Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Take Care of Your Tent

If you camp, you know that a good tent is an investment. You'll want it to last through several camping seasons. My husband and I bought a new tent last summer, after retiring our old tent which we had purchased in 1995. We got our money's worth out of it and intend to do the same with our new tent.

Here's how to take care of your tent and protect your investment.

1. Use tent seam sealer. In theory, it'd be great to have a tent that was protected from leaks right out of the box. In reality, that's not usually the case. You can buy a bottle of seam sealer at camping supply stores for around $5.00. It's worth every penny. The seams are the weak points on a tent. Seam sealer makes them water tight. When you set the tent up for the first time, seal all the seams before you get stuck camping in the rain. 

2. Keep the tent clean. Nobody wants to sleep in a dirty, gritty tent filled with food crumbs. Not only that, but a dirty tent will attract insects and rodents when the tent is in storage. Keep it clean by setting some ground rules. In our family, we always take our shoes off when we enter the tent and we never eat or store food in the tent when we're camping. Not only will this help keep the tent clean, but it will keep wild animals away from the tent when we're sleeping.  

3. Keep your tent dry. You can't help it if it rains while you're camping. Likewise, you can't help it if you have to pack up a wet tent in the rain. But, you CAN help storing a wet tent. If the tent is wet (even a little bit), it's crucial that you set it up again as soon as you get home. Wet tents folded up in storage will mildew and be unusable. Only fold and put away the tent when it is bone dry. 

4. Reconsider letting the kids play in the tent. My husband and I usually let our kids play in the tent. It's never been much of a problem, until our most recent camping trip.

My youngest son, our 3-year-old wild child, had a Tarzan moment and swung from one of the interior windows. He tore the zipper off and ripped a bit of the fabric.

Luckily, the rip doesn't go through the mosquito screen and the zipper was easily fixed, but the window covering remains ripped on the inside. I'll have to sew it and give it a heavy dose of seam sealer, otherwise it will be a likely spot for leaks on our next camping trip. Until he's a bit older, we aren't going to let the kids play in there anymore. 

5. Make repairs as soon as possible. Minor rips and tears should be repaired right away. Not only can insects and water invade through any small openings, but little tears have a way of turning into big tears. Use a needle and thread to repair seams and apply several layers of seam sealer over the repair for maximum protection. 

Tent camping is an inexpensive way to take a family vacation. Protect your tent by taking proper care of it. You'll get many years worth of camping trips and memories out of it.   


  1. We were given a popup tent and the biggest problem was that canvas. I bought canvas for repair and did use a Viking sewing machine to fix spots. At our last camping trip in May a rip started again in a rotten place near my repairs when we opened up the popup. It started to rain. I went to the outside and used heavy quilting safety pins to attatch canvas to the outside. This worked well for a temporary fix. I also use fabric glue and fabric spray for some of the repairs.


  2. Great tips! We have a canvas tent from the 70's... my husband got it from a relative back in the day. We always bring a tarp with, so if it starts to rain, we put it over the top... just in case. We always lay a tarp underneath the tent as well, to preserve the bottom of it.
    Now we just bought a camper, so the tent won't see as much action, but we'll be sure to store it well.

  3. Carol - I'm hoping you check back on this comment thread because I'm wondering what type of thread you use for your repairs. I still haven't fixed our window and am debating what to use. Regular thread, fishing line or something else? Maybe it doesn't matter?

    Resweater - My husband and I borrowed an old canvas tent from someone once only to find that it had been stored while wet. It smelled so bad we couldn't sleep in it and ended up sleeping in his truck - lol. That's when we finally bought our own tent all those years ago! Good for you for making your tent last!

  4. Barb, I used regular thread for major repairs. and because I could not physically get the sewing machine to the rips, I made a large binding over the rips and sewed over a lot of thickness. The canvas I bought complemented the canvas on our popup. I had to use the quilting presser foot on my Viking sewing machine also.

    However, I didn't take out all the rotten canvas and so this is why we got a rip again.

    Spray Adhesive proved to be the best. It cost $30 and is manufactured by Rowley Co., Gastonia, NC--800-343-4542. You spray both surfaces that will cling together. I also had some fabric glue for touch ups where the spray didn't cover. This withstood a downpour the first time we went camping with our used popup. Heavy quilting safety pins came to the rescue the last time we camped with it, but I did get bit by insects at night.

    We aren't camping this summer because it is very hot. In the fall I may use the sewing machine binding again and/or Resweater's idea about a heavy tarp.

    It will take thousands of dollars to replace that canvas professionally and it might not even be possible. Fortunately there are many months in Florida where we can camp and we do have air conditioning in it.