how to waterproof a canvas tent

How to Waterproof a Canvas Tent: Tips for a Dry Camping Experience

Canvas tents are an excellent choice for camping enthusiasts due to their durability, breathability, and resistance to harsh weather conditions. However, like any other fabric, canvas tents can still be prone to water damage, which can result in a miserable camping experience. Fortunately, there are several ways to waterproof a canvas tent, ensuring it stays dry and comfortable during your camping trip.

This article will focus on traditional cotton canvas even though Elk Mountain Tents uses instead a poyester canvas that requires no rain, sun, or mold treatments

Why Waterproofing a Canvas Tent is Important

A cotton canvas tent that has not been waterproofed will not only be uncomfortable to sleep in but can also lead to serious health problems. If water seeps into the tent, it can create a damp environment that encourages the growth of mold and mildew. Mold and mildew can cause allergies, respiratory problems, and other health issues, making it essential to ensure that your canvas tent is waterproof.

Moreover, a wet tent can also make it challenging to store your gear and clothes, causing them to become damp and smelly. Waterproofing your canvas tent will help keep your camping gear and equipment dry and in good condition, preventing unnecessary wear and tear. Here some steps for how to waterproof a canvas tent?

How to Waterproof a Canvas Tent

Weather your Tent: The first step to waterproofing cotton canvas is weathering the canvas. Set up your tent, wet it down completely with water, and then light it dry completely. This will force the material to shrink a little and tighten up the gaps between the fibers. For maximum protection, we recommend you do this process twice. This one step alone will raise your tent up to the status of water-resistant. However, for maximum protection, you’ll want to continue with the following steps.

Use a Waterproofing Spray: One of the easiest and most effective ways to waterproof a canvas tent is to use a waterproofing spray. Waterproofing sprays are easy to apply and can protect your canvas tent from water damage for an extended period.

To use a waterproofing spray, you will need to:

  • Set up your tent in a well-ventilated area
  • Clean the tent using a damp cloth and let it dry completely
  • Shake the waterproofing spray can well
  • Hold the can about 6-8 inches away from the tent and spray evenly
  • Allow the spray to dry for a few hours before packing your tent

There are a variety of sprays available. The most important aspect of choosing is making sure you select one compatible with your canvas material, so be sure to confirm whether you have cotton, polyester, or a cotton-poly blend. Also, try to find a solution that has added UV protection as well to save you from doing two separate coats.

Seam Seal Your Tent: Seam sealing is another effective way to waterproof your canvas tent. Seams are one of the most common areas where water can penetrate a tent, so sealing them is essential for keeping your tent dry.

To seam seal your tent, you will need:

  • A seam sealer
  • A small brush or applicator

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Set up your tent in a well-ventilated area
  • Identify the seams that need to be sealed
  • Apply a thin layer of seam sealer along the seam using the brush or applicator
  • Allow the seam sealer to dry completely before packing your tent
how to waterproof a canvas tent


Q: How often should I waterproof my canvas tent?

A: It depends on how frequently you use your tent and the weather conditions you expose it to. As a general rule, you should waterproof your canvas tent every year or after several uses, especially if you notice any signs of water penetration.

Q: Can I use regular waterproofing spray on my canvas tent?

A: Regular waterproofing sprays may not be suitable for canvas tents as they can contain chemicals that can damage the fabric. It is essential to use a waterproofing spray that is specifically designed for canvas tents, also taking into account the exact material used in your canvas.

Q: How do I store my canvas tent after use?

A: Before storing your canvas tent, make sure it is completely dry and free of any dirt or debris. Fold it loosely and store it in a dry and well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight and heat sources.


Waterproofing your canvas tent is essential to ensure a comfortable and safe camping experience. By following these simple hacks, you can protect your tent from water damage and prolong its lifespan. Whether you choose to use a waterproofing spray, seam sealer, make sure to follow the instructions carefully and use high-quality products that are specifically designed for canvas tents. With a little bit of effort, you can keep your canvas tent dry and in top condition for your next camping trip.