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Tent/Shelter Delamination: Expectations

Before adding much more information, do you think it should be considered normal for interior seams for tents/shelters to delaminate? If so, what kind of timeline should be expected on average?



I am curious as to what you ladies & gentlemen think about this topic, and when under normal care things like this are a realistic expectation...

I hope everybody is enjoying their autumn!

On shelters that come with taped seams I sort of expect that to start to fail after three or four years max. Painted on seals seem to hold up better for me whether it was done by the maker or myself.

I have found a fair amount of variance in the life expectancy of WP coatings.

Products from the 1980s started to delaminate after about 4 years.  This was consistent across brands.

In the mid 2000s I noticed a wide variance, with some products delaminating in only two years, while some lasted years longer.

I currently have a MSR Hubba rain fly from 2011 that is still in good condition.  I also have an MSR 4p dome from the mid 1980s I used as a base camp shelter for ski trips that bucked the trend: only recently has it started to give off the tel tale funky smell that preceded delamination of coated products produced during that era.

My experience has been delamination occurs regardless of use.  I've had tents go bad after a few years with little use, and some that lasted years, regardless of heavy use.  I take real good care of my tents while in use or in storage.  


Yeah it's a shame that it is the case that after 3-4 years of regular tent use results in seam tape delamination. I suppose that at the time the feature was introduced it was very welcome, but it seems to me that a waterproofing that fails long before the usable life of the product is a terrible waterproofing.

On the plus side, Sean, you can use this opportunity to strip the tent of all coatings, and re-coat the tent with a tube of GE Silicone dilluted 1:5 with pure Mineral Spirits, which will seal your seams for the life of the fly/floor. 

10 years. 

This tent made it approximately 6-7 years before delaminating, and I think that taping the interior seams from the factory was the best method at the time. Although this isn't ideal for a $400 tent, hand-sealing at home is the best way to remedy the concern, rather than disposing an otherwise great shelter. 

Pillowthread- thanks for the GE silicone recommendation, I will plan on taking this route for re-sealing!

I have had good luck with most of my North face tents including a VE23 that lasted for 20 years however that first time they leak in a rainstorm is unpleasant. I have a 25 year old Bull Frog that I have resealed by hand but still not fully trusting. When a tent is no longer serviceable, it becomes a cover for my firewood.

I often take my tents on wildland fire deployments and they just bake in the sun for several weeks, that is hard on them.

My latest tents are Big Agnes including the Fly Creek that has been through a few good soakers over the last 5 years. I expect at least 10 yrs on each. Name brands are getting a little too pricey to replace every few years so I try to insure dry and clean when put up. Too bad one cannot just replace the fly's.

will look into the silicone idea too...thanks, J

Seam sealed tape seems to be quite variable and very much depends on storage conditions. Stored in a dark cool (10/15 deg C) place will give optimum life span. Lots of UV exposure ie using your tent and the life is much less. Storing a damp tent is certain death no matter where.

I am convinced that the use of acrylic based adhesives is at the root of this problem as it is with a large quantity of footwear. Acrylic adhesives are not water proof and do not like UV exposure but having said this much outdoor gear is now made from such lightweight materials that a four year life is as much as one could expect or as one manufacturer has said 1000 hours.

If the quality is good in the first place and the tent is in good condition removing the old tape can be a challenge but once done resealing with silicone sealant such as gutter seal is an excellent way for a long trouble free life life from your tent.

I seam sealed my Cabela's tent since day 1 and never had an issue with delaminating. Having worked in an outdoor store in the past, I saw the Moss tents delaminate and always wondered if the issue was addressed. Sleeping bags I understand can also have the issue. I just wonder if it is a manufacturing issue. 

I have not noticed this sealing delamination problem with seams--maybe 1/2 my tents were factory taped, other 1/2 I sealed myself--but what about the deterioration of urethane-coated flys?  I've had major problems with this for my older 2-wall tents, have not been able to remedy, and could not buy replacement flys because by the time I needed it, the tent was no longer made.  Or am I talking about a different issue?

I'm going to jump in on this one.... I have tents from the early 80's up to date. From cheapy Slumberjack to Moss to Northface to Alps. I lived in the Olympic Mtns in Washington State for years (1992-1999) and had little problem with most of them whether factory or done by myself. IF I did have a problem it was always with Factory tape seams from around the late 90's forward. And like most of us I too played around with different sealers at home and had decent luck.

All of this reminds me of the white paint delam problems that GMC/Chevy with their trucks. 1000's of owners were burned on this because the manufacturer had a primer and paint that would not adhere with each other. Because they wouldn't step up and fix THEIR problem I will NEVER buy one of their cars.

No one I know would buy a car with an understanding that as soon as a warranty (1 year, 2, 5, or 100,000 mile WHATEVER) was over the car fell apart or dissolved or stopped working. All of us assume and expect rightfully so them to last BEYOND the warranty at least for some time... otherwise YUGO would have survived as a legit option!

Manufacturers should either say right up front what is warranted and for how long or get out of the business of selling things as "High Quality/Heavy Duty/PRO grade" when they know they will be falling apart soon.

But they won't and I understand that... so, if I had a point, if I have any point it is this, When Moss Tents were MOSS they handled repairs and warranty very well. So did most known brands in the beginning, but NOT anymore. The Bean Counters have screwed the customer just like GMC/Chevy/Whoever else did!!!

I will add this... I am not an affiliate of Alps products in any way, but they have handled all of my concerns (and there was only a couple) very well, to the point it reminded me of the old days when you could stop in and speak with Dana at Dana Designs or Wayne at Gregory packs.

Lastly, if we put up with BS... they will always shove it down our throats just like GMC/Chevy did. And in each category of "Good, Better, Best products" usually if you are careful some good values can be found, but when you are paying for "BEST" and getting crap... friend, you just got burned!!! And trust me, I believe the Big Boys no longer care. I think both Colin Fletcher and Ray Jardine knew this all along!!!

My 30 year old Walrus tent needs a new sealant and I am trying to find out if the fabric they used was silicone treated or polyurethane treated. It is a 3 season 4-person tent, yellow bottom, sides and top with grey fly, two doors and two windows. Does anyone know what Walrus used? I know they are no longer in business, bought out by MSR, which was then bought out by Cascade. Thanks!

October 27, 2021
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