Finding a Green Camping Tent

June 10, 2012 11 comments View all articles in Travel

Our article “Low-Impact, Eco-Friendly Camping Tips” identifies some of the ways this favorite summer activity can be harmful to the environment, and provides some tips for reducing your own family's impact. But it turns out that planning a responsible outdoor vacation that's both good for you and the environment starts with the tent you purchase.

The majority of the camping tents currently on the market are made of vinyl, or PVC. Factories that produce PVC, and the very tents themselves, emit dioxins that cause cancer, asthma, birth defects, and other ailments. PVC isn't the only thing eco-campers need be concerned with, either: tents are comprised of plastic pole clips, synthetic guy lines, metal zippers, solvent-containing waterproofing, and toxic dye treatments – all of which will be rolled up and thrown in a landfill when you decide to upgrade.  

For all of these reasons and many more, ChasingGreen has put together a list of some of the most eco-consciously produced camping tents available. In addition, we're providing you with a few positive write-ups on Earth-friendly tent brands the ChasingGreen team admires.

ECO-CONSCIOUS CAMPING TENT OPTIONS

TIPIS

If you're camping at a designated campsite, where hiking or backpacking isn't necessary and you aren't worried about the weight of your pack, you should consider the benefits of a sleeping in a tipi!

  • Companies like Salcedo Custom Tipis offer packages that include wood lacing pins, a door, an instructional booklet, and, of course, a tipi cover, which is water resistant, flame retardant, and made of either Polaris canvas or 100 percent hemp.
  • The UK-based company Green Outdoor offers several tipi versions. Their Tipi Tent is made from 55 percent hemp and 45 percent cotton canvas, and comes with recycled guy lines, buckles, and webbing. According to Green Outdoor's website, all of the company's products “have been made using the most environmentally friendly materials and methods available without compromising the performance of the product.”

TENTS

  • Made from recycled polyester and organic cotton, the Blue One 2P by VAUDE Sport is made to conform to the world's most stringent textile standard, bluesign®, and is colored using the eco-friendly VAUDE ecolour dyeing process. As the product information webpage says, this is truly “a tent for Mother Nature!”
  • The waterproof Nepal Tent from Nizam Canvas is PVC-free and made of biodegradable cotton. While ordering from a tent factory in Karachi , Pakistan , isn't the greenest idea, as it will have to be shipped halfway around the world, your purchase will go to supporting people who work in a third-world country.
  • Though you'll find it's sold out at nearly every online sport and outdoor store, Big Agnes's Salt Creek 2, which won the Editor's Choice Green Award by Backpacker Magazine in 2009, is the most eco-friendly tent ever made. The fly, floor, and body are waterproofed with a solvent-free polyurethane coating and are made from 100 percent recycled, dye-free (the tent is white), polyester rip-stop. Even the plastic pole clips, guy lines, and zippers are made with 100 percent recycled materials! While you can no longer purchase the Salt Creek 2 from Big Agnes directly, you should know the company purchases 100 percent wind generated power for its Colorado offices and warehouses, and much of its packaging contains up to 80 percent recycled content.
  • NEMO utilizes the largest percentage of recycled materials in the industry. In addition, the company and its range of tents are entirely PVC since 2006, and they offer bamboo tent poles as separate alternatives to aluminum poles.

TIPS

  • Don't upgrade simply for aesthetic reasons, or even for slight leaks. You can easily fix a few wears and tears on your older tent by means of duct tape, Seam Sealer, or spare cloth patches, etc. Find more tips on repairing your damaged tent by reading the article on the How Stuff Works webpage.
  • Reduce the number of camping tents that are sent to landfills each year by finding secondhand tents at eBay and Craigslist.
  • Borrow a tent from a friend or relative.
  • Make your own tipi using an old shower curtain and bamboo poles, or improvise with whatever materials you have access to.

Comments:

Jakob De Proft on Nov. 30, 2014 at 6:57 a.m.

It's a pity that there hasn't been any reaction (yet) on this great article. I am a tent producer myself and am deeply concerned about the socio-ecological impact of producing, using and disposal of tents. I often wonder how much people DO think about that while they're in their decision process of buying a tent. Well - and the most eco-friendly tent is NO tent. Then again... staying home is not my favorite choice.

kevin on June 7, 2015 at 9:06 a.m.

buying a galaxi 3p cheers!

Lkp on June 7, 2015 at 10:54 a.m.

Wow Amazing! Thank you SO much for sharing these infos with us.

Bhuman Bo on July 4, 2015 at 2:07 p.m.

Muchas gracias, I'll start here in search of our new tent. My top priority is avoiding carcinogens...packaging and chemical content determine most of my purchases. Curious about Big Agnes, since my Seedhouse smelled pretty toxic the first few years.

Tai on Aug. 19, 2015 at 3:43 a.m.

Thanks this was really helpful, I'm looking for an Eco-friendly, chemical free and organic option for a tent right now!

Sab on Aug. 23, 2015 at 4:02 p.m.

Waiting for the Gemini IV from Exped to come out. It's supposed to be the first non-CPAI-84 tent available. Trying to avoid flame retardant chemicals for the health of my family, and finding it nearly impossible to find a tent that isn't cotton (which I'm pretty sure is going to mold).

If there are any tent-makers who can construct a tent using NO flame retardant on the fabric, and do it to high standards, I'd love to know who they are.

Margo on Aug. 26, 2015 at 7:42 p.m.

Are there any tents that are under 10 lbs and do not have any flame retardant? Thank you for your article!

Margo

Donna on Nov. 8, 2015 at 5:34 a.m.

It is so scary that you cannot find anything out there with no chemicals. I would think a tent company would jump on an opportunity to make a carcinogenic free tent. I read an article that stated that pre 2004 furniture -like sofa seat cushions contain flame retardents as well. No wonder so many folks are developing cancer. We are killing ourselves!

Dalv on May 30, 2016 at 8:24 a.m.

Time to design our own tents people! Order some rolls of materials and get sewing!

Marilyn on Oct. 27, 2016 at 1:17 p.m.

For non fire retardant tents check out "the tent lab.com"

Carol Joseph on March 5, 2017 at 10:24 p.m.

Thanks for Marilyn's post on Oct. 27, 2016. Will be ordering moonlight 4p tent.

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