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Seasoning a Canvas Tent: A Handy Step by Step Guide

Most people have no idea how to take care of their canvas tent. They end up with pinhole leaks and mildew build up because

Most people have no idea how to take care of their canvas tent. They end up with pinhole leaks and mildew build up because they didn’t properly season their canvas.

Why Should I Season My Canvas Tent

Although canvas is naturally water resistant it doesn’t come out of the factory ready to withstand water. When you first by your tent it’s gone through a tedious sewing process.

The manufacturer sews all the seams, attaches all the canvas together and sews in all those finishing touches (that’s going to require a lot of thread). By the end of the manufacturing process you’re left with millions of little needle holes that allow water to seep through your canvas.

All those tiny needle holes are unavoidable, but luckily they’re easy to fix. All you need to do is season your canvas tent.

What does Canvas Tent Seasoning Do?

You’ve got all those little needle holes letting in water. What can you do to fill in all those tiny needle holes? You can either waterproof your canvas with a silicon based waterproofing material(like this stuff or a water repellant spray) or you can try to season your canvas.

With a new tent you’re better off avoiding silicon based waterproofing sprays. Waterproofing sprays work really well and fill in all your seams and cracks, but they’re actually too good. Every seam, pinhole and pore will be filled in, leaving you with canvas that doesn’t breathe(it gets hot and stuffy in no time).

Instead of using a waterproofing spray your better off season your canvas. Seasoning your tent is all about reducing the size of all those little pin holes.

All you need to do is soak your canvas in water. Once soaked the thread expands and the canvas contracts minimizing the size of all those little holes. So how do you actually season a canvas tent?

How to Season a Canvas Tent

Seasoning a canvas tent is really easy. You can properly season your canvas tent in 5 easy steps. Don’t worry! I’ll go into more detail below.

  1. Setup Your Tent
  2. Use a Hose to Soak The Canvas
  3. Wait a Few Hours and Repeat the process 2 more times
  4. Hose out your tent and check for leaks(Seal the Seams if necessary)
  5. Allow your tent to dry and pack up

1) Setup your Tent

Before you can season your tent you need three simple things. You need access to a hose, a yard with plenty of space and lots of time. The whole tent needs to be left fully assembled for about 4-5 days.

This means you’ll need to find a safe place out of everybody’s way to setup the tent. Nobody wants to deal with a big old tent in the driveway for 4-5 days, but that’s what you need to complete the seasoning process.

Set everything up just like you were going on a camping trip. Pretend your setting up for a storm making sure you close all the windows and doors.

If you don’t have a large backyard or driveway you’re basically screwed. You need to find a friend or relative that will allow you to setup the tent in their yard.

2) Soak The Canvas

Most old timers season their tent their tent the old fashioned way. They wait on a rainstorm and let mother nature run its course. You’ll end up with even coverage, but there’s no guarantee the fabric will get fully saturated. Plus who knows if the canvas will fully dry before the next downpour.

If you can leave your tent up out of the way for a few weeks use the rain otherwise it’s time to bring out the garden hose. Use the hose to fully saturate the canvas paying special attention to your seams.

Most issues are caused because people don’t fully saturate the seams. Water rarely leaks through the main side walls so most of your attention should be spent hosing off the seams.

Make sure you fully saturate the tent in water. I’m talking about 5-10 minutes of water sprayed directly on the tent. It needs to be absolutely soaked so that the insides are fully drenched.

Open up the doors and windows and take a look inside. If one area of the tent seems to be worse than others that’s where you need to focus. You might even see a little bit of light shining through inside. Go back outside and spray those spots down some more. More water is always better than less when first seasoning canvas.

3) Air Dry and Repeat 2-3 Times

Allow your tent to fully dry before repeating the soaking process. On a hot summer day this usually only takes a few hours. Sometimes it could take 24 hours before you can start spraying again. It all depends on the weather.

Repeat the soaking process paying special attention to the areas that had leaks after the first soaking. Since the tent needs to be fully dry between every soaking expect to commit at least 3 days to fully season your tent.

You need to repeat the process 2-3 more times before it will be fully water resistant. After 3 soak/dry process the canvas and thread should have enough time to expand and contract filling in the holes naturally.

4) Test For Leaks

After completing the seasoning process you need to check for leaks. It’s time to give your tent a test run on a rainy day or simulate rain with the garden hose. Check all the seams for leaks and look for pinholes of light.

At this point you shouldn’t see any water coming through the tent. Go inside and check for leaks. If you find a spot that’s leaking it’s time to bring out actual waterproofing spray to seal the seams(this is what I use).

Personally, I would only spray the seams because that’s where most leaks are going to occur. You can coat the entire tent in waterproofing spray, but that’s going to cause ventilation issues and condensation. If the Kiwi Camp Dry doesn’t work go over your seams again with a little brush and Seam Sealer.

5) Dry and Pack For Storage

Once you’re fully satisfied with the waterproof capabilities of your tent it’s time to get everything ready to put away. To prevent mold your tent needs to be fully dry before packing it up.

Remember that even if it didn’t rain the canvas will still be wet first thing in the morning. Wait until at least noon to take down the tent and pack it up into storage.