The life of your tipi depends not only on the quality of the craftsmanship but in equal measure upon the quality of the canvas fabric used to make it. Because of constant fluctuation in the quality of cotton canvas from the textile industry we no longer buy our canvas on the open market. All our fabrics are custom woven for us to our own specifications. We routinely have our fabrics tested to be certain that they meet our standards for strength, abrasion and tear resistance.
DIFFERENT FABRICS FOR DIFFERENT USES
We have been making teepees since 1970. In those four decades we have made more than 22.000 teepees, and have sent them to more than 35 countries around the world. We constantly seek feedback from our customers in all these locations with regard to the durability of our teepee fabrics. The responses that we receive can be summed up in one sentence: Ultra-violet radiation from the sun is the single most destructive factor to the longevity of a teepee fabric. Unfortunately, this problem has not reached a leveling off point. Our experience is that it continues to become more intense every year.
As a response to these environmental changes we have researched and tested many of the acrylic, polyester, dacron, acrilan, and 50% cotton / 50% polyester blended fabrics that are on the market today. These included such trade name fabrics as: Starfire, Tuffstar, Pyrotone, Sumbrella, Polaris, Suncoat, Polyolifin and Top Gun.
All of these blended fabrics have two major problems: First, all synthetics are petroleum based and the benzene ring molecule in the synthetic part of the fabric is far more susceptible to UV breakdown than are the natural cotton fibers. Also, polyester blends are much more expensive, less breathable and not as translucent as 100% cotton.
Second, only one-half of the fiber content of the fabric is cotton, and there is very little of it in the actual fabric anyway. For instance, the 15oz fabrics like Starfire and Tuffstar are only an 8oz base fabric to which an additional 7 ounce of finish has been applied. This 8 oz. base fabric is 50% cotton and 50% polyester. Therefore there are only 4oz of actual cotton in these 15oz finished fabrics. It is true that the 50/50 polyester-cotton blends will hold up just as well as the 100% all cotton fabrics for the first 9-12 months.
However, the UV radiation starts to break down the polyester molecules very rapidly after that initial period of exposure. We have experimented with many possibilities and our experience is consistent with industry recommendations: 100% natural cotton fiber with a tight army duck weave is the most resistant and longest lasting canvas fabric for today’s environmental conditions – and, the denser the cotton the better.
For this reason we are now having a 15 oz. 100% natural cotton army duck canvas custom woven for us to our own specifications. This product is not available on the open commercial market. To this tight, dense, heavy cotton canvas we add a mold, mildew and fungi resistant product called SUNFORGER™ (This type of finish has had many different trade names through the years: Permasol, Terrasol, Vivatex and Sunforger). The canvas is bathed in a liquid wash of this treatment in order to help the cotton fibers resist deterioration from the natural environment. In addition to this treatment, we have also added an extra MARINE RESISTANT protective finish. This is a second process that essentially creates a double mold, mildew and fungi resistant surface. Micro-crystalline paraffin (wax) is also added in this process simply to help the fabric shed rain and snow.
As always, all our workmanship is unconditionally guaranteed for the life of the tipi. Below you will find a detailed description of the different fabrics we offer, and our recommendation for their climatic and seasonal use: Please read the “Care of your tipi” section before you purchase your tipi. There are environmental circumstances that can effect the life of your tipi and this goes over the things to be aware of based on your particular climate conditions. This is important to go over before setting up your tipi for the first time.
15 OZ. WEIGHT ARMY DUCK CANVAS WITH SUNFORGER AND MARINE TREATMENT
As described above, this is our best ALL WEATHER canvas for UV protection. We recommend it for all climates and all elevations. If you plan to have your teepee set up for only spring-summer-fall, but you are in a particularly wet or humid environment, we recommend this 15 oz. ALL WEATHER canvas. There are so many unique and unpredictable local climates that we cannot possibly tell you how long your teepee canvas will last. Generally though, this 15 oz. canvas should last five years or more if being used year around. If it is taken down dry for the winter, and stored properly, it should last eight to twelve years. This fabric is available in a natural cream white color or a light tan color. The tan color looks more like a leather tipi. Examples can be seen throughout our website.
All of our teepee fabrics will give you the greatest longevity if you do not store them wet or in a damp location. Also, we do not recommend that you leave your teepee up through the winter if you are not going to be in it. However, if you do, it is best to build a fire inside every two weeks in order to dry the canvas and help prevent mold and mildew from developing. An 18 ft. cover made of this 15 oz. fabric weights 57 lbs. (26 kg).
13 OZ. WEIGHT ARMY DUCK CANVAS WITH SUNFORGER, MARINE AND FLAME RESISTANT TREATMENTS
The 13 oz. weight army duck canvas is also available with an additional flame retardant finish that meets all CPAI-84 standards. We also use this fabric for our kids tipis. This flame retardant fabric is only available in the white color. However, we can paint this fabric to create a beautiful tan, leather-like patina on the outside of the canvas. The light quality inside the tipi is virtually unaffected. The price for painting a white cover in tan is between $100 and $340, depending on the tipi size.
13 OZ. WEIGHT ARMY DUCK CANVAS WITH SUNFORGER AND MARINE TREATMENT
This is a top quality, 100% cotton army duck fabric with a full 54/44 warp and weft thread count and is preshrunk to 2%. As with all our fabrics, this canvas is completely water resistant and will not leak in wet weather. It is not necessary for the canvas to be waterproof. Waterproof canvas does not breathe. The cotton fabric needs to breathe in the same way that leather boots, wool shirts or down sleeping bags do. This fabric is available in both a natural color (cream white) and a beautiful light tan color which resembles the original leather tipis of the Native Americans. The tan fabric is completely translucent and creates a soft amber light quality inside the tipi. We recommend this 13 oz. weight canvas for spring – summer – fall use in all mild climates. We do not recommend this fabric above 4000 ft. (1200 m) in elevation, in coastal areas with salt air, in areas of significant air pollution, in areas with 40+ inches of rain per year or in areas with prolonged periods of high humidity. If left up year around, the life expectancy of this 13 oz. weight fabric can vary from 2-5 years. An 18 ft. cover made of this 13 oz. fabric weights 52 lbs. (23 kg).
10 OZ. WEIGHT ARMY DUCK CANVAS WITH SUNFORGER AND MARINE TREATMENT
We use this 10 oz. wt. (10.38 oz. exactly) cotton canvas duck for our tipi liners. This weight canvas is not heavy enough to be used for tipi covers but it serves very well as a tipi liner fabric for spring – summer – fall living. It is available in either a natural white color or a light tan color. This 10 oz. weight canvas is also available with an additional flame retardant treatment on it. This flame retardant treatment meets all state and federal CPAI-84 codes and regulations. Flame retardance is not a necessity but may be a precaution if children are using the tipi unsupervised. We do not offer tipi covers made out of this 10 oz. flame retardant canvas anymore, because this Sunforger flame retardant finish is created using Boron and Antimony Oxide. Unfortunately, acid rain and ultraviolet radiation combine with these two chemicals to form acids on the canvas surface which reduces the life span of the 10 oz. flame retardant fabric to an extent that we do not feel comfortable anymore offering this as cover material. However, used for your tipi liner and thus unexposed to the elements, the 10 oz. flame retardant canvas is unaffected by these environmental issues.
We do make teepees out of real leather and of a high quality imitation leather as well. Real leather teepees cost approximately ten times the cost of our 15 oz. weight canvas, and imitation leather teepees costs approximately three times as much as our 15 oz. fabric. Call us for quotes.