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September 1997 Rain Gear

‘Seams’ Dry: Weatherproof Your Tent

Learn how to weatherproof your tent -- before it rains.

Step 3: Prepare the seams. With a toothbrush, remove any peeling remnants of old sealant, then swab the seams clean with a rag dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Allow a few minutes for seams to dry, then pitch the tent in a well-ventilated location and attach the rainfly with the surface to be coated facing out. Cinching the fly tight will stretch the seams and allow for better sealant penetration and for faster drying time. To get at hard-to-reach places on your tent floor, turn it inside out if necessary.

Step 4: With long, even strokes, apply a generous coat of seam sealant over each of your chosen seams. Wait one hour for the sealant to dry, then repeat the procedure to cover any gaps.

Step 5: Once the seam goop dries completely, set the tent under a sprinkler for several hours to check for leaks. Let it dry thoroughly again and reapply seam sealant if necessary.

Patching Holes

Repeated encounters with sticks, stones, pocketknives, and boot heels can open gaping holes in your tent. To mend large rips and torn seams, consult a professional repair shop and avoid duct tape. It’ll leak and leave a sticky residue that will complicate permanent repair.

To repair dime-size or smaller punctures, use a standard tent or sleeping pad repair kit and the “Hot Pot Method.” Cut a swatch of waterproof nylon about a half inch wider than the hole, and apply contact cement around the wound. Affix the patch, then place a flat-bottomed pot of boiling water on top. It helps to have a board or book underneath the tent so there’s a good, flat surface. In about 30 minutes, you’ll have a permanent, heat-sealed bond.

Refreshing The Coating

With prolonged exposure to sun, sand, wind, and rain, a tent’s water repellent coating will gradually wear thin or delaminate, leaving vulnerable areas. If you’ve noticed mysterious trickles or persistent seeping beneath your sleeping pad, visit your local camping store and invest a few dollars in a waterproof treatment like Aquaseal’s Poly Coat or Kenyon’s Recoat.

The new coat of gunk typically goes on the surface that’s opposite the original coat. (Look for a shiny finish or signs of delaminating polyurethane to confirm the location of the original coat.) Give the uncoated side a sponge bath, let it dry, then spread the formula from corner to corner with a clean rag. This type of treatment smells awful and takes two or three days to cure, so it helps to have a garage or sheltered porch. The finished fly and floor may also feel a bit tacky once they dry, but that’s easily remedied with a dusting of talcum powder.

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