Although groundsheet wear can be minimised by the use of a footprint it will happen over time. In fact, a waterproof footprint used under a damaged groundsheet is probably the best/easiest/cheapest option to stop water entry. Some campers will purchase groundsheet material and sew in as a complete patch using the existing groundsheet as a template.
Once the coating starts to wear you will get water seepage through the fabric when pressure is applied. This can be stopped for a short period by coating the area with numerous external applications of a proprietary waterproofing agent like our Outwell Waterproofer, or those produced by Nikwax, Storm and Granger’s (Fabsil) after cleaning and then repairing any small holes.
It must be remembered that these treatments only resist water penetration and water can still be forced through the fabric. Repeated applications will help fill the miniscule holes between the fibres to reduce this — especially if the waterproof treatment contains a wax agent. However, if the original fabric coating is badly compromised then applying a wax (similar to that sold by Fjallraven and Barbour) to the outer face to fill the weave holes may be a consideration. This can be made economically at home using a mix of beeswax and spirit — recipes can be found on Google.
Other solutions that we have heard about, but not tested, are spraying a very thin layer of acrylic paint onto the outer face or painting on a silicone sealant that has been diluted with white spirit. Before going down these routes it is worth testing on old fabric to ensure it works without damaging the base fabric and to note that it may stain.
We recommend all the metal poles be lightly greased with a non-acidic oil after use − a silicon-based furniture polish is a good option both after use and before prolonged storage.
Oxidation has always been a problem and has given birth to numerous ways of reducing the effects, like zinc galvanization and anodising. Even stainless steel and aluminium will corrode to leave pit marks if the protective passive film is broken through use. (This is the spontaneous formation of an ultrathin film of corrosion products on the metal's surface that act as a barrier to further oxidation. You may be surprised at how aggressively aluminium burns if that film is ever overcome — just check out fires in older caravans!)
For general information, as any sailor (or off-roaders who use an old Land Rover) will know galvanic action will also eat away at metals. This is caused when two dissimilar metals like steel and aluminium come into contact in the presence of an electrolyte like salty water (even rain water puddles pick up salts). Ions transfer to the more resistant material resulting in the other metal corroding.
You can throw as much money as you like to preventing corrosion but the decades have proven only good maintenance is the camper’s cost-effective way to reduce the problem. While a non-acidic oil will help it does have its limitations — as many campers here point out. Periodic wiping down with anything that creates a hydrophobic film between the metal and moisture helps — like WD40 on a rag.
Our personally chosen method and one long advised by members of the Camping and Caravanning Club, is to regularly wipe down the poles with a silicon-based lubricant that creates a dry, waterproof film between the metal and moisture. One of our staff uses a lubricant designed for water sports as that is what he has on the shelf. But a much cheaper alternative is to use a furniture polish. An added benefit to using such silicon products is that they appear to help the poles slip smoothly through the pole sleeves...
We pay particular attention to joints, including any metal linking springs, and any ferrule/spike. Wipe off excess and dry before storing.
Any item of camping gear is the tool of our ‘trade’ so deserves to be regularly maintained. We hope this is of help and will continue to build this Skills with more guides and technical’ features