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Caring For Your Tent

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

The more you go camping, the more your tent is going to look like you went camping. By that I mean, it's lost the "new tent" smell, things are covered in dirt and mud that wasn't there when it came out of the box, and maybe you have a few leaks now too. All that is bound to happen with repeated use but, wait, you only got that tent last year?! How can such an expensive tent be leaking already in such a short time? It's all about the proper care you give your tent! Follow these tips to give your tent the longest life possible through all conditions!

Keep Away From Flames

Who actually takes the time to read the labels on the tent? Anyone? I might have... once... long, long ago. If you've read one, you've read them all, right? Who knows, really. I sure don't but what I do know is that the materials used to make the tent are highly flammable! Tent manufacturers always recommend you DO NOT bring flame inside or around the tent for that reason. Therefore, at this point, it goes without saying that you should distance your tent from your campfire as well. What's a good distance you ask? It largely depends on conditions. If it's particularly windy, and you are up-wind, you can certainly be closer than if you were down-wind. I tend to shoot for a minimum 15 to 20 foot distance when possible but use your best judgement! Floating embers can, at minimum, put holes in your tent, if not ignite it and burn it to the ground. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how the loss of your tent, and all belongings within, to fire would be very undesirable.

Limit Exposure To Sun

Like most things man-made, the harsh UV rays from the sun will cause a breakdown of exposed material over time. Tents are no exception. But how do you prevent sun exposure to your home away from home where you will most likely see sun? You don't prevent it but you are certainly able to limit it! If you are like me, you likely already do this but pick a spot that gets plenty of shade through as much of the day as possible and be sure to pitch your tent there. As tents do not have the best airflow to begin with, shade is essential to keeping your tent cool until nightfall. Of course, in addition to the personal comfort factor, you are prolonging the life of your tent by limiting exposure to harsh UV rays!

Keep It Clean

If flames to a tent are the obvious tent killer, mud and dirt would be the so called "silent killer" you wouldn't expect to harm your tent. It happens when it rains, your tent gets splattered from above, below, and all sides from the dirt turned mud all around you. If you pack it away like this, the mud will eventually dry leaving behind dirt that can work its way into seams and zippers and cause breakdowns to the most essential and under appreciated components of what keeps your tent dry and in one piece. Not to mention, the mud and dirt can contain microbes that could contribute to the breakdown of your tent over time. I'll say this is probably less likely than dirt clogging and jamming your zippers, but it is something to consider if you aren't a frequent camper and leave your gear stored for long durations without proper cleaning. So what do you do about it? Take it home, stand it up outside, and with a rag and water, gently wipe it clean. Doing so will extend the life of your tent for years to come!

Pack It Dry

OK, you took my advice and washed your tent of mud and dirt... or you packed it home, wet... and put it straight into storage until next time, however long that will be. Bad idea! You never want to pack your gear away for extended durations while it's wet. Remember those microbes I was talking about? Well, get ready for mold and mildew! That's right, if you leave your tent wet and pack it away wet, you are asking for mold and mildew to make an appearance eventually. This can lead to all sorts of trouble, not the least of which is health problems, from continued use. As mentioned above, if your tent is wet, stand it up outside to dry when you get home. If you don't have a yard to use, you should try to hang it up somewhere to air dry at the very least. It might take a bit longer this way but it is critical to extending the life of your tent!

Mind The Wildlife (and Pets!)

This one may or may not be obvious to you depending on how often you've been camping. If you haven't learned the lesson the hard way, DON'T LEAVE FOOD IN YOUR TENT. It's lightweight fabric and all sorts of wildlife can chew, tear, or claw through it if given enough incentive. This goes for mice, raccoons, and especially bears! The wild animals, as the section header suggests, are not your only concern. Pets, those left inside alone or even with you, can still cause a fair amount of damage as well. If your dog hears something outside that it wants to get to, believe me, with the right determination, the fabric won't slow it down for long! Maybe you aren't ready to wake up yet but your dog is ready to be let out for relief. Better hop to it or your tent might pick up a very undesirable smell that could be just as hard to remove from sensitive fabric as it is to remove from your memory.

Pro Tip: Keeping your tent doors zipped closed any time you are not going through the door will keep bugs and wild animals from walking in. You never know what might wander into your tent while the door is open!

Protect The Waterproofing

The fabric of your tent, provided it's a modern tent not made of canvas, is very thin and delicate. So thin and so delicate, it's basically impossible for it to hold back water on its own without a little help. This help is special waterproofing that is applied at the factory. Believe it or not, you can ruin this waterproofing if you aren't careful. It might seem like a great idea to spray your tent with bug repellant to keep them from invading your personal space but the chemicals in that can of bug repellant will strip the waterproofing right off the tent meaning your next rainy campout will likely be the last for your tent.

Pro Tip: If you are camping in the rain, keep your gear from touching the walls of the tent, or any places that will be in contact with the rain. Anything touching from the inside can draw in water from the outside which opens a door for more water to enter! This isn't permanent as, once the tent dries again, you should be good to go!

Happy Trails!

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