My brother was cleaning out his basement. Stuffed in the back of a pile of boxes so big I envisioned ancient Egyptians carting them to the top of the pile, I found my parents’ old camping tent. This brought back the memories of camping with the family, where behind every tree in the well used and heavily populated car campground was a bear, epic trail, or geological formation as significant as the Grand Canyon waiting to be discovered.
“I’m getting rid of it.”, my brother says.
“Mind if I take it instead?”, I ask.
“It’s all yours, but you gotta get it out of here. Today.”, he answered.
The terms of the trade were willingly accepted as I herniated myself moving this thing up the steps and out the door to a MINI Cooper S that wasn’t made for this sort of abuse. Along with the palace of canvas I scored two ancient sleeping bags, a gas lantern, camping stove, and a grossly expired motorcycle helmet.
Curiosity got the better part of me when I got home, so I noted the make and model of the tent and worked some Google-Fu. The only thing I could come up with was that the manufacturer, the National Canvas Products, Inc. started in 1964 and the trademark expired in 1985. No mention of the tent, the model number, the company reputation, nothing.
It struck me that this was the first thing I’ve really looked for online in my recent memory where I wasn’t flooded with pictures, reviews, comparison pricing, requests to subscribe to the company newsletter, and pop ups urging me to buy it now and save 10%. It was the product of a bygone era and my dad’s purchase of this tent likely involved a demo model on the floor and a knowledgeable salesperson.
Wondering if this thing was the last of its kind, I thought I should photograph it for posterity. Its memories deserve at least one Google hit, so that one day, as cyber-anthropologists explore the catacombs of the icedjamb.com servers, they might happen upon this primitive shelter.
- Manufacturer: National Canvas Products Inc
- Model: 481 Potomac
- Capacity: 4
- Trail weight: Don’t even think about it. About 40+ pounds.
- Floor area: 81 sq ft (9′ x 9′)
The tent fabric is heavy. It is stiff canvas, and has miraculously resisted mold and mildew permeation. The poles are rugged shafts of tube steel. No fiberglass, aircraft aluminum, carbon fiber, or Unobtainium here. They are over an inch in diameter and about 2 mm thick!
Creating the frame from the poles, the tent is hung up from the center, and staked down around the edges. The stakes were also rugged. I wondered why they didn’t save some weight and use railroad ties. Once properly staked down, I opened the main door with a heavy zipper that showed no sign of its 50+ years of age.
Walking in, the smell of rugged canvas and childhood trips to the campground hit me. The tent that was the vast palace of my memories was just long enough to fit me in my sleeping bag. The floor space that was so ample to play on in the summer backyard was confining and I wanted out.
To my 3 year old son, I realized had set up the same palace of my childhood memories, as he used the tent as his play area and squirmed on 50 year old sleeping bags, made it his play fort, and incessantly asked about our first camping trip together.