Step One: Clean Off Contaminants and Corrosives
Elements like sand, animal scat, tree leaves, sap, and regular dirt can all cause your tent’s fabric to deteriorate between uses if not removed. To do so, use cold water and mild, non-detergent soap with a soft sponge. For more stubborn marks, try using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wet wipes.
If your zippers aren’t moving freely, take an old toothbrush and give them a gentle scrub, taking care not to rub too hard on the tent fabric either side, which can impair the fabric’s waterproofing capacity.
Finally, be sure to rinse the tent off thoroughly after cleaning, particularly if using alcohol-based products to remove stains.
Step Two: Hang to Dry
The most important step in ensuring your tent’s performance in the long-term is letting it dry out thoroughly between uses. Not only will storing your tent when damp or wet lead to it acquiring a nigh-on unshakable stink, but could also seriously damage its waterproofing capacity by causing the waterproof coating to de-laminate.
Ideally, you should hang your tent out to line dry in the shade, but if you don’t happen to have a yard in which to do so, throwing it over a stairwell banister, a door, or a few chairs will do the trick.
Step 3: Store in a Suitable Location
Where and how you store your tent plays as vital a role as anything in keeping it in good nick. The ideal storage place needs to fulfil two basic criteria. It must be dry and cool as dampness and warmth can easily cause mildewing, mould, fraying of the materials, and de-lamination—at which point your tent will be damaged beyond repair.
Some places that might work are a ventilated room in your house, on top of a cupboard, or a spacious spot under your bed; some that might not include your shed, garage, or the trunk/boot of your car, though this will obviously vary depending on your whereabouts and the specifics of each location.
Finally, it’s also important to make sure that you don’t store your tent near any artificial heat source or in direct sunlight, both of which can cause irreparable damage.
Beyond where you store your tent, how you do so is also important and will have an impact on your tent’s durability and performance in the long run. To allow your tent’s fabrics to breath, avoid developing any creases that might become points of weakness, and to reduce the strain on the material, you should store the tent loosely, either in a large mesh sack, an old pillowcase, or freely on a shelf. The important thing is to avoid storing your tent in a stuffsack and/or rolling it up or packing it too tightly.
To reduce the strain on your tent poles—or, rather, the shock cord that holds them together—store the poles (if possible) partially assembled either upright in a cupboard or under a bed.