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Classic Moss tent needs de-odorization

Dear REI,

Our beloved Moss Little Dipper tent from 1994 (Camden, Maine) has taken to probable polyurethane breakdown and the subsequent foul odor.

I hope someone familiar with the high quality Moss tents can advise us if something can be done to allow us to continue to use our tent.  The red tent floor seems to be the main culprit. 

The tent is in very good condition and thus is something we wish to save for more years of outdoor adventure.

Please advise us on how to proceed.




11 Replies

Hey @kpfromRI -

Thanks for reaching out! We’re going to connect with our product team to see if we can find some more info for you on the Moss tent odor situation. Glad to hear you plan on using it for years to come! When we hear back, we’ll be sure to let you know.

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@kpfromRI  hmmm, if it was me, I'd try to call them directly (, but I see they don't make it easy, as I couldn't find a friggen phone number.

Try letting it air out, outside, for a few days/weeks, scrubbing it with lysol, airing out some more.

I have several items with this issue and it's truly amazing how they can continue to emit a musty vinal odor even after 25yrs!

good luck

REI Member Since 1979

@kpfromRI thanks for your patience with this question - this is not a brand we have carried for many years, so finding someone with specific knowledge of what to do in the situation of the tent deteriorating and emitting a foul odor is proving challenging. We are hopeful members of our community will provide suggestions, as @Philreedshikes has done. While not specific to Moss tents, we have had a few conversations here in the community on how to deal with a deteriorating tent, which includes a few cleaning suggestions. We also have an Expert Advice article on how to clean a tent, which includes options for dealing with odors. We hope this helps!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.


Thanks for reaching out, Kevin!

First off, you're the second person to bring a question to our community here about a Moss tent. My favorite thing about the posts is that both of you described your Moss tent as 'beloved'. It's so great to hear about well loved gear that has stood the test of time! Secondly, we have a few clarifying questions about your tent that will help us guide you to the best solution:

  • Is the odor in your tent a 'chemical' type smell from the off-gassing of the polyurethane? Or is the odor a 'musty' type smell from long term storage? Or maybe both?
  • Are there any other indicators of breakdown of the tent? Any stains or areas that may have mold or mildew?
  • Are there any other indicators of the polyurethane breaking down? I.e. are there flakes coming off the floor of the tent or the rainfly? Is your tent sticky?

In addition to the two links @REI-JenK provided, I also encourage you to take a look at the Expert Advice article, How to Waterproof a Tent, paying particular attention to the part about removing any polyurethane that is flaking. Additionally, if you need an enzymatic cleaner we recommend Rockin' Green Active Wear Detergent or Gear Aid ReviveX Odor Eliminator. Both should work well to get any musty, moldy, or mildew smells out of your tent if that is the issue you are facing.

Hopefully this helps, thanks!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.



Yes!  We love our Moss Little Dipper!  Beautifully designed to the highest quality. Our Little Dipper tent has serviced us since 1994; from Maine to Colorado and everywhere in-between. 

But now for the last few summers we've resurrected it. I believe the unpleasant smell is coming from the breakdown of the red floor material. There is NO flaking, but the red floor is STICKY when folded up in any manner. Last year I kept it in a large cotton laundry bag and now I frequently hang it  in our dry finished basement...  The smell is little to none when we do this, but out in the campground the smell returns as soon as the doors are closed or dampness/rain occurs.

Is this the end?

I will research the products you've mentioned. If you have experience in this breakdown of material, I would love to hear more about it.

Thanks for sharing.

I look forward to hearing what you think, 






Thanks for the response! Based on your description, it sounds like the polyurethane on the floor of your tent has degraded over time. If the issue is only coming from the bottom of your tent then you'll want to focus your efforts there, however, you could apply this process to the entire tent if needed/desired.

To start you'll want to wash the bottom of your tent in a solution of mild detergent (like Woolite) and warm water. You can do this in a washing machine if yours is big enough, or you can soak it in a big sink or your bathtub if needed. Once you have soaked/washed the tent and rinsed it clean, you'll want to let it dry (preferably by pitching it indoors where it can air dry). Once it dries, inspect the floor for any stickiness or odor. If it persists, you'll want to repeat the washing process, letting it soak for longer if necessary. Bear in mind that if you choose to use a washing machine for this process, you will remove the coating from the entire tent.

Once that step is complete, you will have successfully removed most, if not all, of the polyurethane coating from your tent. Before you take the tent out again you'll want to reapply waterproofing to the bottom of the tent using one of the methods and products linked in previous comments. If you also have areas where the waterproof coating is flaking off and peeling, typically at the seams, you will need to follow the process lined out in the Expert Advice article I linked to in my first comment. That will walk you through to process by using rubbing alcohol and a non-abrasive sponge.

Over time, it is normal for the polyurethane coating to break down on tents. This can be a result of several factors, including storing tightly and preventing off-gassing (typically what ends up causing the odor), failing to allow the tent to completely dry before storing, or just simply aging. If you've never had to replace the waterproof coating on your tent then that is a testament to the quality of the tent and materials used! 

Hopefully this helps get your tent back in service, thanks!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.



Thank you for your knowledge sharing. I look forward to tackling the project and to positive results.

I appreciate your time and concern in saving our Moss tent.



@kpfromRI please circle back and let us know how the project turns out - always good for our community to know what does/doesn't work!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@kpfromRI - I'm curious if you had any luck?  My Moss Titan constantly emits a smell akin to fermented baby barf.  It's a tent from probably 1996 or 1997 but I LOVE it and I would gladly strip the coating and reapply from scratch to be able to keep it in working order (even though my kids are using it now -- not me so much).

In my tent there is no flaking or visible breakdown of the  floor or fly.  No sticky areas either.  It just reeks.

I'd love to hear your experience before I start the process.  Thank you!