What makes a great tent.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012  |  Admin
What makes a good tent?

Flysheet/Fabric and Hydrostatic Head

All the tents we sell on www.a2zcamping.co.uk are made of fabric materials, the flysheet, which include cotton canvas, nylon and polyester. Cotton canvas tents naturally absorb water so can become heavy when wet. The water causes the fibres within the tent canvas to swell and it is this swelling which blocks any minute holes in the cotton weave making the tents extremely waterproof.  Traditional cotton tents were treated with paraffin to enhance water resistance. Modern cotton tents are coated with a combination of polyurethane and silicone to impregnate the fabric making them the most durable and waterproof tents on the market. These are commonly referred to as polycotton tents and are generally made for four people or above.

Nylon and polyester tents are much lighter than cotton and do not absorb much water. This makes this type of tent popular with regular weekend and short break campers. They are easy to store, often very easy to erect and of course lighter to carry around. Many 4 berth, 6 berth and 8 berth tents can be transported and erected by one person. Their properties also mean that if they do get wet, they dry very quickly making for convenient storage and cleaning. They do, however, need extra coating layers of a suitable compound to enable them to become waterproof; these coatings will deteriorate over time due to a slow chemical breakdown caused by the effects of ultraviolet light. Regular treatment to maintain the fabrics waterproof properties are recommended. A good rule of thumb is to re-proof every two or three seasons, even a cheap tent can be given a new lease of life with a coating of proofer.

A2ZCamping can supply many proofing products such as silicone impregnation or polyurethane coating. The most popular product being a waterproof spray on, or waterproof paint on product called Fabsil by Grangers. Applied as a spray or simply applied with a soft paintbrush, Fabsil will restore your tents water repellant properties and provide additional protection to the fabric construction of your tent. Like washing your car, it's not a job everybody looks forward to, but with a little time and a place to hang your ten, an 8 berth tent can be re-proofed in under an hour. Time well spent, believe me. It is important to keep all camping equipment clean but never be tempted to use detergence, including soap, washing up liquid or washing powder - these products will strip the invisible waterproof coating from your tent. Use only luke warm water and a soft brush to clean your tent.

During the production of the tents flysheet (the actual tent fabric) many of the panels are sewn together which may result in the stitching making tiny holes in the fabric seams. These seams are often sealed or taped to block these holes and maintain waterproofness, though in practice a carefully sewn seam will be waterproof. Seam sealers are available to increase the waterproof nature of any tent seams, but often the natural process of wetting and drying of the tent will cause the fabric weave to 'shrink' or season to tighten these stitched seams.

Weather resistance, in particular rain; is measured and expressed as a hydrostatic head in millimetres (mm). This measurement indicates the pressure of water on the fabric before moisture penetrates. Heavy or wind-driven rain obviously has a higher pressure than light rain and therefore has a higher pressure. Think of water pressure in terms of a picnic rug placed on damp grass. The rug will feel dry to the touch; but sit on the rug and you'll end up with a wet bottom! The pressure of you sitting on the rug allows the moisture in the grass to penetrate the fabric, the longer you sit on the rug, the more the moisture will penetrate - voila!  

Similarly the pressure of rainfall on your tent will increase as the rain falls harder and with the length of time the rain continues to fall, causing saturation. Standing on a groundsheet increases the pressure on any water underneath in the same way, although groundsheets normally have a hydrostatic head in excess of 8000mm and are designed specifically for standing, walking and sleeping on.

Fabrics with a hydrostatic head rating of 1-2000 mm or less are generally regarded as shower resistant, with 2000 mm being suitable for summer camping. Tents for spring to autumn use, generally have a hydrostatic head of at least 4000 mm; expedition tents intended for extreme conditions are often rated above 5000 mm.

Fabric saturation occurs when the rain water is not allowed to freely flow off of the tent canvas. Pooling water on the tent indicates that the tent has not been erected correctly and probably needs adjusting. This is quite common; simply adjust the pegging out of your tent to ensure that water fall off occurs freely, avoiding streams down seams, zips and windows where possible. Zips, by there very nature can be a common area for rain water penetration. Manufacturers have several different methods to protect the tents zip areas, including rain flaps secured by velcro tabs. Make sure that these features are secured during downpours to ensure your tent remains dry. Familiarise yourself with all the features of your tent before pitching to make sure you understand every aspect, your instructions or the manufacturers website is often a good source of information as are internet forums on camping. One golden rule is to never touch the fabric of a tent when it is wet, and ensure items within the tent do not make contact with the tents walls. This type of contact causes a capillary action drawing water through the fabric into the tent. I know it can be tempting but remember the golden rule - don't be tempted to touch the inside of a wet tent.

Dry and air your tent thoroughly after your camping trip. Packing your kit away damp will cause a fungus to grow on the fabric which is not only almost impossible to remove, but also affects the stability and integrity of the material. These areas can be treated with specialist solutions and of course they can be re-proofed - but prevention is much better than cure!

Size matters.

Tents at a2zcamping.co.uk  are identified by their sleeping capacity for example "3 berth" or "2 person". These figures indicate how many people the manufacturer suggest can use the tent. Our Sunncamp tent leave plenty of room for personal belongings, such as luggage, inflatable mattresses, camp beds, cots, etc., . the bedrooms are of ample size for air beds and framed camp beds. So for example a four berth tent will almost certainly accommodate two double beds. If you prefer a larger sleeping area or extra space for taller individuals, checking the quoted sizes of sleeping areas. Many experienced campers prefer extra space for storage or for more usable accommodation space, often choosing a tent bigger than required. For example a family of four might chose a tent with a 6 berth capacity. Remember many tents have separate bedrooms which can be removed to provide additional camping space for camp tables, beach chairs, cool boxes or even pushchairs, bikes or surfboards.

If the tent will be used where mosquitoes, gnats and other biting insects are expected, it should have all window, vent and door openings covered with fine-mesh netting. Most modern tents have these features as standard but it is always worth checking before you buy.

Pitching your tent.

There is plenty of guidance available on where best to pitch your tent and individual preference plays a big part in this process. This section serves only to explain the terms used by manufactures when they describe a tent as pitched 'flysheet first' or 'inner first'. Generally if a tent is described at pitched flysheet first it means that the tent is a single skin outer with bedrooms hung within the tent using bedroom hanging points. The fibreglass flexible poles are inserted into sleeves within the flysheet and clipped at each end using a ring and pin. This gives the flysheet stability and rigidity whilst keeping the overall weight of the tent to a minimum. Some tents will use a combination of fibreglass and steel poles and some may have x-flex poles - a hybrid fibreglass pole with an outer coating which makes it stronger and more durable. X-flex poles have an extended lifespan and come with a manufacturers guarantee, most tent poles do not offer any form of guarantee.

Pitching 'inner first' simply describes a tent where the inner bedrooms are hung not within the tent but from a supporting frame around the bedroom. The bedrooms may be divided into separate areas but generally speaking this would be one large area with a fully sewn in groundsheet. Once the bedroom is erected the outer flysheet is then placed over the top of the frame and pegged out to secure in place. The main advantage of this type of design is that there is a cavity of air between the inner bedrooms and the outer flysheet offering a level of extra protection from the elements and minimising the risk of internal condensation. The drawback being that a flysheet first tent is easier to erect especially if you are pitching your tent during inclement weather.

The dreaded condensation.

One of the most common problems with polyester and nylon tents is their tendency to accumulate condensation on the inside of the flysheet. This is also one of the easiest problems to solve. Condensation is caused when warm, moist air meets a cooler surface allowing the water content of the air to condense on the cooler surface. Water droplets form coating the surface until there weight increases allowing them to drip. Should this happen within your tent STOP! Remember the golden rule - never touch the surface of a wet tent. Open all the air vents within the tent and allow a flow of fresh air into the living areas. If possible open the doors and windows to allow the moisture to escape and naturally dry the tent. Avoiding condensation is just as easy. Ensure the tent is well ventilated by keeping the tents air vents open and allow fresh air in and moist air an escape route. Where possible store wet clothes outside of the tent or in sealed bags until they can be dried. The moisture from such items will only serve to increase the condensation problem within your tent.
For more information on choosing a tent or any other camping queries, please visit our website at www.a2zcamping.co.uk or visit our shop. Contact details are available online. 

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