Tent care & maintenance

If you’re not able to get out camping yet, now might be the perfect time to start planning ahead and cleaning your camping gear. You'll not only be ready for the season when the time for your first trip comes around, you'll also be able to start daydreaming about where you'll go first. Read on and learn how you can get your tent ready for future camping trips.

Tent camping is a classic activity. There is something incredibly satisfying about carrying your shelter to your campsite, pitching it in the perfect spot and falling asleep to the gentle soundtrack of nature. A tent keeps you dry through rainstorms and sheltered from the wind, and that feeling of unzipping the front flap and taking in the morning air after a good night's sleep is an unparalleled pleasure.

Tents are also becoming more advanced as new technologies and materials are developed, and each year sees more durable, lightweight and comfortable designs coming to market. A good tent can last a long time, and knowing how to properly take care of it is the key to getting a long lifespan out of it.

A tent requires care to perform properly. There’s a common misconception that, since these materials are strong and made to resist moisture, they can survive rough conditions — even the ones we occasionally impose upon them. While tents are made to protect against the elements outdoors, their durability is contingent upon proper care and treatment. As with many manmade items, moisture presents the primary challenge in keeping tents fully operational. Removing moisture before storing the tent keeps the materials strong and waterproof. The same goes for cleaning your tent — dirt and grime also weaken the materials.

Preparing your campsite is the first step. Choose a flat, level spot and remove twigs and stones that could puncture your tent’s floor. Then, lay out a footprint to protect your tent from the ground’s moisture — this can be a synthetic ground cover or even a folded piece of construction house-wrap. If you keep your tent in the same space for several days, it helps to be in the shade. Tent fabric does not take well to ultraviolet rays, and using the protection of trees is a great way to keep it from breaking down.

As you are using your tent, one of the parts that receives the most mileage is the zipper. It can be frustrating when zippers don't glide smoothly when you pull them with one hand. However, trying to force them can weaken and tear the fabric, so use your other hand to stabilize the zipper track while you pull away from it. If the zipper track splits, you can usually fix it by running the zipper back over it until it latches back together. Otherwise, you may need to use pliers.

Keep all your boots, shoes and other dirty gear outside the tent. Tracking dirt inside the tent corrodes the material and can lead to holes in the floor. Additionally, store your food outside the tent — keeping it inside can attract rodents, who will gladly chew through the tent to get to it.

The first thing to do upon taking down your tent is to shake everything out, including the footprint and the tent itself. If you can pick your tent up with the poles still in place, it will be much easier to shake the dirt out of it. Some tent poles pass through sheaths on the tent's exterior for easy removal. When removing these, push them through instead of pulling. Pulling causes the poles segments to separate and get hung up on the fabric — which then puts strain on the shockcord. When you have pushed the poles free, break them down starting in the middle, then keep dividing the segments into halves. Dry your tent thoroughly before putting it in a stuff sack or carrying case. There is little chance moisture hasn't accumulated somewhere in the tent, and putting it in the sack is an invitation for mildew to grow. Also, when putting it in the sack, roll it up instead of stuffing it inside.

Once you get home, dry it out again — remember, a tent can never be too dry. The best way to store a tent long-term is in a looser sack.