Are Canvas Tents Waterproof?

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Are canvas tents waterproof? Out of the box, they are typically not considered waterproof.

Not without a bit of work that is.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to find out if your canvas tent is waterproof, plus the best ways to waterproof your canvas tent if it needs it.

Do Canvas Tents Need Waterproofing?

Canvas tents are extremely durable and are some-what water-resistant right out of the box.

But, notice I said water-resistant, not waterproof! You will still likely need to either season the canvas tent or apply a waterproofing spray to make it fully waterproof (we discuss how to do both below).

Of course, this will vary by manufacturer.

Kodiak canvas tents, for example, are made with their Hydra-Shield technology, which combines a tight weave with a silicone dry-finish treatment which makes them water-resistant. However, they still recommend that you “season” the tent out of the box to make it waterproof.

Other tent manufacturers might not add their own silicone waterproofing treatment, so if possible, it’s best to check with your tent manufacturer on their waterproofing process. They should be able to tell you if further waterproofing is needed.

But, what if I have an old canvas tent?

If you have an old canvas tent lying around and aren’t sure if it’s waterproof, the best way to know for sure is to test it!

Related: How Do You Know if a Tent Is Waterproof?

You can find out if your canvas tent is waterproof by :

  1. Setting the tent up in your backyard.
  2. Spraying it down with a hose.
  3. Check for any leakage in the fabric or along the seams.

If your tent leaks, you will need to season and/or waterproof it.

How Do I Season A Tent?

There is a difference between seasoning and waterproofing, mainly within the process. Simply put, seasoning involves the repeated soaking of the tent.

All you need for your seasoning project is:

  • A flat surface
  • A water hose
  • About 1-3 days to complete the project.
  • A spray nozzle for your hose will also make the project easier.

Steps To Season A Canvas Tent

  1. Set up your tent on a flat surface.
  2. Spray the tent down completely with your hose.
  3. Allow the canvas tent to dry completely.
  4. Repeat this process 2 more times.

Your tent should now be properly seasoned and ready to go!

Tip: Test out the waterproofing ability of your tent after seasoning it by spraying it down again and seeing if there is any leakage in the fabric or seams. If so, continue down to the How Do I Waterproof A Canvas Tent section below.

How Seasoning Works

It may seem odd that simply hosing down your canvas tent will help waterproof it, but it’s science, not magic.

As you wet the canvas tent and let it dry, the canvas fabric shrinks and closes any microscopic gaps. When you repeat the process a few times, those gaps get smaller and smaller, eventually making the tent water-resistant.

Just remember, the most important part of the process is that the tent must dry completely before it is resprayed, so don’t skip that step to save time. If the weather outside is too humid or it is raining, you can hang the tent to dry inside your garage or basement.

Depending on whether the manufacturer included any additional waterproofing technology, you may still have to waterproof your tent. Again, test your tent after the seasoning process and continue on if it still leaks.

How Do I Waterproof A Canvas Tent?

Seasoning the tent involves a process of wetting and drying to seal the fabric. Waterproofing, on the other hand, involves a waterproofing solution to coat the fabric and keep water out. The process is similar to seasoning, but it often provides a stronger, more waterproof barrier.

Though we’ve covered how to make a tent waterproof pretty extensively, waterproofing a canvas tent is a bit different.

Materials Needed

Nikwax Cotton Proof Waterproofing

Nikwax Cotton Proof Waterproofing

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Steps To Waterproof a Canvas Tent

Before you begin, be sure to clean your tent and patch any holes in the canvas.

Important: Wear gloves to avoid waterproofing your hands!

  1. Set up your tent on a clean, flat surface.
  2. Add 1 part Nikwax Cotton Proof to 9 parts water and mix well.
  3. Apply mix evenly to outside of tent fabric with a brush or sponge. Be sure the product penetrates the fabric.
  4. During application, wipe away any extra canvas waterproofing product with a damp cloth.
  5. Be sure to cover the entire tent (and fly if you have one).
  6. Allow the tent to dry completely before packing away.

And that’s it! Your canvas tent should now be completely waterproof.

Of course, you should test your tent for its waterproofing abilities before taking it on a camping trip. And it’s a good idea to test it regularly before trips to ensure the waterproofing is still intact.

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