Caring For Your Tent

Buying a tent may have been a big step for you, but now that you have made the purchase, you need to take care of your tent to ensure that it serves you for many seasons. There are many ways a tent can deteriorate and it is inevitable that this will happen.
You will be going to extreme environments where weather will beat upon your tent mercilessly. Not only weather, but also the UV rays from sunlight will degrade the fabric and turn your tent into faded nylon and aluminum poles. However, not all is lost, you can minimize damage to your tent by following the care instructions included with each tent and keeping tent abuse to a minimum.

If you take steps to take care for your tent, you can enjoy and use it for many years.

  • Before you take your tent camping, set it up somewhere out of direct sunlight. Check the tent and make sure nothing is missing. Put on the fly and make sure to anchor it down and draw it tight.
  • Buy some seam sealer and painstakingly seal all the outside seams of your fly and the floor of your tent. Yes, this job isn't much fun, but will give you a completely watertight fly and floor. If you are feeling extremely eager, you can even seal the inside seams as well, but this is usually unnecessary. You will appreciate your efforts when the first downpour comes.
    • On single wall tents seam sealing is mandatory. Although seam taped from the inside, single walls have exposed seams on the outside which need to be sealed. Especially because they do cost so much and you cannot replace a fly, you need to seal your single wall to keep it water tight longer. It truly is a labor of love, it will take you about 4-5 hours.
  • After you use your tent on an outdoors trip, bring it home and air it out and make sure it is completely dry before you store it. A tent stuff sack is a breeding ground for mildew, which will grow on your tent if it is moist. Not only does mildew reek, it will eat into the tent fabric and weaken it considerably. Remember, dry is good.
  • Another common mistake when packing your tent is folding it into a neat little package. Your tent stuff sack is called a stuff sack for a reason. Take the sack, put in the poles, then the fly and then the tent body. This makes sense, consider this if you are setting up your tent in a windstorm. Are you really going to take the time to fold you tent nicely? No, you shouldn't be either. Also, consider this, same windstorm, you pull out your fly first, since this is the last piece to go on, it will just get in the way and get blown away while you are setting up the tent body. Put in the tent body last and it will be the first thing you grab when you set up your tent, as it should be. The other and more important reason for not folding the tent is the fly can form creases and cracks after being repeatedly being folded in the same way. While your tent may look nice and pressed, you will feel rather silly when water is seeping through the creases.
  • Sunlight and its UV rays rapidly deteriorate an expensive tent especially at high altitude. Unfortunately, you can't stop the sun from shining, but you can rig a tarp to cover the top of your tent. A common basecamp trick, the tarp will decrease the amount of direct sunlight your tents gets.
  • Keep foreign liquids off your tent as well, especially single wall tents, they will only diminish the properties of the tent. When foreign liquids happen to get on your tent, try to wash them off with warm water.

Hopefully you will not need to repair your tent in the field, but there may come a time when you need to be prepared. Rips and tears can be temporarily alleviated by heated duct tape, which you should have in abundance.

  • Usually the poles are first items to break, since they receive the most stress. Think about the torturous bend they have to go through in order support your tent and the amount of stress this puts on the metal. The accessory kit that comes with your tent should have a repair sleeve. A little aluminum tube, the sleeve fits over the break, use liberal amounts of duct tape to keep it in place.
  • Another common problem is a ripped pole sleeve, again duct tape should be able to repair the tear. Just remember that duct tape does not stick to moist areas and useless when cold. Use a lighter to warm up the tape and apply it to the rip. Continue to use the lighter on the tape so it can meld to the tent fabric better.
  • Perhaps the most annoying repair is a broken zipper. Tent zippers have the unenviable job of have to zip in circles or arch under incredible stress from the tent. When a zipper blows, it is hard to repair. Most tents have a mesh door, you can often "sew" the broken door to the mesh door as a temporary fix. Manufacturers offers zipper repair kits that can rejoin the broken zipper, but there is nothing for zipper with broken teeth. If the zipper separates and it is small, release tension on the tent by taking releasing the poles. The slack may be enough to run the zipper through and rejoin the teeth. As they say, an ounce of prevention can save you time and despair, so make sure your tent zippers are working well before you head out on your expedition.

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