How to... Season a Canvas Tent or Swag

If you have bought a new canvas tent or swag then one of the first things you will often hear is that you have to "season it".
This is not a tricky process, however it is essential if you are going to be using your new tent or swag in rainy or cold weather.

For anyone who hasn't done this before and isn't sure what it means and what to do, these tips will help you through the process.

What is seasoning?

Seasoning is all about preparing your tent to withstand wet weather.
When you first buy this shelter, it’s been put through a lot of needlework by the manufacturer, sewing all the seams, attaching separate sections of canvas together, with a lot of thread. That means a lot of little needle holes. Nothing huge, but all those holes are places where water can penetrate.
These needle holes are unavoidable. But entirely fixable.
So to ‘season’ your tent, it is about reducing the size of these tiny holes by adding water that will cause the canvas material to contract, but the thread will expand. When both of these things happen, the stitching fills the needle holes.
The shelter is now completely waterproof, and no extra treatment is needed to keep the water.
This process is only a necessity on tents and swags that are made from a material that is 100% Cotton Canvas. If it is a blend of polyester/cotton (polycotton) which is 90% of the 'canvas' market, or simply polyester or nylon, then this process isn't needed. However, it still might be handy to give your new purchase a soaking for the peace of mind that there are no leaks.

So what do you need to do?
5 easy steps for successful seasoning of canvas tents.

Step 1.
You need to set up your canvas shelter at home, and be prepared to have it set up for a few days.
Set it all up as you would on a camping trip and close up all the windows and doors as if it was about to rain. If you are seasoning a swag, make sure to take the mattress out, as it will get a little wet during this process if it is left inside.

Step 2.
Tips on how to season a tent...
You can wait for heavy rain followed by sunny, dry days but you are relying on Mother Nature and who can guarantee that the downpour will be sufficient? Plus you are counting on the sun to dry completely prior to the next downpour. That’s a lot of weather watching.
You need to get your garden hose out and soak your tent, with a special focus on the seams.
You do want to saturate the tent, so allow a good 5 minutes of forceful water from your hose on the tent.
If you identified an area of the tent, which seemed like there were more needle holes than other sections, (you may see pinpricks of sunlight in certain areas from inside the tent), give that area an extra soak.

Step 3.
Allow the tent to now dry fully. 

To ensure a good result, it is a good idea to repeat steps 2-3.
The tent should be fully dried between every soaking. So you are committing to that tent being up in your yard for at least 3 days.

Step 4.
Ideally, your tent should now be waterproof after soaking, and subsequent drying out. The canvas and thread have contracted and expanded to fill the holes – naturally.
It’s time to give the tent a test run in poor weather conditions. You may want to wait for a rainy day, or simulate rain in your backyard!
Check inside for any leakage. There probably won't be any but if there is, you may need to go repeat the process again, or if there is still any leakage you may need to proceed to step 5 and seal the seams.

Step 5.
Should you find that there are leaks despite all the above steps, your next step would be to seal the seams.
There are a number of products out there - but an old fashioned way, which still apparently works, is to get a candle and rub it along the seams. The wax of the candle provides a coating to repel the water.
Your canvas tent should now be waterproof at all seams.


Seasoning your canvas camping gear is an important part of the purchase but once complete, your canvas gear should be able to withstand many downpours without a problem.


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