A Canvas Wall Tent – Camping Without Hauling a Trailer

Several years ago, we decided a wall tent might be a good alternative to sleeping in the back of the truck or in our backpacking tents, especially in cold weather and when we planned to sleep near the truck anyway. Of course, we enjoy the comfort of sleeping in a nice, heated camping trailer, but sometimes it is a lot of trouble getting a trailer in and out of some of the rougher Forest Service and BLM roads, especially later in the hunting seasons after the snow starts to pile up.

canvas wall tent with stove

Our 12×14 wall tent gets us into the backcountry where no trailer can.

I’ve seen two separate Elk seasons in the last 10 years where many hunters spent days trying to get their trailers back off the mountain after snow storms. Many roads were so blocked with traffic coming off the mountain that other hunters couldn’t drive up the mountain. I was glad not to be involved in that mess. We went hunting while many people were directing traffic.

Every year, anyone taking a trailer into the higher elevation mountains between mid October to mid November is taking a chance that their trailer will spend the Winter on the mountain. This is not usually a problem if you stay close to the major roads, but who wants to camp near the major roads? During that time, it’s important to pay close attention to the weather forecasts.

It seems that our plans for where to camp and where to hunt are altered by snow storms almost every year, especially for the muzzleloader elk season that starts at the end of October or early November.

In fact, as I wrote this, we were planning for a hunt that started in early October and it’s was snowing outside. A few days earlier, we were hunting at 9,400 feet on dry ground, but there was at least a foot of snow up by then. I was be able to drive back up there after a few days, but I didn’t see any more trailers hauled up there again that year.

Our First Wall Tent

At the time we were considering a wall tent, we didn’t know anyone that had one, so we researched the costs and the options to consider, made our decision and bought a wall tent. Here is our wall tent buying guide based on our research.

wall tent window with screen

Tent has two screened windows that shut with an attached canvas flap held with velcro.

Our tent is a 12 x 14 feet and 5 ft high on the sides and 8 ft high in the center. The tent has one door, a sewn in screen door, two windows and a stove jack (fireproof fiberglass hole for smoke stack) and a set of frame angles for a 4-rafter internal frame. We decided to buy the stove separately. We got lucky and found one for sale (still in the box) by a local person.

The tent weighs about 60 lbs and including the 12 internal frame angles, 25 poles, stakes and rope, the entire weight is less than 100 lbs. Even including the stove (42 lbs) and stove pipe, the total load is less than 150 lbs, so it everything easily fits in the back of the truck and would even fit in the trunk of a mid-sized car. So anywhere the truck can go, the wall tent can go.

Tips for Assembling the Wall Tent Frame

When motivated, my wife and I can set the entire tent up in about 15-20 minutes without the stove and about 20-25 minutes including the stove and stove pipe. The most time consuming part is the assembly of the internal frame.

wall tent frame pole angles

Figure 2. The Angles and Poles of the Internal Frame were Marked for Quick Assembly

The frame angles are attached to poles that connect to other frame angles. The poles simply slide into the frame angles and are held in place by friction. After trying the “trial and error” method several times, I finally wised up and marked the angles and poles with colors and symbols to speed up the assembly process (see Figure 2).

I used blue for all the ridge pole pieces, white for all the pieces on one side and black for the other side. I also put the number “1” on all the angles and poles on the first rafter (door end), an “X” on all the parts for the 2nd rafter, “O” for the third rafter and the number “7” for the end rafter. Yes, I made a cheat sheet in case I don’t remember. Figure 2. shows the white paint and “X” indicates these pieces make up the 2nd rafter on one side.

Setting Up the Wall Tent is Fairly Simple

First step, is to assemble the internal frame except for the legs, then the tent is pulled over the frame. Next, one side is lifted at a time so the legs can be attached to the frame. The tent is then “squared up” and staked down at the corners first, then along each side. We have set the wall tent up faster than I have seen some people level their trailer.

After the tent is set up, the floor (tarp or  ground cloth) is rolled out and the cots and table are set up. If we want heat, we set the stove up under the stove jack, join the sections of nesting stove pipe, which are held by friction pressure and slide the stove pipe through the stove jack in the top of the tent and attach the stove pipe to the stove.

Wall Tent Assembly

That’s all there is to it, Home Sweet Home as long as we need it. No question, our wall tent is much more spacious and comfortable than our backpacking tents. We never used the larger family style tents, but the wall tent has the advantage there also because of the ability to use a wood stove for heat and hot water.

Is the wall tent better than a trailer? Well, that depends. More comfortable? No, not really, but it is comfortable enough to go out in bad weather and enjoy the trip. Is it easier to pull on bad roads or bad weather? Absolutely! And we still have money left in our pockets after buying the wall tent and stove.

Advantages of Wall Tent over Trailer

  • Cost – $1,000 (or less) vs $10,000 or more
  • No cost for tags, insurance or registration
  • Light weight – 150 lbs vs 2,000 lbs or more
  • Easier to haul on bad roads – If the truck can go, the wall tent can go.
  • Compact storage – Will fit in trunk of mid-sized car
  • Can be packed by horse or with a game cart
  • Easier to set up on steep sites
  • Wall tent and wood stove can always be used for emergency shelter

Advantages of Trailer over Wall Tent

  • Comfort – no question, a nice well equipped trailer is more comfortable
  • Water may drip down frame and puddle on floor
  • Wood stove vs propane heater – wood stove needs more attention (wood warms you twice)
  • Less security; people, bears, creepy crawlies; when concerned about bears, we set up a portable electric fence
  • Ground inside tent may not be level

If you can think of more advantages and disadvantages, let us know.

A Second Wall Tent

elk mountain wall tent

Our 13X13 Elk Mountain Wall Tent.

We now have a 2nd wall tent from Elk Mountain Tents.

By having two tents, we can accommodate extra family members or friends and not be overcrowded or give up our privacy (or theirs).

elk mountain wall tent front view

Look at all the room available for our two cots and the wood stove.

Here are a couple of recent photos taken during a late Fall hunting trip.

It is amazing that we didn’t have snow on the ground, but it was still cold enough at night that we enjoyed having the Cylinder stove.

The Elk Mountain tent and frame is so much lighter, we find it easier to pack and to set up when we don’t have an army to help, especially when it’s just the two of us.

Look for a full review in the future.

Q: Are you thinking of getting a wall tent? What are your concerns? Let us know below.

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Comments

  1. I agree. Wall tents are great, trailer tents are great too. You just have to choose the one that suits you most.

  2. This post is highly informative! I like this! Wall tents and trailer tents happen to be 2 of my favorite camping companions. My family has tried both and both worked as well. Thanks for sharing this awesome post!

  3. chris reum says:

    I am trying to find or create walls for one of the 10×20 white ‘Menards’ style canopies. Do you know where I can find instructions to build / sew / etc. 10×6 ft or so walls so I can add screens and such to them. The canopy tents are not designed for this, but we figured we use one already for a number of uses so to add some walls, etc and we can either tent camp or just use for a backyard BBQ.

    • Chris: I don’t know of any such plans, but I like the way you think.
      I have several thoughts about your project:
      Tent material is usually heavy weight (10 oz or heavier) double-fill cotton army duck canvas. I have sewn this kind of material before and can tell you it is tough to sew by hand or requires a heavy duty sewing machine. This material usually comes in 5 foot wide bolts, so to make a single 10 ft wide panel, you would have to sew or lace two pieces together. The cotton duck usually comes in a natural tan color, which will not match well to your white canopy (if that is important).
      Cotton tarps or drop cloths are available in many sizes such as 10×8 foot or 12×10 foot, but they are lighter weight material, not waterproofed and the “white” tarps are not very white. The sizes may also be a few inches short of the advertised size, especially for tarps with grommets.
      For your 10×6 foot wall, consider at least a foot of overlap on the ground to overlap with a ground cloth. More overlap (18″ – 2 feet) is better, but adds extra weight.
      Last thought is some of the canopy frames I have seen seem a little fragile to me compared to a wall tent frame. If you enclose the walls, that will create a huge surface area for the wind to push against, so make sure you have plenty of rope and real stakes (not flimsy aluminum or tiny plastic stakes) to anchor the tent.
      Good luck with your project.

  4. In another post, Charlie made a comment about using auto shelters instead of wall tents. I thought the same thing when my neighbor got one for his Jeep. They are cheaper than wall tents and are available as full shelters that could be used for sleeping.
    They are also available as canopies or even screened canopies for cooking and eating.

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