Top tips for fixing and maintaining your tent
We road test the popular fixes designed to keep your tent and awning in tip-top shape.
If you’re camping under canvas, be it in a tent or under a rollout awning, its care goes hand-in-hand with a lifetime of memories in the great outdoors.
The stitching on a well-made tent should remain intact with the right canvas and right grade of UV-resistant thread but falling branches, slips with sharp implements, or wear and tear around press studs or zips are common causes of failure. Therefore, you can be certain that with years of use, your gear will at some point require repair.
Many professional canvas sewers will fix damage to your tent or awning. In fact, major components such as broken zips or torn clear vinyl windows require an industrial grade sewing machine at the hands of an experienced technician and there’s little else for you to do except grin and bear the costs. A canvas sewer who owns a portable industrial sewing machine can fix your tent with the camper attached, depending on the damage, but often it’ll have to be removed, adding to the overall cost, unless you’re prepared to detach it yourself.
However, when the damage is only relatively minor or you’re a long way from help, how should you proceed with home repairs? Often they can be dealt with by using one of the available glues or patches. Or you can use one of the small handheld sewing aids which, with a little care, can do a more than adequate job of sewing up a tear or sewing on a patch.
Here, we’ve put some of the common methods of DIY canvas and tent accessories repairs to the test to see which ones work and which don’t.
There are two options if you suddenly acquire an unwanted hole in your canvas, vinyl or window mesh. These involve adhesives or sewing. We conducted a series of repairs according to the manufacturers’ instructions on squares of olive poly-cotton canvas, vinyl-coated canvas and midge-proof mesh and rated them out of five.
Although there are numerous adhesives for repairing canvas available online and in store, most fall into one of four possible solutions in our test below. The test repairs were bent and shaken and flapped about for an extended period of time to replicate a strong wind storm, and were given a thorough soaking to test their waterproofing capabilities, and a simple pull test on either side of the tear to assess their basic strength.
Canvas Repair Tape or Cloth Tape is an adhesive canvas or linen-like tape that’s available from hardware stores and even some supermarkets. It’s sold in a wide choice of colours in cut-to-length strips or on a small roll; we chose green tape for our test repairs.
We applied the tape to one side of a 6cm tear; to both sides on a similar tear, and a single sided repair to a puncture-type hole. We chose green but it wasn’t a great match in colour.
In all three scenarios, the tape did a good job of adhering to the canvas and held the two sides of the tear together when required. It was remarkably waterproof, at least in its resistance to the likely impact of rain. The appearance isn’t great, but it did a good job and we’d recommend it as a temporary fix until you could get your canvas to a qualified repairer.
We’d suggest keeping Canvas Repair Tape in your camper trailer emergency repair kit, as it is extremely tough, very adhesive and can be used to temporarily fix all manner of problems.
We paid $5.41 online for the roll (plus $7.74 in postage) and $4.49 for the pack of five strips (postage was free).
On a hunch, we checked our local hardware store to see what was recommended for canvas repairs and found that a common contact adhesive claimed to do the job. We chose a commonly available brand to attach a patch over the top of a 7cm tear.
We cleaned up the tear, removing a few stray threads and made sure we had rounded corners on the patch to minimise the risk of snags on the corner pulling it away. We made the patch about 25mm wider on each side and 25mm longer at each end to give the glue a good surface on which to bond.
After shaking it about, some of the edges of the patch came away, although we admit to using less glue at the edges to avoid adhesive seeping out from the sides. However, during our pull test the two sides of the tear held firmly and was waterproof too, suggesting it would serve as a temporary fix. We wouldn’t, however, recommend it is a permanent repair.
A good contact adhesive will set you back about $8-10.
CANVAS REPAIR KIT
Canvas Repair Kits are available from most camping stores and usually come with a couple of canvas patches, nylon flyscreen, a needle, thread and a tube of fabric cement.
We followed the instructions, first sewing together the two sides of the tear with the needle and thread and then cutting a patch with curved corners and about an 25mm larger all round.
We applied a good coat of glue to the back of the patch, ensuring a wet surface remained after the initial coating had soaked into the cloth, tapering it off towards the edge so that there would be little, if any, squeezing out from the sides. We pressed the two faces together and, as we were undertaking a repair on a flat piece of canvas, put it under a little pressure with a weight for 20 minutes while the two surfaces bonded properly. With in-situ canvas walls, for example, the ability to do this would be limited but we figured a bit of pressure would assist the glue to permeate both surfaces and form a good bond.
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Check out the full feature in issue #101 June 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.