Tips and Tricks

Note: This column is a sort of grab-bag of various tricks I've learned or invented that might help you in using your tent or keeping it in top condition. They are a small sampling of the many tips you'll find in The Pavilion Book.

Don't Store Your Guy Ropes With Your Fabric

...that is, if the guy ropes are manila or sisal. The reason is that this rope has been treated with oil to make them more supple, weatherproof, and durable. (Of the two types, manila rope is by far more heavily impregnated than sisal. In fact, I've seen some sisal that didn't seem to have any oil applied at all.) Whatever the benefits of oiled guy ropes, they have one drawback: the oil tends to migrate away from the ropes and onto whatever the rope is touching when it's stored.

I found this out when I unpacked "Torheit" from a long period of storage. I've always kept the ropes coiled and attached to the pavilion roof's skirt, because it kept everything neater and saved me the step of putting the ropes where they needed to be when I set up. But I found that the roof had become badly stained where the ropes were touching the fabric. At first, I thought it was mildew, which shouldn't happen with Pyrotone (or its clone Fyrecoat, which is what Torheit was made with). But a little examination showed me that the stains were from oil, not mildew. About the ony good news was that the oil stains didn't seem to affect the canopy's resistence to water or mildew. (I haven't checked for damage to the flame-retardent qualities, and really don't intend to. The affected areas were small enough not to cause me great concern, and I hate to burn up an otherwise serviceable tent.) What I do now is separate the ropes from the canopy, coil them up, and store them in their own plastic bag, with the top left open so that moisture has someplace to go. The usual admonitions apply to storing ropes: store them loosely coiled and dry, and they'll last a long time. You'll extend their life-span even more if you go to this next hint:

How to Make Your Ropes Last Longer

If you use tent stakes made of square stock, you may have noticed that the edges of the stake tend to chew up ropes, causing them to wear out prematurely. In fact, except for mildew and rot, this is the major cause of premature failure of tent ropes.

There are two fixes for this problem. The first involves sliding a piece of hose (like discarded garden hose) onto the shaft of the stake, and adjusting the position of the hose segment so that it acts as a cushion for the rope. This works well, but unless you're using black hose, it will show up fairly conspicuously, which may detract somewhat from the look of your campsite. And since you're transferring the wear point from the stake to the hose, you may have to replace the segments periodically.

The second method, which I like better, is to thread the rope through a 1" (25 mm) steel ring. You can buy these rings at your hardware store or through Tandy Leather (Tandy sells them for $2.50 for a packet of ten, and your hardware store probably sells them for whatever they can get for them). Be sure to get the "solid" types, which are welded shut. Now the stake makes contact with the ring instead of the rope, and the rope itself will wrap itself around the rounded radius of the ring rather than the edge of the stake. And because the ring is round, each time you set up the ring will present a different contact point with the stake, which keeps the ring from developing a wear spot against the stake.

In fact, I like this method so much that all the rope sets we provide with our sunshades are fitted with these rings, and we've replaced the rope stake-loops on our sunshades with steel D-rings.

No-sew tent repairs

If your tent developed a little rip or "armor bite" in the past, you had the choice of either sewing a patch on or gluing it on. Now there's a third way. I've come across a product called "HeatnBond Ultrahold" from Therm O Web. It's an iron-on adhesive that allows you to make your own iron-on patches for your tent. First, you cut a piece of the stuff the size of the patch you want, and iron it onto the patch material. Then you remove a paper layer, lay it onto the tent fabric, and re-iron so that the patch bonds to the fabric. Voila! It seems to do a good job of sticking to the fabric, even with any treatments the fabric may have had applied to it. It should also resist the elements fairly well, since it's machine washable.

Of course, if you didn't make your tent (or save any of the scrap material), you still have to come up with the fabric to make your patch. Your tentmaker should have some of it around, and Dragonwing will provide you with any of the scrap it has around. If you want to save yourself a little trouble, we can also provide the scrap already in iron-on form for a nominal charge (around $3.00 for a 6" x 6" patch in whatever fabric you specify, postpaid to US addresses). This includes Sunforger in natural and gray, as well as most of the twill colors we've used for our sunshades. But they aren't available for our Pyrotone/Firecoat tents, because the HeatnBond adhesive doesn't want to adhere to these fabrics very well.

Index of Previous Columns

Other articles of interest, mostly about tents and tentmaking

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