We put together a few tips to help you get the most out of your gear.
Store your tent in a cool, dry environment. Pack the tent loosely, and, if possible, leave the shock-corded poles completely or partially assembled. Never pack or store your tent if it is dirty and/or damp. If you do so, mildew can form and ruin the waterproof coating on your tent. Mildew will cause your tent to smell and can eventually delaminate and damage the polyurethane coating. This will cause your tent to leak. There is no cure for mildew damage. Prolonged moisture on the polyurethane coating (storing the tent wet for more than a few days) can cause hydrolysis. The coating becomes soft and sticks to itself, peeling from the fabric that will lead to leakage.
On the Trail
Never store food in your tent. Animals will often tear or bite their way into a tent to get your food.
When assembling the poles, never allow the pole sections to snap against each other. Always make sure that all pole sections are fully engaged before bending. Keep the poles clean and free of silt, sand and salt, taking special care with the aluminum tips, as they are not anodized and can corrode.
Ultraviolet (UV) Light
Ultraviolet light degrades lightweight tent fabric (and almost any synthetic material). UV light will cause the fabric to fade, lose strength and eventually disintegrate. The amount of UV damage is directly related to the fabric's exposure to the sun and the altitude at which the tent is pitched. If it is left pitched during the day, high-altitude exposure can damage a tent beyond use within a month. The best way to prolong the life of your tent is to keep it out of the sun. Pitch your tent in a shady spot whenever possible. By striking (taking your tent down) in the morning and pitching your tent late in the day, your tent will last many years.
Cleaning Your Tent
Never machine wash or machine dry your tent. For localized cleaning, use a sponge with warm water. When cleaning the entire tent, wash in a tub (bathtub) of cold water. Never use hot water, bleach, dish washing liquid, pre-soaking solutions, or spot removers. If you use soap, always use a non-detergent soap. Dry your tent by pitching it in the shade or by line drying only. Never machine dry your tent.
If you break a tent pole, repair the break temporarily by splinting the pole with a short aluminum sleeve (called a repair sleeve, available at many outdoor gear retailers). The aluminum repair sleeve is fitted over the broken pole section and taped (or wedged) into place. In a pinch, ski pole repair sleeves, tent stakes and even branches can be used to splint broken tent tubes.
One of the keys to zipper longevity is to keep them free of sand and grit. When pitching your tent, be careful to keep the door and window zippers out of the dirt. Never step on the zipper. Keep zippers clean by washing them (at home) with a garden hose and pressure nozzle. Most zipper failures result from wear to the coating on the inside of the zipper slider (the metal toggle). Once that coating wears off, the metal abrades rapidly, and the zipper slider no longer joins the continuous plastic coils securely.
Tears and Other Damage
Small holes and tears can be repaired in the field using a needle and thread, adhesive repair tape or liquid urethane (Mcnett™ Seam Grip). Field repairs do not void the tent's warranty.
Top Ten List of Tent Absolute Do's and Don'ts
- Above all else, keep open flames, matches, fuel sources and heat sources away from tent fabrics. Most tent fabrics are flame resistant but not fireproof. For that matter, use extreme caution when using fuel powered lanterns or heaters inside the tent. Always err on the side of using battery operated devices when at all possible.
- Never leave a tent unattended without first staking and guying it up. Zip up your tent before leaving it unattended for prolonged periods of time, or if you have a canopy, break it down.
- Oxygen can become depleted in a tent, especially if your running a heater, or if the tent has been closed up for a long time. For your dog's and your own stake, make sure your tent has adequate ventilation. Even in cool or cold weather, keep a window or door open a crack to allow fresh air to circulate.
- Do not use harsh chemicals on tent fabrics. Avoid spraying insecticides, bug repellent, hair spray or aerosols anywhere near tent fabrics. These chemicals can burn through tent fabrics and degrade waterproofing.
- Avoid packing your tent when its wet. If you have to pack it wet, open it up and allow it to dry out thoroughly as soon as possible.
- Always guy up your tent on windy days.
- Never tie your dog to our tent. Place your dog in a exercise pen or crate instead.
- Store your tent in the off-season in a cool, dry place.
- Always leave your fly sheet on and periodically treat your tent with a U.V. protectant.
- Seal all seams with a seam sealant upon first use and once a season thereafter.