Maintaining Canvas tents in NZ

Maintaining Canvas tents in NZ

Mould; the constant enemy! 

Mould and mildew are everpresent in a lot of New Zealands environments, whether it's found on the final slice of bread, lurking in the corners of a bathroom, or coating the exterior of a deliciously cured sausage paired with exquisite French cheese. Regardless of its connotations, mould is an undeniable aspect of our world that has the potential to cause damage to our belongings.

Above all else, canvas tents have stood the test of time, being utilized across diverse environments worldwide for over a century. They continue to reign supreme as the ultimate choice in tent material, renowned for their durability and longevity. However, like any valuable possession, they require diligent care to maintain their quality. Similar to high-quality equipment, tools, and clothing, proper upkeep is essential. For those seeking a long-term shelter option in environments like the rainforest, where minimal maintenance is desired, hard plastic tents made from non-breathable petroleum-based materials may offer a viable alternative. Nonetheless, considerations such as comfort and humidity levels may impact the duration of stay inside such shelters.


Mould is a type of fungus that plays a crucial role in nature's ecosystem. Unlike plants, which utilize sunlight for energy, mould obtains its energy by breaking down organic matter. Through the secretion of enzymes, mould facilitates the decomposition of organic materials, a process commonly known as "rot." Mould consumes these degraded materials to generate energy for reproduction, while also producing waste. In essence, mould serves as nature's recycling center, contributing to the cycle of life that sustains our planet. It's a fascinating and essential component of the natural world, essential for maintaining the balance of ecosystems and making our environment habitable.


Mould is everywhere in nature. It clings to clothes, skin, fur, leaves, bugs…you name it, it’s probably got mould on it. Mould can grow just about anywhere that is above freezing. Although mould can grow in a range of environments, it is particularly virulent in damp, dark environments, where there is lots of organic material to feast upon. Think rainforest, Native bush!

Mould spreads and reproduces by releasing large numbers of spores which can easily spread through air or water and colonize new locations. In the right conditions, mould can grow in as little as 24 hours, which is why it’s important to deal with it immediately as soon as you see evidence of it.

Is Mould Dangerous?

While we at Nomadic may not be medical experts, our comprehensive research, hands-on experience, and extensive experimentation have provided valuable insights. We can confidently assert that unchecked mould growth can indeed wreak havoc on a tent. Even in mild cases, mould can mar the appearance of the canvas, and once it infiltrates the fibers, complete removal becomes nearly impossible, although effective prevention of further spreading is feasible. In more severe instances, mould can induce structural damage such as rot, holes, tears, and ultimately result in the complete loss of the tent.

In regards to your health, there are a variety of reputable sources that provide extensive information on the possible effects of mould exposure (CDC, WHO). Generally speaking most moulds are not dangerous to humans and a healthy person without a specific mould allergy or preexisting condition will be largely unaffected by mould. That said, it’s generally a good idea to avoid living in close proximity to, breathing, or eating large quantities of mould, which is typically the case when mould is visible with the naked eye.

Regarding health concerns, numerous reputable sources such as the CDC and WHO offer comprehensive information on the potential effects of mould exposure. Generally, the majority of moulds pose minimal risk to humans, and individuals without specific mould allergies or preexisting health conditions are likely to be unaffected by mould exposure. However, it's advisable to avoid prolonged exposure to visible mould, as inhaling or ingesting large quantities of mould can potentially lead to health issues. As a precautionary measure, it's best to steer clear of living in close proximity to mould or consuming contaminated food.

Is my tent mould resistant?

Every Nomadic tent is made from 100% cotton canvas treated to resist water, UV rays, and mould. We balance comfort and durability by choosing treatments that keep the canvas breathable while maintaining its strength against environmental factors.

We've discovered that a light, eco-friendly treatment works well for most customers in various environments. Cleaning and reapplying the treatment are crucial for tent maintenance, depending on how often and where you use the tent. As a rule of thumb, treating the tent every 20 weeks of continuous use is recommended. However, if your tent is regularly pitched in humid, densely vegetated, or rainy areas, you may need to treat it every 10 weeks.

How do I prevent mould?

For casual campers or glampers, just make sure to clean the tent regularly and reapply treatment. Never pack it away wet or dirty. Let it dry completely in the sun before rolling it up for storage. If it's not fully dry when you leave, roll it up loosely and let it dry at home before storing.

If you're setting up the tent for an extended period or living in it, that's fantastic! As an experienced nature enthusiast, you understand the value of keeping your camp clean and your gear top-notch. Here are some simple tips to stop mould from forming:

  • Purchase the Pro or ProTech bell tents which are specifically designed for long term use or extreme environments and impregnated with the best in market treatment available. Regularly inspect the tent for mould growth (a good time to do this is when you retension the guylines).
  • If you see any mould kill it with vinegar and immediately brush off and apply WetNforget type product. Though test a small area first to ensure its not going to bleach the tents colour.
  • Clean off any dead leaves, bugs, bird poop, etc. that falls on the tent Cut back vegetation in the surrounding area so tall grass and weeds are several feet away from the canvas.
  • Keep it up as new growth forms. (This also keeps the windows clear and you more comfortable) Keep your tent well ventilated. Mesh covered vents, windows, doors, and even walls on the ProTech bell tents make it easy to keep it breezy.
  • Clean and retreat your canvas as needed, based on your observations of the impact the environment is having on your tent. Note: Cleaning and retreating your tent will involve taking the tent down from time to time. A typical cleaning and retreatment can require a few hours on a sunny day. If you are living in your tent, be prepared to move your stuff out for a deep cleaning a few times a year.

Will sunlight stop mould from growing?

While sunlight may inhibit mould growth to some extent, it's not a foolproof solution. Moisture and sunlight create favorable conditions for plant growth, which in turn can promote mould growth. Additionally, many types of mould have evolved mechanisms to withstand the damaging effects of sunlight. Moreover, prolonged exposure to UV light can degrade the treatment on tents, making the canvas more vulnerable to mould penetration.

To summary, it's not wise to depend solely on sunlight to prevent mould. It's crucial to keep your tent clean and reapply treatment as necessary to protect it from mould growth.

Should I just go with a plastic tent?

Canvas tents do require more maintenance and care than plastic or polycotton, but are by far more comfortable, sustainable, and durable.

Plastic is non-organic and petroleum based which is less delicious to mould than cotton. This is why plastic doesn’t biodegrade effectively and also why our oceans