Gear Shed

Q:

How can I revive my tent’s super-sticky rain fly?

I rolled out my tent fly after not using it for a while and it was all stuck together. With difficulty I was able to unstick it for use. But if I roll it up again, I’m sure it will get stuck and perhaps rip when I try to use it again. I've aired and sunned it out on the line for many days. No change. Help! Charles Fairfax, California

Lighthouse Tent     Photo: courtesy, Black Diamond

Black Diamond Lighthouse

Lighthouse Tent

A:Hmmm. An interesting problem. Is there any sign of mildew on the tent? Was it packed tightly for a long period of time? It could be that some combination of moisture/warmth/tight packing has caused the polyurethane coating on the fly to deteriorate a little and become semi-liquid, and it’s now gluing itself together. It is my understanding that this was not uncommon in older tents—those made a decade or more ago. If it’s a very uniform stickiness, this could be what happened.

It could also be something else, something environmental when you last used it. So try this: Get a big bucket or plastic tub, fill it with warm water and a little Dawn detergent, and sluice the fly around in that for a while. Then rinse it thoroughly and air-dry out of the sun. Maybe some tree residue or something is causing it to stick.

If that doesn’t work, well, you have a problem. Depending on the age of the tent, it could be possible for you to order a fly replacement from the manufacturer.

Otherwise, it’s probably time to buy a new tent. Sierra Designs’ Meteor Light ($239; sierradesigns.com) is a classic two-person backpacking tent…really a great performer. I also like Marmot’s Aeolos 2P ($335; marmot.com), which has two doors and two vestibules for easy in-out and good gear storage. For something a little different, Black Diamond’s Lighthouse ($379; bdel.com) uses a highly water-resistant fabric with Nextec’s Epic treatment so that only one fabric layer is necessary. I’ve been using a Lighthouse this summer and like it a lot.

I always recommend packing tents loosely in a breathable sack—a cotton pillowcase works great—and most tent makers now include breathable sacks as well. It helps ensure the maximum lifespan of the tent.

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