15/01/2013
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How to reproof your tent

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Fear not – there is no need to buy another tent if you discover yours has a leak. First check the seams – a quick basting with seam sealer will sort them out. If the fabric needs treatment then it's a tad more complex but far from difficult. Cleaning and reproofing materials can be found at any decent camping shop and many include UV blockers that inhibit damage from the sun's rays to tent fabrics. Top names to consider are Storm, Nikwax and Grangers Fabsil.

A large canvas tent is best and most economically cleaned and waterproofed by brushing on the agents. However, a washing machine can be used for the smaller tent – and a big plus with Storm is that its Wash In Proofer can be added into the conditioner tray at the same time as the tent is being cleaned. One wash cycle for two jobs – result! Never reproof an inner tent, as this will limit the fabric’s breathability and cause condensation.


Top tips
  • It's surprising how dirty a tent can get. Mud, sticky fingers, sun tan creams, and even natural hair oils can all affect waterproofing so wash tents before tackling reproofing. Large tents will have to be pitched and brush washed by hand; smaller tents should fit into washing machines – remove all guylines first.
  • Sometimes, delamination of the waterproof polyurethane coating means that treating the affected area may only be a short-term fix. Of course, it depends where it starts and how fussy you are. Leaking fabric low down in the porch caused me no problems for years.
  • First, thoroughly clean the tent fabric. Make sure you remove all traces of detergent from a washing machine before use. Nikwax's Tech Wash can be used in a washing machine or hand wash. Grangers' Universal Cleaner has to be brushed on. Storm's Fabric Cleaner can be used in a hand wash, in a machine or brushed on.
  • Diluted proofer applied by a paintbrush, or coarse spray, is an economical way to treat large tents. The proofers should be applied to clean, dry fabric (Storm's Canvas Proofer can be used on damp material). Brush on with strokes in a regular pattern. To avoid ‘tide marks’ don't let a section dry before doing the next.
  • Spray-on applications are convenient and easy to use – especially on smaller tents. Treatments vary in application to wet or dry fabric – you will find advice and instructions on the container and on the manufacturers’ websites. After treatment, dry the tent naturally; avoid rain or dew, as they'll wash out the proofer.
  • Allow your tent to dry thoroughly before packing away. Apart from damp creating mildew and a musty smell, most proofing agents have to dry thoroughly to be effective. Small areas of fabric can be treated on site but a good clean and complete reproofing is best done at home along with the general tent maintenance.
  • Don't dry towels on guylines – any trace detergents will seep through with the water and may get rubbed into the tent to damage the proofing. It also adds an unnecessary strain to the tent seams.
  • Sometimes a quick fix with seam sealer will cure a ‘leaking’ tent. As rain seeps through, damp can spread across the fabric’s inner surface making it appear that the tent is leaking. Loose seam tape can be glued back in place. It is also common for condensation to be mistaken for a leak so it pays to investigate all possibilities before embarking on reproofing.
For more top camping tips, click here.

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