Caring for your Tents

Getting to Know Your Tent

It is important to become familiar with your tent before taking it away on a trip. Struggling with unknown pieces of fabric and poles in wild weather or an unfamiliar environment can be dangerous as well as embarrassing.

Pitch the tent at home first following the instructions supplied. Check that all of the components are present and in good order. Use your backyard or lounge room to learn how to position the poles, the location of pegging and guying points, the operation of doors, vents and other adjustable features. Ensure you learn how to attach and detach the tent's flysheet.

This is also the best time to use liquid seam sealant on any exposed seams. This is particularly important with tents that do not have factory sealed floors. Most people prefer to apply seal sealant on the inside of the fly seams, as sealant will permanently mark the fabric. If sealant was not supplied with your tent, it can be obtained from most outdoor stores. Apply such finishes in an outside area as the fumes may hazardous in an enclosed area, and allow them to dry fully before storing or using your tent.

In the Field

Select your campsite with care. Look for high, well draining ground that is protected from the prevailing wind, and is well away from overhanging dead trees or branches. Clear away all sticks and rocks which may damage your tent floor, and remember to remove your boots before entering the tent. Using a separate groundsheet underneath your tent floor will also help protect the floor.

To prevent your tent from blowing away in a sudden gust while it is being erected, make sure you peg out at least the windward end of the tent before inserting poles. The tent should be positioned so that the entrance door faces away from the weather. Even in mild weather, it is advisable to peg the storm guys before you go to bed: a storm can blow up very quickly and no-one likes to leave a warm sleeping bag in the middle of the night to go out to adjust the guy ropes. It is also sensible to attach the storm guys if you are leaving your tent set up during the day while you go for a walk. A tent that is tautly pitched also reduces the chances of a flysheet, laden with condensation, from touching the inner tent.

It is generally best to sleep with your head towards the door if possible. This enables you to quickly exit the tent and enables easy access to your gear stored in the vestibule. It also allows your moisture-laden breath to escape out a slightly open door, thus reducing condensation in the tent.

NEVER cook inside your tent. Most lightweight tents are made from synthetic materials, so it is likely they will melt in contact with a naked flame. There is also the danger of hazardous fumes building up inside the tent.

Be aware that vapours from petroleum products and insect repellents can damage the coatings of your tent. Prolonged exposure to UV rays will also cause fabric failure, so pitch your tent in a shady spot where possible.

Avoid the temptation to flick shock-corded poles together, as it damages the joining elements. Resulting burrs can shred the shockcord or split the pole.

Storage

Before you take your tent down, shake it to remove as much moisture as possible. You should also make sure that the floor of the tent is swept free of dirt, twigs and pebbles, as these can abrade the fabric.

After striking your tent, remember to scatter any sticks or rocks you may have moved back to where they were and to leave the site as you found it. This is also a good time to check around the campsite to ensure you have collected all the pegs. If you are putting the pegs in the same bag as the tent, clean them thoroughly so as not to soil the tent. Better still, prevent them from damaging the tent by packing them in a stuff sack of their own.

Treat your tent poles with particular respect. At their strongest while flexed into shape and linked with the tent, they are less robust folded up. A separate stuffsack can provide some extra protection and they are less likely to be damaged if they are carried inside your rucksack, rather than strapped to the outside. Avoid stepping on them as this can result in damage to the tubing.

To remove poles from pole sleeves, push gently rather than pull. Pulling can separate sections of the pole inside the sleeve and make it more difficult to get them out.

When packing your tent into its stuffsack, roll it or fold it differently each time. Varying the folding pattern prevents deep creases from forming which, over time, can flex off the coating.

A tent should never be stored wet. This is obviously not always possible to avoid in the field, but it is a definite rule for home storage. After a trip take time to 'air' your tent so all excess moisture can evaporate. Any moisture left on a tent that is stored for long periods will turn to mildew, which can be difficult to remove even from synthetic fabrics. Store loose if possible, rather than tightly rolled or folded.

Washing

Most detergents will cause the coating to delaminate, so try to avoid washing your tent. Keeping it clean in the field is the best bet, but if cleaning is necessary sponge it down with lukewarm water and a mild, pure soap, or use a specialised tent detergent. Rinse well and dry thoroughly before storing. Careful spot cleaning using methylated spirits can sometimes help remove ground in grime. Do not machine wash or dry.

Reproofing

All coatings eventually lose their effectiveness. The tent floor is the area that often requires attention first. It can either be replaced with new material or reproofed using one of the various proofing agents, such as Texnik, available from outdoor stores. Follow the instructions carefully and always use a very well ventilated area.

Zippers

The occasional application of a silicon spray will minimise zipper wear and promote a smooth zipper motion.