How to Waterproof a Canvas Camping Tent

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When you first use your canvas tent on a rainy day, you will find that it is not waterproof. However, you should not make the mistake of thinking that you have purchased an inferior tent. This is because a canvas tent is not a waterproof tent right out of the box.

You need to season and waterproof your canvas, and then your canvas tent will be able to be waterproof like a nylon or polyester tent.

Seasoning and waterproofing

Canvas is inherently waterproof. Canvas is made with many small holes in it. These small holes are able to allow water droplets to pass through.

When the canvas gets wet, the cotton fibers in it swell up, which makes it denser. When you next use a canvas tent, the rain will not be able to pass through the canvas. However, you should not expect a canvas tent to be able to withstand prolonged rainstorms.

Seasoning and waterproofing your canvas tent will keep the rain out of your tent on your next camping trip. After a few soaks, the more waterproof your tent will be, while still keeping it breathable.

In addition, you can also use some waterproof products to seal the small holes in the canvas. They can make your tent more waterproof than seasoned. However, the price is that your canvas tent will no longer breathe.

Seasoning a canvas tent

Pitch the tent

Find an open space to set up your canvas tent. It’s best to set it up in your backyard. Because it needs to stay there for a few days. Close all windows and doors of the tent.

Soak the canvas

You may choose to set up your tent before a rainstorm and let the rain finish the job of getting your tent wet. However, the rain may not last long enough to completely soak your tent. This is where a hose can be a great help. Wet your tent with the hose and make sure every part is soaked, especially the seams. You will need to rinse your tent for more than 5 minutes, the longer the better.

Repeat the process

Depending on the weather, it can take anywhere from 4 to 24 hours to air dry your tent. Let the sun bake your tent so that it is hot to the touch. In hot weather, you can have your tent baked in a few hours. Then once again, wet your tent well with the hose. Wait for it to air dry again. Wet it too wet again and air dry. For most tents, it may take about three to four soaks and bakes to make it waterproof.


Even if you repeat the seasoning several times. But to be foolproof when camping, you still need to check the waterproofness of your tent.

If you’re lucky, you can test your tent on a rainy day. Set it up before it’s about to rain and see if it’s waterproof. This is the best way to test the water-resistance of your tent.

Of course, you can also use a hose to simulate rain. After getting the tent wet, check inside the tent to see if there are any leaks. If there are leaks, then you can use waterproof products in that area.

Air dry and pack

After a few seasonings and using waterproofing spray on the leaking areas, your tent is ready to go. Wait for it to dry completely and then you can pack it up.

However, tent waterproofing is not permanent. You may need to repeat this process every 12 months.

Waterproofing a canvas tent

Over time, your canvas tent will become less waterproof, even if you go through seasoning every year. This is because the canvas will wear out after many uses as well as overtime. And this will result in it not being able to swell too much when wet. At this point, you need to use some waterproofing products to make your tent still waterproof.

If your tent is only in some areas can not be well waterproof, waterproofing spray can help you to repair these areas. For large leaking areas, you will need some waterproofing concentrate. Seams are more likely to leak, and there are products on the market designed to seal this location.

Clean the tent

Lay the canvas flat on the ground and remove any dirt or mud from the tent. You can use mild soap and water for cleaning. Using a stiff bristle brush or pressure washer can remove stubborn stains.

Use a waterproof product

Use waterproofing products in the desired area. Whether it is a small area or the entire tent. Apply seam sealant to the seams and use a soft bristle brush to evenly coat these areas.

Air dry

Waterproofing your tent in a sunny area will help it dry.


Take your hose and get your tent wet. If water droplets slide off the tent, then your canvas tent is waterproof again. Check once inside the tent as well to make sure the tent is not leaking.


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