Before you go
Modern tents are a lot easier to put up than they were 10 years ago. Nevertheless, it is worth practicing with a new tent before your first trip.
- Check that all the parts are present and undamaged.
- Get to know your tent and practice pitching it…perhaps in the garden.
Pitching your tent
- Select an area which is as flat as possible… this will make it easier to pitch and ensure you the most comfortable night's sleep!
- Avoid low lying or marshy ground which would flood in heavy rain.
- Clear the site of anything which could damage the groundsheet, stones or sticks for example.
- Make sure that all doors are fully zipped up before you pitch your tent. If you don't, the zips may be under too much tension to work effectively when you try to use them.
- Do not peg the groundsheet out too tightly.
- It is better not to pitch under trees. When it rains, trees continue to drip long after the rain has stopped and some trees drop sticky sap. Also remember that trees are where birds rest…and they don't care about the cleanliness of your tent!
- Make use of any natural windbreaks, such as hedges and try to face the tent door away from the prevailing wind.
Guylines and Pegs
Caring for leather boots
Regardless of the type of poles used in a tent, it is always important to use the guylines. They add support and prevent damage to your tent…resulting is a much more restful, worry-free sleep! Their basic purpose is to support the poles at their most vulnerable points and have been positioned, based on hours of product usage and wind tunnel testing.
Tent pegs are essential for securing your tent to the ground and when you buy a new tent a full set of pegs will be included. However there are certain situations when you may require some extra, or more specialised pegs;
- Normal pegs will bend when they hit a stone or rock, so use groundhog pegs for very hard and stony ground. They're really strong and can be hammered into almost any ground without bending.
- Conversely, use plastic or angled pegs for very soft ground. Normal pegs can be easy pulled out of soft ground if it is a bit windy…but these ones are designed to give maximum resistance.
- Take extra pegs and guy lines if you are expecting very rough weather. Alternatively storm guy kits can be used to make sure the guylines are long enough…the longer the guyline, the better anchored your tent becomes.
- Use groundsheet pegs with a flat head to secure any extra ground sheets (the flat head makes sure you don't trip or hurt yourself on them).
- Drive pegs in at a 90 degree angle to the direction of pull to get the best grip in the ground. Peg in line with the direction of the seam.
- Pegs situated at the end of zips should be crossed over to take any strain off the zip.
- Wipe down your pegs after use to keep them clean and to stop steel pegs from rusting.
Condensation and Ventilation
Tent flysheets (the outside layer of canvas) are waterproof but they are not breathable, so ventilation is needed to reduce condensation. Condensation usually occurs during the night when outside temperatures drop. The warm, moist air from respiration comes into contact with the cold surface of the tent and condenses to form water droplets. Do not confuse condensation with leakage!
- Where possible leave vents, windows and doors slightly open to create airflow in your tent. Some larger tents have a double layered flysheet doors…one layer of mesh and one of canvas. If it is warm enough, the mesh doors can be closed at night with the canvas doors left open, helping air to circulate.
- Pitch your tent carefully so that the fabric is taught and the inner and flysheet are not touching. This will reduce drips and keep your inner dry.
- Wipe the inside of the flysheet with a soft cloth to remove excess moisture...stopping it from dripping onto you or your kit!
In most conditions, fibreglass poles function very well, but in extreme conditions (strong wind & low temperatures) they may split along their length, or bend near the metal ferules that join the sections together.
- If your tent does not come with a spare pole it's well worth buying a single section just in case.
- Wipe down your poles if they are wet to stop steel ferules from rusting.
If you want to avoid poles altogether, the Vango Airbeam range of tents use inflated 'beams' for structure instead! They're really sturdy and reliable, but are quite bulky, so advisable for family camping or 'glamping' rather than backpacking, where you don't need to worry about how much gear you have to carry.
Cooking and Fire Safety
When tents are specified as fire retardant, this means that when an ignition source is placed in contact with the fabric it may burn. However when the ignition source is removed from the fabric it will self extinguish. Tents that are not fire retardant can burn down in just a few seconds.
- Always ensure there is no possibility of a lit stove coming into contact with the tent fabric and keep exits clear.
- Never allow children to play near or with lighted appliances.
- Cooking inside a tent will usually cause a lot of condensation anyway! We recommend that you never cook inside a tent…it's always safer to cook outside and is more fun too!
UV rays can damage all fabrics over time, so in order to extend the life of your tent, avoid extended exposure to the sun.
- If your tent will be set up for a week or longer, it may be wise to place the tent where it will get some shade from the surrounding area.
- Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarproof will re-proof and protect your flysheet from UV degradation.
Packing your tent away
It is really important to do this properly…to make sure your tent is in good condition to use next time!
- Sweep out your tent make sure that rocks, leaves, dirt and branches are all out of the tent.
- If possible, take down your tent when it is completely dry…otherwise you will have to unpack it, dry it and repack it at a later time! If you do pack it (and leave it) wet, mildew will grow and this will ruin you tent…stopping it from being waterproof.
- Zip shut all the doors, but give air an escape route - leave a zip a fraction open in order to allow air to escape as the tent is collapsed. This will make rolling and storing it easier.
- Fold your tent - it may be easier to fold the tent along original fold lines. However, after a few years, this becomes more difficult as the lines fade. A good rule of thumb is to fold the tent about the same length as the tent poles before you roll it up.
- Storing your tent - roll your tent neatly with poles and pegs (in their bags) rolled into the tent body. This technique uses the poles as a structure to help roll the tent and means that the poles are cushioned from impact when being carried and stored.
Cleaning and storage
The easiest way to clean a tent is when it's up. It dries better this way too.
- You can use a sponge and mild, pure soap to wipe clean a dirty tent. Do not use a washing machine to clean your tent and never use detergents. Always let it air dry before re-packing.
- Your tent must be stored dry - a cool, dry place out of the sun is ideal.
When you buy your new tent it will be waterproofed to the level specified on the model (see Waterproofs Guide for explanation of levels of waterproofness). You may notice that after some time or frequent use, rainwater is no longer forming into small droplets ('beading') and running off your flysheet - giving the fabric a wet look.
This is due to the water repellent finish on the outside of your flysheet having been worn off (either through dissolving in rain, degraded by UV or rubbed of as you pitch & take down the tent). Whilst this does not affect the waterproofness of your tent, it may take longer to dry. Apply Fabsil or Nikwax Tent and Gear Proof to restore the water shedding properties of the fabric.
On rough ground, a second groundsheet slipped under the tent will protect the sewn-in groundsheet, which can be expensive to repair or replace if it is torn.
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