Caring for Your Outdoor Gear – Part 1: The Trusty Tent

How to clean your camping gear

It’s finally here… the season we’ve all been eagerly awaiting has arrived and we’re all set and raring to go. Or are we? If you’ve just pulled out your outdoor gear, only to find it’s not quite looking as shiny and new as you seem to have remembered when you put it away, you’re going to need a spot of advice to get it back where it should be so that it serves you well through another summer.

In this two-part blog series we offer up some tips on restoring your key camping paraphernalia, as well as steps to take before you stash it away again at the end of the season so that next time it sees the light, you haven’t got such a task on your hands. Here we start with the piece of kit that tends to take the biggest battering… the tent.

Tent Reinstatement Tips

If you failed to clean and dry your tent before you stored it then without a doubt you are going to unwrap it to a less than warm welcome of mould and mildew. Removing this mould and mildew is a possibility, however there could be another issue in that the seals may have broken down due to the dampness, which means your tent may no longer be waterproof. Not good when you do most of your camping in the UK.

Getting your tent back to where it needs to be is a step by step process. Do bear in mind though that you’ll probably never fully get rid of the stains left behind by the mould and mildew, so you may well have to live with those. If you don’t mind that, then here we go.

Step 1: Air and Scrub

The first thing to do is put the tent up and give it a good airing out. Once you’ve allowed it some time, have a go at scrubbing the seals. Carefully apply a very weak solution of bleach in hot water and get that elbow grease going. If you own a pressure washer, get that on it and be sure to attack all the crevices. It needs to be a thorough job.

Step 2: Dry and Wash Again

Once you’ve done this, give the tent some drying time. If it’s raining, put it in the garage or somewhere undercover. When it’s dry, mix yourself a solution of lemon juice and salt with hot water and give it another going over. These two wash overs should eliminate the mould and mildew together with the accompanying musty smell. There are also mould and mildew removal sprays on the market that you can try, but do check the label to make sure they are suitable for the tent fabric before you go ahead.

Step 3: Re-Waterproof and Test

Next up you’re going to need to address the waterproofing issue, because pretty much guaranteed those interior seals will have been compromised courtesy of the mould and mildew. Get yourself some waterproofing spray and a tube of seam sealer and get to work as per the instructions.

Once you’ve followed the process and have given the tent a decent amount of drying time, test its waterproofing by aiming some water at it. If the water beads and runs off, you’re back in business. If it doesn’t, then it may be time for a new tent.

Tent care tips

Give the tent a good airing ahead of embarking on your step by step cleaning process.

How NOT to let this happen in the first place

Ideally, what you want to do is make sure you store your tent in such a way that you don’t have to go through all this.

The most important thing to do is make sure that before you put it away, the tent is as dry as a bone. But you’ll need to clean it first, because muck and mud can wreak havoc on a tent in storage.

So, as soon as you are back from your outdoor adventure, set the tent up in the garden, or undercover if it’s not a dry day. Get yourself a non-abrasive sponge and set to work with some cold water and mild (non-detergent) soap. Give the tent a thorough clean, inside and out. Be sure to avoid scented cleaning products: as much as you want your tent to smell pleasant, any perfumed aroma will only act to attract bugs.

Once the tent is fully dry – and we mean absolutely BONE DRY – bring it indoors and wait for it to reach room temperature before packing it neatly away in anticipation of your next foray into the outdoors.

Yes it takes a bit of time and effort, but you’ll be glad you did it when you next pull the tent out and realise you don’t have to go through mould removal hell!

And in our next post…

Of course your tent is not the only thing that is exposed to the elements during an outdoor adventure. Your boots, sleeping bag and cooking gear will all take a thrashing, so look out for our next post on how to care for more of your essential outdoor gear.