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Most commercial tents on the market today are manufactured with waterproof floors sewn in, mosquito screening at the entrance and vents which make them completely bug, wind and waterproof. Although these features are important, there are some disadvantages to such models. The sewn-in floor adds considerably to the tent’s weight and bulk; a wood-burning stove must not be used in tents with floors. The tent can only be pitched on smooth, level ground and mud and dirt tracked inside on your boots make housekeeping a problem.

1. Sod Cloth
If your tent is floorless, you will need a sod cloth. A sod cloth is a strip of canvas about 12 inches wide, sewn completely around the bottom of the tent. The sod cloth is stretched out on the ground inside the tent and weighed down with stones or logs. This provides a wind and bugproof seal between the bottom of the tent and the ground. A tarp, spread over the ground inside the tent, makes a suitable “carpet” for a floorless tent.

2. Mosquito Screen
Tents can be kept skeeter-free with a curtain of mosquito netting or cheese cloth. The curtain shoud cover the entire front entrance of the tent, and the netting should be very full and long. It should be sewn to the tent where the roof and walls meet. When in use, the bottom of the netting should be weighed down with a pole, or tucked under the sod cloth. When the mosquito screen isn’t needed, it can be tied to the top of the tent.

3. Color
Tents today come in a variety of colors. Light green or khaki-colored tents are cooler in hot weather than those in brilliant colors. Some very dark green tents, especially those made of canvas, require a lantern when working inside…even in daylight. White lets light through the fabric, and makes the tent interior much cheerier than dark colors.

4. Waterproofing
Tents which have not been treated to resist water will shrink when wet, and unless guy ropes are loosened, the tent pegs could be pulled out of the ground by this shrinkage. Tents of closely woven cotton or canvas become very heavy when wet, and are difficult to handle if you must break camp during a storm or immediately after a heavy rain. Most nylon tents are treated to make them water repellent, and some are completely waterproof. 

Untreated cotton and canvas tents can be made waterproof by painting them with a waterproofing solution available from tent and awning manufacturers, or you can make a similar solution at home by dissolving paraffin in gasoline. After painting or soaking the fabric in this solution, hang up the tent until the gasoline evaporates. (We don’t need to remind you not to let any sparks or open flames anywhere near you during this process, right? Right.) If a spot on the tent is no longer waterproof and needs recoating, it should be rubbed with a block of paraffin wax. Do not built a fire near tents that have been treated for waterproofing in this manner!

5. Repairs
If your cotton or canvas tent develops a tear, you can repair it by gluing a piece of waterproofing fabric over the tear, using fabric cement or canoe glue. If a nylon tent is torn, it can be repaired with nylon sail-repair tape.

6. Storing Tents
Before packing a tent away, shake out all the dirt, twigs, grass, pebbles and whatnot. Be sure the tent is thoroughly dry before storing. Canvas and cotton will rot if stored wet. Nylon won’t do that, even if put away wet, but it may become mildewed.