Preventing Damage To Your Tent/Awning Fabric
The cotton flysheet of the old school Vango Force Ten tent could lose its bright orange colour fairly quickly.
Preventing Actinic damage to your tent.
Thanks to Covid-19 this, far from normal, summer has seen an explosion of back garden camping adventures. All over Ireland, people have been 'camping a la casa' to make the most of the good spring weather and compensate for the closure of the nation’s campsites. You just know there’s going to be a ‘BUT’ coming along shortly, don’t you?
Some of these tents are going to see an awful lot more time out this year than they would in a normal one as loads of people decide to leave the tent pitched as a semi-permanent, kids’ play room cum dormitory. The problem with this is that tents pitched in the sun for a long time suffer from excess exposure to UV light. Actinic damage, as it’s called can bleach the colour from the fabric and leave it brittle and fragile like tissue paper. Better tents will be more UV stable than cheaper ones but no matter the brand, model or price all tent owners need to take care of the fabric and replace the protective factory coatings before they get too worn. I once got back from a month of camping in near constant daylight, on the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland and my nylon tent which was almost brand new, looked like the albino version of the one I started out with. As the colour bleaches. the tear strength of the fabric reduces and the flysheet gradually becomes weaker and less functional.
This would normally be a problem for caravan awnings as they can be pitched for an entire summer. To get around the problem awnings for seasonal use are made of much thicker, heavy-duty fabrics often with an external polyethylene or polyurethane coating. These awnings though are very heavy indeed. To make a tent from such fabrics would result in weights over a hundred kilos for the biggest family sizes and they would be an absolute nightmare to pitch. This is the kind of tent you may have encountered on sites in France where they are pitched out for anything from six to twelve months of the year. The fabrics resemble that used for dinghy sails and are often manufactured by marine companies as an aside to their main business. These fabrics will have a thickness that is anything from 800 to 2000+ denier. The majority of normal tents however will have fabrics that are 70 to 150 denier and only a very small number of models would be thicker than this.
Polyester is the most common fabric for family tents as it resists fading better than nylon but good isn’t the same as magic and even the best tents need a bit of TLC. It is fairly simple to keep the exterior treated and well worth doing to maintain the performance and extend the life of your tent.
There are several companies making aftermarket proofers and protectors and by and large they all work pretty well. We would normally recommend Fabsil by Grangers. It is colourless, odourless once dry and easy to apply. For very small tents it comes in an aerosol can but most family tents would need a lot more than that so the 2.5 or 5 litre containers are much more popular.
If you need to clean your tent use a pure soap like Nikwax Tech Wash and rinse thoroughly before letting the tent dry. If your tent isn’t too bad then just apply the Fabsil directly to the exterior of the flysheet. It can be painted or sprayed and if you overdo it the excess just runs off. Be careful of using stepladders to get the roof sprayed properly. If you do use a ladder then please make sure you have a couple of handy volunteers to steady it.
On a nice day the surface will be dry in no time at all and the tent is ready for use instantly. If it’s not a nice day then wait for a day that is. Depending on conditions and personal motivation this is something that could normally be done every couple of years but as I said at the start of this article 2020 is no normal year and ironically with all the sites locked down some people will be spending more of the summer under canvas than ever before.
Make the most of your tent and enjoy not just this summer but many more to come.
A Force Ten as it originally came out of the bag.