Essentials: Protect That Shelter

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, August 1995

Essentials: Protect That Shelter
By Douglas Gantenbein

The tent of your dreams won't stay dreamy for long without regular maintenance. Some hints that should keep a backcountry roof over your head for years to come:

Adhere to Setup Etiquett
Ease shock-corded pole sections together rather than letting them snap together forcefully--bending one can send everything off in the wrong direction. Protect the canopy from the sun's destructive ultraviolet rays by always using the fly and, when possible, pitching your tent in a shady spot.

Keep Up with the Housecleaning
Dirt is a tent's enemy--it eats at the waterproof coating on the floor and can interfere with a zipper's job. Always use a ground sheet, making sure it's cut a bit smaller than the tent's footprint to avoid catching water. Keep mesh doors and their zippers out of the dirt, shake the tent out before stowing it, and consider packing along a tiny whisk broom to get the floor clean. If a zipper gets stuck, loosen it with some bar soap or lip balm.

Put It Away Nicely
Storing a damp tent will bring on mildew, which weakens the nylon, causes waterproof coatings to peel, and makes the whole thing smell like a locker room. After every camping trip, assemble your tent at home, let it dry out thoroughly, and store it in a large, breathable bag--a cotton pillowcase works fine.

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