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Tent Maintenance and Cleaning Tips to Extend The Life Of Your Tent

A little bit of dirt and a few stains are signs of a good adventure, but an unrepairable tent isn’t exactly a good…

Ultralight Zpacks tent set up at remote campground in the forest with sun shining through the trees

A little bit of dirt and a few stains are signs of a good adventure, but an unrepairable tent isn’t exactly a good thing. After miles on the trail and overnight stays at campsites of all kinds, your tent will inevitably start to see some wear and tear….especially if you have a dog that sleeps in the tent with you. Dirt, grime, and debris can take a toll both inside and outside, so it’s important to know proper tent care so you can keep on getting out for new adventures.

Being a good gear owner requires just a little bit of extra effort at first and eventually becomes second nature, leaving you with a closet full of well-loved, well-worn, and well cared for products. But besides that, we know first-hand that these items aren’t exactly cheap and caring for big-ticket products, like a tent, is all part of making an investment that could (hopefully) last a lifetime.

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So, to help you make your gear last, check out our guide on tent maintenance and tips for caring for and cleaning your tent.

Basic Tent Maintenance Tips

First, let’s start with some simple tips to help keep your tent clean and lasting long:

  • Avoid wearing shoes inside your tent
  • Use your tent’s footprint, a tarp, or a large cloth to layer under your tent while camping to protect the bottom
  • When setting up your tent, look out for twigs, rocks, or sharp edges that could puncture your tent
  • Brush the inside of your tent floor to remove dirt and debris daily, this is especially helpful if you camp with a dog
  • Always pitch your tent far enough away from a campfire or open flames to prevent accidents
  • Don’t leave food in your tent while you’re gone or a critter could chew through the material
  • Inspect your tent for any holes, rips, tears, and damage as catching small holes early on can prevent them from becoming bigger holes quickly
Extend the life of your tent by taking care of it during & after overnight camping trips. Read the best tips for tent care, cleaning & how to do repairs.

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How to Care For Your Tent While You’re Camping

  • Pick a shady spot to pitch your tent, especially if you’ll be there for a few days or more. This prevents the sun’s harsh UV rays from damaging it over time through break down of the fabric.
  • Open the vents and windows to aerate the inside of the tent and provide better circulation. This will dry out any stagnating moisture that is clinging to your tent walls. If you are camping in wet, humid conditions you may need to do this more often to prevent mold.
  • When packing up your tent, shake out your tent to remove any remaining dirt before removing the poles. Never pack your tent with anything left inside of it.
  • If you are backpacking and pitching your tent in different locations from day to day, try your best to take down your tent after the morning dew has evaporated or when the conditions are dry. This might not always be possible (e.g. when you’re camping in the rain or on a strict schedule) however, it’s a good rule of thumb to help extend the life of your tent — not to mention keep you dry at your next campsite!
  • When packing your tent, roll or fold it rather than stuffing it like you would a sleeping bag. This helps protect the materials and coatings. Don’t rush with putting your tent away.
  • Carry a tent repair kit. If you’re without one, you can try Leukotape, duct tape, and even band-aids to prevent small tent holes from growing when on the trail. You will want to put a small piece of tape on each side of the hole to properly prevent it from getting bigger.

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Tent Care Once You Are Home

  • Wipe off any stuck-on dirt, bird poop, tree sap, dust, or debris with a damp cloth. If you have been camping in a sandy area it’s worth dunking your zippers in water to remove any sand that might clog up the zipper. You can also use a bathtub with warm water and tent specific detergent to wash your tent if needed.
  • Let your tent dry completely before you store your tent.
  • If necessary, use a mild, biodegradable soap and lukewarm water to wipe any tough spots off.
  • Wipe any dirt off your poles with a damp cloth to keep them clean
  • Pitch your tent in your backyard or an open space after cleaning it to allow it to dry completely. Mildew and mold can begin to take form if you pack up a tent too soon after washing
  • If you can, use a large bag to store your tent at home rather than a compression sack. This helps ventilate the tent while you aren’t using it and help it last longer. It also helps maintain the coatings and material. A mesh laundry sack is a great idea to allow ventilation.
  • You can reseal seams or re-waterproof a tent easily at home to extend the life of your tent.
  • Inspect your tent for tears and holes that can easily be fixed with a patch or with Tenacious Tape Repair Tape.
Extend the life of your tent by taking care of it during & after overnight camping trips. Read the best tips for tent care, cleaning & how to do repairs.

How to Clean and Care for your Tent Poles

Poles aren’t always something we think too much about unless they’re broken or in need of a replacement, so why wait until then to give them some attention?

  • Next time you break down your tent remember to snap your poles section by section and start from the middle as to not wear out the cords or splinter the exterior. Gently pulling your poles apart will prevent any extra wear and tear while collapsing your tent.
  • Always wipe your poles down with a damp cloth afterward to keep them in good condition.
  • Breaking a tent pole is less common than a tear but can happen. Carrying a tent pole splint in your first aid kit is a good idea. If you’re in a jam on the trail without a splint and your pole breaks you can also use a tent stake with duct tape or Leukotape to repair a broken pole.
Extend the life of your tent by taking care of it during & after overnight camping trips. Read the best tips for tent care, cleaning & how to do repairs.

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  1. Thanks for you blog post. I might just add that if you’re using a freestanding/semi-freestanding tent that uses poles, sometimes the elastic shock cords inside the poles get worn out and need to be replaced. Pretty simple to replace them (a plethora of tutorials on YouTube). I just replaced them on one of my tents.

  2. You got my attention when you said that you could puncture your tent if you set it up without looking out for twigs, rocks, or sharp edges. This is what exactly I failed to do when my family had a camping trip last week. I was the one who set up the tent, and I did not realize that there were broken pieces of glasses on the floor. We will be sure to have it repaired so we could use it again for our next camping adventure, and we will also take note of your tips moving forward.