Care for Your Camping Tent Properly

When I get back from a camping trip, I usually head straight for the couch. Unpacking my pack is very low on the priority list. For this reason, I get a cringe of guilt every time I look at new camping tents.

Unless you have spent a pretty penny on an incredible down sleeping bag or splurged on a custom made camping backpack, your camping tent is your most expensive piece of gear. And when it is not cared for properly, the tent’s lifespan drops. So, instead, of letting your whole camping pack sit in the back of your car for weeks after your last trip, like I tend to do, unpack your gear and show your tent some TLC.

Find a Smooth, Shady Spot
While I did say you have to unpack your tent to start taking better care of it, tent maintenance actually begins even earlier: while you are camping. Following the principals of Leave No Trace camping, stake your tent on a smooth spot with no vegetation. While this is the best way to treat the environment, it also ensures no roots, pinecones or sticks will poke holes in your tent floors. Seek out a shady spot, as well, to avoid UV rays that break down the tent’s nylon.

Pack It Up
Before you pack the camping tent, shake it off. Packing a dirty tent makes it that much harder to clean it at home; plus, you are bringing dirt into your house for no reason. Also, do not fold the tent on the same lines each time. Eventually, these lines can become “fixed,” leaving you with permanent creases where the tent material will be fragile.

Dry It Out
Always keep your tent dry. If there is no other rule you follow when caring for your tent, follow this one. Packing a wet or damp tent, even for a short period of time, leads to mildew and mold. Not only will your tent smell horrible, but also the fabric will be weakened. When you get home, set up your tent in a sunny area. Inspect it for any dampness and allow these places to thoroughly dry. Do not store the tent in an area prone to dampness, like a garage or basement. If possible, hang the tent in a closet, so it can breathe. 

Clean It
You will want to set up your tent in order to clean it well. Most manufacturers sell cleaners for their tents. If you do not want to buy these, just look for any unscented, non-detergent soap, like Nikwax. Using a non-abrasive kitchen sponge and the soap, gentle wash the tent. For stains, you may want to use a gentle brush, like a soft toothbrush. Wash the soap entirely off with cold water and allow the tent to, again, dry completely.

Reproof It
If you noticed water seeping through the tent on your last rainy camping trip, then it is apparent that the waterproof coating needs some help. If you need a bit more proof, pay attention to the water as you clean the tent. If it beads up on the surface, then your waterproof coating is still working properly. Use a simple spray-on waterproofing treatment, like Gore-Tex, to make your tent effectively waterproof once more.

If you are lucky, your tent manufacturer offers free repairs. This is not the norm, though, so check the warranty. Most manufacturers do sell individual tent parts and tent specific repair kits. We highly recommend buying these. Repairing the tent or replacing one part is cheaper than buying a new tent and trying to use another tent’s pole for yours is a horrible idea.

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