Here at REI, as you might expect, we get a lot of great questions about camping—tent maintenance, repairs and usage in particular. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions, along with our tips on how to make sure your tent will be ready for your next adventure.
1. How can I remove mildew from my tent?
Mildew develops when a tent is stored while still wet, and it can damage the waterproof coating. Fortunately, there are ways to get rid of it. If you’ve already tried scrubbing the mildew lightly with a damp sponge, try mixing one part bleach with 10 parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the visible mildew, wipe it clean with a sponge and let the tent air dry.
2. What about tree sap?
There are a few tricks for removing tree sap from your tent. Start by rubbing the sap with an ice cube. Once the sap is cold and hard, try to break or peel it off. If that doesn’t work, you can place paper bags on both sides of the sappy area and run an iron over the top of it—the warm sap should transfer from the tent and onto the paper. Finally, you can also try wiping the area with a citrus-based cleaner, then letting it air dry.
3. How can I fix holes, tears and snags in my tent?
If there’s a hole or tear in your tent fabric, we recommend patching it up with Tenacious Tape or even duct tape.
To fix holes in tent netting, use a bug mesh patch kit (like this one) instead.
If you’ve just got a snag in the netting, try working it back and forth with your thumb to realign the mesh back to normal.
4. How can I prevent moisture from getting into my tent?
If your tent isn’t already factory seam-sealed, or the original sealant isn’t doing its job anymore, you’ll need to do a little prep work before you head out into the elements. The thread in your tent’s seams can soak up moisture and result in leaks and drips. To solve for this, use a waterproof treatment. Most urethane-based sealers should do the trick, but if you have a silnylon (ultralight) tent, use a silicone seam sealer instead.
5. How can I replace a shock cord by myself?
Replacing a frayed or worn shock cord is easier than it sounds. You’ll need a new shock cord and a set of vice grips or other type of sturdy clamp. First, remove the existing shock cord. Then take your new shock cord and tie a knot at one end. Thread the other end through the first pole, until the knot catches. Pull the cord tight through the pole and clamp it with the vice grips to keep it from sliding back inside. Keep the vice grips in place and repeat the process, threading the cord through the next pole and pulling it out tight, then moving the clamp as you go. This will remove all unnecessary slack from the cord. When you’re finished, tie a knot at the other end and cut off the remaining cord.
Tip: When breaking down your tent poles, start in the center instead of starting from the end. Breaking down from the end can put too much tension on one side, but starting from the center will distribute the tension of the cord.
6. Does the shiny side of a footprint face up or down?
Footprints protect your tent floor from abrasion and prevent water from collecting under the tent floor. When setting up a footprint, remember that the shiny side goes up.
7. How can I fix a sticky tent zipper?
This one’s easy—just rub the sticky area with candle wax to help lubricate the zipper. (This works for clothing zippers, too!)
Do you have tips for tent maintenance or repair? Share them with us in the comments!
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