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Care of Your Canvas Tent

About canvas tents – “Finished size” of a tent is the size after it is sewn together.  Canvas is 100% cotton and cotton shrinks.  You should expect your tent to be smaller after the tent has been preconditioned.

Shrinkage – All tents made from natural fibers, like cotton, will shrink and this will affect the “finished size” measurements of the tent.  The exact amount of shrinkage is impossible to predict.

Preconditioning your tent – In order for your tent to have its own natural water repellency, the tent must be wet down thoroughly to allow the fibers to swell and shrink to a tighter weave.  The easiest way to do this is to set the tent up, you must guy out the sides, the front end and the back end, and stake down the bottom if using a freestanding frame.  If you do not guy the sides, the roof may sag and water could collect above the eaves causing the frame to collapse under the weight.  Before wetting down the tent, zip the door shut.  If the front corners of the tent are guyed out too tightly toward the sides, the zipper door may not operate smoothly.  Check the tent often to make sure it is not straining or sagging.  If using a freestanding frame be sure to allow your tent to dry thoroughly on the frame before putting it away.  Never put a damp tent into storage.

Freestanding Tent Frames – Because of the unpredictability of fabric as to shrinkage, it is almost impossible to get an exact fit on any tent frame.  Our years of experience with fabrics has given us an “average” shrinkage factor.  This average is what we use when figuring what measurements to use when making frames.  However, there are still times when some adjustment of your framework will be necessary to get a good fit.  The best time to decide if adjustment is necessary is after the tent has been set up on the frame, wet down and dried thoroughly.  When using a free standing frame, it will be necessary to use a fly or tarp over the top of the tent.  If the tent roof is allowed to rest on the rafters, water will have a tendency to “wick” through and you will get drips inside the tent.  A fly will keep the roof of the tent dry and wicking will not occur.

Mildew – One of the most common problems that occur in canvas is mildew.  Even if the tent or tipi is made of a fabric that is mildew resistant, it will mildew if left damp.  Mildew is very destructive to cotton fabrics as well as other materials.  Mildew usually forms when tents are put in storage when damp but it can start while set up for no apparent reason.  Mildew can start in a very short time and under certain conditions of humidity and temperature.  If mildew has started to grow, it can be stopped from spreading by thoroughly drying the tent, preferably in the hot sun and applying a cleaner such as IOSSO Tent & Camping Gear Cleaner.  This cleaner is made to remove tough dirt and mildew stains.  Afterwards you may find it necessary to treat the tent with a water-repellent compound such as Canvak.  If using another treatment, be sure to read the label to make sure it is safe for use on canvas.  After any treatment has been applied, make sure the tent dries completely before putting into storage.  If the tent is left up for an extended period of time be certain to occasionally air out the tent so that the humidity inside the tent, from cooking, bodies, etc, can dry.  Keeping grass and weeds trimmed around the bottom of the tent is also important since dampness clings to foliage and does not allow air to get to the fabric.  Do not delay in drying your tent when you get home!!!

Wood Burning Stoves – Always use caution when using a wood burning stove in your tent.  Even flame retardant fabrics will burn when in contact with a flame source.  Unless flame retardant material is specifically ordered, we use non-flame material in our tents.  With a little care and common sense you will have no problem with these fabrics.  There are several things you can do to reduce the chance of damage when using a stove in your tent.  Sparks and embers that make it out of the stovepipe and fall back on the tent are the main problem.  Remember to set the tent up so the prevailing wind will blow sparks away from the tent and not onto it.  Use of a spark arrester cap over your stovepipe is highly recommended and in fact, required in National Forests.  Additionally, it helps to put small holes in the stovepipe above the ridgeline.  This provides oxygen for more complete combustion of the sparks before they leave the pipe.

Winds – Intense winds can cause extensive damage to your tent and frames.  Be sure to set your tent up using all the stakes and ropes provided, even if using a freestanding frame.  It will be necessary to also guy the tent out front and back using the grommets provided in the ends of the ridge if used in windy conditions.  Frequently checking the stakes and tightening the guy ropes if they loosen during periods of high winds will keep things together.

Snow – Snow should not be allowed to accumulate on the tent.  The simplest and most economic method of dealing with snow is to use a common plastic tarp as a tent fly.  It not only provides a waterproof and slippery surface for snow to slide off of, but also provides an air space for greater warmth in the tent.  If possible, maintain an air space between the fly and the tent roof to increase breathability and insulation.  If you do not like the looks or noise of the plastic flys, Reliable does offer a woven fabric (XL-Tex) that is made to fit the configuration of the tents and will provide excellent protection.

Proper use and care of your tent will insure many seasons of camping pleasure.