Last week, I decided to attend my first music festival in around about three years, the excellent Green Man. The last time I camped in a muddy field was at the tender age of nineteen. For this particular festival taking place in the Brecon Beacons, I decided that comfort was paramount in my dotage. Perhaps it’s just me, but I find trying to sleep in what is effectively a small nylon bag exposed to the elements a bit trying. Without the aid of wine, wriggling into your sleeping bag in the wee hours is tantamount to curling up in a fridge – whilst waking up in the morning is as close as one can get to experiencing habitation within a pizza oven. Regardless, just one week before the festival, I found myself searching for tents on Preloved – of which we have an excellent selection by the way. It was then I came across the excellent website: the Joy of Canvas.info, and became a convert to the ways of canvas!
As the Joy of Canvas sets out – here are the main reasons we should all consider getting a canvas tent over a conventional plastic number:
1) The Environment: in comparison to chemical based fabrics, by choosing canvas you will reduce pollution and the strain on the planet’s natural resources. In turn, canvas has a much longer life-span than the equivalent nylon tent and does not suffer from the same level of UV damage. In fact, other than fading 80’s dye jobs, canvas is a very durable material.
2) Comfort: unlike nylon tents, canvas is a breathable fabric which allows for a much more amenable climate during warm weather. In turn, the weight of the fabric keeps the tent’s occupants warmer during a cold night without condensation forming by morning.
I managed to find a pristine 1985 Sunncamp Villa canvas tent for around £40. When I picked it up, I was surprised at its size more than anything else. The poles were significantly larger than you might expect to find within a contemporary tent and equally the tent itself was significantly less compact. It took up a large amount of space within the boot of my car, which was slightly concerning being as there were two more people to pick up. However, I was completely won over by the 80’s colour scheme of yellow and blue, a truly winning combination.
Putting canvas to the test…
What was initially a minor inconvenience in the boot of my car became something akin to a test of human endurance upon arrival in the Brecon Beacons. I completely underestimated the weight of the villa. I am but a delicate flower and found lugging the tent alone; my poor friend carried the poles, a serious challenge. Thankfully, we pitched camp no more than a few kilometres from the car. Without a dedicated trolley/ quad bike, there is a very slender possibility of taking a tent of this size and weight to a larger festival.
Actually getting the tent set-up was fittingly similar to a game show in the 1980s. It felt much closer to assembling a shed than a modern tent. After a six hour drive and a difficult walk to the campsite; engaging in a Fort Boyard-esque puzzle to have somewhere to sleep didn’t exactly tick all the right boxes. Thankfully, my friends are much more competent than me and managed to work out the mainframe. Oddly, Sunncamp set much score by their use of elastic bands and odd picture-hook type attachments to secure the bedrooms. However, once up we were all really pleased with how spacious the tent was – in particular the high roof. It’s possible to stand up in the tent – and a really nice touch is the use of ‘windows’ to let in lots of natural light. The villa even comes replete with stylish curtains which wouldn’t look out of place at a certain pizza chain…
In comparison to my experience of nylon tents, the villa seemed friendly and a nice place to be. I looked forward to going back to the campsite after a hard day of watching bands and sampling Welsh ale. We all found sleeping much easier than in a conventional tent. Canvas doesn’t rustle in the wind in the same way a nylon tent does, it’s much more reassuring in bad weather- and proved to be very adept in the rain. In turn, I found I was warm throughout the night and could sleep into the morning even when the sun was out. Anecdotally, we were able to sleep in through the morning, whereas others in our campsite had to escape their tents as soon as the sun came out.
All in all, my experience of switching to canvas has been broadly positive. It’s true the Sunncamp Villa is not at all utilitarian. There’s absolutely no way you could take one on a hike or up a mountain. However, perhaps that’s the point. The majority of people don’t need rugged tents that can be taken into the Atlas Mountains. In my opinion, camping is greatly enhanced with a cumbersome canvas tent! The initial pain of transporting and setting up is outweighed by the comfort and space offered for the rest of the time. I think there’s also something to be said for the personality of a canvas tent. I feel I have invested in something interesting and unique, which will last for a while to come. There’s nothing throw-away about the villa. I like the idea this throw-back from the excessive 80s could now represent a very sustainable train of thought! Finally, it’s called THE VILLA. I was always going to love it.