A tent that is properly cared for can offer years of service. One OutdoorPlaces.Com editor has a tent that is eleven years old and still in use (albeit is pretty heavy now compared to a state of the art 21st century model). Proper care of a tent is simple:
As soon as you get your tent home waterproof all seams with a seam sealer recommended by the manufacturer. I know, I know, the tent says itís waterproof and that all the seals have been treated and sealed. Trust us, seal them, if you donít even a $1,000 four season tent will leak when it rains.
Practice setting up your tent. Learning to setup your tent should not be done at the campsite with the sun going down. Improper setup can cause tents to sag, broken poles, cut guy lines and ripped tents. Know how to set it up.
Donít pack your tent wet. If your tent does get wet and you have to break camp, set it us as soon as you can and let it dry out. Just like a sleeping bag, let your tent hang out after each trip. If your tent does mildew, wash it gently with warm water. For serious cases we recommend contacting the manufacturer. Donít use detergent or chemicals as this can ruin the tent or neutralize itís waterproofing. If after you have cleaned your tent you still have a mildew smell, contact the manufacturer. Once the mildew has gotten into the material, it is very difficult to get rid of it.
A wise person once told me not to touch the inside of your tent. The oils on your skin are slightly corrosive by nature and can effect the waterproofing of your tent.
The greatest invention of man is not sliced bread it is duct tape. Duct tape can be used for a number of field repairs. Duct tape can be used to patch a small hole on a rainfly or tent. Duct tape can hold a zipper closed if the zipper breaks. A splintered fiberglass pole can be mended by wrapping the splintered section. A pole with a broken shock cord can also be taped together. If you are backpacking carrying six to twelve feet of duct tape with you for this and other field repairs.
Make sure your tent is ventilated. On a cold night it is tempting to close up all of the windows and flaps of a tent tight but this can cause another problem. As you sleep you sweat and breathe out about a cup of fluid. Four people in a tent can release almost a quart of fluid. When the inside of the tent becomes warmer than the outside air, this moisture can start to condensate on the inside of your tent and make things pretty wet inside by morning. Make sure you have some ventilation point(s) open in your tent to help reduce condensation.
Use a ground cloth. A ground cloth is simply a basic low cost tarp. There is great debate on using an innie (in the tent) or an outie (under the tent). We recommend putting your ground cloth under your tent. This helps keep your tent clean and prevents that rock or root you missed from ripping through the floor of your tent.
Stake down your tent. Although freestanding tents donít require you to stake them down, the weather can. A strong enough wind can move a tent, even with occupants in it! If you are setting up your tent on a windy day, put your pack and gear in the tent to help hold it down. Make sure that the proper amount of tension is set as you stake down the tent, enough that it can flex in the wind, but no so much that the material will flap and beat itself.