WHEN it comes to bushwalking, your tent will be one of your biggest investments so it pays to look after it. With this in mind here are my top points to give your tent longevity and to guarantee it’ll do what it’s meant to do – to keep you safe and dry, and help you sleep well in the outdoors.
AT CAMP: On the last morning of a walk, I remove the fly and hang it on a cord between trees to dry and air while the inner tent is unpegged from the ground and stood, still assembled on its end to dry out condensation before I pack it away – if there is a nice breeze, anchor it by a cord to a tree while you have breakfast and pack other items. If there is considerable moisture in the form of dew or residual rain, I get my washing up cloth/sponge to remove most of it and if in a hurry, I use a tea towel to speed the process. If you are walking out in the rain, just shove it in a plastic bag.
Editor of Great Walks’ sister publication Australian Sporting Shooterand author of Bushwalking Basics, Marcus has spent much of his life in the outdoors.
AT HOME: Being a down sleeping bag advocate, I am well used to storing my bags so they give long, effective life, so I store the unrolled bag in large cloth bags after they have a thorough airing at home, preferably in sunlight, which has a beneficial antibacterial action. With your tent, you can hang it indoors on a washing dryer or over a table or sofa, if possible near an open door where air will flow over it for a few days. Then get a few old pillowslips and store the fly in one and outer in another, unrolled or folded. This will prohibit the growth of mould and prolong the tent’s life by years. Avoid prolonged exposure on an outdoor washing line due to UV degradation, which cumulatively weakens the material over its life.
THE FLOOR: Being totally enclosed in a modern hike tent is a luxury and in wet or muddy conditions a vestibule comes into its own, allowing you to remove wet and muddy boots while accessing the “inner sanctum”. Nevertheless, you will inevitably spill liquids or food and mud will get in, despite having the most scrupulous housekeeping. It is wise to wipe up as much of the spillage as possible when it occurs, but it may leave some residue that needs chemical attention when back home. Do not be tempted to use normal home detergents. Best to use an outdoor gear specific washing preparations like NikWax Tent and Gear Solar Wash.
LEAKAGE: Many tents come seam-sealed with impervious tape from the factory and 90% of the time, leakage in rain will occur when the tape seam seal fails. Often it will visibly lift away from the sewn seam and you then have a problem that can only get worse. While it is raining you are limited to protecting yourself and gear from drips by inventive measures, like placing your rain jacket under the drip, but when the weather dries, or when you get home and the tent is dried and aired, peal back the seam sealing tape to a point where the leakage has ceased to penetrate and apply the product recommended for the material your tent is made from. Popular ones like SeamGrip or Kookaburra, which are just painted on with an applicator or small paint brush. If your tent is made from a silicon material SilNet is preferred. Whatever you do, follow the product’s directions implicitly for success.
POLE DANCING: If you are pared down to really light scales, a snapped or irreparably bent alloy tent pole can leave you with a decidedly droopy tent presentation. This is not only unattractive, but it will ruin your tent’s tautness and wind and water shedding ability. A very temporary expedient may be to get a green whippy stick trimmed appropriately while out bush, but there is a little kit you can purchase at most outdoors shops that has, among other really useful repair items, “3 ferrules”, AKA, short metal sleeves, designed to be slid over the pole at the bend/break in order to temporarily repair the pole. When you get home, get two spare poles and carry one in your pole bag to cater for such contingencies in future. Also included in the kit are adhesive-backed nylon patches (small tears or punctures in tent material), a tube of seam seal “goop”, 45 inches of shock cord, two spools of nylon thread and a needle and two mesh screen patches, all fitting into a supplied Ziplock bag.
“LEAKAGE IN RAIN WILL OCCUR WHEN THE TAPE SEAM SEAL FAILS.”