How To Make Your Tent Last Many Years Longer


How To Make Your Tent Last Many Years LongerA good tent is an investment. If you take good care of it you will use it for many years. This article will give you tips to you should follow while you are camping and ways for easy maintenance of your tent.


Taking Good Care of Your Tent

  • Use a tent footprint (also called groundsheet), underneath your tent every time you use your tent. Not only it will keep your tent clean but, more importantly, it will protect your tent from excessive abrasion and will prolong the life of the tent. I actually leave the footprint on the tent when I pack it up.
  • Prevent mildew: NEVER store a wet tent. Storing a wet tent, even for 24 hours, especially in warm weather, is enough to start mildew forming into the fabric. Mildew is the worst enemy of your tent. It will cause your tent to stink, stain, and will lead to a premature breakdown of the waterproof coating, separating it from the fabric. As a result, your tent will no longer be waterproof. Never assume your tent is dry: spread it out under the sun before storing it.
  • Protect your tent from UV. Obviously your tent will be exposed to UV, but keep in mind that UV is the primary culprit in ageing your tent. If you are camping at the same place for a prolonged period of time try to cover your tent during the day with a tarp (my favorite is this very useful multifunctional tarp called the Space Blanket by Grabber or the similar Multi-purpose Tarp by Coghlan’s). Once a year before going on a trip, I like to use Nikwax Solarproof & waterproof Spray (for Gear and Tents).
  • If your tent gets muddy, make sure you rinse it out in the next day or two. If you don’t, over time dirt wears off the coating, gets accumulated in between the fibers of the polyester (especially at the seams). The material may end up saturated with dirt, and the tent will start to leak. At that point it is too late to do anything.
  • How to clean your tent. Never machine wash, dry clean, or machine dry your tent. Never use dishwashing liquid, bleach, stain remover, detergent, or pre soaking products. Only clean your tent if it has a bad odor, if it becomes heavily soiled, or you are about to store it away for an extended period of time after some heavy use. If your tent is just soiled you can just use a regular hose. If the tent needs a more serious cleaning, hand wash it with a non abrasive sponge, warm water, and some mild non-detergent soap like the Nikwax Tech Wash; this excellent product is a non-detergent soap that was developed for this specific purpose. Rinse your tent very well and let it dry completely.
  • Re-waterproof your tent. This is some maintenance that should be done to prevent leaking. I re-waterproof my tent in preparation for a new trip. The best product for that purpose is the Nikwax TX.Direct (follow the directions for hand washing only). This product restores the water-repellent coating of the fabric and for easier use you can also find it as a spray.
  • Prevent the seams from leaking: I always recommend using the very popular Seam Grip Seam Sealer by McNett or the Seam Seal by Coghlan’s, even on fabrics that are factory seam taped. Seam Seal is to be applied on the inner side of the tent, along the seam, to add an additional layer of waterproof coating. Manufacturers usually recommend using it only when the seam leaks, but for added peace of mind I would also use it along the entire seam before going on a long trip and keep a smaller tube, like the one in the Coghlan’s repair kit, to fix any leaks that occur later.
  • Take good care of your zipper: Once the zipper is no longer working neither is your tent. When you guy out your tent always do it with the all the zippers completely closed. When you close your door use two hands, one to zip it, the other one to guide the material to minimize the tension.
  • Avoid Broken poles: The most common way a pole breaks is when one pole section is not completely inserted into the adjoining one. Once the pole is bent and put in tension, the female section of the pole can crack. There are several factors that might cause this: The tent is being setup in a rush because it’s raining; the poles are wet, so they get slippery and the pole might slightly slide out of the next section; the shock cord is old and loses some of its elasticity.
  • Life-long repair: when you use a patch kit, make sure the fabric is clean and dry. For the best result I always apply a patch on both sides of the fabric, this way the repair will last much longer. A quick way to fix a tear is to use duct tape on both side of the fabric but this should be a temporarily fix, and should be removed as soon as possible as the adhesive will eventually eat away the fabric.When you cut your patch make sure to round the corners, otherwise they may peel off prematurely. For a good and permanent repair: once you arrive home I recommend using either rubber or PVC patches on each side of the tear and gluing them with a generous amount of waterproof urethane formula glue, like the popular Seam Grip by McNett (this product makes miracles happen). Lay it out so the patches and fabric sandwich nice and flat between two heavy books, and leave all of it under a heavy load for at least twelve hours. (I use the foot of my bed so the pressure can be specifically applied to where the patches are).

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About Stephane Marchiori

Owner of
Bike touring since 2003, including:
a 5-Year Bicycle Journey Around The World!

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