Water damage is one of the biggest RV and trailer killers. A small leak that starts off manageable can flood out the floor if it’s not taken care of quickly enough.
Once water damage reaches the walls, floors, or roof of your vehicle, it never quite bounces back. Wooden parts rot out or warp. Metal ones rust and corrode. Mold and mildew forms, making your entire pop up camper a health hazard. What’s worse is the structure of the vehicle becomes unsafe. You could now have soft spots as the frame of your camper degrades. It would only take a bit of extra force for those soft spots to give way.
If your pop up has met this cruel fate, there’s little you can do about it. It would cost three, sometimes four times the price of your camper to get the walls, floors, and ceiling replaced. That’s out of the question. Selling your pop up to recoup some of your money is also practically impossible. No smart person would buy a camper knowing it has water damage. It’s not safe to be in there at all.
The best thing you can do is take care of your camper as best you can, preventing significant water damage. You could get caught in severe rains and your pipes might even spring a leak. It’s how you act and react that can save your vehicle.
In this article, I will share my favorite dos and don’ts for waterproofing your camper. Let’s get started.
Waterproofing Your Pop Up Camper
Do Know How to Add a Waterproof Coating to a Canvas Cover
If your pop up camper canvas surfaces are water-resistant instead of waterproof (I’ll explain more about what this means later), you can’t just leave them this way. With time, maybe a few months or even a few years, you will find your water-resistant canvas gets easily soaked through.
It’s time to do something about it, and it’s not nearly as difficult as you would have imagined (nor is it as expensive).
With a water repellent spray, you can keep your canvas drier, even if you’re out in the rain. I like Camp Dry Water Repellent Spray. This is a highly-rated product on Amazon, and you can even get a two-pack of spray for less than $50.
To use this product, you only have to spray it on your canvas surfaces. Make sure you get both sides! It’s also usable on most camping tents. The coolest part about the Camp Dry Water Repellent Spray is you can spritz it on your hiking shoes so they don’t get soaked during your outdoor adventures. This is a pretty handy product to have onboard your camper!
Do Have Anti-Mold and Anti-Mildew Products at the Ready
No one wants mold or mildew in their pop up camper, but it happens. While you should always try to figure out the reason you have these unwanted bacteria in your vehicle, you also have to get rid of the stuff ASAP.
According to the Centers for Disease Control or CDC, mold and mildew can cause a variety of health issues. Admittedly, these will not affect everyone. It all depends on your mold sensitivity. If you do have such a sensitivity, then you could have skin and eye irritation, wheezing and coughing, a sore throat, and congestion if you’re around mold and mildew.
There are also people with mold allergies. These are much more severe than a mold sensitivity. If you’re allergic to mold, you could develop serious symptoms like lung infections, other infections, and even obstructive lung disease or chronic lung conditions. Living with mold in the home or in your camper is a bad idea for your health.
Hopefully, the above info has convinced you to tackle your mold and mildew problem head-on the second you spot it. If you need a spray to remove these bacteria, try Mold Armor’s (link to Amazon). This 32-ounce spray is rated well on Amazon and it’s relatively inexpensive, too.
You can just spritz it on and let it get to work on your in-vehicle mold and mildew. There’s no need to scrub anything, which saves you time and effort. Not only will you have no more mold or mildew, but you won’t have to deal with that unappealing odor, either. Mold Armor gets rid of that, too.
You can use Mold Armor on a variety of surfaces, including Formica, plastic, chrome, rubber, porcelain, vinyl, PVC, acrylic, cultured marble, stone, fiberglass, other glass, and aluminum. It’s intended for both outdoor and indoor mold/mildew removal.
If you have leftover mineral deposits from lime and calcium or any soap scum or mildew stains, Mold Armor’s spray can treat these, too. It’s a great kind of all-in-one solution to camper messes.
Do Check and Clean Your Vents Often
You might wonder what your vents have to do with waterproofing your camper. The answer is a lot! While it’s true a plugged-up vent will never cause water leaks, it’s still not an issue you should take lightly.
Your vents need to be cleaned regularly. You want to remove all dust, debris, dirt, and any other obstructions. The vents throughout your pop up camper have a very important job. It’s their duty to take the warm air you generate from cooking, showering (if you can in your vehicle), and washing your hands and then filter it out. This keeps the humidity out of your camper, meaning condensation does not form on the windows or other glass surfaces. There’s also less of a risk of mold and mildew in your camper.
Once your vents become blocked up, they can’t do their job. That leaves you prone to mold and mildew, yes, but also to other damage. For instance, metal is more likely to corrode when it’s exposed to prolonged humidity or condensation. This again puts the structural integrity of your camper at risk, which is dangerous for you and all passengers onboard.
So yes, while cleaning your vents is a quick and simple job, it’s not one that should ever be overlooked.
Do Use a Cover During the Offseason!
All the hard work you’ve put into keeping your pop up camper nice and dry can be quickly undone during the winter. There are going to be several months of each year where you don’t see your vehicle. This is often from about November to maybe March or April.
Where you store your pop up camper matters big-time. Outdoor storage facilities may be cheaper than indoor ones, but you might not be saving as much as you thought. For several months at a time, your camper is sitting exposed to rain, snow, and wind damage. You could come back and find your vehicle needs pricy repairs. It would have just been better to spring for the indoor storage.
If you have small pop up camper, you could always keep it on your own property. That said, you have to be careful. Parking your pop up on your curb or in your driveway still exposes it to the elements. While you can check on your camper much more often since it’s right outside your home, you’d have to be diligent in caring for it. If you can manage it, it’s always better to park your pop up in your garage. This way, it’s under cover from the weather.
For reasons of budget or space, you might have to leave your camper outdoors during the winter. If so, you should NEVER park your pop up without a cover! If you do, you’re just asking for it to get wrecked by the winter weather. Even if you’re storing your camper inside, a cover doesn’t hurt.
You can’t use any ol’ cover, either. You must make sure it’s waterproof. The construction of the cover ensures it will protect your vehicle from water damage in the short and long-term. RVMasking’s (from Amazon) cover is one such great option if you don’t have a cover yet. It’s waterproof and includes five layers of protection for your vehicle.
With air vents, the cover will control humidity, preventing mildew and mold from growing. This cover is windproof, too, thanks to its rear and front tension panels, hemmed corners with elastic, buckles, and waterproof straps. You can loosen or tighten the cover as necessary so it sits on your pop up camper just right.
Not only that, but RVMasking’s cover shouldn’t tear. It’s made with PVC cotton lining, nonwoven fabric with sides that are three-ply, and a top that’s five-ply for extra durability. The double-stitched seams also make this cover tough. It’s supposed to never tear or scratch, even in sketchy outdoor conditions.
Whether you invest in RVMasking’s cover or another one, do not go without a pop up camper cover. Also, remember there’s a difference between water-resistant and waterproof covers, and that you always want the latter. Why is that?
Don’t Buy Water-Resistant Covers, Only Waterproof Ones
Earlier in this article, I share’d my method for waterproofing the tent sides of your camper. While this is a convenient option, it’s not really a necessary one. Well, unless you don’t buy the right kind of canvas the first time around.
When it comes to awnings, tent sides, and any other canvas, do not get water-resistant materials. This canvas is treated with a special coating that lets rain and other water slide off. However, the more soaked the water-resistant cover gets, the more that coating wears away.
Once the coating is completely gone, your canvas is all but useless. It now has no protection from water and will get soaked every time. Why is this? Water-resistant canvas has nothing to do with the fiber design. The canvas fibers are weak against water before they get sprayed the water-resistant coating.
That’s different from waterproof canvas. This has no special coating. Rather, it’s the design and strength of the canvas fibers that allow water to roll right off. You don’t have to worry about a waterproof cover losing its waterproof qualities over time. It won’t happen. Your awning or tent sides might get a little damp in severe weather, but they won’t soak through.
Don’t Ever Roll up Your Canvas When It’s Wet or Damp
Maybe you made a mistake and bought a camper with only water-resistant canvas. That was years ago and by now, the special coating is pretty much completely gone. You try your best not to get caught in the rain, but sometimes storms surprise you when you least expect them (especially in the summertime).
Now your canvas is thoroughly soaked. However, it’s time for you to leave your campground and get back on the road. You can’t devote hours to letting the canvas dry. You need to either roll it up or retract it so you can get going.
[box type=”warning”] As a pop up camper owner, this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Yes, it’s not fun to sit around for hours while your canvas air-dries. It’s what you must do, though. Retracting the tent sides or awning before they’re fully dry will most definitely invite mold and mildew to grow. While I linked you to some anti-mold and anti-mildew products earlier in this article, you don’t want to use them unless you absolutely have to.[/box]
If you get into the habit of rolling up your awning or retracting your canvas tents too early, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll have to replace them. Mold and mildew will just get worse, and it can possibly spread to other moist environments on your camper, too.
There are two ways to prevent this. The first is to get make sure your canvas is waterproof, not water-resistant, as we said above. The second is to plan your entrances and exits to parks and campgrounds around letting your canvas dry. Yes, this is annoying, but mold and mildew are a much worse problem. Not only can these bacteria ruin your camper, but they’re not great to breathe in, as we mentioned.
Don’t Ignore That Little Leaky Pipe
Has one of your kitchen or bathroom pipes sprung a leak? You may put a bucket or even a plastic bowl beneath it and then forget all about it.
This is another huge mistake you can make as the owner of a pop up. That small leak may begin as a non-issue, but it won’t stay that way for long. Each time you turn on your sink, flush your toilet, or run your shower, the pipe is being strained. That little leak will inevitably grow into a bigger one.
The more the pipe is worked when it’s damaged, the bigger the leak can become. If you forgot all about your little leak, you may be surprised one day to find your camper kitchen or bathroom completely flooded.
This is where the abovementioned water damage comes from, the serious stuff that can ruin your vehicle. If water seeps into the flooring or the subfloors and these are made of wood, they’re ruined. Walls with wood supports can be severely damaged as well. Metal parts won’t rust or corrode overnight, but it will happen nonetheless.
When you see a leaky pipe, don’t ignore it! The issue may be minor at the time, but that’s okay. It’ll save you time and money to get it fixed at that point. Addressing the pipe right away can be the difference between you keeping your camper or having to recycle it for scrap metal.
Water damage is one of the worst things that can happen to your pop up camper. It corrodes and rusts metal surfaces and warps and rots wooden ones. As the floors, walls, and roof can become soft, being inside the vehicle is not an option.
[box] By following the tips I outlined in this article, you can waterproof your camper and keep severe water damage out. Remember to keep your vents clean and never ignore a small leaky pipe, as it will become a bigger problem.[/box]
Diligently preventing water damage to your camper is one of the best things you can do it for its long-term care. If you’re not already following the above methods and precautions, then it’s time to implement this maintenance into your regular routine.