How Do I Properly Care for My Tent?

Follow these 10 tips from repair professionals and your shelter should last approximately forever

May 6, 2016
Outside Magazine

Take care of your tent and it will take care of you.    Photo: Dan Holz


Tents are designed to stand up to the elements, but they need proper care if you want them to last more than a season or two. To find out how to protect your multi-hundred-dollar investment, I asked three tent repair experts for their top repair tips. Here’s what they said.

#1: Pick Your Camping Spot Wisely

It all starts with a proper pitch. “It helps to set up your tent in a protected area instead of an exposed ridge,” says Charlie Lane, a repair tech at MSR who fixes up to 200 tents per month. He doesn’t want you to miss out on a great view, but Lane warns that your tent might get unnecessarily battered by the wind on a ridge.

#2: Build and Stake Your Tent Properly

Tent manufacturers design their tents to withstand a windstorm and downpour, but pieces will break if they’re improperly used. Lane sees a lot of snapped tent poles and ripped rain flies because users didn’t follow instructions. He suggests spending the extra time to double check that everything is taut and correctly inserted.

#3: Keep Your Tent Clean

Oil and dirt will eventually ruin your tent’s waterproof fly, so when it gets noticeably dirty you need to clean it the same way you would clean your Gore-Tex jacket. MSR makes Shelter Wash, but mild soaps also work. Hand wash only, and make sure the fly is fully dry before you pack it away. 

#4: Dry Your Tent

The seam tape will peel or the polyurethane coating will break down if you store your tent when it’s wet, says Lindsey Stone, operations manager at Rainy Pass, a Seattle-based authorized Gore-Tex repair shop. It’s also likely to get moldy. Stone suggests setting up your tent at home every time you return from a trip to let it fully dry out. 

#5: Don’t Store Your Tent in a Stuff Sack

Hauling your tent in a stuff sack to a campsite is fine, but when it’s sitting in your garage, Lane suggests storing it in a looser sack to give the materials room to breathe. The extra space also keeps the fly and seam tape from getting crimped.

#6: Be Kind to Your Zippers

Stone sees more zipper repairs than anything else at her shop. That’s because users yank them too hard. To give your zipper a little extra life, Stone suggests being patient if they get caught on a piece of the tent and cleaning them with a wet cloth or something like Zip Care by Gear Aid, which includes a brush and lubricant. Cleaning your zippers will ensure dust and sand don’t eat away at the metal. 

#7: Wax Your Zippers

Waxing the zipper track keeps it sliding efficiently. It also prevents dust and sand from getting in. Lane says products like Zipcare are great, but candle wax also works.

#8: UV-Treat Your Tent

Stone says she often sees tents that are so battered by the sun that their rain flies and outer walls are as brittle as paper. To prevent this decomposition, she suggests using a product like McNett’s UV Tech, which acts as a sunscreen for the outer fabric. 

#9: Rinse Your Poles

“We see a fair number of poles come in that are corroded by saltwater or salt air,” says Iris Diligencia, a repair tech supervisor at MSR. She says the salt oxidizes your poles and eventually causes them to break. Diligencia suggests rinsing off your poles even if you weren’t right on the beach.

#10: Don’t Rely on Duct Tape for Long-Term Repairs

Yes, duct tape is great for a quick fix when you tear your tent on the trail, but the tape will break down and peel off over time. For a longer-term fix, Stone suggests using Tenacious Tape, which is more durable and has a stronger glue.

Filed To: Camping, Tents

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Need a Gear Fix?

Open email. Get latest gear. Repeat.

Thank you!