Hemp tent and inner vent. Photos: Green Outdoor
There is a enduring urban myth that Levi Strauss made his first jeans from hemp sail cloth, that he'd originally intended to sell as tent fabric to Californian Gold Rush prospectors. Although the company's records were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, the official Levi Strauss history tends not to bear out this charming story.
But legends aside, hemp would've made a worthy tent fabric. It is strong, durable, resistant to UV light, with absorbent fibres that would swell when wet offering a tighter seal against moisture. All the reasons it was the sail material of choice back in its hey day.
Moving on to the modern day we find that a British company, Green Outdoor, is bringing the hemp tent back to life. (As well as tents of recycled polyester.)
Recycled polyester tents. Photos: Green Outdoor
Formed in 2007, the company launched their line of ridge and pyramid style tents to canoeing industry in 2008. The choice of paddle sports as a target market may be because the tents are not exactly featherweight, and would be less likely to appeal to the backpacking market.
In their media release launch Green Outdoor observed, "Business is one of the most powerful forces for social change. Green are hoping to capture consumer hearts with their combination of ethical business and eco-sound products to inspire a change for the better across the outdoor industry. It marks a turning point for manufacturers and consumers alike."
In a bit of dig at the much of the rest of the outdoor industry, the company also note that their effort "isn't just a marketing gimmick or a line extension."
We're hope the venture has been a fruitful one for them, though we do note a fair whack of their product is available with significant price reductions.
The hemp tents are actually blended with cotton, possibly because that much 100% hemp would be prohibitively expensive these days.
Green Outdoor also have several models which use a polyester fabric made from recycled "used drinks bottles, unusable second quality fabrics and worn out garments." (sounds like Teijin's EcoCircle.)
Additionally, their guy lines, plastic buckles and webbing are made from recycled post-consumer waste. And we read, that for some tents, they also offer tent pegs (a.k.a. tent stakes in the US) made from bamboo.