A Quick Guide to Taking Care of Your Canvas Wall Tents (Before and After Use)

family tents for camping
Canvas wall tents can be an investment. They can be more expensive than other tents because of their material and build, but they can also provide you with many decades of service. A wall tent is also one of the best kinds of tents to protect you from inclement weather such as rain, wind, or snow, especially if they’re built from army duck canvas. Army duck canvas is a stronger build of cotton canvas that’s more durable than regular cotton canvas but still possesses the same natural qualities of cotton fabric, like breathability and an aversion to UV radiation. That said, canvas outfitter tents require consistent, meticulous care to perform in the outdoors for the duration of their long lifespan. While the best canvas wall tents are made out of very durable materials, they also need to be properly maintained. Here are the top tips for taking care of your large canvas tent.

Seasoning the Tent Before Using it For the First Time

Part of the result of the manufacturing process of tents is all the little holes and seams that come with its structure. Seasoning the tent can help saturate the canvas with water, which causes the fabric to contract and the thread to expand, helping to reduce the size of any holes in the frame. Seasoning the tent comes one step before actually using it for your first trip and can go a long way in ensuring the life of the tent by improving its resistance to rain or collection of water. Here are five steps you can follow to season your tent before use:
  1. Set up the wall tent.
  2. Soak the tent with a hose consistently for about five minutes on all sides.
  3. Allow the tent to dry fully and then repeat this process two more times.
  4. Spraying the tent with water three times should render it waterproof.
  5. Check for any leakage inside the tent. If you identify leaks, rubbing a candle along the seams can help fix the issue, since the wax acts as a coating to repel water.

Choosing a Suitable Location to Set Up

One of the most important things you can do to extend the life of your canvas wall tent as much as possible is to be very strategic about where you choose to set it up. Even though wall tents are designed to withstand rain, snow, wind and the like, if possible, try to set it up in an area where it can be well shielded from these elements by surrounding trees. The idea is to limit the amount of exposure the tent will have to harsh weather conditions. One of the largest contributors to the deterioration of wall tents is UV exposure from the sun, which can slowly decay the weather resistant materials on the tent. Preferably, the tent should be set up in an area where the trees and boughs will help to shield it from the sun.

Removing Snow Frequently

If snow collects on the roof of the tent for an extended period of time, it can cause the canvas fabric to stretch. It’s very difficult for any internal frame to withstand prolonged snow accumulation. While we don’t have recommendations for how much snow is a safe amount, it’s worth noting that a larger tent has a greater potential for snow load, which increases the chances of damage or collapse. During the winter months, it’s a good idea to make it a habit to inspect the tent you’re using each morning and remove any snow that’s gathered on the roof or walls overnight. A soft brush works well for periodically brushing snow off the canvas. Alternatively, a canvas or poly tarp can be draped over the roof of the wall tent to act as a rain fly. If you live or are setting up somewhere with heavy snowfall, we’d recommend getting an extra pair of snow load poles for structural reinforcement. A tent stove can also help heat the tent and melt snow on the roof, which should cause it to run off.

Cleaning Your Tent Regularly

Dirt, mud, and dust will inevitably gather on your tent during a trip. When you return home, you should clean the tent to remove this kind of debris. We’d recommend gathering a soft scrub brush, cloth, a hose, and a bucket of water. Spray down the tent lightly and then scrub the dirty areas with your brush, before wiping down with a cloth. Simply cleaning your tent in this manner will slow down its deterioration. Detergents or soaps tend to damage the water-resistance treatment of the canvas, and make it more susceptible to leaking in the future.

Removing Moisture Before Storing

You should always remove moisture from your tent after a trip of use. This is because moisture will inevitably gather on your tent in the form of morning dew, natural, condensation, snow, and rain. While high-performance wall tents are indeed designed to resist moisture to keep you protected, when you return home from your trip you should remove all moisture from the tent before storing away (keep in mind moisture will also gather on the tent from the above cleaning procedures). Bleach ruins the treatment of the tent, meaning the affected area will be more likely to leak. Instead, go with a Cleaner and Blocker solution designed specifically for canvas tents. Another way to remove moisture from the tent before storing it is to spread it out in an indoor garage or shed for a 48-hour to 72-hour period. Set up ladders and other elevated items in the area, and then spread out the tent. Allow the tent to sit for this time so it can fully dry out. Then you can wrap it up and store it away until your next trip. Storing a wet or damp tent, despite being treated for mold or mildew resistance, can still develop mold.

Zippers Need Attention Too!

Before setting up your tent for each trip, make sure the zippers are in good working condition. We’d recommend keeping a repair kit and replacement zipper handy – if it gets damaged during your trip, this could mean strapping in for a cold, wet, windy night. Here are some quick tips that can help maintain your zippers in the long run:
  • Never force your zipper: if fabric gets jammed in the zipper teeth, we suggest gently working it out rather than tugging at it. One way to do this is by sliding the zipper from one side to the other to free up the material.
  • Regularly clean your zippers: After using your tent, you should shake it off to remove any excess dirt from the zippers, then wipe them down with a cloth. This isn’t too time consuming a process but can help maintain their longevity. Sea salt is extremely damaging to zippers, so if you’ve been camping out near the sea, it’s especially important to clean them. Generally, cool, fresh water makes for a good rinsing agent.
  • Lubricate the zipper: While not a common measure, lubricating your zipper is one of the most effective ways of prolonging its life. It’s possible to find a wide range of lubricants to use but we’d recommend going with ones that are specifically designed for outdoor gear.

The Lifespan of Your Canvas Wall Tent

Canvas tents usually last 15-30 years but this is based on the care they’re provided. A well maintained and stored wall tent can be a trip companion for a long time to come. Here are additional measures that you can take to protect your canvas wall tent:
  • Keep heat away from the canvas of the tent. While canvas tents are designed to be used with a stove on the inside to help keep everybody warm and comfortable, you should use a stove jack to ensure that the heat source is separated from the canvas. Keep lanterns away from the canvas as well. A fly is a good way to ensure stove sparks don’t damage the roof of your tent.
  • Replace the rubber leg bottom covers every year to avoid moisture from inflicting damage on the tent leg bottoms.
  • Always set up the tent using all stakes and ropes provided, to create the best stability possible against wind. This will go a long way to preventing wear and tear.
  • Canvas exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods can damage the material. A fly sheet is a great way to protect your tent from radiation.

Learn More:

8 Applications Of Wall Tents: What Can They Be Used For?

White Duck Outdoors | Wall Tents