Thursday, March 1, 2012

Seam Sealing My LightHeart Gear Solo

It had gotten to be mid-winter in Michigan by the time I got off my keister to do this. I figured that even if the sealant didn't need to be warm, I did. So I cranked up the heat in the barn, and pitched the tent by screwing cup hooks into the wood floor. Then it was off to my local outfitter for a couple of tubes of sealant.

I had read the seam-sealing instructions on LightHeart Gear's website, but wanted some more guidance. I emailed them, and got an immediate response from Mark Penansky with a detailed description of how he seam seals Solos. That's customer service, eh?

My Solo is constructed of 1.1 oz sil-nylon, so I needed a silicone sealant. Some use a clear silicone caulk diluted 1:1 with mineral spirits, I opted for Gear Aid’s Sil-Net silicone sealer. I got two tubes, and with Marc's emails in hand, I headed back to the man-cave.

I started with the fly. I sealed all the seams from the outside, and allowed them to dry. Then I got into the tent.

The fabric used for the floor is not wide enough to cover the entire area. So there is a 3” seam on the floor opposite the entry door. I sealed it from the inside. It gets a little tight for space as you get towards the foot, but that part of the seam could be finished later when I turned the tips inside out.

There are two semi-circular, heavy denier floor patches where the handles of the hiking poles sit. They are designed to keep the handle from wearing through the bottom of the tent, and they needed to be sealed from the inside.

Then I placed several lines of sealant across the center of the floor to help keep my mattress pad from slipping.

I crawled out of the tent, sealed the bath tub floor seams from the outside, and allowed everything to dry.

The next day I took the tent down, and started working on the four tips. These are made of the same denier fabric as the floor patches, and needed to be sealed from the inside. So, I turned them all inside out, and sealed all their seams. I also finished the last several inches of the floor seam, and left it all to dry.

Finally, I turned the tips right-side out, and put a dabs of seam sealant where the stake loops poke through the ends of the tips. Once those were dry, I was done.

Lessons Learned – Unless you have mineral spirits around to clean your brush between applications, go to your local hardware store, and get 4-5 of those cheap acid brushes with the 1/2'” wide nylon bristles and tubular metal handles.

I started out squeezing sealant onto the brush, and brushing it into the seams. It was much quicker, easier, neater, and used less sealant to pull a section of seam taut, place the opening of the tube against the seam, apply a thin strip along a foot or so of the seam, brush it in, and repeat till done.

The most important lesson learned? – I shoulda paid LightHeart the $30 bucks to have Marc seam-seal it!