Can­vas care

Go! Drive and Camp Camp Guide - - Front Page -

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.


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.


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.


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.

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