How to look after your family tent: 6 tips

vango-2015-lifestyle-tents-airbeam-elite-inspire-2709Buying a new tent is an exciting thing. Aside from that little rush we get from a bit of retail therapy, you’ve chosen the best family tent for you and now you’ve just got to plan the trip away. A new tent signifies the prospect of plenty of wholesome, happy camping trips in the future!

Once the right tent has been chosen and you’ve found the best way to pitch it, you might not think much more about it, but there’s more to consider.

Your new tent will have all kinds of features and useful bits that should make your camping experience that bit more comfortable. Choose the right tent for your needs and your camping trips will be full of pleasure, but fail to do these things after buying your tent and that pleasure may be short lived.

Looking after your tent properly will pay off dividends in the long run. A little bit of extra care and effort will work wonders. So here, without further ado, are a few top tips on how to look after your new tent.

How to Look After a Tent:

1. Weather your polycotton tent:

Why you should do this: If a polycotton tent is used in prolonged medium to heavy rain without being weathered expect it to allow a small amount of water through the fabric, a mist may form on the inside of the tent. This may lead to the seemingly logical conclusion that it’s leaking.

The idea of ‘weathering’ is to give your tent the experience of getting wet and drying out once or twice before it is put to ‘proper’ use. The weathering process is important as it, for want of a better term, ‘teaches’ polycotton tent fabric the process of being waterproof.

sprinkler

Using a garden sprinkler or hose in the garden is the best way to weather your tent.

When dry, the fibers of polycotton fabric are tightly knitted together, with only microscopic ‘pores’ between them. It is these pores that make a tent breathable and create a cooler, more comfortable internal environment by allowing air to travel in from the outside and ventilate the tent. This is why polycotton tents always feel cooler inside than polyester ones.

When the fabric gets wet the fibres absorb some water and swell. This swelling helps the fabric to knit together, reducing the size of the pores and preventing water passing through. It is a similar principle to how Gore-Tex works.  This cycle of dry-to-wet-to-dry needs to be done once or twice to allow the fabric to knit together.

Due to the more complex manufacturing involved, seams are more prone to water ingress and may need a spay of a tent waterproofing to make them more water resistant, don’t worry because this is typical and may only occur under constant, heavy rain.

2. ‘Test Pitch your Tent:

Why you should do this: I would hate to be the person who turns up at the campsite after a long drive only to discover that they don’t know how to use the tent, something is missing e.t.c

It is always a good idea to test pitch your tent in the back garden or nearby field so you can get fully accommodated with it, learn the best way to pitch it and check for any issues.

Use this as a ‘dummy run’ to get acquainted with every nook-and-cranny of your new tent. You can do the weathering process at this time too, if you wish.

3. Ventilate your tent

Why you should do this: Ventilating properly can prevent condensation and excess moisture forming in the tent which can be the cause of mildew and mold, something that can degrade your tent fabric over time.

18-researchersi

Imagine waking up to one of these spilled in your tent!

In contrast to polycotton tents, polyester/nylon tents are not breathable, as the fabric doesn’t have small pores in it like a polycotton does. Because of this they are more susceptible to condensation when not properly ventilated; this can lead to the appearance that the tent is leaking from the outside in when in reality, it’s a collection of moisture within the tent that is unable to escape.

Consider this: A human body breathes out approx a half litre (500ml) of moisture a day. Assuming that you sleep 7 hours, you’d exhale just shy of 150ml of moisture overnight.

If there are two of you sharing an unvented small two person tent then there’s the potential for collecting at least 300ml of moisture in a tent overnight – A small bottle of water!

How to ventilate? Ensure that there is some airflow running through the tent whenever possible by opening doors and ‘windows’, all tents have some form of mesh venting that should allow you to ventilate from front to back.

4. Pitch Your Tent Correctly

You’re doing it wrong

This almost goes without saying, but the amount of damage that can be done to a tent by not pitching it properly can be difficult or impossible to rectify. We’ve seen our fair share of tent fails over the years. Don’t add to that list.

Pitching your tent correctly, not ‘bodging’ it just so it’ll stand up without falling over will make a significant contribution to increasing it’s lifespan.

Why you should do this: Pitching your tent incorrectly can result in stress being put on parts of the frame and fabric, which can result in misshapen or broken poles, torn flysheets and other materials. Excess wear placed on parts of a tent that are not designed to take it will only serve to decrease it’s lifespan.

Should you own a tunnel tent (overwhelmingly the most popular and prevelant tent design today), you can follow our guide on how to pitch a tent.

How to pitch your tent properly. Things to remember:
  • Unless you are an expert, always pitch Large Tents with two people.
  • Ensure you have enough room within which to fit your tent and any extensions/awnings
  • Be sure you have enough pegs to secure the tent to the ground, and make sure the pegs are appropriate for the ground you’re pitching up on.
  • Pitch your tent ‘head’ into the wind as opposed to side on. Like a racing car, a tent is most aerodynamic this way.
  • Don’t allow the tent flysheet to sag too much
  • But also don’t allow the flysheet to be overly tight.
  • Don’t overly tighten tension straps, particularly when the fabric is wet, because once it dries out it will tighten again and can tear or pull pegs out of the ground.
  • Always use the guylines. It may seem like overkill, but there isn’t much worse than going out for the day and returning to your tent to find it flat on the floor (or worse, vanished) because there wasn’t the appropriate anchorage into the ground when the wind got up. Make sure guylines are nice and taught, but not overly so. Don’t peg them too close, or too far away from the tent.

5. Pack Your Tent Away Properly

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Tent Mould: Not what you want.

Why you should do this: Packing your tent away properly will help it last longer and make it easier to fit back into it’s bag!

Leave a tent packed away wet and it’ll go mouldy. You may have to throw it out.

We understand there might be instances where you have to pack up and get out of there. Say you’re on a schedule and the rain just hasn’t stopped.

That’s fine, but make sure you get home as soon as you can and take the tent out of the bag and let the air get to it once you get home. Even if it’s raining outside, either pitch the tent or hang the flysheet out somewhere outside. Letting the air get to the tent will prevent corrosive, unhygienic mould and mildew from forming.

As a general rule, we advise customers to leave a damp or wet tent packed away for no longer than 24 hours.

How to pack away your tent properly:
  • Each tent is different, and after a few practices you’ll have mastered the art of pitching and packing away.
  • Make sure the tent is as dry as possible before packing away. Open doors and air out the tent beforehand, assuming the weather is dry. Sometimes you may find a little damp has collected in the corners or at a low point in the ground if the weather has been wet.
  • Sweep/clear out as much dust, rubble, stones, debris as you can. You can take the inners out if you wish, but this is not essential – they can be left in if you prefer for convenience when setting up next time.
  • Leave all doors/windows slightly unzipped as to allow air to escape when rolling/folding your tent.
  • Detach poles and collapse the tent. When removing them, make sure you push the poles out and don’t pull them. Pulling can separate the sections making it hard to remove the pole, and it also leave opportunity for it to catch on the pole sleeve fabric and potentially tear it.
  • Fold the tent to the same width as it’s bag. Fold toward the side where the partially unzipped doors are and you’ll push the air out.
  • Put the poles in their bag and then roll the tent around the pole bag as tightly as possible. You can tie around the rolled tent to hold it’s shape nice and tightly.
  • Put in bag!

6. Take appropriate Pegs & Spares

vango-alloy-tent-pegUnfortunately, new tents don’t come with every type of tent peg for every type of ground you may or may not pitch up on. Doing this would just drive up the cost of manufacturing and therefore increase the cost of buying the tent.

Make sure you take a variety of pegs in order to be able to cope with whatever ground meets you at the campsite, ideally you should have pegs to deal with very soft, regular, and very hard dry ground.

The most common ground we encounter in Britain is sloppy, wet, and muddy. Most tent brands provide a mixture of pegs with a new tent that’ll be suitable for this type of ground.

You may find trouble using standard pegs on hard ground; this is the primary cause of bent tent pegs. Make sure you take a set of these pegs in case the ground is really tough to peg into. Don’t forget to take a mallet too!

Here’s a list of a few other useful bits and bobs you should take with you:

  • Duct Tape
  • Dust Pan and Brush
  • Reproofer
  • Seam Sealant
  • Spare pole or splint for pole-related emergencies

We hope you found this list of new tent owner tips useful. What do you always make sure you do when you first get a new tent? Have any great tips of your own? Let us know in the comments below!

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