Buying a mountain tent requires a significant outlay of money. These items are designed to withstand high winds, storms, hail, snow, rain and sun and so have to use the most modern of fabrics and high technology alloys for poles. In addition, modern expedition tents are designed using sophisticated computers to simulate the loads they are placed under. Many are tested in wind tunnels to prove they can withstand gale-force storms. None of this is cheap which is why you have to pay so much more for a good quality mountaineering or expedition tent made by a top company than you would for a cheap little pup tent to use on a Boy Scout’s outing.
Yet if you don’t take good care of your tent it can be ruined very easily. The biggest threat to tents is often mildew. This is a fungus that grows in between the fibers that make up the fabric of your tent. It can soon penetrate through the waterproof layer and completely ruin your tent. Yet mildew is also very easily prevented. The fungus needs two things to grow. The first is moisture. The second is dirt, which provides its food. Your first task in preventing the formation of mildew on your tent is to try to keep it as dry as possible. I always make a point when striking my tent of taking off the fly sheet and making sure it gets some sun. This will help evaporate the dew that often forms on the outside of a tent in the early morning. Then I turn it inside out to dry the inside of the fly sheet. You would be surprised how much condensation gathers on the inside of a tent overnight as all of the water vapor that you breathe out or perspire gathers on the inner surface of your tent’s fly sheet.
It is especially important to make sure your tent is properly dried out before it gets packed away in storage. When you return from a trip you should pitch your tent in the living room to inspect it for damage and to give it a chance to dry out properly before you pack it away. If it is dirty just wipe it clean with a damp sponge and some mild soap. You can also use a soft brush to get rid of dirt. Now is also a good time to check for damage to the zippers or small holes that might need to be repaired. I also make a point of checking that I have the right number of tent pegs and guy lines as it is quite easy to forget a couple on a long trip. No matter how dirty your tent is you should never ever (am I making myself clear enough) put your tent in a washing machine.
If your tent does start to get mildew you have to act quickly. Clean the affected area with some soap and then clean it with some diluted disinfectant such as Lysol to kill the mould.
If you follow all of these steps, use common sense and look after your tent then it should last you many years. It is quite common to find people who are still using a North Face VE25 that they bought almost 20 years ago. There is no reason why yours should not be as long-lived, so long as you just take good care of it.
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