Taking care of your tent - The Camping and Caravanning Club
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Taking care of your tent

Once you have your tent you need to look after it to guarantee a long life and comfortable camping.

Keeping your tent clean

Whatever your tent is made from, whether it's 100% cotton or a synthetic material, you should try to keep it clean and in good condition.

It is possible to thoroughly clean a tent, but it's not a job anyone looks forward to. With thought and good practice, you can keep your tent looking spick and span for a very long time without the need for major cleaning.

It’s a good idea to use inexpensive builder’s plastic sheeting under the tent when you’re pitching or putting it away. It keeps the main tent fabric off the grass where it could pick up grass or mud stains. If the ground is particularly poor, you can even leave it underneath your groundsheet during your holiday to protect the groundsheet itself.

Small sheets of the same plastic can be used around the doors and underneath muddy boots, backpacks and soggy clothing – but be aware that plastic can get slippery when wet.

Many tents can be packed away with their inner tents inside. If you do this, be extra careful not to get muck from the outside of the tent on to the inners. If you take the inners out before packing away, it’s worth keeping them in a separate bag to keep them clean.

Keep your tent and campsite tidy

Using plastic sheeting against mud is just one of several good habits to get into. 

Another is to keep all spare pegs, guys and other small parts in a sealable bag and wipe them off before putting them away. A quick wash-off in the water from your fire bucket is all that's needed. Keep the bag somewhere dry and handy so you can pop any bits into it straight away while camping, avoiding rust and lumps of dried mud getting everywhere.

Avoiding mould and mildew

Mould and mildew don’t just make the tent look grubby and smell bad, in some cases it can make it unusable. Leaving a cotton tent damp for an extended period can lead to the fabric rotting away and it forming holes.

It's best to take down your tent when it is as dry as possible. That won’t always be possible – we have all had to take tents down in the pouring rain - but avoid it if you can. 

  • Shake off as much water as possible and wipe more off with a clean dry cloth or a towel but not one that has been washed in detergent because this can damage the tent's waterproof coating.
  • If it is the slightest bit damp or indeed really wet you need another plan. 
  • If you have room in the car, drape the tent over the other luggage in the boot or perhaps over an empty back seat. 
  • If you need to pack the tent away damp unpack it and start the drying process immediately when you arrive home. 
  • Don’t put the job off - leaving a damp tent in its bag for just a few days has probably finished off more tents than anything else. 
  • Hang the tent up to dry somewhere airy - outside if you can or inside if you have room. When you are sure the tent is bone dry, it will keep much better if you store it lightly folded in the airing cupboard, rather than tightly packed in its bag.

Simple tent repairs

The most common damage and subsequent repair you will have to face with a modern tent is a broken or bent pole. It is always handy to have a spare. Some manufacturers supply an extra section of pole with their tents. Otherwise you can buy poles from your local camping retailer. It’s worth taking a pole with you to the shop to make sure you buy the correct type and size.

Almost as common will be a split seam or guy line anchor coming lose. It is all too easy to trip over a line or put just a little too much stress on the seams of a tent. A small sewing kit that includes some strong thread will enable you to deal with most simple repairs of this type, and you can usually buy repair kits at camping shops. Don’t forget to seal the seam afterwards (see below).

Most good tents will have tape-sealed seams. These can sometimes leak but are easy to repair with proprietary seam sealer. Your tent may come with a sample tube of sealant. Don’t try to seal seams until the tent is completely dry. Paint the sealer on to the seam and give it time to dry – a day or two is best so do the job well before your planned trip.

Small rips and tears

Small tears, punctures and rips in either tent fabric or groundsheets can be fixed temporarily with trusty 'gaffer' tape.

Self-adhesive tent patches are available in assorted fabrics and colours from the manufacturer and most better tents will contain a little piece of the tent’s fabric for more permanent patching.

The secret of a neat temporary repair, either with tape or a proper self-adhesive patch, is to make sure the area round the tear or hole is clean and dry. Then get somebody inside the tent to hold a solid flat object (a chopping board or book both work well) against the fabric so you have something firm to push against to get the tape or patch to stick flat and firm without creases or bubbles.

Finally give the patch and the area around it a good dose of reproofer to keep your tent waterproof for the rest of your holiday.

Reproofing your tent

Don't panic if your old tent starts leaking - it doesn't necessarily mean you have to start searching for a new one. It could be just condenstaion due to a lack of ventilation forming on the cold inner surface of tent, this is especially noticable with man made fabrics. Keep the air flowing to reduce this.

If there is a leak it's very likely you’ll be able to make your tent waterproof again whether you are at home or on a campsite. Reproofing materials come with full instructions, and are available at most decent camping or outdoor shops. Some brands to look out for are: Nikwax, Grangers and Storm.

And don’t forget you can inadvertently decrease the water resistance of your tent yourself. Detergents are designed to allow water to penetrate grease and muck so it can be washed away. If you allow detergent on to your tent it will do the same thing and let water in. As a result, don’t let children blow bubbles round the tent (if they ‘pop’ on the fabric you could find a damp patch later) and avoid drying wet towels on the side of your tent (there’s every chance some detergent will be left from the towel’s last time in the wash.

Looking after zips

Zips should be treated with respect. Don’t tread on them and do wash any mud or grit off as soon as possible. 

If your zip starts sticking, try not to force it. There are special lubricants on the market to free it up or you could use beeswax or a candle.

Never use washing up liquid or you could end up reducing your tent’s water resistance (see above).

An emergency repair kit for your tent

If you have room to pack it, here is a short list of useful items that will help if you have a problem with your tent or indeed other camping kit.

  • Roll of 'gaffer' tape
  • Spare pole section
  • Self-adhesive tent patches
  • Needle, thimble and strong thread
  • Eyelet kit with punch and eyeleting tool
  • Spare guy lines and fittings
  • Tube of seam sealant
  • Aerosol reproofing spray

Club Care Insurance

Tent Insurance from Club Care has been designed by members of the Camping and Caravanning Club so you can rest assured on your camping holiday!

Tent Insurance