Look after your tent, and it will look after you
A tent is like married life: If you give it love and attention, everything’s plain sailing, but if you neglect it, you’ll sleep outside.
Caravan tents are still made of canvas – just like they were twenty years ago. However, today’s material is vastly different from what was used yesteryear.
Current tent canvas can last a lifetime, but the lifetime of your tent depends on the manner in which you maintain it.
BEWARE OF SOAP
The canvas material is sealed in the factory as soon as it’s woven. The material is plunged into a container with a waxy sealant and a special agent to protect it against mildew. The sealant is therefore not merely on the material, but absorbed into the fabric.
Domestic soap and cleaning agents are chiefly made to remove grease, so if you use them to wash your tent, you run the risk of destroying the waxlike sealant, leaving you with a leaking tent. It is not the material as such that is damaged owing to a thorough scrub down with soap, but it’s the waterproofing that is destroyed.
Rather try to get rid of spots or stains with lukewarm water and a sponge.
If a troublesome seagull has left its mark on your tent, water isn’t going to have any effect. In this case, do the following: Use a bar of green Sunlight soap. Don’t use washing-up liquid or washing powder. They’re too concentrated and will damage canvas. Dillute the soap by rubbing it down in lukewarm water until the water begins to turn milky. Scrub evenly over a large section and not on a small area. Brush lightly over obstinate spots. Remember, you won’t be able to see if you’re damaging the material. On the surface, everything will seem alright. You’ll only find out if your tent is still waterproof next time you’re camping and a midnight thunderstorm breaks. Make peace with any spots that remain after the wash. Now your tent has a new “attitude” and extra character, proving your camping experience. Besides, it’s either the spots or a leaking tent.
A “CRACK” ALONG THE SEAM
When your tent starts to leak, it will probably start along the seams. When it gets wet for the very first time, the stitching expands, sealing the holes through which the stitching passes. Because air is always slightly moist, the stiching does not shrink again once the tent dries – unless you store it for years in a bone-dry place. If a seam does continue to leak, you can apply tent sealant to make it waterproof once again.
If your tent gets a small tear by accident, it’s not the end of the world. You can patch the damaged section in almost the same way you patch a bicycle tube. Nowadays, most tent canvas is woven as ripstop or tearresistant fabric, and for this reason the chances are slim that a small tear or hole will go any further into the fabric by itself.
Buy a repair kit at a camp equipment store so that you can easily repair your tent yourself. Always cut a round patch out of the fabric. Then apply the patch to the hole or tear on the outside and on the inside of the canvas.
If you don’t have a tent repair kit handy, use any other waterproof material with glue (such as Genkem). And if you’re somewhere in the bundus with nothing else at your disposal, even duct tape will do.
It’s best to sew a piece of canvas on the damaged area. However, the material is too thick for the mechanism of an ordinary machine and will cause severe damage to it. Take it to a tentmaker to have the patch sewn on correctly.
BEWARE OF THE SEA AIR
Ocean air is not just bad for your car, it’s equally bad for your tent. You can even get small black spots of soot deposited onto the material if you camp at the seaside for a long time. The outer layer of a tent pole is also susceptible to white rust, which in turn corrodes the pole. Even the metal component of a zip isn’t immune to rust. Use thin oil (such as Q20) and a piece of cloth to apply a thin layer of oil to prevent corrosion. Don’t try to spray the poles with oil while the tent is pitched; rather follow the steps above. You can, however, spray some oil inside the poles to protect them on the inside as well.