How to keep your trailer tent in tip-top shape for years to come.
What is it about the sound of raindrops falling onto canvas? Is it nature’s impeccable timing or is it simply knowing you’re in safe hands. For those of us who regularly go camping, our swag or camper trailer are our home-away-from-home, and a high quality one made of a heavy duty poly-cotton blend or rip stop canvas will keep us dry and relatively comfortable for the conditions.
In fact, a good quality camper trailer is something that gets handed down through the generations together with the love of the great outdoors, but you really need to handle it with care, especially the tent. So how do you keep the tent in peak condition? Well, read on.
FIRST THING’S FIRST: SEASON THE TENT
I’ll never forget the tone of disdain over the phone. Having collected a neat little swag prior to a week-long trip, my colleague had woken up on day two, drenched head to toe. I didn’t realise it at the time, but he’d fallen prey to the number one pitfall plaguing novice campers: failing to season the tent. It may seem counter-intuitive, but in order to be waterproof, most swags and camper trailer tents actually need a few good soakings before embarking on a maiden trip, as the cotton in the canvas and the outdoor-rated blended thread need to expand to seal the holes around the stitches.
Aim for good weather though, as you’ll need to make sure the canvas is completely dry prior to packing it away.
Mould is an absolute killer when it comes to camper trailer tents. If you catch it early, you can kill it without causing too much damage although you may be left with an ugly stain. It is far better to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Obviously packing up the canvas when it’s dry is the best way to achieve this but life isn’t always neat and easy, even on holiday; after all, dealing with rain is a part of camping outdoors. So what do you do when it happens? Well, if the tent is wet when you pack it up make sure you open it up to dry as soon as you can when you get home. A day or two won’t do too much harm, but if you leave it for weeks on end you’re in for a nasty shock.
Packing up your tent with absorbent silicon satchels will also help if you’re living or camping in humid environments. Sunshine kills mould, while brushing firmly with soft bristles and a vacuum removes the spores; failing that, a weak vinegar solution (20-50m to a L/water) will also help without causing the waterproofing agent to much harm.
KEEP IT CLEAN
Mould isn’t the only thing that can damage a tent. Sap, dirt and debris can also affect the canvas integrity, which is one reason why some travellers throw tarps over the top of their tents. Bird droppings are particularly noxious due to their acidity, so you’ll need to address them as soon as possible with a brush and gentle sponge.
A quick once over with a soft dustpan brush every couple of days will keep the walls of the tent in good nick as will a good spray with a hose every once in a while. Avoid using detergents as they can impact the waterproofing surface as can DEET; an application of Joseph Liddy Dry Seal or similar onto your canvas will improve its waterproofing capacity.
When you’re out on the road year-in-year-out damage to canvas is bound to happen: kids running in and out, debris in high winds, or grit inadvertently being packed into your tent causing damage during travel. Unfortunately, canvas repairs can cost a fair chunk of change but if the damage is minor, say, just a small tear or hole, there are a few things you can do that will get you back out there and enjoying the great outdoors with a secure space to stay cosy and dry.
1. CANVAS REPAIR KIT
The first option available is to use a canvas repair kit, available from most hardware and camping and outdoor lifestyle stores for just a few dollars. There are many brands to choose from and while each comes with their own recommended methods of use, they essentially all require you to tightly stitch up the tear with a supplied needle and thread before applying a patch with glue. These kits work well for small rips and holes but repairs are limited by the size of the patch and can be labour intensive for larger tears as canvas can be tricky to sew.
2. CLOTH TAPE
If you haven’t got the patience to conduct a fiddly repair or the tear is significant in size you can always try cloth tape or canvas repair tape, available at most hardware stores. Cloth tape is basically a resin-coated canvas backed with heavy duty adhesive. It’s relatively easy to apply (provided it doesn’t stick to itself) and you can choose from a range of colours, but the results aren’t particularly discrete and the tape’s adhesive can leach oils over time. It’s low cost and the single step application process make it ideal for emergencies, though, like when the first sign of a tear emerges mid-storm, so chuck a roll in the back of your camper.
3. TEAR-AID TYPE A
Now here’s a more sophisticated DIY product currently available directly from the United States. Like canvas repair tape, Tear-Aid Type A is a self-adhesive that requires no sewing but has the added advantage of improved flexibility, neutral acidity and adhesive strength. The company that produces Tear-Aid Type A makes some extraordinary claims regarding the strength of its bond, long-lasting properties, and its ability to flex. It seemed pretty flexible and strong from what we found.