In a survival situation, your tent will protect you from the elements and may be your primary form of shelter. So the last thing you want to Replace during an emergency or camping trip is a tear, broken pole, or mildew growth because you didn’t clean or store it correctly. Help your tent last for years by learning how to properly care for it.
Things to consider before you use your tent
- Set up your tent. Learn how to set up and pack your tent before you go camping. You can set it up in your yard or a park to practice. Not knowing how to properly set up your tent can lead to broken poles, rips, and other damage, especially if you end up having to set it up after dusk. Knowing how to set up your tent before you get to your campsite will save you time and will decrease your frustrations.
- Inspect your tent. After setting up your tent in the yard, inspect it. Determine if any pieces of the tent are missing, learn how to put on the rain fly, and make sure your tent anchors are in good condition. Try anchoring your tent. And make sure to have extra anchors with you in case it gets windy during your campout.
- Get a seam sealer. Purchase a seam sealer and seal the outside seams of your tent fly and floor. Yes, your tent will already come with the appropriate seals for each section. However, sealing the edges again is an extra precaution. Seam sealing will help reduce leaks in your tent if it rains.
- Waterproof your tent. As an extra precaution, make sure to waterproof your tent before you go camping. You can purchase waterproofing sprays at home improvement stores.
Caring for your tent while camping
- Always fix/clean rips, tears, and stains ASAP. Taking care of smaller problems (like a little tear or a small stain) immediately will save you from having to deal with bigger problems later on. If you take care of problems right away, you’ll extend the life of your tent.
- Bring a tent repair kit. A roll of duct tape, needle and thread, and a wash cloth (to clean off your tent) will go a long way in helping you to fix issues with your tent when they come up. Remember, duct tape is less effective when it’s wet or cold; warm it up before using it to repair a rip. Duct tape can even repair poles and ripped pole sleeves.
- Set up your tent in a smooth, flat area. Do not place your tent on top of rocks, roots, or uneven ground. This can cause damage to the bottom of your tent, and the holes can cause water and bugs to get in.
- Get a “Footprint” or tarp. A footprint is a piece of plastic (similar to a tarp) that protects the exterior floor of your tent. It is a separate groundsheet that’s placed under the main groundsheet of the tent. The footprint stops water from gathering under the floor and creating water damage. It also protects the bottom of the tent from damage. If a footprint isn’t available, a tarp can work just as well, too. Note: your footprint or tarp should be small than your tent. Larger tarps that go out past the edge of the tent can collect rain water.
- Protect your tent from excessive sunlight. The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can fade and weaken the fabric over time. Leaving your tent in sunlight during a brief camping trip is fine, but setting it up in your backyard for months in direct sunlight can cause damage. Do not to leave your tent in direct sunlight for long periods of time.
- Take your shoes off. Before you get into your tent, take off your shoes to avoid bringing dirt and water inside. You can use a plastic bag and one of the built-in pockets inside your tent (if you have one) to store your shoes in, if you don’t want to leave them outside. Also, keeping a broom inside the tent will help you brush any unwanted dirt back out of the tent if it happens to blow in.
- Do not keep food inside the tent. Animals like to chew through tent walls to get to your food.
- Set up your tent away from your camp fire. Do not set up your tent close to your camp fire. Sparks and embers from the flame can get on the fabric of your tent and can create holes.
Cleaning your Tent
- Wash your tent after each use. Clean your tent with warm water and a sponge. Do not use soaps or detergents to wash your tent because they can break down the waterproofing element on the fabric. If you must use soap, use a non-detergent based soap like Woolite that you can purchase at your local grocery store.
- Use a damp cloth to wipe poles. A damp cloth can remove saltwater which can cause corrosion. Make sure the poles are dry before you store them.
- Dry out all parts of your tent before storing. Never store a wet tent. Lay out your tent or put it on a clothes line to dry. Wet tents encourage mildew growth. If your tent does mildew, wash it with warm water (do not use detergent soaps or chemicals). If the mildew growth is bad, contact the manufacturer for additional tips.
Storing your Tent
- Store your tent inside. If you store your tent in a garage, storage unit, or basement, it may be easier for rodents, bugs, and water damage to ruin it. Instead, store your tent inside your house in a closet or another indoor storage area where pests and water cannot reach it. Also, be sure to sweep out your tent before you store it inside.
- Be careful when storing your poles. As you take down your tent, make sure to fold shock corded poles (poles that use a bungee cord-like material to help lengthen the poles) at the middle rather than pulling on the ends. Since shock cord is retractable, you may want to play with it, but tugging whipping, or snapping the poles together can cause them to weaken and break.