A good tent can provide you with years of comfortable shelter. But rough surfaces, sharp edges, dampness and UV exposure can reduce your tent’s lifespan. Here’s how to ensure your outdoor home lasts as long as possible.
If you can, select an established site with a smooth, even surface and minimal vegetation. Uneven ground, sharp rocks and sticks can tear a tent floor, so remove any loose materials that could cause damage. Using a tent footprint also goes a long way in preventing abrasions and rips.
When possible, set up your tent in a shaded area. Extended UV exposure can turn a tent fly into something resembling tissue paper. If you have to pitch your tent in the direct sunlight, consider investing in a UV spray or a tarp to put over it during the day.
Sand, dirt and pine needles are probably going to get into your tent. But do your best to keep grit to a minimum, as it can abrade fabrics and damage waterproof coatings over time.
The simplest solution is to remove shoes or boots before entering your tent. It reduces dirt and mud getting tracked inside, and prevents damage from the tread on your boots .
If you’re setting camp for several nights, a small broom or sponge is great for removing dirt and debris. When it’s time to pack up, unzip the doors and give your tent a good shake to remove any remaining debris.
Packing and storing
How you pack your tent matters. Prevent mildew and preserve the fabric and its waterproofing, by consistently packing and storing your tent with some care.
Make sure it’s dry
Pack away a damp tent and you’re asking for trouble. Mildew is smelly and potentially harmful for fabrics. Mildew can build up in as little as 24 hours. To prevent it, let your tent lie flat in the sun before packing to eliminate any humidity or dampness. If you have to pack up in the rain, remember to spread your tent out to dry as soon as possible.
Make sure it’s clean
While it’s important to keep dirt and debris from the interior of your tent, it’s equally important to keep the exterior clean. If your tent gets dirty or muddy on a trip, wash it with a garden hose at a gentle pressure. If you need to, use a sponge or brush to clean it. Avoid using powerful household cleaners or soaps, as these can damage tent materials. Once it’s clean, let it dry thoroughly before packing and storing it.
Roll, don’t fold
This is a big one. Folding a tent or fly on the same creases risks creating permanent lines over time. Creasing can negatively affect waterproofing and the durability of fabric coatings. Instead, carefully roll or gently stuff your tent into its sack. If you must fold a tent, be sure to fold it differently each time you pack it, and try not to store it folded for long periods of time.
When setting up camp, try not to whip or snap the poles to extend them – it’s tempting, we realize, but it can cause them to crack. Unfold them gently and allow the elastic to pull them into place. If the poles get grubby after long seasons of camping, gently wipe them down with a damp rag. And if your poles are aluminum and they were exposed to sea air or salt water, you might want to rinse them and let them dry before packing them. Salt water can corrode aluminum and make it brittle.
Over time, even the most well-kept tent will need a bit of maintenance. Take a look at it when you bring it home after a camping season to see if it needs any tweaks or fixes.
Most tents include a pole repair sleeve so you can make a repair while you’re outdoors. Simply slide it along the pole until the break is fully covered, and secure it with a bit of duct or medical tape. Missing a repair sleeve? Cut open an aluminum can to make an impromptu metal sheet. Roll it tightly around the break and tape it in place – just make sure all sharp edges are covered.
Repairing a pole at home? Three steps:
- Carefully pull the tip out of the pole assembly at the end nearest the break. Untie the shockcord from the tip (note the kind of knot so you can retie it).
- Remove pole sections from the cord until you’ve removed the broken piece. Thread the replacement section and the others back on (you might need to attach a temporary piece of cord on the end of the shock cord so you can pull it through the final pole section).
- Retie the knot to the pole tip, then reinsert the shock cord and tip into the pole end. Done!
Patching tears is pretty simple. There are a wide range of patch and tape products available to create a permanent waterproof fix. The only thing you need to know is the material that your tent is make of (silicone-coated fabrics need an adhesive formula that will stick to their slippery surfaces), then you can choose the right product and follow the repair instructions.
If you have a few tiny tears in your tent mesh, try this quick fix:
- Apply the base of your palm on one side of the torn mesh.
- Place your other hand on the other side of the mesh, and place your hands together with the mesh in-between.
- Rub the mesh vigorously between your hands. If the tear isn’t too severe, this quick fix should realign the threads.
- For more severe tears, invest in an easy-to-use mesh repair kit.