TUR I N G Alaska Tent & Tarp Alaska Tent & Tarp is both an oilfield equip- ment maker and the inventor of the Arctic Oven tent used by cold weather campers. Both products are still manufactured on the narrow residential street near downtown Fairbanks where the business has been based since the 1950s. Today the lot is crowded with
a two-story production plant, a sales office,
and a backyard taken up by fabric buildings
that are used both as product demonstrations
and for storage space.
Alaska Tent & Tarp (originally Alaska
Canvas Supply and Commercial Sewing) was
founded in 1947 as a canvas sewing shop. The
business really took off in the 1970s with the oil
pipeline boom and demand for “duck ponds”—
fabric structures capable of containing oil spills.
A category of fabrics called geosynthetics
are well suited for this job, says Alaska Tent
& Tarp General Manager Dave Atchison.
The Fairbanks business welds these fabrics
together using heat and microwaves to create a molecular bond that keeps liquids from
“Geosynthetics are portable compared to
concrete or steel. If you’re trying to do 500
feet by 500 feet, you couldn’t do that with
steel. You’re not going to make a big metal
thing,” says Atchison.
Alaska Tent & Tarp doesn’t produce the
geosynthetics, but the company worked with
manufacturers in the Lower 48 to help de-
velop Arctic versions of these products that
don’t crack in the cold. Alaska Tent & Tarp’s
research and development division used to
operate a separate storefront in Fairbanks
and conducted research for the military on
biochemical warfare resistant fabrics. This
part of the business and the intellectual
property it produced was sold in 2009.
In 1987, Alaska Tent & Tarp began developing a type of warm, sturdy tent that became known as the Arctic Oven. This tent
now makes up about one-third of the company’s business. The Arctic Oven is comparable to a portable cabin. It’s designed to
hold a stove and keep its occupants warm
even in the depth of an Arctic winter. Arctic
Ovens aren’t cheap (depending on the size
they range from $1,000 to $5,500 without the
stove) and they’re heavy. But they’re popular
with customers who travel in extreme cold.
“It has a niche for people who are willing
to pay for something that really will work. So
in the design of the Arctic Oven we really fo-
cused on not cutting corners,” Atchison says.
A model released this year pushes the
weight of the lightest Arctic Oven down to
twenty pounds in order to make the tent easier
to transport by small plane, snowmachine, or
A completed Arctic Oven in the Alaska Tent &
Tarp showroom in Fairbanks. The tent is designed
to keep people warm in extreme conditions.
Sam Friedman |
Alaska Tent & Tarp
Products: Arctic Oven tents, oilfield
spill containment berms,
Years in Business: 72
Locations: Production plant and
showroom in Fairbanks,
custom sewing shop in