looks accurate as cotton canvas is a relative newcomer to the tent world, but it looks appropriate without compromising the things you want a tent for, like staying dry. Historical materials include things such as flax, silk, and skins, all of which make for terrible tent living in inclement weather.
We do offer heavier fabrics. Our 13oz (really 12.63oz) is Sunforger as well, with the white being Sunforger Flame. We encourage vendors to use the heavier fabric as it will better withstand being up for weeks on end and coming up and down throughout the year. This is also a good option for tents being truly lived in or set up for a full season. We do offer a few colors in 13oz, though they are most commonly used for specific historical impressions and are not fire retardant.
Design is a critical part of what makes a Tentsmith tent a good choice. Each of our tents is based on historical research and often on the exact military specifications. We maintain documentation when possible on the tents we make and continue to gather more. More importantly, we build our tents as much like they were historically made as possible. Our founder, Peter Marques, came at our original designs with an engineering point of view and blended that with hands on examination of the documentation and extant examples. For example, our Officer’s Marquee is based directly off work he did on one of George Washington’s tents. Over the years many of our styles have been copied by other manufacturers. We’ve yet to attend an event and find a style we wanted to copy ourselves.
When it comes to construction, our tents have no equals. We specifically use a narrower canvas in our construction, one that is closer to historically woven widths. This does mean our tents contain more seams and take longer to build, but it makes them much stronger. We consider the seams the skeletal system of a tent. The seams across the roof are the ribs and will take the most stress in any design. Additional seams means we can spread that stress out, reducing wear and increasing the life of the tent. You’ll also find that we only put loops and grommets on a seam, meaning that any pressure is being applied to that seam (4 layers of fabric and 2 stitches) instead of pulling directly on a single layer of canvas. Again, this makes the construction more difficult as we’re sometimes sewing through 8, 12, or more layers of canvas! As you can imagine, it takes quite a machine and a skilled stitcher to handle this work, but the payoff is your tent will not stretch, sag, or tear over time. We simply cannot make as strong of a tent from wider canvas.
In addition to having more seams, we constantly evaluate where a tent might fail to prevent you experiencing problems in the field. We reinforce stress points like corners or bias seams to stop sag. Our peaks are built up with multiple layers and are stitched in patterns designed to spread stress. All detachable walls are hooked in at the seams to add to the roof strength and assure they will age with the roof. It does make them a bit harder to put on and take down, but it assures the tent will stay up in wind and rain. We cannot count the number of times we’ve seen and been told of our tents staying up in conditions where others fell. We’ve even seen our tents stay up during a literal flood where a dam burst and 3 feet of water flowed through an event site!
Above and beyond the physical tents themselves, you get great support. Whether online or on the phone, our staff will work to make sure you get the right tent for you. We’d much rather have you purchase a less expensive tent that serves you well for years to come than “upsell” you into a purchase you might regret. Since we use these tents ourselves, as reenactors and vendors, we understand your needs and can walk you through any questions you might have. We not only want you to have a great tent, we want you to have a great experience purchasing it.
Simply put, our tents are the best you’re going to find. With over 40 years of experience behind us and countless nights spent under our own canvas, we firmly believe you can’t invest in a better piece of canvas. And it is an investment in your hobby, your peace of mind, and the safety of you and your loved ones. This isn’t simply a prop or costume piece, this is your home, whether for a weekend, a season, or year-round. That’s why we warranty our tents from all manufacturing defaults for one year, something no other historical tent company does. When you buy one of our tents you know you won’t have to buy another in a few years. And if you decide you want to buy another one, you’ll be able to sell your current one for a great price to fund the new one!