A good tent is your ticket to the outdoors. RV camping is great, but it’s not really a one-on-one meet-up with nature. It’s more like sleeping in a traveling hotel room. And there are certain places where the RV just won’t go.
Tents are ultra-portable, easy to use, and can last you many years. As long as you take care of them!
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how you can show your tent some love. Here are seven cleaning and maintenance tips that will keep your tent looking and working great for many years.
1. Dry is Always Better
Water is the ultimate downfall for many tents. And it’s not heavy storms that do them in. It’s the slow damage that lots of water exposure can do.
Do your best to pitch the tent in an area where water won’t pool around it. This keeps the floor and the footprint from losing their waterproofing. And make sure there is plenty of ventilation in the tent when you’re in there. This keeps water from condensing on the sides, which can lead to mold.
If you do get caught in the rain, give the tent plenty of time to dry out before you pack it up again. And if this isn’t an option, take the tent back out as soon as you’re back home so it can dry out. It’s best to set it up in your yard on a sunny day.
But if that isn’t an option either, hang the tent up on a clothesline inside. Preferably in a room without carpet so it doesn’t leak on your floors.
2. Avoid the Sun If You Can
Yes, we did just say that you can set the tent up in the sun to dry. But you don’t want to leave a tent in an open, sunny space for too long. The UV radiation from the sun breaks down the tent fabric. This can bleach out the color of the tent and make the fabric more susceptible to tears.
If you’re camping in the woods or mountains, this shouldn’t be an issue. Just be sure to choose an area in your campsite where your tent will receive some shade. Camping in an open area or on a beach can be more problematic.
If you plan to stay more than a few days in a sunny area, consider putting a separate tarp up over your tent. This tarp protects the tent fabric and makes it much cooler inside the tent.
3. Wash Your Tent
Did you know that, like any fabric, you can wash your tent? In fact, you should wash your tent on a regular basis to keep it clean and fresh.
But unlike most fabrics, you should never put your tent into the washing machine or dryer. These machines can stretch and tear the fabrics. Always handwash.
Use a non-detergent soap. You want something that’s not harsh so that you don’t strip away the weatherproofing. And you want something that doesn’t have a strong smell so that your tent doesn’t attract bugs or animals.
Fill up a large sink with warm (not hot), soapy water. Then submerge your tent and give it a good working under the water. Use a soft brush to scrub at areas that are stained or soiled.
Then rinse the tent so there’s no soap residue. And squeeze as much water out of it as you can. But be careful not to rip or pull at the fabric. Then hang the tent up in a place where it can dry for at least 24 hours. You want it to be totally dry before you pack it up again.
If you camp regularly, you should do this after every two or three camping trips. If your tent only gets used a few times a year, then cleaning it once per year will do.
4. Prepare the Site Before You Pitch
Preventative maintenance is key. And one of the most basic things you can do to keep your tent safe is to prepare the site before you put the tent up.
Most campsites will have an area that’s clearly the preferred tenting spot. The area should be clear of debris and plants. Put your tent there rather than trying to clear a different spot. If others have tented there before, there’s less likely to be debris that can puncture your tent.
Before you set up, do a visual inspection and remove sticks, stones, and other large items from directly under where the tent will sit. Not only does this make it safer for the tent floor, but it also makes it more comfortable for you to walk and lie on the floor once you’re inside the tent.
Place the tent on a flat area, but not a low area. You don’t want to end up in the middle of a flooded pool after a rainstorm. And putting up a tent at too much of an angle, like on a hill, can put a strain on the poles.
It’s always a good idea to use a tent footprint. This is a special tarp that goes under your tent. The tent floor is designed to be tough. It never hurts to add another layer of protection since the floor is the most susceptible to rips.
5. Keep the Critters Out
Camping with pets is great, but never leave your dog inside an unsupervised tent. They’ll claw and gnaw their way out and your tent will be busted for good.
If you do plan to camp with a dog, bring an extra tarp to put on the inside of your tent to protect the floor from your dog’s nails. Also, make sure you’ve had the dog in the tent before. Some basic training can keep them from freaking out and busting through your tent wall.
Pack food and other scented items in airtight containers and leave them outside. Obviously, if you’re in a area with bears, you’ll want to abide by the rules for camping near bears, but even in other areas, critters will try to get into your tent if they smell food. They’ll claw and rip through even the strongest tent material.
6. Patch & Waterproof Early
If you’re using a tent regularly (and we hope you are!), it’s inevitable that you’ll have some holes in it from time to time. It’s important that you patch those up before they get worse.
Ignoring a small rip seems harmless, but with all the pushing and pulling that a tent goes through, that small rip will get bigger before you know it. Use a special tent adhesive to seam together rips. It’s always a good idea to bring a patch kit along with you while you’re camping.
Waterproofing is also something to keep in mind in your regular tent maintenance. All tents come with waterproofing solution already on the fabric. However, this wears out over time, and the more you camp, the sooner it will wear out.
Aim to reapply a waterproofing sealer every three or four years. Make sure the tent is totally dry and in an area where it won’t get dirty. Apply a seam sealer to the seams. Then spray on a tent spray made to keep the fabric waterproof. Allow the spray to dry to the manufacturer’s specifications before you put the tent away.
7. Proper Storage = Longer Tent Life
When it comes down to it, if you don’t store your tent properly, you’re asking for trouble. As we’ve mentioned before, never put your tent into storage when it’s wet. This is asking for mold and mildew, which can break down the tent fabric. Allow the tent plenty of time to completely dry after each use.
Never stuff the tent into its storage bag. Fold it up into thirds. Then roll the tent up, ensuring that you push as much air out of the tent as possible. Rolling puts less stress on the seams than folding.
Make sure all of the poles are disassembled and folded up properly. Then store them in a separate storage bag so that they don’t puncture the tent while it’s moved into storage. If you consistently store your tent this way, it will give you years of use.
Do you have any other useful tent maintenance tips? Leave them in the comments below. We love to hear your feedback!