Canvas is a naturally water-resistant material and this is why it is commonly used for tents.
However, the manufacturing process creates many tiny needle holes where the seams of the fabric have been sewn.
These needle holes can lead to leaking if not properly taken care of, which has led people to ask, do canvas tents need waterproofing? Keep Reading to find out.
Related: How to Lock a Tent at Night
Do Canvas Tents Need Waterproofing?
You don’t necessarily need to waterproof a new tent. However, your canvas tent will leak if you do not prepare it correctly for use. One of the best ways to do this is through a process known as seasoning. Completing this process will help to prevent pinhole leaks and buildup of mold and/or mildew.
What Does Seasoning Mean?
Seasoning is the best way to protect your canvas tent and prolong its lifespan. It is a process whereby the material gets conditioned through natural processes. As cotton is a natural material, it responds well to natural conditioning.
It is a process of getting your tent material wet and allowing it to dry. The canvas is formed of a weave of fibers with gaps in between.
As the material dampens, the cotton fibers in the weave will expand, shrinking the gaps between them. This is a process known as shrinking. As this process occurs repeatedly, the fibers will gradually close up all of the holes in the canvas fabric.
When Do You Season Your Tent?
You should always season your canvas tent before the first use.
Following this initial seasoning, you should repeat the process at least once every 12 months, irrespective of how often you erect and use it.
The regularity with which you need to season your tent will depend on the canvas itself. Some will only need the bare minimum, whereas others will need seasoning every few months.
The regularity with which you camp and the climate you use your tent in will have an impact upon seasoning frequency too.
If the corners of your tent begin to pull tight, this is a sure sign that it is in need of seasoning.
How Do You Season Your Tent?
You Will Need:
- A garden hose
- Your canvas tent
- A large outdoor space
Your first step is to set up all of the items you will need. You will need to erect your tent outdoors somewhere that it can be left undisturbed for up to 5 days.
Once your tent has been built, ensure the material is stretched as taut as possible. Close all of the window and door openings.
Turn your hose on and spray the entire tent exterior. It should be completely saturated with water. Pay close attention to getting the seams wet, as this is where most leaks occur.
We suggest spraying your tent with water for 5 to 10 minutes. It needs to be dripping wet as if it had been in a massive rainstorm.
Once this process has been completed, check the interior of your tent. Check for areas that light is shining through or where a lot of water has traveled through the fabric. If you see any of these areas, go and spray them again.
There is no such thing as too much water when seasoning a tent.
Leave your tent outside to air dry completely. If you are lucky enough to live in a warm area, this should only take a few hours. In colder climates, this could take 24 hours, or maybe even longer.
Once it is dry, you will need to re-tighten the canvas before re-soaking it in water. Remember the areas we were looking out for the first time? Pay particular attention to these spots during this second soaking.
Allow it to dry completely again and repeat 2-3 more times. After 3 or 4 rounds of soaking and drying, the canvas threads should have expanded and contracted enough to naturally fill in any holes in the material.
Once you are satisfied with the seasoning your tent has undergone, you should check for leaks. There are 2 ways to do this: wait for a rainstorm, or pull out our old friend the garden hose.
Spray the tent and check the inside for leaks and pinpricks of light from outside. Pay particular attention to the seams of the tent as this is where most leaks occur.
If you can still see leaks, it is time to pull out the waterproofing spray as a last resort.
Allow your tent to dry completely before packing it back up.
What about Waterproofing Sprays?
Waterproofing sprays tend to be silicon-based. These are sprayed all over the outer surface of your tent.
The silicon sprays fill in all of the tiny holes in the canvas of your tent, closing the gaps made during the manufacturing process.
As every single hole gets filled, it prevents the material from being able to breathe. This creates an environment inside the tent that gets very stuffy and warm, very quickly.
What about Canvas Preservatives?
This is not our go to for cotton canvas tents, however, these are declining in popularity in recent years. The traditional cotton has widely been replaced with woven acrylic or vinyl-coated polyester.
To waterproof one of these tents, you will need a paintbrush, a ladder, and a fluoropolymer-based preservative. Do not use a silicon waterproofing spray as this is incompatible with the acrylic. Another good sealant for acrylic canvas is a petroleum sealant.
Before sealing or spraying your tent, you should ensure your canvas is completely clean.
Choose a sunny day to waterproof your tent and use the ladder to reach every area of the tent. Cover the entire exterior of the fabric in a thin layer of canvas preservative. Allow it to dry completely until it is no longer sticky to the touch.
Once it has dried completely, you can throw the canvas into a large bucket of water. If the canvas begins to soak up the water and the canvas becomes saturated, it must be resprayed.
You should only do this outside or in a very well ventilated area. This is because the toxic fumes that are produced by the preservative and sealant can be hazardous to your health if you inhale too much.