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Vanagon Tent Options: The Master List
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LRWORLD
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 4:50 pm    Post subject: Vanagon Tent Options: The Master List Reply with quote

I am curious to know which manufacturer's canvas tents fit the best? I have a 3 window and a stock tent, and the 3 window (not sure where it is from) sags a bit down inside from the roof. The OEM seems to be a much better fit.

Does anyone have an opinion on which manufacturer has the tightest and most stock fit to their tents?
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kamzcab86
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tent topics, and there a ton of them:
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/search.php?search...=titleonly
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/search.php?search...=titleonly

(I was going to lock this thread, but as someone pointed out in one of those above, we need to have one definitive synopsis topic covering all available replacement tents, complete with photos and pros/cons of each. This thread will be that topic.)

Notes:
1) USA vendor links go to their home pages; be sure to order a tent for your van's year, or pop-top type.

2) The following tents are compared to each other; i.e., the new tents' characteristics are NOT being compared to the original tent.

3) A common statement about the acrylic/synthetic tent is "stiffer fabric; harder to stow neatly". False! Acrylic is quite pliable and, as you can see from the interior shots below, despite being thicker fabric, stows just as well as the original tent.

German OEM cotton-polyester canvas:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Pros:
Good durability
Excellent breathability
Water resistant
Thin fabric (easy to stow)
Made by original Westfalia tent supplier in Germany; keeps your camper looking original, even with 3 windows
Tight fitting, just like original
Removable/replaceable front window screen
Windows: 1 or 3 (depends on supplier); side windows are zippered, front window is zippered & Velcro'd

Cons:
Not mildew resistant
Thin fabric (can lead to draftiness)
Easy to puncture or tear, especially as it ages
Two colors: Gray or tan

Price: $300-500

Topics/Reviews:
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=310345

Vendors:
Bus Depot
Van Café
GoWesty
Günzl Classic Parts

______________________________________________________

Bus Depot-brand canvas:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Pros:
Good durability
Excellent breathability
Water resistant
Thin fabric (easy to stow)
Made exclusively for Bus Depot in the USA
Resembles the OEM version for a stock look
Tight fitting
Inexpensive
Removable/replaceable front window (lower zipper pull is on outside)
Windows: 3; side windows are zippered, front window is zippered & Velcro'd

Cons:
Not mildew resistant
Thin fabric (can lead to draftiness)
Easy to puncture or tear, especially as it ages
Two colors: Gray or tan

Price: $280

Topics/Reviews:
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=548231
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=513879

Vendors:
Bus Depot
The Skylight Guy

_____________________________________________________

GoWesty-brand cotton & acrylic (Sunbrella):
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Pros:
Good durability
Water- & UV-resistant
Made exclusively for GoWesty
Removable/replaceable front window
Built-in window tie-backs
Windows: 3

Cons:
(new product, still under review)
Colors: Gray & tan only

Price: $250 (cotton) | $380 (acrylic)

Topics/Reviews:
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=593273

Vendors:
GoWesty

_____________________________________________________

Ateliers-brand acrylic/synthetic (Sunbrella):
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Pros:
High durability
UV resistant
Mildew & mold resistant (good for moist climates)
Water repellent
Thick fabric (cuts down on draftiness, takes abuse)
Multiple colors available
Removable/replaceable window screens
Windows: 1 or 3; zippered windows and screens

Cons:
Thick fabric (poor breathability)
Looser fit than OEM
Expensive
Lengthy production time (up to 6 months, or more depending on order backlog)

Price: $400-500

Topics/Reviews:
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=398803
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=495271
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=556480

Vendor:
Ateliers PK

______________________________________________________

North Westy-brand acrylic/synthetic (Sunbrella):
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Pros:
High durability
UV resistant
Mildew & mold resistant (good for moist climates)
Water repellent
Thick fabric (cuts down on draftiness, takes abuse)
Multiple colors available
Wire sleeve sewn to interior for accessories you wish to add to pop-top
Removable/replaceable front window screen
Window tiebacks
Windows: 3; zippered windows and screen

Cons:
Thick fabric (poor breathability)
Looser fit than OEM
Cheap zippers
Expensive
A few poor reviews (minor quality issues & customer service issues during tenure with first manufacturer)

Price: $599 (incl. shipping... for standard colors)

Topics/Reviews:
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=550506

Vendors:
North Westy
The Skylight Guy

______________________________________________________

Aftermarket acrylic/synthetic (Outdura):
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Pros:
High durability
UV resistant
Mildew & mold resistant (good for moist climates)
Water repellent
Thick fabric (cuts down on draftiness, takes abuse)
Multiple colors available
Removable/replaceable front window screen
Windows: 3; zippered windows and screen

Cons:
Thick fabric (poor breathability)
Looser fit than OEM
Expensive

Price: $400-500

Topics/Reviews:
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=495271
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=526056
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=241396
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=342974

Vendors:
Bus Depot
Van Café
GoWesty
The Skylight Guy

______________________________________________________

Aftermarket cotton canvas:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Pros:
Inexpensive (depending on supplier)
Thin fabric (easy to stow)
Excellent breathability
Windows: 3; zippered windows

Cons:
Least durable
Not extremely weather resistant
Fitment issues possible
Prone to mold & mildew in moist climates

Price: $200-400

Topics/Reviews:

Vendors:
Van Café
GoWesty
Just Kampers ~ German-made (may actually be a cotton-poly blend)

______________________________________________________

Aftermarket hemp/cotton canvas:
[Pic needed]

Pros:
Environmentally-friendly (not made with harsh chemicals)
Good durability
Good breathability

Cons:
Thicker, bulkier fabric than OEM canvas and acrylic
Seems to absorb/retain more water than the others and can potentially drip water inside the van when stowed wet
Prone to mold & mildew in moist climates, especially if tent is stored wet/damp
Not a common choice

Price: $400-500

Topics/Reviews:
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=342974

Vendor:
GoWesty

______________________________________________________

Just Kampers-brand canvas:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Pros:
Inexpensive

Cons:
Poor fit

Topics/Reviews:
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=513879
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=356195

Vendor:
Just Kampers
Note: This Just Kampers' in-house brand has, in the past, had fitment issues (refer to the topics above). Photo on their site is the same for the German-made cotton canvas above; no word on current quality.

______________________________________________________

ASI Riviera replacements:
http://www.busdepot.com/180002

Country Homes replacements:
http://www.busdepot.com/182002


Last edited by kamzcab86 on Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:36 pm; edited 25 times in total
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dobryan
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:21 am    Post subject: Re: Best Fitting Canvas for Pop-Tops? Reply with quote

LRWORLD wrote:
I am curious to know which manufacturer's canvas tents fit the best? I have a 3 window and a stock tent, and the 3 window (not sure where it is from) sags a bit down inside from the roof. The OEM seems to be a much better fit.

Does anyone have an opinion on which manufacturer has the tightest and most stock fit to their tents?


You can tighten up your tent by undoing the attachment at the bottom (or top) and pulling it tighter and then reattach. If you look at some of the threads showing pictures of a DIY install you'll see what I mean.

Kam, Awesome collection of info there! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is it my imagination, an optical illusion, or do some of these tents allow the top to pop higher than others?
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:11 am    Post subject: Re: Best Fitting Canvas for Pop-Tops? Reply with quote

dobryan wrote:
Kam, Awesome collection of info there! Very Happy


WOW, Kam, thank you for taking the time to make that post.

Well done Exclamation
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

debbiej wrote:
Is it my imagination, an optical illusion, or do some of these tents allow the top to pop higher than others?


Not sure how it could pop higher since on a regular Westy the travel is limited by the articulating lift bar.
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kamzcab86
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

insyncro wrote:
dobryan wrote:
Kam, Awesome collection of info there! Very Happy


WOW, Kam, thank you for taking the time to make that post.

Well done Exclamation


Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


But seriously, it was all long overdue in here (PITA going through all those tent topics just to read about all the different tent options now available); was happy to do it. Very Happy

More info added to the post.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Kam! That makes the choice, uh, easier? Wink
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 4:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dobryan wrote:
debbiej wrote:
Is it my imagination, an optical illusion, or do some of these tents allow the top to pop higher than others?


Not sure how it could pop higher since on a regular Westy the travel is limited by the articulating lift bar.


Yeah, i knew that, duh. Camera angle.

Great post, thanks!
I need a tent, keep waiting till its an absolute necessity.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Having just gone through replacing the tent on our '90 Westy, I strongly recommend going with the OEM tent. I tried a non-OEM tent which simply didn't fit the vehicle, no way, no how, and this with two reasonably skilled people doing the work. The OEM tent, by comparison, was relatively easy to install by myself, with my friend only helping with the top arm bolts, and getting the corners at the back of the lower edge right. The results are tight, without wrinkles, and, for want of a better description, the tent looks factory new.

There is a Vimeo video showing someone (who runs a top shop in Idaho) doing a top in about 2.5 hours, single-handed. Experience certainly counts here, but I found the job needed about six hours on the clock (includes time spent yakking, etc., etc.) although I'd say the actual working time was 4.5-5 hours. In the video, the job is done with an awl, flex screw driver with #2 and #1 points (one set of rails uses smaller screws than the other - do not mix them together!), diagonal cutters, and a 10 mm wrench and socket. I used a drill in some cases, but it turned out to be, as said in the video, not that much help.

Before starting the job, as the video shows, mark the center of the top and bottom edges, front and back! If the tent isn't centered on the vehicle, there is no hope of getting a good installation. There will be too much tent on one side, and not enough on the other side. Get the top off to one side and the bottom off to the other side and... oh, it doesn't bear thinking about.

The video recommends lowering the top several inches while installing the bottom edge. The tension on the tent, when it's first raised, is significant. Trying to maintain that tension while installing the tent... don't even think about it. Lower the top, prop it up securely, and all will be well.

One critical step is glossed over in the video: making the lower corners. The corners on the top are simple to do: just a simple 90 deg. bend. But at the bottom there are two 45 deg. turns to make the 90 deg change in direction. In the video, the installer casually makes a couple of cuts in the vinyl piping along the bottom, to keep the bottom from bunching up in a corners. This is experience at work - for the rest of us, measure twice, cut once. After the first couple of corners (do the front first), the job gets much easier. But then there are only two corners left... One other comments about all of the corners: the vertical seams do not go right on the corners. Or... do not try to put the seams in the corners. The tent isn't cut that way. At least the OEM tent isn't, nor was the non-OEM tent I tried.

To take the top off or not to do the top of the tent. While trying to sort this question out, I found a number of people saying it's almost impossible to do the job without taking the top off. Bullpucky!! The job is a PITA, a time burner of epic proportions, demands at least three people and four makes more sense; the top is heavy and the springs in the articulated arms make the arms almost lethal if they pop loose.

I was told the rear hinges need to be loosened and the top slid back (the hinge positioning is adjustable front to back) to make the rear corners come out right. Nah. Again, this is a massive time burner; getting the top in the right place, afterwards, to make the catch fit is no fun. And there's the good chance sliding the hinges will booger up the paint and give rust a place to start. No, no, no, not a good idea.

Instead of mucking about taking the top off, etc., follow the video and undo the bottom rails (mark which strip goes where, BTW - during re-assembly it matters which strip goes where as each strip takes up a different shape depending how it sat on the vehicle). Push the bottom of the tent out of the way to get to the top rails (mark 'em, too).

To get the old tent off and the new tent on, the arms need to be unbolted from the top, and the top lifted from the arms just enough to get part of the old tent off and the new tent on. Why? Because the tent goes around the outside of the arms and inside the rear hinges. This is the only other place a helper can speed things up. The bolts are carriage bolts (little square things under the bolt head, fitted into square holes in the top) and shouldn't need two people to undo the nuts and hold the bolts in place but it's a lot better to have someone hold the bolts in place when dropping them back onto the flanges at the end of each arm.

This job isn't as easy as changing a light bulb, but it's not brain surgery, either. Watch the video, think things through, and the job should go well.

EDIT: changes to sync up comments with the video
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kamzcab86 wrote:

North Westy-brand acrylic/synthetic (Sunbrella):

Cons:
Thick fabric (poor breathability)
Looser fit than OEM
Expensive

Price: unknown at the moment (site undergoing reconstruction)



One more con is that they may or may not even be in production again.

I ordered mine around Memorial Day, paid for it around the 4th of July, and still don't think it's even been made.

They had a sub-contracted upholsterer making these off-site, who obviously got a few churned out before flaking out completely and disappearing on them. In my last contact with them--one week ago exactly--I was told that Kirk was meeting with a new upholsterer who they hoped to have set up soon, sewing on-site in one of their bays. I've heard nothing since.

I'm not asking for a refund, but man, am I tired of waiting! I have never received a single e-mail or phone call from them, I've had to check in nearly every week to ask them what's going on. It's been an -incredibly- frustrating experience so far.

I paid $552 for mine, including shipping to New Mexico, and it doesn't use one of the colors that costs extra.

It may be worth adding to the comprehensive post above this color chart I was provided by them. There are some stunning color options available with this tent!

http://www.sunbrella.com/showroom/#submit=complexS...its=111111
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

andafiro wrote:

One more con is that they may or may not even be in production again.

They had a sub-contracted upholsterer making these off-site, who obviously got a few churned out before flaking out completely and disappearing on them. In my last contact with them--one week ago exactly--I was told that Kirk was meeting with a new upholsterer who they hoped to have set up soon, sewing on-site in one of their bays.


Good to know (well, actually it isn't - that's a bummer). I've added price, link to the colors, and a note about production. They appear to be nice tents, so here's hoping Kirk can get production going again.

andafiro wrote:

I'm not asking for a refund, but man, am I tired of waiting!


The wait for Ateliers' can be 6 months or more (have added this info too). So far, you're still ahead in the Sunbrella game. Wink

RBEmerson wrote:

I found a number of people saying it's almost impossible to do the job without taking the top off. Bullpucky!!


Ditto, for the screw-in version anyway (I think I'd remove it if I had the staple version). It took 3 days to do mine (starting at 11am, stopping at 5pm with lots of breaks in between Laughing ), and we didn't do anything with the pop-top other than disconnecting the push bar. PITA? Sure, but it's totally doable.

As for the bottom corners: The aftermarket acrylic seams are at the corners Mad , but you can work with it. I used the original tent as a guide for cutting the notches out... while installing, they needed to be enlarged a bit. I also had to notch out the piping where the pop-top latch is.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good info, looking for a new top on my bay and looks like I might try a Budepot cotten one.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a newb canvas installer......

edit: In the process of retro designing and test fitting a given aftermarket tent to a given Westy(ies), is it possible that some were measured against and test fit to Westies with worn pop top arms? Just a thought. In my case the wrinkles et al is most likely due to my hand.

I bought the "German" staple type tent from Vancafe. In spite of my newbness to the job (my first time, top still on van), it seems like a taught fit. Like not much room for error. Like due to my possible slight maladjustment, I see several (NOT many) tiny holes, i.e. near corners of stitches near side windows. I suspect fabric is likely stretched slightly beyond it's design, at certain points, due to imperfections of position of tent where it lays between the fetid plastic strips & wood frame, and, due to the position of the tent at the bottom strips mit der tiny Phillips screws. As I inferred, this likely due to my (former really) newbness. That said....

It is working fine and I don't see those tiny holes getting any larger. This tent should last longer than me or Jaco. However....

Take wear and tear of the pop top arms into account. They do wear. Even some mm's of the upper arm(s) "eating" into the cross bar, may account for differences in tent taughtness. That said...

I ain't no expert!

Neil.

Pop top arm "lunch" ("eating")

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


MOS

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Pic of tent, after late night finish. Note the position of the wrinkles.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 5:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kamzcab86 wrote:
andafiro wrote:

[...]quote="RBEmerson"]
I found a number of people saying it's almost impossible to do the job without taking the top off. Bullpucky!!


Ditto, for the screw-in version anyway (I think I'd remove it if I had the staple version). It took 3 days to do mine (starting at 11am, stopping at 5pm with lots of breaks in between Laughing ), and we didn't do anything with the pop-top other than disconnecting the push bar. PITA? Sure, but it's totally doable.

Referring to the video again, the staple version is discussed briefly. It sounds like a brutal job.
Quote:
As for the bottom corners: The aftermarket acrylic seams are at the corners Mad , but you can work with it. I used the original tent as a guide for cutting the notches out... while installing, they needed to be enlarged a bit. I also had to notch out the piping where the pop-top latch is.

In the video, there's only one cut made per corner. IMHO, the results don't look all that great. With all due humility (i.e., not much Wink ), my corners look a lot cleaner with two cuts per corner (one at each of the 45 deg. angles in the rail). The corners look a lot smoother all the way to the roof.

There were two seams per corner on the first unit I tried. Neither of those seams came to a corner, although they were close. And they're further away in the OEM version.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 6:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I went with BusDepts base in house canvas. I'm happy with it. I figure it will last me until I get too old and my kids say......"Dad.......you can't drive any more! Give me your keys!" Smile

Dave
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kamzcab86
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

RBEmerson wrote:
In the video, there's only one cut made per corner. IMHO, the results don't look all that great. With all due humility (i.e., not much Wink ), my corners look a lot cleaner with two cuts per corner (one at each of the 45 deg. angles in the rail). The corners look a lot smoother all the way to the roof.


The original tent has two notches per corner; as said, I used the original tent as a guide. Install videos are helpful, but they aren't the end-all for instructions. Wink

djkeev wrote:
I started a thread with details, here is the link so as not to repeat........
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=548231


Too late, already repeating. Your thread was included under Bus Depot tent topics when the synopsis post was first created. Very Happy
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RBEmerson
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 1:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kamzcab86 wrote:
RBEmerson wrote:
In the video, there's only one cut made per corner. IMHO, the results don't look all that great. With all due humility (i.e., not much Wink ), my corners look a lot cleaner with two cuts per corner (one at each of the 45 deg. angles in the rail). The corners look a lot smoother all the way to the roof.


The original tent has two notches per corner; as said, I used the original tent as a guide. Install videos are helpful, but they aren't the end-all for instructions. Wink
[...]


Ageed. In addition to doing the corners differently, I found that stretching one side of the tent and setting a couple of screws between the center and the edge hlps keep the welting in place. An awl didn't help a lot; pressing a screw into place and running the screw through welting works just fine. I set the welting for the top of the tent inside the groove in the rail. Running a screw through that pretty well nails the welting in place. And I'm sure there are other places where I did things differently.

But the guy does make a living at this sort of stuff, so I assume he has a clue or two about what he's doing. Very Happy
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djkeev
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kamzcab86 wrote:

djkeev wrote:
I started a thread with details, here is the link so as not to repeat........
http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=548231


Too late, already repeating. Your thread was included under Bus Depot tent topics when the synopsis post was first created. Very Happy


Ooops! Totally missed that! Embarassed Embarassed Embarassed
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andafiro
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 3:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kamzcab86 wrote:

andafiro wrote:

I'm not asking for a refund, but man, am I tired of waiting!


The wait for Ateliers' can be 6 months or more (have added this info too). So far, you're still ahead in the Sunbrella game. Wink


Yes, but... from the start I was told I'd have it in two weeks. I know a bit of what's been happening on their end and know that it's been pretty much out of their control, but I also know they've been lax--I've never been contacted by them with any news or updates or even reassurance that they haven't forgotten me, I've had to pester them every week or two, -and- I've never received an invoice by mail or e-mail, they just charged my card.

It sure would be nice to have this tent here and installed before wintertime. I'd love to get out camping with it at least once!
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