View Full Version : Making your own tents or oil cloths

01-24-2008, 02:05 PM
Was wondering what everyone does for tent or cloth shelters, do you buy a tent or cloth? Or do you save the money and make your own?
Here's what I use rain, shine or cold weather.
A Canvas Diamond shelter (waterproofed 10x10) And then to waterproof the canvas: Nail it to the backside of a woodshed, paint it with an oil-based deck stain and be sure to look at ingredients: label-linseed oil and color pigment, after it dries, turn it over and paint the other side. Very Waterproof. Find a round smooth rock and rub it over entire cloth to soften up. The color of deck stain used should be dark or rusty in color, as it will come out lighter... No Smell No Stickiness as some have found with turpentine mixture, or beeswax mixture.

Tony uk
01-24-2008, 02:08 PM
Was wondering what everyone does for tent or cloth shelters, do you buy a tent or cloth? Or do you save the money and make your own?

Ive always went with a store bought one and never tryed to make my own

Assassin Pilot
01-24-2008, 02:10 PM
I've built a tube tent from a piece of waterproof tarp. I used it during the summer so I don't know how effective it would be in the cold or any extreme conditions. It shouldn't be too hard to make your own tent.

01-24-2008, 02:33 PM
Beo - Here's the one I carry. I usually pitch it in a diamond configuration with one corner raised.


01-24-2008, 02:41 PM
That's a nice tent tarp, a little too modern for my taste :D but it looks and sounds good. Mine is a plain and simple painter canvas drop cloth, waterproofed on both sides a kinda rust color.

01-24-2008, 02:57 PM
The way you describe manufacture sounds like it should work just fine. An added bonus with the oil stain should be some UV protection. That's a drawback to mine. You can't leave it up for extended periods or the sun destroys it.:(

01-24-2008, 03:39 PM
generaly use my 8'x5' poly tarp.

used to have a broad pyramid canvas one that had been the roof of a tube frame gazeebo that was nice. i've used literaly everything i've been able to get my hands on and these days i want a cheep tarp that will last a few years or more.

might have to think abou the oil-cloth at some point.

Assassin Pilot
01-24-2008, 07:54 PM
I think a tarp is the best idea, it is quick to set up and very strong. It is cheap too, and has other purposes besides a tent as well. A store bought tent will be pretty expensive and the tarp does the same job just as well.

01-24-2008, 07:57 PM
It really depends on the application. For the most part I think you are correct. I would not, however, want to use my tarp in very windy conditions. My son's tent is pretty stable under those conditions and I would take it over my tarp in a heart beat.

01-24-2008, 08:03 PM
10x10 thick canvas drop cloth. Throw in the drying to tighten, it's good. Use this when it me, myself, and I.

10x10 onepole teepee style tent for the rendezvous, school functions, and camping in the backyard.

Will be getting one of them thar new fangled throw it out, pop up, modern day things for the family this year. They just don't like that canvas aroma.

Next project, lightweight duck, 10x10 and made into an oil cloth. It will roll up smaller than the drop cloth yet be more waterproof.

Most canvas, if dried, really does not need to be waterproofed. All you need to remember is not to touch it, on the inside when it rains. Ya touch, ya drip.

01-24-2008, 08:20 PM
Beo ... Thanks for the tip! I've been eyeing a walled tent design for Rendezvous in the fall, and a simple tarp for use on extended ("overnight") hikes this summer. I'd like to get some cloth and treat it this way, then make my own. Any suggestions on purchase of a painter's drop cloth to treat with deck stain? I'm sure most local hardware places carry them, but does anyone know of any online sources that are cheap yet still good quality? Thanks for any help, folks! NorthWind

Assassin Pilot
01-24-2008, 09:10 PM
You are right Rick, the new tents nowadays are very stable because of the way they are designed. They have those metal poles and such that are meant to withstand those conditions. I suppose if you had a nice frame a canvas tent would work in the same way.

01-24-2008, 09:18 PM
That is probably true. In fact, if you had a canvas tent on shock poles it might even be more sturdy. Tough stuff.

Northwind - I recently looked at canvas drop cloths through a number of places including Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware and Tractor Supply. I was surprised how much they varied on weight and it was tough to find a good size. Most are narrow and long. I'll let Beo answer on where he got his but I opted not to purchase one because none seemed the right size and/or weight to me.

01-24-2008, 09:47 PM
Rick ... Thanks for the input. We have both a Tractor Supply and an Ace Hardware here. I'll be looking at both places. The walled tent I plan on making will include a stove pipe fixture so I can have a small woodstove in it for the cool evenings. It definitely won't be the one I plan for the old BOB, but it's intended for the Rendezvous. Later ... NorthWind

01-24-2008, 10:07 PM
I've used deck waterproof on tarps in the past, good results. You need to hang them till they dry. I do this from the deck.

I usually will have a ground tarp, I will spray both sides. I've been in a few rainstorms, I set my tarps up in the Baker fashion, nice and cozy, and dry.

Nothing like being in your homemade shelter, while it's raining, and your dry. Kind of satisfying.

01-24-2008, 10:29 PM
another good waterproofer is silicone caulking compound, thinned with a solvent like ethanol, naptha [lighter fluid], isopropanol [the alcohol in rubbing alcohol], etc. this is painted on and will seal canvas, or other fabrics.

01-24-2008, 10:57 PM
I have waterproofed a variety of tarps and tents over the years. With some of them I've used boiled linseed oil. This is tough to do correctly, and most often ends up making the cloth brittle and more likely to rip. Lately, I've been using a variety of Thompson's water seal, sprayed on with a yard sprayer. I currently have six diamond flys, two @ 7' X 7' of oiled Egyptian cotton, two @ 7' X 7' of treated 6 oz canvas, and two @ 12' X 12', one made of 10 oz white sunforger canvas and one made of green treated canvas.


Making your own tent is doable, but requires a large lay-out area and is best (for me at least) sewn up with a running stitch by hand before sewing with a sewing machine.

I'd say you are better off watching your local yard sales than sewing your own tent.

Last Mohican
01-25-2008, 12:26 AM
I picked up an 11' x 15' "cabin" tent for 50 bucks from wal-mart last year. It was one they had, but didn't carry, so they gave me a good deal on it.

I have been wanting to make a canvas teepee. I will have to try some of these suggestions. Will the waterproofed canvas work for skinning my homemade kayak frame?

01-25-2008, 12:40 AM
if you use a sealant that is water proof and apply it correctly then yes.

i've even seen one made from poly tarp, saplings and zip-ties.

01-25-2008, 07:14 AM
I think it is Paleoplanet.com, a gent made a canvas kayak, think total cost was like 200 bucks. He covered it with canvas then painted it with some oil based paint. Turned out real nice, and he could pull the frame out and fold it up.

Check the site, he did a pictorial on it. It's also a great primitive site.

01-25-2008, 07:31 AM
FVR,I think you meant Paleoplanet.net.

Last Mohican
01-25-2008, 05:20 PM
Thanx, I am going to have to check that out.

I made a 16 1/2 ft. kayak frame out of 1/2" pvc pipe and want to cover it and try it out this spring to see if it will hold up. I figured the pvc would be pretty buoyant and act like a giant sponson bag.

I have even considered fiberglassing it to make it look like an alligator. That would get somebodys attention.

01-25-2008, 05:47 PM
I use a 10x12 heavy ducks back canvas [not sure of the exact weight] and seal with water seal works great, last for a long time but stinks to no end with the thompsons sealer,my bivi's that stay up for traping I use a craft wax on the top and seams a little time consuming but worth the effort.

01-25-2008, 06:43 PM
Go here.


Go to search and type in kayak and it will bring up what ya want.

01-25-2008, 10:51 PM
Thanks FVR .. great site

02-16-2008, 11:52 PM
Northwind, sorry it took me so long to get back on this been real busy. RBB got it right with his post (see post 17) it should look like that. I went to LOWES Hardware and picked up a painters canvas dropcloth medium weight for $20.00 in 8x10 and cut it down to 7x7, then got deck stain (any color you like) as long at it is oil based. Ours works great. Painted the stain on with a roller on both sides, hung it dry in the shade, took it down filled with smooth stones and my son took an end and I took the other end and we folded it so stones were in middle and kinda flopped it up and down working the stones around the canvas then repeated on the other side and it softened up real nice. Its really waterproof and works great.

02-17-2008, 12:25 AM
Im looking for a tent I read about years ago. Basically it was a compat tent, and all you would do is kinda just throw it and it would pop open, if this makes any sense...? If anyone could help me find a good site to find this type of tent, and if not suggestions on a good, light wieght 1-2 man backpack tent. Thanks

02-17-2008, 12:27 AM
Your looking for the modern kind, try this link.

02-17-2008, 12:35 AM
Or maybe here.