Swag care basics: How to clean, repair and care for your canvas swag
The humble swag is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to camp comfortably on any adventure.
Keeping your swag up-to-scratch is not only important for prolonging the life of your swag, it's also important to ensure you get the most out of your camping trip. Well-maintained swags will fully protect you from the elements as intended, and prevent small issues from becoming big ones that could potentially end a great camping trip early.
Before first use
The most important care tip you can follow is to 'season' or 'weather' your swag (i.e. prepare it) before using it for the first time. Weathering ensures that your swag performs the way the manufacturer designed it to in terms of reliability and durability, as well as making sure your gear is watertight. Seasoning also ensures your equipment's ongoing care and maintenance is so much easier.
When you're out camping, how and where you set up your swag plays a significant role in its long-term care. When setting up, always use established sites because they often have good grass cover and fewer rocks, stones or twigs on the ground that could possibly damage the floor of your swag. Using a mesh footprint under the base of the swag protects the floor even better and will stop water pooling under your swag.
Where you can, try finding a shady spot to set up your swag. Despite the high quality materials of today's gear, prolonged UV exposure, even when using a fly, eventually speeds up the degradation of your camping equipment.
Ensure you have good ventilation running through your swag. Leaving the vents or windows always zipped up, particularly in mild and warm weather, can cause condensation and lead to a build-up of mould (see below for removing mould from canvas swags).
Avoid wearing boots and shoes in your swag and never force zippers. Keep some water and purpose-made swag cleaner on hand, so you can spot-clean spills or stains as they happen (see below for the best methods of cleaning your swags).
Maintaining your swag between camping trips means making sure it stays clean, odour-free and mould-free. The best way to do this involves setting up your swag at home and making sure it's allowed to fully dry before being stored away. It's also a good idea to give it a once-over prior to heading off on your next camping trip.
Check the interior and exterior of the shell for dirt, leftover items from your last trip, mould spots or rips and tears. Give it a sweep out with a broom and dustpan and, if there are dried mud or spills in the swag, use a damp cloth to clean it or even a soft mop if your swagbase is waterproof. Next, add the fly to the swag and repeat the procedure. Be sure to check both the inside and the outside of the fly for dirt or mould.
Take the time to unroll, check and re-tie all your fly ropes. Likewise, check for bent or damaged poles. Make sure you haven't misplaced any of the swag pegs by placing one on the ground next to each peg point. If they came straight out of the ground and into the bag after your last camping trip, they may have some dirt and damp on them. Wipe down the pegs with a damp cloth and shake out the peg bag.
A spot clean is usually enough but, for really tough stains or soiled spots, go to work with your sponge and be sure to take it easy on coated areas of the floor and fly.
To wash your swag, grab a sponge and fill a large bucket with water. Do not use any household detergents, soaps or cleaners as the chemicals can cause the swag's canvas to degrade over time. Stick to water and plenty of elbow grease. Set your swag up and give it a good brush and vacuum if required. Next get your sponge and wipe down any areas that are dirty or stained.
Next, set your swag up or hang it in a cool, shaded area until it is completely dry. It's impossible to understate how vital it is to make sure that everything in your swag is absolutely dry before packing it away. Use a recommended canvas reproofing solution on well worn areas and seams if required.
Removing mould from canvas swags
If you find mould, it's not the end of the world. Removing mould from canvas is as easy as the following home remedy:
Mix vinegar and tea tree oil in a bottle and spray on the affected area. Allow the mixture to sit for approximately 30 minutes before you wipe it away with a damp cloth and leave it to fully dry before packing away.
Tea tree oil is a natural anti-fungal, and your swag will smell fresh and clean afterwards. If you prefer, you can use a pre-mixed anti-mould cleaning solution but the homemade one is as good as anything you will buy.
Fixing rips and tears
Repairing rips or tears to your swag is an essential part of maintaining your swag. Most small rips can be easily repaired at home, or while you're camping, but it's imperative that you attend to them as soon as you notice them.
The easiest way to fix any holes or tears is to pick up a swag repair kit and follow the directions, just ensure you allow the patch to fully cure before using your swag again.
Long tears or rips in the seams of your swag are best repaired by a professional. And, like smaller rips, the sooner you get them fixed, the better.
Look after your swag and it will look after you. Always follow the manufacturer's care instructions and your equipment will do the job no matter what the conditions, and last for many, many years to come.