How to Waterproof a Canvas Tent

Knowing how to waterproof a canvas tent can save you some money... and it's not that hard
Knowing how to waterproof a canvas tent can save you some money… and it’s not that hard

When you go camping, there’s always the risk of rain.

That’s just how nature is.

Yet, people who really like camping still go for it, even if heavy rains are expected.

Why?

They’re not braver than you. They’re also not buying new & fancy tents just for rain.

So why?

Well, the truth is that they know something you don’t.

They know that you don’t need a new tent or to train yourself to sleep wet to do it.

You just need to grab your current tent and waterproof it.

Understanding Canvas Tents

Canvas tents are one type in many in the universe of tents
Canvas tents are one type in many in the universe of tents

As we know, a canvas tent is a basic need for a camper.

But as a beginner, you’ll be faced with several canvas tent options, so it’s normal to get overwhelmed fairly easily.

We have cabin, dome, and wall tents in the standard canvas tents, and every one of these can be used, although they are made for different purposes.

Still not clear?

  • If you want to camp with a family, a cabin canvas tent is a good option as it offers more space, so you can easily adjust

  • Dome tents are the ideal choice for backpackers or hikers who want a canvas tent that is lighter and easy to move around (especially if not taking a car on their camping trip)

  • Finally, if you are a hunter or an outdoor enthusiast, wall tents are a perfect fit as they are spacious and durable for long camping periods

Why Waterproofing Your Canvas Tent is Important

We're not writing about waterproofing just because it's cool; it's actually very useful
We’re not writing about waterproofing just because it’s cool; it’s actually very useful

If you’re expecting rain near your camping spot, you’ll badly need a waterproof canvas tent as you can get caught in the heavy rainfall.

Waterproofing your canvas tent keeps you and your essentials dry during unexpected rainstorms and protects against mold growth or mildew buildup because the canvas material traps moisture.

Are these the only benefits?

No sir. Take a look below.

Improved Durability

Waterproofing your canvas tent not only protects you from rain, but can also improve its durability.

With moisture, the fabric of your tent might get damaged over time; once moisture gets trapped in the tent, it creates an ideal environment for mold to grow, causing damage to your tent.

Waterproofing is essentially a process of applying a special layer to the tent’s surface, after which it repels water.

Since it repels water, there is no chance mold starts appearing.

With no mold = more durability.

Increased Comfort

Can you imagine looking at the raindrops from your waterproof tent? It's a peaceful feeling you should enjoy
Can you imagine looking at the raindrops from your waterproof tent? It’s a peaceful feeling you should enjoy

Waterproof canvas tents can also increase your comfort level while camping.

How come?

The canvas material is waterproof, so it won’t get wet even if it rains or snow, making the interior less damp.

This makes the inside of your tent warmer and dryer, increasing your comfort.

Easier to Cleanup

With waterproofing, another perk is that the process of cleaning your tent becomes easier.

With a waterproof tent, the dirt outside doesn’t get inside the fabric and stays instead on the surface.

Well, when the dirt is only on the surface, you don’t have to scrub it to remove it.

Most of the times, spraying water gets the job done.

Don't be the camper that never cleans his tent... waterproof it
Don’t be the camper that never cleans his tent… waterproof it

Waterproofing Methods

Silicone Waterproofing

Silicone waterproofing is one of the most popular types of waterproofing:

  • Can be done on canvas and other fabrics

  • Silicone itself is water-repellent and can provide long-lasting protection

  • Can be used in the form of silicone sprays or solutions that are made specifically for canvas tents

Beeswax and Linseed Oil Treatment

Another commonly used waterproofing method that is natural is beeswax and linseed oil.

It’s very popular because by using this treatment, you can keep the fabric’s breathability while making it waterproof.

Spray-on Waterproofing Treatment

This treatment method can be applied directly to the canvas.

In these treatments, you have a mixture of various materials that bond with the fabric fibers, making your tent waterproof.

Waterproofing Compound

In these compounds, there is a blend of chemical components that penetrate the fabric.

When they do so, they create a waterproof seal that waterproofs the canvas.

How to Waterproof a Canvas Tent

It's not a difficult process and the rewards are great
It’s not a difficult process and the rewards are great

Yes, we get it: you already know the different methods and now want more of a guide than an overview.

We got you covered.

Before you start the waterproofing process, you must do some preparation. There’s no avoiding it.

Very briefly, you need to take some basic steps:

  • Clean and dry your tent so that the waterproofing layer can easily stick to it with no debris beneath the fabric

  • Check for damage, leaks, or tiny holes

    • Heads up: if you don’t check for damage or holes, you might have to repeat the waterproofing process if you spot one later on

Done with prep?

It’s time for the main event.

1) Choose a Waterproofing Product: The first step is to choose a good product for your canvas tent, among the different ones we talked about above.

As always, you should also read all the manufacturer’s instructions, especially those that concern the suitability of the material to the canvas in your tent

2) Test it in a Small Area: Before applying the product to the whole tent, it’s always a good idea to try out a small area as a test first.

This testing helps you make sure that it isn’t causing discoloration or any other damage to the fabric.  

3) Apply the Product: After testing the product on the area, you can apply it on the surface of the entire tent.

Use a soft-bristled brush, sponge, or spray bottle as instructed, and pay close attention to the seams, corners, and high-stress areas – these are the surfaces that need the most waterproofing.

4) Allow Drying Time: After waterproofing it, let the tent completely dry.

Don’t rush this because the fabric really needs to dry completely. Otherwise it won’t be totally waterproof.

You should aim to wait for around the time mentioned in the product’s instructions.

5) Repeat if Necessary: After letting the tent dry, you can inspect it to see if’s completely waterproof.

If not, repeat the process until you get what you need.

Never leave the job unfinished.

Seasoning vs. Waterproofing

Want to become elite? Learn the difference
Want to become elite? Learn the difference

The seasoning process is often confused with the waterproofing process.

But actually, they are two entirely different processes:

Seasoning a Canvas Tent

Purpose: The seasoning of the canvas is done to increase the water repellency and overall durability of a new canvas tent.

Process: In the seasoning process, you first wet the fabric completely and then let it dry naturally.

With this wetting and drying process, the tent material and its fibers swell and close any gaps, resulting in a tighter weave that minimizes water penetration.

Benefits: 

  • Shrinks the canvas fibers, making them more water-resistant

  • Creates a better seal against moisture, which helps prevent the growth of any mold

  • Increases the lifespan of the canvas tent

Frequency: Seasoning is not a process that is repeated often.

It is usually done to a new tent as described above or to a tent that was stored for a long period and not used.

Waterproofing a Canvas Tent

If you can make your tent resistant to water... why would you not do it?
If you can make your tent resistant to water… why would you not do it?

Purpose: when you waterproof your tent, your goal is to make its canvas resistant to water, protecting it from rain, dew, or other sources of moisture.

Process: you apply a waterproofing solution to the canvas fabric, using a waterproofing spray or other solutions to create a protective layer on the surface of the fabric, preventing water from seeping into the tent.

Benefits: 

  • Increases the water repellency of the tent, ensuring it stays dry even if it’s raining or snowing outside.

  • Reduces the risk of leakage and increases protection against damage from moisture

Frequency: Waterproofing may need to be done periodically, as the effectiveness of the treatment can diminish over time. The frequency can vary, and it depends on various external factors.

Confused?

Let’s try to simplify:

  • Seasoning is a one-time process, and you do it to improve the overall water resistance and durability of your canvas tent

  • Waterproofing is a repeated process that focuses specifically on making the tent resistant to water penetration

Both processes are important if you’re looking to ensure the longevity and performance of your tent in different weather conditions.

Maintaining a Waterproofed Canvas Tent

Keeping your tent clean is probably the #1 tip for campers
Keeping your tent clean is probably the #1 tip for campers

Keep it Clean

Keeping your tent clean means removing dirt or other contaminants that may have accumulated outside the tent. 

Store Properly

Another tip is to store your canvas tents properly.

This means making sure that the tent is properly dried before folding it and storing it in a cool & dry place.

Additionally, while storing, we recommend you don’t store it in a place where there is direct sunlight exposure for long periods, as it can fade the fabric.

Re-Waterproof Regularly

Re-waterproofing is not something that you do once and then forget about it.

You need to do it regularly.

It’s that important as it keeps the water-repellent properties of the canvas.

You should try to re-waterproof your tent once every six months.

Repair Damage Immediately

When it comes to damage, no matter how small, you can't be lazy... or it's game over
When it comes to damage, no matter how small, you can’t be lazy… or it’s game over

If you see any part of your tent damaged, you need to repair them immediately.

You can do some repairs yourself, like tiny holes, but if you need a significant repair of your tent, you should get a professional to do it for you.

Either way, repairing any damage quickly will help ensure that your shelter remains safe and dry during adverse weather conditions.

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