Maintenance and Care of Canvas Tents

With a canvas tent, the need for proper care and maintenance starts when you buy it.  A canvas tent should last 20-30 years, but it’s durability will depend on how you treat it while using it and storing it.

After purchase care

New canvas tents come ready to go, but don’t head off without familiarising yourself with it. Putting the tent up at home allows you to practice that and familiarise yourself with all its components.

Tents now come already waterproofed but we advise ‘seasoning’ it first. With the tent up, spray to soak all seams and surfaces with water. This better seals the tent by expanding new thread and slightly shrinking the fabric, especially the many sewing holes. Dry the tent thoroughly, then repeat this process over several days.

Camping with the tent

Happy tent, happy stay. By looking after your tent, you are also ensuring a better camping experience, so be mindful of and stresses on the seams, walls and floor.

The site size and position are important. Level is good but some slope will help drainage so rain doesn’t undermine the tent. Clear your site of rocks, sticks or anything that could rip or tear, but also use a groundsheet/tarp to insulate and protect the tent. Shade is good, but falling branches aren’t, nor are trees that ooze sap or have resident birds. Wind can be damaging not just noisy. Face your tent away from prevailing winds and also think about the direction of smoke from your fire.

Keep the tent clean and dry inside. Air it during the day to minimise or clear overnight condensation. Sharp objects and tents don’t mix, the same goes for naked flames. Use drink bottles not open liquid containers inside the tent.

Packing away the tent

Leave only memories and footprints behind. Properly packing the tent on-site is great, but a better practice might be to accept you’ll be doing it again (and more thoroughly) when you get home. The non-negotiable is to ensure the tent is clean and totally dry before putting it in storage until next time. If the tent is damp, it could suffer mildew or mould.

When breaking camp, empty the tent then clean it inside and out. No sap, no bird poo, no twigs, no stones, no pebbles. Underneath of the floor is usually a damp problem. A wipe isn’t good enough.

Wipe any dirt or mud (and count the numbers), so you take every rope, peg and pole as clean as you brought them.

At home, you can better inspect the tent. Thoroughly cleaning and drying the tent, as well as making any running repairs will help protect your tent for many years to come. Store it off the ground in a dry, well-ventilated position.

Remember to inspect the tent again before you head out on your next camping trip.

If you are interested in Canvas Bell Tents, read this.