Taking Care of Your Tent
By: Mark Mazour
Many campers do nothing with their tents and
then twice a year, throw them in a car trunk and head for the great
outdoors, gambling that their tent will perform. This is a strong
bet, since it is usually the only form of shelter they brought to
Making sure your tent lasts for many years is pretty simple. All it comes down to is a little extra planning and some common sense. Take a look at some of the tips below to ensure that your tent lasts for many seasons.
Use a Ground Sheet - This one is so simple, but many people avoid it. Always use a ground sheet under your tent. Either purchase a factory cut model, or you can make your own from heavy plastic or just use nylon utility tarps. Hopefully, you have selected a site that is fairly flat with not too many rocks, but there will usually be a few. A ground sheet will not only protect the floor of your tent from excessive wear or punctures, but it will also keep ground moisture from seeping into your tent. A tip here is to make sure no part of the ground sheet extends past the edge of the tent. Otherwise, if it rains, all the water will funnel under your tent, making for some wet sleeping. The ground sheet also makes a clean spot to pack up camp when you leave.
Keep Your Tent Out of the Sun - Not only does a rain fly protect your tent from the rain, but it also protects it from the sun. Over time, UV rays can cause the material on your tent to break down. To prevent this, try to set your tent up in a shady spot, and use the rain fly to protect the tent from sun's damaging rays.
Stake it Out - Tents come with stakes and guy lines. The manufacturer wouldn't have included them if he didn't plan on you using them. Many freestanding tents were designed for use in high winds; however, this design included the use of the guy lines to offer additional support to the poles. If the ground is too rocky to drive stakes in, guy lines can be wrapped around rocks for additional support. If you arrive in camp and appear to be missing your stakes, smooth rocks can be placed in the inside corners of the tent floor.
Don't Crack the Whip - Shock-corded tent poles were designed to be assembled piece by piece. Yet, many campers take them out of the bag and give them a whip of the wrist to snap them together. The snapping action can cause damage to the poles, especially at the ferrules. Taking the extra two minutes to assemble the poles will result in longer life.
Leave your Boots Outside - This simple rule will keep your tent a lot cleaner and reduce wear on the floor liner from rocks in boot soles. Also, in wet weather, if wet boots stay outside, so does all the water, and your tent will stay dry.
Take Care with Flames and Heat Sources Inside Your Tent - Synthetic materials and flames or heat do not mix. Take extreme care if you use a heater, lantern, candle, or other heat source inside your tent. All you have to do is get it too close to a mesh window, and a citronella candle can turn that window into a door in a hurry.
Put it Away Dry - I know, sometimes you can be packing up during a rainstorm or worse - this last spring turkey season we had an 1/8" of ice on the tent when we broke camp. However, when you return home always take out your tent and make sure it is completely dry before packing it away to that special spot (garage rafters, basement, under stairs). If you put your tent away wet last time, the smell will let you know. Besides the smell of mold and mildew, moisture can deteriorate the tent's fabric and stitching. Even if it doesn't rain on your trip, the bottom of your tent and probably the underside of the rain fly will be wet with condensation. If the weather is right, you can drag your tent into the sun and quickly dry the condensation before you leave.
Fold Up Tent Poles Starting in the Middle - Most modern tents have shock-corded aluminum or fiberglass poles for structural stability and ease of setup. However, most people put their poles away by starting at an end pole section and work toward the other end. While this works effectively, it can cause the shock cord to get stretched unevenly. Over time, the elastic shock cord will develop a memory, stretch out, or even break where it is over stretched. A good way to prevent this is to start as close to the middle as possible when taking them apart. This will result in even tension across the entire shock cord and longer life.
Pack Your Tent as Originally Intended - When I go backpacking, I always throw my mountaineering tent into a compression stuff sack so it can get crammed into my pack. However, when you get home and dry out your tent, always store it in the original sack that it came in. While this stuff sack may be too large for backpacking, it will prevent undue stress on the material during storage. If you fold your tent for storage, don't always fold the fabric on the same crease line. Over time, repeated creasing will deteriorate the coating and possibly damage the material.
Keep it Clean - Finally, it is always a good idea to keep your tent clean. If you eat in the tent, food residue (especially from kids) can create sticky spots that will only serve to get worse and attract bugs in the future. With a freestanding tent, such as a dome model, you can tie open the door, pick up the tent, and shake the dirt (and dog hair in my case) out before packing up. Then, just take a paper towel and wipe down the floor for a final clean up. In many tents offered by Cabela's a removable interior floor liner is available as an accessory. This provides extra protection for the floor as well as makes clean up a breeze. If you track mud in your tent you just remove this floor liner and wipe it down. To clean a tent, give it a mild sponge bath with cold water and a non-detergent soap. Simply wipe the area clean, rinse with clean water, and let the material dry in the shade.