Keep Your Tent In Tip-Top Shape

A tent can feel like a second home. One night in Louisiana, lying on a sticky Therm-a-rest, I added up the nights I'd slept in my tent while bike touring and realized I had spent no less than two years' time staring up at the cozy gray walls of my Kelty Gunnison.

That's longer than I've been on most housing leases. Proper tent care—and little things, like removing shoes before crawling inside—played a big part in making sure I got as many nights as possible out of that trusty, nylon fortress.

Want to ensure the comfort and longevity of your own vacation home beneath the stars? Here are some tips on protecting your tent:

  • Your primary directives are to keep your tent dry and out of direct sunlight. These might seem in direct opposition to each other because the fastest way to dry something is to hang it in the sun, but unfortunately the sun's UV rays will wear down the fancy tech material in your tent. If possible, find a shaded area to hang-dry.
  • Packing up a wet tent will lead to mold, mildew and misery, and who wants to make camp in a smelly, polyester allergy dome? The best way to keep your tent as dry as possible is to pitch it so that it's completely taut. This means staking down the guylines to avoid sagging, which can cause leaks in a downpour. You'll also want to use a footprint that matches the size of your tent's floor so that rain doesn't pool up around it.
  • Choose a smooth camping surface where pockets of water can't build up underneath your footprint, and clear away rocks and vegetation before staking to avoid snags.
  • Carry a tent repair kit that includes patches and a seam-sealer. Many tents come with a repair sleeve to temporarily fix your tent poles, but you should always carry duct tape with your tent just in case. Storm makes re-waterproofing products that can restore water resistance to your tent as it enters its golden years.
  • Don't trust your tent to the heartless machinations of a washer and dryer, which can stretch the nylon or pull at the seams. Lovingly hand-wash it in a tub using cold water, and hang to dry somewhere out of sunlight.
  • Wash the zippers, and keep them free of sand and grit so that the coating inside doesn't wear down.
  • Last, keep your shoes out of your tent. I don't even take off my shoes when I'm at home, but I always remove them before entering my tent. Sure, it can feel a little crazy worrying about dirt after a long day of hiking through mountains and filtering your own water, but if you want your gear to last for expeditions to come, you have to show it a little extra love.