The United States military has always needed tents and other supplies for troops who had to set up camp in areas where more-solid housing wasn’t available. Therefore, the history of military tents goes back as far as the beginning of the military itself.
Back in the Revolutionary War, military tents were made of a fabric generally described as duck. Duck was produced from linen that was formed from cotton or hemp. One of the big problems with this material was that it had to be imported, which made it so that there was a perpetual shortage.
Making matters worse, the troops often didn’t take good care of their tents. When they were billeted in houses or other permanent structures, the tents would be left standing outdoors or piled up, wet, in wagons. This caused the tents to rot. The need to constantly replace tents made the price of duck spiral upward even after local production had begun.
The problems with this war didn’t cause any long-lasting lessons to be learned, and similar issues were faced in the War of 1812 and in battles against the Seminoles of Florida. Still, the war against the Seminoles did bring about the first use of a rubberized fabric from India, which was an early version of coated cloth.
Only after the Spanish American War did true efforts to develop waterproof fabric begin. Then, efforts began to develop an American-made, waterproof khaki. Thanks to improvements in rifling, it also became necessary to come up with a way to make the tents less-obvious targets. This led to the production of the first camouflage tent cloth.
Now, tents have been greatly developed. Camouflage has become intricate and well-matched to different environments, and the development of nylon and similar fabrics has put an end to heavy, rottable, cotton duck. Insulation has become possible thanks to lessons learned in the World Wars, which included fighting in cold terrain as well as wet areas. Finally, tent shapes have gone from the basic canvas-thrown-over-sticks style of the Revolutionary War to include much more structured designs.
The evolution of military tents has provided benefits to more than active military personnel. Hunters, survivalists, and other outdoors people enjoy long-lasting, lightweight tentage that will keep them warm and dry through the harshest of conditions.
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