So you’ve taken the plunge into the magical world of camping. You have your shiny new tent and you are keen to get started.
Well hold on there just a slight moment enthusiastic one. Before you go off on your grand adventures may I suggest you have a quick read of this guide?
Good maintenance and housekeeping habits for your tent are almost as important as the research, time and money you put into buying your tent. No matter the level of quality of your tent, if you don’t look after it properly, you won’t get the full lifetime of your product.
How to keep your tent as long as possible is as simple as following the following hints, tips and habits.
Quick Select Points
Dry and Cool: Perhaps one of the most important rules for maintaining your tent is to ensure that it is 100% dry before storing it away. A wet or damp tent will eventually build up mildew and begin to smell unpleasant or if the tent is made of canvas it may simply rot. Either way, a damp smelly mildew rotten tent is almost always considered a right off.
This is obviously because the mildew and rot affect the structural integrity of the tents materials, weakening it to the point of being unusable. To ensure your tent is dry, you can either set it up at home or leave it hung up on the clothes line in the sun until you are confident it is dry.
Once you are confident that the tent is dry, make sure you store it away in a nice cool dry area.
Store High: Storing your tent in a high location is another must for keeping your tent.
Essentially this will prevent unnecessary damage caused to the tent by being accidentally stepped on, ran over etc.
Also most people store their tents in a garage or shed, which may be cool or dry but is not protected from flooding leaks or rodents.
Rodent Protection: Setting up rodent traps and bait around the storage area of your camping equipment is an excellent idea but often overlooked.
A large majority of tents are now made of either polyester or nylon,leading people to assume rodents won’t try to eat through it. a big mistake.
I’ve had rodents nibble little holes into both canvas and nylon tents whilst in storage and let me tell you there is no worse feeling being excited and prepping for your camping adventures only to discover your tent has been eaten partially buy a rat.
Tents can cost hundreds of dollars, whilst pest control doesn’t, avoid this mistake and set up those baits and traps today.
Store Flat: Storing a tent vertically rather than horizontally won’t harm your tents material too much, depending on the weight and make etc. The main reason for storing your tent horizontally is to avoid damaging the frame work or tent pegs and poles.
An even weight distribution is going to place less of a constant strain on your tents components then if they were vertically placing all of its weight downwards.
Storage Container: A great trick to achieve all of these points is to store your tent in a separate storage container, one which is sealed to provide a cool dry environment but one that is also larger to provide long term storage that allows your tent to be more spread out rather than squished together.
Finally place the box up high with a bait trap near or on top of the container and you can’t lose.
Pre-sweeping The Camp area: If you want to keep your tent around for many years, it is best to develop good habits. Sweeping clear your chosen camp area is on such habit.
By sweeping the area you have chosen to set up your tent, you are essentially removing any foreign objects such are sharp stones or twigs which may pierce or puncture the floor of your tent.
Sweeping your camp zone also allows for the removal or loose leaves, which can be walked into your tent making later cleaning more effort some.
Though you will presumably sleep inside your tent while it is sealed, insects, spiders and snakes prefer to avoid crossing open ground. Essentially, a well swept camping area is one which can protect your tent but also yourself from unexpected dangers.
External Footprint Internal Floor Mats: Obviously you can’t sweep away all sharp objects and avoid walking in unwanted stones. This is where matting comes into the picture.
Ultimately you want to lay down an exterior hard plastic layer onto the ground which you can then set your tent upon. Once the tent is set up, place some soft jigsaw foam mats on the inside before moving in any other equipment.
This should ultimately prevent the tents original floor from being pierced or torn whilst also providing a nice soft floor.
Practice set up: Always do a practice set up of your tent before you go off on your adventures, this will help you identify any unforeseen issues with your tent that you can deal with before leaving rather than being stuck with the issue out in the environment.
Secondly if you are unfamiliar with the set-up of your tent and you need to set it up in a hurry due to bad weather etc, you run the risk of making silly mistakes and damaging your tent in a way which could easily have been avoided had you practiced your ability to set it up at home.
Slow And Steady: Never rush the set up tent of your tent. If you have practiced your set up you can avoid unnecessary damage buy setting up your tent confidently and calmly. Never snap together tent poles with shock cord, this will damage the connection areas.
Do it gently and slowly, never pull hard on zips etc., they should zip efficiently with ease. If they don’t, gently look for the issue and resolve it before zipping further, to prevent damage to the zipper and the surrounding materials.
No Animals Inside: Camping with animals can be tricky, you want to bring them along but also wish to keep them safe.
I would advise leaving your furry friend behind or purchasing some kind of portable dog shelter.
Either way, never have your dog inside of your tent, their toe nails or teeth can be a nightmare to tent walls and floors. Especially if they are locked inside, get excited and wish to exit.
Shoes Off: A great way to prevent walking in unnecessary foreign objects into your tent which could cause damage to the materials is to remove all footwear before entering your tent. This is why it is so important to buy a tent with a vestibule at the entrance.
No food or fragrant inside: Food and fragrances can attract unwanted insects and wild life.
Depending on where you live or camp this can also mean bears.
Bears are a part of camping for a lot of people, so to avoid your friendly resident Yogi Bear tearing up your tent at night to get to your picnic basket, it is advised to store all food outside of your tent in a safety box, which may also require to be stored high in a tree suspended by ropes.
Bears aren’t the only concern, racoons, possums squirrels etc, all hold the potential to tear your tents material to gain access and steal your goodies.
As for fragrances it’s amazing to use in public or at home, but in the wild it can attract unwanted attention from insects. You aren’t going to spend all of your time inside your tent, so if you like to enjoy your time outside of it with significantly less insects. Avoid using fragrances.
Electric lights Only: Battery operated lights and torches are fine, ensure the batteries are not leaking as the acids, depending on the make of battery could harm the tent materials.
As for matches and candles or lighters, I advise only using them outside for lighting fires. Fire is the key issue to avoid here, never use candles as a source of light inside your tent as cotton and synthetic materials are flammable.
Assuming you get out of the burning tent alive… you now have no tent. Stick to electric or battery operated lighting.
Avoid Extended Sun Exposure: Whether you’re camping for a few days or an extended period of time, try to set your tent up in an area where it will be provided with shade.
Though some tents can come with an added UV protection, extended periods of sun exposure can begin to break down the waterproofing properties and the overall strength of your tent material.
This can take a while, but the idea here is to get your tent to last as long as possible, so avoid the sun and seek the shade.
Shake Out: Always shake out as much dirt and debris from your tent as possible before packing it away.
Not only will this make cleaning your tent easier when you get home but will also lessen the chance of a sharp stone tearing any material during pack up.
Push Shock Cords and Poles. When pulling down your tent you will obviously need to remove the tent frame.This will involve breaking down the poles and removing tent pegs and guyinles.
It is imperative that you push these items into the tent rather than pulling them away from the tent. This will avoid unnecessary pressure and stretching and ultimately avoid damage to these items and your tents materials..
The same applies fort tent pegs. Never pull up your pegs with the tent materials or guylines, this could damage the tent by stretching it or even break the guylines.
Depending of the tent it could also create a tear in the material around the grommets, especially if they are not reinforced.
Must Be Dry: It is best to ensure that your tent is dry before packing it away to avoid unwanted rot and mold. However, if it is raining and you still need to pack up your tent. Make sure you dry it out once you get home before storing it away.
Roll It Up: though tent material is rather strong these days, it is still best to avoid crumpling it into a container.
This method of packing up could stretch and damage seams or the tents material.
It is advised to roll up your tent avoid damaging it in unforeseen ways.
Gentle Sweeping: Dirt can obtain a variety of acidity levels. To avoid acids breaking down your tent it is always a good idea to remove any dirt. A great method is to gently sweep with a soft broom.
Never use a course broom,as it could scratch and eventual weakening your tent material.
Non Abrasive Sponge: Most people like to hose down their tents with water, which is fine if it is done gently.
Do not use a pressure cleaner.
After hosing down your tent use a non-abrasive sponge to clean off more difficult dirt or stains.
No Fragrances: As mentioned earlier, fragrances can attracted unwanted wildlife and insects. Never use cleaning products with fragrances. If your tent smells from mildew etc., it is advised to use a cleaning agent with light levels of enzymes to break down the mold.
If the mold is too much, it may be time to buy a new tent.
Non Detergent Soap: Using warm water with hand soap is the best method to clean your tent.
Household cleaners or detergents may contain chemicals too strong for your tent materials and protective coatings and seals. Other cleaning products may also contain bleach etc., which will damage the material.
No Machine Washing or Drying: There are usually too many attached parts, seams and seals to wash a tent in a machine. These parts will almost always get caught up causing rip and tears, whilst the rough agitating nature of a washing machine may also loosen the effects of your waterproof coatings and loosen water tight seals of your tent.
Drying machines are a big no, as mentioned in previous posts synthetic materials are poor insulated, this could result in a high level of built up heat for your tent which will ultimately ruin its structural integrity, stretch it or even melt it.
Submersible Cleaners Caution: It is advised to use caution with subversive cleaners for your tent.
Not all tents are made of the same material etc. It is advised to avoid leaving them submerged for extended periods of time.
A general rule would be to avoid them all together, but if you are unsure you should always read and follow your tents manufacturer’s warranty and guide.
Systematic check: As mentioned earlier in this post it is very important to trial a few set ups at home before leaving. This will allow for you to check the structural integrity of your tent and identify any issues. Better safe than sorry, you can fix these issues a lot easier in town then in the wild.
Mildew Removal: It is possible to remove mildew, there are special enzyme based cleaners for tents which are a lot safer than household cleaners or bleaches. However, these will most likely delay the mildew growth and remove the odor temporarily. It will not remove the stain, or damage it has done to the material. It is best to never store a tent damp to avoid mildew in the first place. Once it sets in too much, your options will usually be to throw out the old tent and buy a new one.
Sap Removal: If you’re camping near trees and pines etc., there is a chance that your tent will have spots or marks of sap stuck on the material. Never pull or rip it off, but rather gently wipe it off repeatedly with warm water a soft nonabrasive sponge and hand soap.
UV Spray On: Not all tents come with UV protection. But it can be added. It is a simple as purchasing a tent UV spray and applying it. This will help protect your tent from harmful sun damage and ultimately extend its life
Zips and Pole Cleaning. Over time fine amounts of dirt or dust can get into your tent poles and zip lines. To extend the life you get out of these items it is advised to regularly clean them. You can either gently clean them with a scrunched up cloth or gently rub it against the zip line or pole connection points or you can submerge them in warm water and hand soap for a few minutes and ensure it is dry to avoid rust or other damage.
Guyline Cleaning. Guylines, like most ropes will build up tension and friction within the fibres if they contain dirt. To keep your ropes strong and reliable, submerge them in soapy warm water then dry, the fine dirt will come out and your guylines will be less likely to break after repeated extended use.
Emergency Repair Kit. Some things can’t be avoided or are simply unforseen, which is why it is advised to carry a tent emergency repair kit with you. These kits will often contain spare pegs, poles, ropes, etc. There are plenty of kits out there to choose from. I would advise one which can cover all bases and possible repair emergencies.
Patches. Thick canvas or ripstop polyester should do its job in terms of strength and preventing tears, however in the situation that a tear does occur it is very important to prevent it ripping further. Patches of all materials are usually available for tents, some are even supplied in emergency repair kits. Adding a patch should prevent further damage or leaks.
Waterproofing. Extended sun exposure or simply a long lived tent will eventually require its water proofed seems to be re-applied, the exterior water resistant coat will also eventually lose its effectiveness. It is advised to reseal and apply water resistant coatings every camping season to achieve maximum longevity for your tent. Most tents will come with a bottle of water resistant agents to apply to your tent seams, while the water proof exterior coating can be purchased separately in cans etc.
Follow Your Guide!
Follow The Instructions. Though this guide does cover a lot of hint and tips on how to keep your tent. It is not comprehensive. For the best advice on your personal tent always read and follow the instructions given to you by the manufacturers user manual and terms of warrant.
Consider Tent Insurance. I figured this one out, way too late into the game. Apparently there is a thing called tent insurance. I would highly recommend having this if your tent is expensive and you would like to have some protection from the unforeseen. I found a good insurer for myself, simply buy entering tent insurance into google. I would recommend this method as your location may vary and not all insurance products will be available for everyone everywhere.
Long Live Your Tent
I have covered a lot here in this post, but it is easy to break it down and follow. With these hits and tips I am confident you will extend the longevity of your tent and improve your camping experience by avoiding unnecessary disasters for your tent.
Safe camping everyone, go make some beautiful memories.