Caring for your tent requires only basic attention. And most is during actual use. And when packing down your site. Here’s how to care for a tent, so it will be fresh for your next trip.
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13 Tent Care Tips
Here are some basic tent care tips. These tips will ensure that your tent has a maximized life and you don’t have to go out every other summer and buy a new one.
The absolute basic rules are:
- Leave boots outside the tent: Boots can carry foreign objects that can puncture your tent or dirt that will degrade it over time. Only go into your tent in socks or bare feet.
- Consider using a footprint/tarp: Even though tents are waterproof, if it is very wet then a tarp underneath will ensure that your tent is not damaged by excess water. It will also protect it from any stones or thorns penetrating your tent which can damage it and make it no longer waterproof. Trust me, as someone who has had this happen, it is no fun and you won’t realize it until you are using your tent in very wet conditions. Then you will wake up in the middle of the night and all your belongings including your sleeping bag will be wet.
- Do not leave your dog unsupervised in the tent: I don’t know what your dog is like, but my dog likes to dig, roll, scratch… you get the picture. If they’re unsupervised they could be up to anything which could include damaging your tent. Take the time to check their claws are clipped before you go away to minimize the chances of any punctures to your tent.
- Store food and toiletries in a closed container: Leave food or personal fragrance items in a secure container on the outside of the tent or in the vestibule. Keeping these kinds of items in the tent can be too tempting for little (and big) animals who may try to chew through your tent material to get to these items, leaving you with a hole in your tent (and an animal in it!).
- Be gentle with zippers and poles: These are the most sensitive bits of your tent and should be handled with care at all times. Once they are broken/lost they are incredibly hard to repair/replace.
- Regularly clean your tent and ensure it is dry when stored: This should be an obvious one but dirt and water can lead to mold and mold is bad. You do not want mold. It smells nasty and can be harmful to your health.
- Thoroughly air-dry your tent when you have returned from a trip: Even if it has not been wet, it is worth doing this after the end of every trip, to ensure the tent is thoroughly dry.
- Consider storing your tent in a looser container at home: Although packing the tent in its bag is important for trips, consider putting it into a larger container for storage at home, for example, a pillowcase, to allow airflow through the fabric while it is being stored. Make sure it is not being stored in a damp or moist location.
- Always read the directions: Even though tents have lots of similarities, they are all slightly different so it is important to familiarize yourself with your particular tent and hold on to the instructions.
- When breaking down poles, start in the middle: This evenly distributes tensions along the cord. Here’s how to easily fold your tent.
- Never machine wash your tent: It is important to clean it but do so with a sponge and some gentle soap, and not in the washing machine. This will break down important coatings on the material.
- Check the waterproofing and repair if needed: Over time, your waterproofing may become compromised, particularly around the seams. You will need to check what material your tent is made out of and then repair it appropriately. It will generally be a water-based seam sealant for polyurethane tents, and a silicone sealant for silicone tents. If your tent has a small hole in it, you can also repair it as you would a bike inner tube, with repair tape. Here’s how to waterproof your tent.
- Avoid leaving your tent set up in direct sunlight for long period: UV rays will damage your tent by degrading the fabric.
Do’s and Don’ts of Tent Care (Video)
Here is a great step-by-step video for tent care and maintenance. Tips include how to clean and dry your tent.
More reading: How to Set Your Tent Up in the Rain
3 Common Tent Care Questions
Here are some of the most common questions we hear about caring for a tent.
1. How to Dry a Tent
The best way to dry your tent is in the open air. Setting it out – maybe on a clothesline or across a picnic table – on a mild day with a light breeze will quickly dry it out.
If it’s raining on your last day, you’ll have to take it home wet. When you get home, take a minute to wipe it down, then lay it out to dry. You can set it over a few chairs or on a laundry rack. Consider setting up a fan or two to keep the air moving.
You can also use a hair dryer on cool setting.
2. Can you Put a Tent in the Dryer? 3 Problems
While you can technically do this, it’s not the best idea. Putting your tent in the dryer can harm it in three ways.
- The spinning motion will probably twist your tent into an unsolvable puzzle. Trust me, you don’t want this to happen.
- The heat can damage, even melt the fabric and the waterproofing.
- The friction and spinning will prematurely wear the fabric.
3. How to Store a Tent
To safely store your tent, choose a dry, cool area. It’s best to put it up on a wire rack that allows air flow.
Of course, before you store it, make sure that it is fully dry and clean. If not, you might be surprised with a stinky and moldy tent next season.
And while it might be tempting to put it out in the garden shed, be careful. A tent makes a pretty great home for mice and insects. And moisture can also be a problem in some sheds.
What routine do you follow to care for your tent? I would love to hear what you do – and what I’m missing.
- About the Author
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Bryan Haines is a co-founder and blogger on GudGear – and is working to make it the best resource for outdoor gear and guides.
He loves the outdoors and has hiked the Andes, kayaked the Galapagos, and biked and camped around Nova Scotia, Canada.
He is a travel blogger at Storyteller Travel and blogs about photography at Storyteller Tech. He is also co-founder of Storyteller Media, a company he started with his wife, Dena.