3 tents side by side overlooking a mountain range

21 Tips to Properly Care for Your Tent

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It’s a bummer when any camping trip is over, there’s no way around it. You just spent a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of city life, no sirens, no job, and no stress.

Only a few steps left. You have the cooler all packed up, the dry food is going home with you and the full packages of hot dogs and bacon are being handed to one lucky neighbor. You’ve dumped water on the fire to make sure the embers are completely extinguished and taken down the tablecloth. The vehicle is packed and the air mattresses (if you roll that way) are deflated.

Only one thing left your tent. It’s easy to get complacent and tear it down as quickly as possible, without proper care for your tent, the mere thought of going home makes you cringe. The last thing you need is to set up your next trip and find dirt and mold living inside your tent. Tent care matters and here are a few tips to ensure next time is a mold free endeavor.

How to Properly Care for Your Tent

Caring for your tent involves a two prong approach. We broke it up into the gear that will make your tent last, and the preventative maintenance that you do day in and day out.

Proper tent care is going to make your tent last for multiple years, a little extra work really goes a long way.

Old tools hanging on a rack on a wall

Tent Care Gear List

There are a few items that you need to pick up to aid in the battle against time. The life of your tent is going to depend solely on how well you choose to take care of it. The manufacturer should have sent you out a tent with stakes, guy lines, and a rainfly. None of these items address tent care, there’s a handful of other items you are going to need for preventative maintenance.

1. Footprint

If your really serious about your footprint, you can find tent footprints made out of canvas-like material that is designed for tent usage. They are basically a large piece of thick cloth cut specifically in the shape and size of your tent to protect it from damage underneath. If not a large tarp will do the trick, just remember to fold the excess underneath the tarp itself.

2. Small dust pan with a brush

This is an old trick my grandfather used when I was a kid, and I always laughed at him for it. Now it’s a go-to tool for my daily routine in tent maintenance. Almost every morning and evening, I spend a little time sweeping out the inside of the tent.

3. Duct tape

Duct tape, not duck tape, took me years to figure that one out. These days duct tape is used for everything from making wallets to repairing duct work. A roll of duct tape will make small repairs all over the campsite, not just your tent. Never leave home without it.

4. Small rug

Bring a small rug or a piece of AstroTurf cut to cover the width of your tents doorway. This gives you a place to wipe off your muddy or sandy feet, and leave your shoes. It helps keep the dirt and debris outside your tent.

5. Seam-sealant

This is great for fixing small tears at the seams of your tent. The seams are often the first failure point in tents, and sealant will prevent water from getting inside. You don’t need to apply seam sealant to a brand new tent.

6. Spare poles

Damaging your tent poles happen to everyone. Whether they are old and worn, or you got a little too aggressive during the install. Keeping an extra set of tent poles is always good practice. Better safe than sorry.

7. Tent-patches

These are self-adhesive patches that are made and designed specifically for tent repair. Duct tape does the job in a pinch, however, tent patches work better. Not a bad idea to pack a couple sets for you and your friends and learn how to patch a tent.

8. Spare stakes and guy lines

A tent without stakes and guy lines is a kite, unstable and susceptible to the wind. Tent stakes are like socks, they seem to randomly disappear and get eaten by the garage. Pack a couple extra stakes and guy lines for added peace of mind.

A women sitting by a tent drinking coffee

Tent Care Maintenance List

Tent care maintenance isn’t just an afterthought, by taking a few steps beforehand your tent will live and long and healthy life. You may have the urge to rip it out of the bag and toss it on the first spot you find, and that does work. If you follow a few simple steps your tent will live to see many more days.

9. Pre-Pitch set up

The first step when you purchase a shiny new tent is to ALWAYS pitch it in the backyard before you use it on a camping trip. Everyone makes mistakes and that is no different with tent manufacturers. Occasionally you will find a pole missing, broken zipper, no guy lines, and/or missing stakes.

Repairing and returning your tent is best done at home.

10. Use a footprint

A custom footprint is the best route (Gizmodo has a $25 DIY option), it will protect your tent from agitation and chaffing. It sits perfectly underneath your tent, preventing it from collecting rainwater and debris. A tarp will do the trick as well, just remember to fold the excess under the tent to prevent water build up in rainy conditions.

11. Avoid direct sunlight

UV rays damage the fabric that your tent is made of, be it canvas or composites. One day in the sun won’t make any difference, however, over time you will see a fading of color and overall condition of your tent. Find a shady place which provides coverage from direct sunlight, your tent thanks you.

12. Use an established campsite

As stated in the Leave No Trace principles, always use an established campsite. This not only protects the environment, it will also prevent wear and tear on the underside of your tent. It will be clear of rocks and other debris, on a level surface.

13. Never pack a wet tent

Using your tent hard and putting it away wet is a recipe for disaster or mildew and mold in this case. Not only is mold a nuisance it also can affect your health (source). The most efficient way to prevent the buildup of mold and mildew is to never let it happen in the first place.

If you end up packing your campsite in wet conditions, set your tent in direct sunlight when you get home and make sure it is completely dry before packing it away.

14. Be careful with the zipper

Zippers are made of small moving parts that over time will begin to break down. If your zipper gets stuck, pulling as hard as you can and saying a few choice words won’t help. Hold the fabric on one side while gently tug with the other hand will get the job done.

15. Take it easy on the poles

Poles break easily and are generally a pain in the ass. Take your time when assembling and breaking down your tent and GENTLY fold the poles when it’s time to jam out. Prevention is the best repair, however, if the tent pole does break check out instructables.com’s DIY route.

16. These boots are made for walking

Never walk inside your tent with your boots or shoes on, for that matter. Not only will you track in crap from outside the tent, but the hard soles can also easily cause a tear from a rock underneath.

17. No food inside the tent

You’re in the wild and wild animals love to eat. Leaving open food in your tent is asking for trouble. A squirrel or rat may take the opportunity to chew through your tent to get the grub. Avoid keeping any unsealed food inside your tent.

18. Reproof your tent

After a few seasons of use, inevitably your tent will begin to break down. Re-waterproofing your tent is a good way to give your tent a couple more years and keep you dry in the process. It only takes an hour or so to apply, and roughly 24 hours to dry.

19. Wear and tear repair

If and when you get a small hole in your tent, don’t toss it! Small rips and tears are a symptom of constant use and can be repaired at home easily. Look for the fabric of a similar color, make sure the area is clean and dry, then start patching.

20. Wash your tent

Only use water and non-detergent soap, and NEVER put your tent in the washer and dryer. Once or twice a season, depending on your usage, lightly scrub down the inside and outside of the tent with a sponge. Then let it completely dry again before storing it.

21. Store your tent in a cool dry place

The off-season can do real damage to your tent if you let it. Store your tent in a dry and temperature controlled environment to prevent any buildup of moisture. Pull it out every few months and lay it out flat for a few days to eliminate any moisture that may have inadvertently formed.

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