Gear Guy

How often do I need to seal my tent?

I have a year-old Marmot Swallow that I really love. I spent about 60 nights in the tent last summer and wondering when I might need to think about resealing the ses. I spent a good bit of money on the tent, and want it to last forever. How often is resealing necessary, and can you recommend a sealer? Thanks for your help. Carter Grant Alexandria, Virginia

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OK, first off, I must disabuse you of one notion: No matter what you do, your tent will NOT last forever. In fact, depending upon how much sun exposure your tent got last summer, it’s perhaps already approaching middle age, in tent years. UV radiation, moisture, grit—all these things break down the nylon and polyester fibers in a tent. And while it may look perfectly fine, some day it will reach a point where even a slight breeze will demolish it. I’ll never forget the long-ago Rainier climb when I packed my beloved—but very old—Swedish mountaineering tent. At 11,000 feet, in winds gusting to 40 or so, it decided to revert to its original molecular form, and began to shred in the wind.

Anyway, as for seam sealing, it’s necessary as often as it’s necessary, which should not be often. The Swallow ($359), a heavy-duty three-season tent, already has taped seams. So as long as they’re holding up, it’s fine. I’ve never actually seen tent tape delaminate, although of course it can. Should that occur, my first step would be to ship it back to Marmot and have them re-tape the seams, as I think using an after-market sealant would be a waste of time. Of course, you also can re-coat the floor, which may prove useful. Kenyon makes a product called Recoat 3 which is designed just for that purpose—$8 for a ten-ounce jar, which should be enough for the Swallow’s floor.

How to ensure your tent lives as long as possible? Three steps. One, keep it out of the sun—pitch it in the shade of a tree if you can. Two, keep it clean. Sponge-mop it after any use where it gets dirty. Three, keep it dry. Store it loosely in a breathable cotton bag. And NEVER put it in a clothes dryer.

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