There’s nothing like sleeping under canvas each night, the stars shining above as the campfire smolders and smokes to embers. Oh yes, camping and adventure travel go hand in hand! With a tent you can save money, sleep practically anywhere outdoors each night, and travel light.
But on a typical trip, your tent is likely to take some abuse — stormy nights, wind, mud, and gravel all take their toll on your poor tent. A good tent costs a lot of money, and if you want it to last for many years, it’s essential that you look after it.
One of the most important things is to store your tent properly after using it. Incorrect tent storage is the main reason why canvas tears and goes mouldy, and poles snap. And that’s the last thing you need as you set up camp after a long day on the road! Fortunately, with our 7 top tips, you can rest assured that your tent will last for years to come.
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1. Keep it Clean
Whether you’re packing your tent up for the day, ready to pitch again for the next night’s shelter, or stashing it away between adventures, it’s important to keep it clean. Tents pick up a lot of dirt while you’re camping. While this is easy to see in wet, muddy conditions, tents can soon become soiled on warm, dry days as well.
Dust gets trodden in no matter how careful you are, and will often accumulate on the outside of the canvas too. Small stones can also make their way inside and may tear the fabric if left to their own devices.
All of these issues build up the longer they’re left unattended, so it’s really important to clean your tent after each use, and give it a deep clean before long-term storage. But don’t worry, it’s pretty easy, just follow our 5-step tent care guide.
Wipe down the outside
You can wipe the worst of the dirt off the outer canvas using a damp cloth most of the time. In fact, there’s normally no need for cleaning products, and many can actually damage the material. If you do come across grease or another stubborn stain, be sure to check the specifications for the fabric on your tent, as this should tell you what cleaning agents you can and can’t use.
Clean up the inside
Next, head inside and use a dry cloth to dry up any condensation that might be on the inner walls. Once you’re happy that you’ve got the worst off, check the floor. Use a damp cloth to clear away any dirt or stains.
Shake it up
The next step is to clear everything out and start carefully dismantling your tent. Take the inner tent and turn it inside out, then, give it a good shake. This will get rid of any remaining dust or small stones that have found their way inside.
Clean the footprint/groundsheet
The bottom of your tent often becomes damp and will pick up bits of whatever you’re camping on, be it grass, mud, sand, or even dust. A good shake will dislodge the worst of it, but you’ll probably need to give it a quick wipe with a damp cloth to get the rest off. If you’re planning to store your tent for the season, be sure to clean this part thoroughly.
Clean tent pegs and poles
Finally, be sure to wipe off each tent peg to remove mud and any other grime. This is especially important for long-term tent storage, as dirty metal pegs can slowly corrode over time. Each tent pole should also be given a quick wipe with a damp cloth, paying particular attention to the bottoms, which might have picked up mud.
2. Let it Dry Fully
Once you’ve cleaned your tent inside and out, it’s really important to let it dry out. For long-term storage, you want your tent to be dry to the touch, so give it time and don’t start packing it away until there’s no moisture remaining. Be careful not to dry it too much using high heat, as this can open up the seams and reduce the waterproofing properties. Sunshine is typically more than enough.
If you store your tent while it’s damp, it will almost definitely go mouldy within a few days. Once your tent has gone mouldy, it is possible to clean it if you catch it early enough. But, if it’s deeply ingrained in the fibres of the fabric, you’ll probably have to replace your tent, not just for the sake of your tent, but also because sleeping and breathing in a mouldy tent can be bad for your health.
Drying a Wet Tent
So many times on our travels, there was absolutely no way we could dry our tent before we had to move on, and we packed our tent away completely soaked. Fortunately, in the short-term this isn’t a huge problem, and if you’re setting up camp the same day it’s not worth worrying about too much. We did separate the inner and outer sections if we knew it would rain the next time we pitched up, just to make sure the inner stays dry. But generally, a wet tent won’t bother you if you use it daily. However, at the end of your trip, it’s essential to let it dry before you pack it away.
If your last night of camping was in rainy weather — unlucky! — and you don’t have space inside to dry your tent, it’s not the end of the world. Simply hang it over some chairs or even in the bathtub as soon as you come home. It’s best to hang out the inner and outer tent separately. This way it dries quicker and more evenly.
3. Separate the Inner and Outer Sections
Now that the tent is clean and (hopefully) dry, it’s time to start packing it away. One common shortcut that campers take is to keep the inner and outer sections of their tents attached. This certainly saves a little time when you need to pitch up again, and you can definitely do this during your trip. But if you store it like this for a long time, this might cause serious damage to your tent.
By keeping the inner and outer tent sections attached, while storing it for a longer period of time you risk breaking the seams of both. This is because tension is created at the attachments, and when the tent is folded, this can stretch and stress these sections. You can simply avoid this by storing these parts separately.
4. Store Each Part Separately
It’s also a good idea to store all of the other parts of the tent separately, rather than wrapping everything inside the canvas. Poles can bend or warp if they’re not stored straight, and you can’t see this if they’re hidden under the canvas. Meanwhile, the delicate material of the inner and outer layers, as well as the footprint can be punctured by the poles and pegs if you’re not careful.
Another advantage to storing each part separately is that if mould has somehow survived the cleaning and drying process it won’t spread to the other parts. For example, you might not have fully dried the footprint, and while that may need replacing, the rest of the tent should be okay.
The best advice is to wrap each element in its own airtight bag. With poles and pegs, try to cover the pointy ends with something soft, or simply wrap them tightly with a plastic bag.
5. Loosen Up
Often the carry bag your tent comes in is too tight, and you may well marvel at how it ever fit in the first place. While this might save space in your luggage, it’s not so good for the well-being of your tent. Tent poles can bend and even break if they’re squashed into a tight space, while the canvas can tear as pegs or poles are forced through it.
It’s a good idea to buy a larger bag to store your tent in. Not only does this keep your tent safer, but it’s also much easier to pack away. Bonus!
6. Store it Properly
Once your trip is over and you’re ready to store your tent away until the next adventure, it’s important to store it away properly. Even if you’ve thoroughly cleaned and dried your tent, if you store it in a damp place, it can soon go mouldy. Mould and bacteria thrive in warm, damp areas, so try to store your tent somewhere dry and cool.
A garage, converted basement, or attic are all good options, just as long as the humidity levels aren’t too high. In a pinch, you can store it under the bed, or even in a cupboard. Wherever you keep it, be sure to check on it from time to time. You don’t necessarily have to unpack it, just open the bag and give it a sniff — if it’s mouldy you’ll soon know. Moisture should be visible as droplets of water inside the bags.
7. Keep the Moisture Out
If you’re struggling to find somewhere dry enough to store your tent at home, don’t worry, there is still something you can do! You can use silica gel — like the sachets you find in new shoe boxes — or another type of moisture absorber. Simply add a few packs in with your tent when you store it, and they should soak up the worst. Check on them periodically, and dry in a warm oven if they become too damp.
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With these 7 tips, a good tent should last a lifetime of adventures! Just be sure to check your tent once you take it out of storage. You don’t want to find out that it’s damaged or missing a part on your first night of camping!
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