Wall Tent Buying Guide | Basics, Options and Extras

When you start searching for information about wall tents, you will find there are many wall tents designed without any modern inventions like zippers, Velcro, snaps, mosquito netting, modern nylon rope or even tent stakes unless they were handmade by a blacksmith.

old style wall tent with ridge pole

Back in the day. No velcro on this wall tent!

There may be nothing to help keep out the cold winter breeze except a string to tie the door flaps shut. These tents are designed for “re-enactors” looking to recreate a “period” experience from the past.

Assuming that you do not have such an aversion to zippers and Velcro, there are several basic things to consider that will make your camping experience more enjoyable and your wall tent last longer.

Wall Tent Design Features To Consider:

canvas wall tent ridge pole flap

Our wall tent has reinforced webbing at the ridge pole opening which allows for a tight fit and has a flap to close when using an internal frame.

  • Reinforced webbing at all areas of tension and wear (ridge pole, storm flap, end wall corners and eaves)
  • Reinforced D rings – stronger than grommets for tie-downs
  • Reinforced webbing to stake tent to ground
  • At least 10 oz weight double-fill cotton Army Duck Canvas – Look at Canvas 101
  • Sod Cloth – A flap of canvas or vinyl (ours is vinyl) at the bottom edge of the tent – used to seal the tent edge by overlapping with the floor material, by covering with dirt or weighted down with rocks – keeps out wind and creepy-crawleys
  • Heavy YKK Zippers and Buckles on Storm door flaps – Nylon zippers are durable and do not freeze up like metal zippers
  • Heavy YKK Zippers and Velcro on window flaps to keep out the cold wind
  • Ridge pole opening with flap or sleeve to fit tightly to pole and to cover the empty hole when using internal frame
  • If using an internal frame, foot pads help to prevent dirt from going into the bottom of the leg poles. Foot pads also prevents leg from working down into soft ground and prevent legs from damaging the sod cloth.  Foot pads are nice, but if ordered with the tent, can cost as much as $10 each. We use plastic pads that are made to prevent furniture from making dents in the carpet and have also used wood chips when we forgot the carpet pads.

Wall Tent Options

When you are ready to order a wall tent, there are many options to consider.

  • Internal Frame– easy to set up tent, but heavier to pack, order angles only and cut 1 inch EMT conduit (tubing) to make poles yourself to save on costs and shipping

    wall tent frame roof poles

    Internal wall tent frame roof section. Includes ridge poles, side poles, 3-way and 4-way angles for connections.

  • Extra Doors or Windows – good for cross ventilation on hot days – easy and inexpensive to add when you order, expensive to add later
  • Rain fly – protects tent against weather and dirt, also prevents sparks from stove pipe from burning pin holes in the tent
  • Sewn in Floor – At first, seems like a nice options to have, but increases cost and weight and would be very hard to set up with an internal frame
  • Tarp or Canvas Drop Cloth for Floor – less expensive option for a floor that can be left behind when weight is critical
  • Cut out in floor for Stove – stove is likely to burn holes in the floor anyway, good option but adds cost and floor adds weight
  • Fireproof mats for Stove – good idea if you have sewn in floor. Better option for stove is sand box or bare ground under the stove
  • Stove Jack (fiber glass lined fireproof holes) for stove pipe (5 or 6 inch) in roof or wall. Includes flap for protection against rain when not in use
  • Clear plastic vs canvas for windows – plastic allows in more light, more cost, less privacy and I assume the plastic is noisy in the wind
  • Screen Door flaps – Adds cost and a small amount of weight, but helps keep the skeeters and flies out – which makes Mamma happy
  • Zippered Corners to roll up side walls in warm weather – probably a nice option for Summer camping, not necessary or even desirable for Winter
  • Door cut for wood frame door – this would be for those that intend to set the wall tent up in a semi-permanent situation on a wood platform floor
  • Screen side walls – also probably a nice option for Summer camping, not necessary for Winter



Randy Newberg, host of “On Your Own Adventures” explains the quality features on his wall tent:

Wall Tent Extras

If you are considering a wall tent or if you already have one, there are many extras that are available to add space or organize all the gear.

  • Porch –  Attaches to tent, can include walls and roof, or you can create your own porch with a longer tent fly (roof only)
  • Cook Shack – extra space that attaches to existing wall tent – No tent shack for me in bear country
  • Gun and bow racks
  • Hangers – good to have to hang lanterns or clothes from the internal frame – but very easy to make these yourself
  • Hanging Organizers
  • Hanging Shelves

 A Tent Fly is Important to Protect Wall Tent

We didn’t include a tent fly when we ordered our wall tent, but a tent fly is important for the many reasons (listed below). It is simpler to order the tent fly from the same place you buy your tent and you can be sure the tent fits properly and it will already have a hole for the smoke stack. We made a tent fly out of a tarp that was larger than our tent. I made the hole for the smoke stack by burning a circle. I also made a metal spacer from several large (gallon?) sized tin cans. The spacer slides over the stove pipe and prevents the tarp from touching the hot smoke stack. Our tarp is inexpensive and will probably not last longer than four or five years, but the main purpose of the fly is to protect the tent from burn holes.

Advantages of a Tent Fly for a Wall Tent

  • Prevents sparks from smoke stack from burning small holes in canvas – even fire retardant treated canvas will get pin holes – always use a spark arrestor
  • Helps prevent canvas from leaking
  • Helps keep canvas clean
  • Small air space between tent and fly helps keep tent warmer in Winter (if wind is calm)

Disadvantages of a Tent Fly

  • Tent fly can block light and make the inside of the tent darker, it helps if fly is lighter color or translucent
  • Tent fly adds more weight, more ropes and more set up time
  • In windy weather, the fly can billow up and actually move the smoke stack – must take care to tie-down the fly properly and to secure the smoke stack

Check out our Wall Tent Size Guide for specifics on choosing a size for your needs with layout examples.

Other Wall Tent related posts:

Q: What are the most important features you are looking for in a wall tent? Let us know below in the comments.

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Comments

  1. This guide is perfect! I like this post so much. So helpful and informative as well. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is an awesome primer. I am hoping you can list some tent fabric dimensions so I can sew my own. Rake length, seam widths, stitching types, threads to use, and maybe some haversack instructions. Thanks and great job so far!

    • Yes Mark, There is much to calculate if you wanted to make your own wall tent. I like to DIY many things and I can darn my wool socks when they wear out, but other than that, I am short on sewing experience.

      I suppose the seam width would depend on the thickness of the fabric that was used. Our wall tent is made from 10 oz cotton duck.

      I wrote a post about wall tent fabric and a post about how to determine the size of wall tent you needed complete with diagrams.

      The roof on most standard wall tents seem to go from 5 feet high at the wall to 8 feet in the center (referring to rake length). Obviously, you could make your own tent any size you want and I have seen some tents that reduce the side wall and ridge height to save weight, but the purpose of a wall tent to me is to have a large area you can stand up and move around.

      The 8 feet in the center isn’t necessary to stand up for most of us, but the 5 feet along the wall is. And to get sufficient slope for runoff, you probably need at least 4½ inch drop for each foot (20.6° angle) as with a 16 foot wide wall tent.

      Our wall tent is 12 feet wide, so the roof goes from 5 feet to 8 feet high in 6 feet, which happens to be a 26.6° angle or a 6 inch rise for each foot. The roof on a 10 foot wide tent would go from 5 feet to 8 feet in 5 feet (30.96° or 7.2 inch rise per foot). This could be shortened to reduce materials and weight, but remember that your head will touch the roof farther away from the wall.

      The side distances can simply be calculated for every possible tent height and width using trigonometry; A2 + B2 = C2. Our tent for example would be 6 feet from wall to center ridge, and would rise from 5 feet at the wall to 8 feet at the ridge for a total rise of 3 feet.

      That would be 6 feet2 + 3 feet2 = C2, which equals 9 + 36 = 45. The Square Root of 45 = 6.708 feet, which is 6 feet and a “fat” 11/16th.

      So to measure the wall fabric, start at 5 feet high on one end and 8 feet high six feet away. The straight line from 5 feet on one side to 8 feet on the other across the roof line should be 6.708 feet.

      The seams on our tent is strengthened with 1½ inch webbing, so the seam width is slightly larger than 1½ inches. So be sure to remember to add 1¾ inch all the way around each panel.

      As for thread, I understand a strong, UV protected Nylon thread is recommended. Our tent was sewn mostly with double running stitches (yes, I had to look that up). A running stitch is basically in and out and by double, I mean stitched on each side of the 1½ inch re-enforced seams. All edges are also reinforced with “X” patterns.

      Let me know how your project progresses. I will be happy to help with designing a haversack after you have a tent to put in it.

  3. This is great. I’m going to tackle building one. With the 4 1/2 inch per 12 inch pitch is what I was trying to figure out. I don’t sew either but when I get the design done I’ll share with you and let you know what worked and what didn’t.
    I plan on using one piece that will go up the side then double back down the rake of the roof to the outer edge of the roof. This should add strength and a good solid base to sew tie offs onto all along the edge without having to add reinforcement patches. But I might add the reinforcement material anyway. The the material will go up and over the top ridge and repeat in reverse down the other side. This way, I won’t need to cut any pieces separately for the walls to be sewn on the roof. I’ll have to make doors of course to sew on but that seems straight forward enough. Overlapping the pieces so they can be tied off I think.
    Along the bottom of the walls I think I will add looped webbing to hold it down with stakes as well.
    For the bottom of the sides I thought about sewing on an edge that can be folded inward and go under a tarp so that if moisture did come under the walls it would go under a tarp inside. Another option might be to trench a shallow trench along the wall edges for water to run off into.
    Overall I really think you had a great site to visit to get some great ideas for someone who doesn’t want to spend hundreds buying a tent but has some level of skill being able to create one. Thanks for the reply and all of the information.

    • Yes, I think using a single piece from floor, across the roof back down the the floor is wise. The material at the edge along the bottom of the tent is called a sod cloth. And yes, use a tarp or canvas to overlap the sod cloth. A sewn-in floor makes the wall tent too heavy and too hard to install an internal frame. I think reinforcement material is good especially along the ridge pole.
      Good Luck and send pictures.

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