TENT CARE GUIDE
When you’re out in the wilds, your tent is your home away from home, so it’s paramount you take care of it to ensure it offers you protection, no matter what conditions you face. It’s an investment that, when looked after correctly, will be the difference between a night to remember or a night to forget.
But what is there to looking after a tent other than chucking it back in its bag once you’re done? In this expert guide, we take you through everything you need to know about caring for your tent to keep it performing at its best for years to come.
Top tips for looking after your tent when camping
The best way to properly care for your tent is to start taking care of it right from the get go. However, even if you’ve made mistakes in the past, with our advice we can help you get things back on track.
One of the best ways to care for your tent is to start with the right foundation. That’s why you should use a footprint or groundsheet underneath your tent to help protect its built-in groundsheet.
Footprints are designed to keep water and dirt away from the bottom of your tent, but they also help protect it from excessive abrasion, which is vital if you’re pitching up on rough terrain. A footprint will also help ensure your tent is cleaner when it comes to packing it away.
Poles make up the structure of your tent, but they’re susceptible to damage, especially when you’re facing tough conditions. It’s important to pitch your tent in the most sheltered position possible, out of high winds, because the last thing you want is to wake up with a collapsed tent or worse still, no tent. You should also invest in poles that will withstand the challenges you face on your expedition; the poles your tent originally came with may not cut it in really harsh climates.
That said, most damage to tent poles occurs from over-zealous handling when pitching up. To avoid this, make sure you don’t overstress your tent poles when setting up, which can permanently deform them, and always ensure you fully insert the poles into one another before attempting to erect your tent.
The key to keeping your zips running smoothly is to keep them free from dirt and grit. But you can also help extend the life of your tent’s zip by using two hands and going steady when opening or closing your tent, especially around curved sections.
Never try to force a stuck zip either. Instead, hold the zipper track with one hand and gently back the slider up, wiggling it gently from side to side until the stuck fabric frees.
When you’re getting out and about, your tent is exposed to all kinds of conditions. And while the wind and rain may take their toll on your sleep, it’s the sun’s ultraviolet (UV rays) that are the biggest problem for your tent.
Over time, UV rays break down and degrade nylon, making it dry and brittle. This reduces your tent’s tensile strength and makes it more susceptible to rips and tears. Generally, polyester fly sheets offer a little more resistance against UV rays, but the best practice -regardless of material – is to try and move your tent out of the sun.
On backpacking trips, where you’ll be walking through the day and pitching up at night, this isn’t a problem, but for camping trips, when you'll be in one place for a few days, you may want to consider adding some extra protection by treating it with a specialist product like Nikwax’s Tent & Gear Solarproof.
Packing away your tent
Whether you’re out of the trail or at a campsite, follow these steps when packing your tent away:
• Shake the tent out and sweep any dirt out of the lining
• Wipe down any areas that have come into contact with mud
• Check you have the same number of pegs and poles you turned up with
• Make sure the inner is as dry as possible before packing away
• Wipe down zips and poles to remove any caked-on mud
• Start disassembling your poles from the centre and move outwards to distribute the tension on the shock cord
• If you’ve been in dusty or salty conditions (like near the sea), clean your poles and take extra care around the intersections
Expert tent cleaning tips
Once you’ve arrived home, the real work begins, as cleaning your tent properly is one of the best things you can do to increase its lifespan and maintain its performance.
Pitch it in the garden or a garage if it’s raining, and follow these steps:
• Take another sweep around the interior of the tent to remove any dirt or debris you didn’t catch at the campsite
• Remove loose dirt from the tent’s fabric by wiping it down with lukewarm water or using the pressure from a garden hose
• For more stubborn mud stains, hand wash the affected area with a sponge, warm water and a mild non-detergent soap or specialist tent cleaning product like Nikwax Tech Wash or the cleaner in Grangers Fabsil Tent and Gear Care Kit. DO NOT use washing up liquid, detergent or bleach, or be tempted to pop your tent in your washing machine or tumble dryer as doing so can damage the tent’s waterproof coating
• If necessary, give tent poles and zips another wipe down and leave them to dry to avoid rust and erosion
• Allow your tent to dry out thoroughly before packing away. Bear in mind this can take a few hours
Once your tent is clean and dry, do some final checks before packing it away to ensure that it’s all set for wherever your next adventure takes you. Ask yourself:
Tent Pegs – are they all there?
Zips – do they run smoothly and haven’t split?
Groundsheet – is there any mould or condensation?
Poles – is the elastic in the core free from cracks and breaks?
Fabric – are there any tears or rips?
Seams – any split or splitting seams?
Guy Ropes – are they knot-free and tied away neatly?
If you notice any issues, now is the time to fix them. At Snow+Rock, you’ll find replacement tent accessories available, as well as specialist washing, reproofing and repair products, and expert advice on how to use them. Simply pop into your local store and get the help you need.
Reproofing your tent
Just like your waterproof jacket, your tent will need reproofing from time to time to maintain its waterproofness and breathability. How often you need to do this depends on how often you use it and in what conditions. Abrasion, exposure to UV, and wind and rain will all eventually cause the waterproof coating to deteriorate.
If you notice water seeping into your tent instead of beading on the surface, dampening on the inner lining or condensation building up, these are sure signs your tent needs reproofing. The good news is that reproofing is a pretty simple process. All you need is a specialist tent reproofing product and to follow these steps:
• Put up your tent and ensure your flysheet is clean
• Apply your product directly to the fabric using a clean paintbrush until you have evenly covered the whole tent (or following the manufacturer's instructions if these differ)
• Wipe away any excess product using a dry, clean cloth
• Leave out to dry naturally and make sure it dries fully, as storing your tent whilst it’s damp can lead to the premature breakdown of its fabric and coatings
Storing your tent
Where you store your tent is important too as the last thing you want is to let all your hard work and care to go to waste. Your best bet is somewhere cool and dry where it won’t get damaged, exposed to sunlight or eaten by creatures! A shed or garage is a great choice if you have one, but a kit wardrobe or spare room can work just as well.
PRO-TIP - Instead of storing the tent in its stuff sack, keep it in an oversized, breathable cotton bag - a pillowcase can work just as well - as this helps keep the fabric ventilated and avoids any mould forming.
Getting your tent ready for your next trip
When it comes to your next trip, take your tent out of storage a day or two beforehand. This gives the tent a chance to air out and means you can check it’s up to the task. It’s much better to discover any problems at home rather than out on the trail.
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