Does coating on nylon degrade?

-- Last Updated: Jun-19-11 4:17 PM EST --

I'm just back from a weekend of camping. My coated nylon tarp, a really useful piece of gear, is very tacky on the coated side. (It almost feels oily.) When I was packing for this trip, in fact, the coated side was sticking to itself -- I had to pull it all apart. (I do keep it wadded up in a plastic bucket with a lot of line.) The tarp is about 14 years old now. I don't think temperature can be the culprit because my house isn't very hot, where the tarp is stored. Is this just something that happens with age to coatings -- they soften? Anything I can do about it?
If I replace this tarp, should I go with silnylon instead? (Assuming I want to splurge.) I most often use my tarp to pitch above a campground picnic table for a dry place to cook and sit when it rains -- as it did this weekend at 5000 feet on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Pisgah! A nice tarp really beats blue plastic.
Thanks for any info and ideas.
G in NC


Ah’ had quite a few cooted nylon thangs git all sticky an’ gooey waan dem’s got older - de most devastatin’ waar me 35+ year old NoFace VE-24’s (wit de snow tunnels) floor git all gummed up an’ purty much ruined an’ a few utter tent floors an’ tarps.

Dun’t know why… probably de coatin’ chemeecals go bad.


degraded coatings
Well, FE, I wouldn’t mind getting 35 years out of my tarp! But I bet it’s not going to happen. Maybe they’re not making chemicals like they used to!

Thanks to you and georgeakayaker for the word.


I had an REI tarp that all of the waterproof coating flaked off of. It was 25 years old, but had not been used much.

I don’t know if tarps of more recent vintage fare better.

always been a problem
Coated nylon degradation was a frequent warranty complaint back when I worked in the outfitter biz. Eureka tents and Jansport packs seemed to fail earlier than most other brands, but all would eventually exhibit some coating degradation after some period of time and usage. I’ve seen research papers that correlate it with microbiological agents from soil exposure. Evidently they have started adding fungicides to the coatings in recent years to help prevent that.

FE: might you still want/use a VE-24? I have one (with tunnels) in the closet that I have not set up for 20 years – think it dates to the mid-80’s when NF donated some to one of my club’s Himalayan expeditions (I bought it at a fundraiser afterwards). Been doing a gear purge anyway (hate to be a dog in the manger with nice equipment I don’t use – got another winter tent I use instead). I’ll check it out tonight when I get home and if it’s not tacky or otherwise verschimmelt, you are welcome to it for the cost of shipping from Pittsburgh.

Oh, yes! I call it Urethane Cancer.
And FE, I had a TNF Oval Intention contract U.C. just as your VE-24 did. Heartbreaking.

My 70s era Sierra Designs 10x10 tarp also came down with it. The stickyness is the first symptom, progressing to portions of the floor stuck together and finally to wholesale peeling. Bad smell too.

Coatings have improved over the years, so it remains to be seen if a 2000 tent will still be functional in 2020. ANd who knows about sil-nylon?


One thing I do is to pack my SD and
Kelty tents loose in a mesh bag. I don’t compress them unless I have to for canoe overnights. This allows the fabric to dry better. I have noticed stickiness, bad smell, and peeling on older coated garments. Must be an organism.

Yes, and it STINKS

– Last Updated: Jun-20-11 1:26 PM EST –

If it smells like puke and looks like white peeling patches, time to trash it and get a new one. You can get rid of most of the stink with lemon-hot-water-bleach-sunshine treatments but the peeling patches mean the coating is no good.

A couple years ago I sadly tossed out a tent I'd bought in 1982, a SierraWest solo tent that was one of the first ultralights made, only 2.5 lbs. The tent had been stored in a steel toolbox in my toppered truck through the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. Unfortunately, all toppers are prone to leaking at the bed-topper joint unless you replace the gaskets when they get too compressed or degraded. A strong T-storm brought in water that quietly got into the toolbox. I didn't know it, though, for years. The little buggies that cause coated nylon to rot got my raincoat, rainpants, the handles of some tools, and the tent.

I did treat the tent with the stink-fix--several times, in fact--but never eliminated it. Since the peeling had begun, later on I gave up and threw it away.

Since I got the new truck, I ditched the steel toolbox and put camping gear in Rubbermaid bins instead.

Yeah, the mesh bag solution
is good practice. I started doing that after I lost the Oval Intention but still have had a small bit of odor. The urethane gets a microorganism established, and the funk begins. Soaking with dilute cider vinegar can sometimes stop the problem.


Thanky kindly fer de offer, dats very nice o’ ye. Ah already replaced de NoFace wit a Kelty K2 a few years ago so ah’s all set wit winter tents fer de rest o’ me days. Thanks agin’ fer yer kind offer, though.

Funny de VE-24’s fly is still good, jus’ de floor went rancid.


Urethnae coating
Urethane can be applied in two different ways to the fabric. solvent based or water based. Most Ripstop is water based Urethane. Storing tents/ flys wet or soiled promote deterioration of the urethane. Nylon will absorb humidity into the fibers of the nylon itself. Storing them in a dry Place is very important.

I’ve stored mine in a dry place . . .
my back bedroom. Do you think 14 years is a short time, a reasonable time, or a long time for the life of a urethane coating on nylon? Just curious. As for cleanliness, I haven’t used the tarp on the ground. However, I also have never washed it or hosed it down. Is that something I should do to a coated nylon tarp?