My previous tent maker is no longer making tents, what do I need to know about Tentsmiths tents before ordering?

My previous tent maker is no longer making tents, what do I need to know about Tentsmiths tents before ordering?

The historical tent landscape has been shaken up lately. Panther Primitives retired, Armbruster sold their building and shuttered their doors, and some other tent makers are pairing down their catalogs. While Tentsmiths isn’t the only name left in the market, we’re certainly one of the oldest and most established, with almost 45 years in the marketplace. As such an established brand, we’ve left our stamp on the tent market, but everyone does things a bit differently. We wanted to take a minute to help you navigate purchasing from us to make sure you get a tent you’ll be happy with for decades to come. 

Why are your sizes so weird?

We get this one a lot. We used to list the “rough” size of our tents, but people would get mad if they were a bit shorter or longer than we listed, so we went to a more exact size. We exclusively use 36” canvas for our tents. Once you account for seams, this makes each “panel” of a tent roughly 33” wide, and so 3 panels together becomes not 9’ but 8’6”. Every once in a while (like when you get to 14’) it works out to an exact measurement, but not often. There are exceptions. When working with a specific historical pattern, we often need to cut down our panels to hit their dimensions, but that’s only on tents where we have detailed documentation.

Why use such narrow canvas? Doesn’t it make things more expensive?

Using 36” canvas means we must put in more seams and the canvas cost goes up, so yes, it does cost more. But we have good reasons. First, until roughly 150 years ago or so, fabric was actually narrower than 36”. Using a width closer to a historical one allows us to get more of the proper look in the tent. It also means it will be truer to how the tents were designed.

Secondly, more seams make a tent stronger. Seams are the backbone of the tent and should take the most stress. Each of our seams are gone over twice, capturing at least one selvedge and meaning each seam has its own, distinct integrity to prevent failure.  And that leads to our next big difference.

Why do your tents take so many poles?

Since our founder, Peter, started making tents and not just tipis and tarps, he followed a rule we hold to today;  poles should only go on the seam. This reduces sag and puts all the stress on 4 or more layers of canvas. You won’t see a structural pole anywhere but on a seam on our tents. You’ll also find that any seams on a bias or “hip” will be further reinforced to prevent stretch and sag.

We understand that sometimes having a pole every 33” can be a pain, especially for vendors. In that case, we recommend you just leave one out! On a nice day, it wouldn’t make any difference. However, when bad weather comes in, you can pop that pole back in place, secure it down, and know that your tent is going to withstand the onslaught. We’ve had tents stay up in all kinds of rough weather. Heck, we know of one that stood through a rushing flood of two-and-a-half feet of water and kept the vendor’s goods safe and dry!

Why do you use D-ring and Snap hooks instead of rope and S hooks?

This answer is going to sound a lot like the last 2. Strength. By making sure that the walls and the roof of a tent align, you make the whole package more secure when you stake down the walls. Yes, we know, it can be a bit more of a pain, especially when doing up corners. Loosen up the ropes a bit and it gets far easier. When you need that extra strength out of the tent, you’ll be happy it’s there.

The other side of this is shrinkage. If the wall seams don’t line up directly to the roof seam, they will shrink and age more quickly than the roof. Doors may no longer align properly, especially in the case of vendors who often have one wall on all the time and one going off and on.

Do you make XXXX style tent?

The short answer is, probably yes! Most tent makers are working off historical patterns or designs, so there is a lot of overlap. There may be some variation, but by and large, you’ll find what you’re looking for on our website: We’ve tried to make it as easy to find things as possible, lumping them by type, era, and also having a search box. Chances are you can track it down.

Be aware, some terms are used for tents in different ways. We try to make our as accurate as possible, but there’s so much overlap. In our lingo, a Marquee is any large tent with removable walls with at least 2 straight sides in the roof. We’ve got square, rectangle, round end, and gable end marquees. A Pavilion is a round tent. Wedges and Walls are probably pretty explanatory.

There are some styles that were specifically created by our competitors. We do not make those tents but likely have something similar to meet your needs.

How do I get ahold of you to order my tent? Can you send me a catalog?

I’ve lumped these together because the answer is the same. We put a lot of time almost 5 years ago into developing a robust website to cover 95% of your ordering needs. It has served us, and our customers, very well. Any day of the week, 24 hours a day, you can go to, find what you’re looking for, and put in an order. Canvas, stakes, ropes, poles…you name it, it’s on the website. We’ve even got a contact area where you can send us an email. This is by far the most reliable way to reach us.

That said, you can absolutely give us a call with questions or to place an order at 603-447-2344. You’re most likely to catch us Monday through Thursday from 10-4, and if not, please leave a voice mail. Please be aware that even the folks who take orders and answer the phone are hard at work helping cut tents, package orders, shipping tents, or are maybe on another line. The past few weeks have been quite crazy, so we apologize if it seems we’re ignoring you. We really aren’t, we’re just swamped. Leave us a voicemail or drop an email with the best times to call you, and we’ll get back you ASAP.

In regards to a catalog, we haven’t made one in almost a decade. Cost changes, and the cost of producing a paper catalog, no longer became a good choice for us a company. Hopefully the fact that everything online has multiple pictures helps you better choose your new shelter.

Do you repair non-Tentsmiths tents?

The short answer is no, we do not. Our construction methods vary from the way others have made tents and we aren’t comfortable with duplicating those techniques. Panther has stated they’re remaining available for warranty repair and we would recommend contacting them first. If you want local help, upholstery and sail shops are good options to investigate. 

Now, if you’re ever at an event with us and have a sudden catastrophic event, come visit. We might be able to help you out. Stephen takes a portable walking foot on the road for things like this. That said, if the tent is beyond repair or so old it won’t hold together, we’ll be straightforward.

Why don’t you make it like this?

Hopefully, we’ve answered a lot of that, but to sum it up: longevity and strength. We want to sell you a tent you’ll have for many years, or better yet, decades! Of course, canvas has a lifespan, but we’re always thrilled when someone tells us about or shows us the tent they’ve been using for 20 or 30 years. It may seem counter to the way so much is made these days, but we don’t make disposable items. We prefer the “Pay once, cry once” approach. We’ve learned that it doesn’t actually kill our repeat business. Instead, as your tent needs change throughout your life, you’ll more likely return to us, probably selling your existing Tentsmiths canvas to finance the new one. In the meanwhile, we want you satisfied so you’ll tell everyone else about your products.

Every time we’ve encountered a problem with a tent, we’ve diagnosed it to determine how the failure happened. We’re proud that our construction and reinforcement methods have not needed a change in a very long time, even on our largest tents. We certainly could make changes to reduce the cost of our tents. But, if we did that, we wouldn’t be true to ourselves in providing the best tents we know how to make.

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