Your shelter is massively important.
It’s the key to preventing illnesses from harsh rainstorms, getting a good night’s sleep, and maintaining a hospitable environment for you to rest in during the downtime on your camping trip.
If you’re going with a group of folks, it’s also the only sense of privacy that you’re going to have for those few days or that week-long trip. It’s time to treat it right, and here’s how you do it.
Waterproofing Your Tent is Critical and Cheap
Waterproofing your tent is like giving a shield to your shield. After enough rainfall, your tent starts deteriorating.
Over time you’re going to see small leaks take shape and begin compromising more areas of your tent.
You can pick up an extremely inexpensive waterproofing spray to treat the outside of your tent. To make it extra cheap, look for shoe waterproofing sprays (usually available in 8.4 oz cans).
You might have to grab two depending on how much surface area your tent has, but it will be cheaper than alternatives.
Waterproofing preserves your tent for future use, and can be used to patch pinhole-sized leaks in a pinch. Nothing beats professional repair, but this can give you a bit of extra slack if you can’t afford repairs right away.
Shake It Off Before You Store It
Part of caring for it means storing it properly.
We’ll get into where you store it at home in a minute, but for now, stashing it back in your bag or truck bed requires a bit of TLC.
I find that half the time, when I shake out the tent before folding it up, I see debris, dirt, and occasionally patches of moisture that flick into the wind that I didn’t see beforehand.
Moisture is absolutely terrible for your tent or tarp storage, which brings us into our next tip.
Story It Dry
Dry storage is obviously important: you see it on every warning label, you read it in every blog, but it’s because this fact can’t be stressed enough.
Your objective is to eliminate the potential threat of mold and mildew growth. Mildew doesn’t necessarily damage your tarp or tent, but it can provide major health risks.
Breathing in mildew can cause asthma, worsen pre existing lung-related conditions, and at the base of it all, you’re breathing in extremely harmful bacteria for hours upon hours while you sleep.
Mildew happens in warm, damp environments, just like mold.
When it comes to mold, it will eat through your tent. If you aren’t storing it properly and you have the beginning of mold (unresolved moisture that stays in your tent when you pack it), it doesn’t take long for it to spread.
You want to catch it before stashing your tent and it starts to develop an odor. If you go a month or more between camping trips, you could ruin a $300.00 tent simply by storing it wet.
There are obvious health concerns with this as well.
Keep Boots and Tools Outside of the Tent
Even if you have high-quality bucket-style floors in your tent, keep your boots and gear outside. If you need to get a padlock on an ABS plastic locking chest, then do that, but don’t bring it in your tent.
Some hiking boots have cleats on the bottom for better traction when you’re rock climbing or on a steady incline, and those will shred your flooring like nothing else.
Even if it doesn’t come with cleats, it still provides unnecessary damage and abrasion that will lead to major issues down the line.
As for gear, you can bring your backpack in the tent, so long as there’s nothing that’s being stored externally. If your keys or a knife protrude through a side pocket, they’re going to mess up your tent flooring/siding as well.
If everything is packed internally, it’s okay to bring the bag in. If you absolutely need to bring certain things into the tent, grab a camping table and prop it up inside.
Clean With Non-Abrasive Methods
Tents aren’t all-powerful, even when marketing materials tell us that they are.
Time and stress will wear them down, so provide a little less stress by using non-abrasive cleaning utensils, such as the soft side of a sponge or a dry microfiber rag.
Hard plastic brush bristles can easily puncture holes in your tent material, especially with a lot of back-and-forth motion on tough, stuck-on dirt.
The difficult part is cleaning your tent while adhering to the step all about keeping it dry. If you’re cleaning it off in the driveway at home after a long trip, hose it down and hang it up over your car like a cover.
Do this during a sunny day, and you’ll use a bit of natural light to help speed up the drying process. Just be sure to check all the corners for moisture before storing it until next time.
Patch Up When Necessary, But Get It Professionally Repaired ASAP
Before you start looking up shops nearby or mail-in services, you don’t need to professionally repair every single type of tent.
If you picked up an inexpensive, basic tent from a superstore, you don’t want to put more into the repairs than you are in the initial tent purchase cost.
We’re talking about 2-4 person (and higher) tents, and major damages that a bit of waterproofing or patching won’t fix.
As for patching, you can use a few things to patch up your tent when you get home:
- Hot Glue Gun: Takes less than a minute, and seals it up pretty well. Even good for repairing seams.
- Stitch Patch: You’ll have to waterproof this afterward, but take an old tarp or something that you’re not using while camping, cut a slightly oversized square out of it, and stitch it onto your tent. To prevent leaks and further damage, you can apply hot glue around the edges, or waterproof as we said.
- Buy a Patch Kit: These are fairly inexpensive, somewhere between $10.00 and $20.00 for most patch kits, and can be used while you’re camping to prevent more damages from happening before you store it.
Your Tent Care Is a Top Priority
You need to upkeep your tent.
We know that much, but starting out with a lower-maintenance tent in the first place is a great way to kick off the camping season properly.
We’ve reviewed tents and tarps, as well as all other essential camping gear that you need to have a stellar trip.
Remember: it’s your shelter from the rain, from insects and from the uncertain darkness of the forest. Treat it well, and it will do the same for you.