How to Clean a Backpacking Tent

How to Clean a Backpacking Tent
A backpacking tent is your home away from home while on the trail. As such, it makes sense to keep it in the best shape possible. Keeping your tent clean is an important part of gear maintenance. Regular care -- such as shaking debris out of the tent every time you use it and storing wet or muddy gear outside, under the vestibule -- will help reduce the effort in keeping your tent clean. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to give it a good cleaning at least once a year, more often if needed. Household materials can help you clean it.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Bucket
  • Lukewarm water
  • Mild soap
  • Sponge or rag
  • Garden hose
Step 1
Set your tent up outside or in the garage, in the driveway, on the porch, or any other place you don't mind getting the ground or floor wet.
Step 2
Lift the tent (if it's free-standing) into the air with the open door pointing down and shake out any loose debris inside the tent. If the tent has to be staked up, do your best to shake any loose debris out before setting up the tent. Then set the tent up and sweep out the inside with a hand broom and dustpan.
Step 3
Fill a bucket with lukewarm water. Add a mild soap -- Nikwax Tech Wash is well-suited for this. Soaps like Nikwax, designed specifically for use with outdoor gear, are best because they're formulated not to leave residue on the tent fabric.
Step 4
Wash the tent down, inside and out, with a sponge or rag dipped in the soap solution. Wring the sponge or rag out before cleaning the inside portion to keep the excess water to a minimum. Wipe out the inside of the tent with a clean, damp rag to remove any soap residue. Close the door and vents on the tent and spray it down with a hose to rinse off the outside. If you don't have a hose, wipe down the outside as you did for the inside. Do the same for the rain fly.
Step 5
Rinse the zippers with running water, if necessary, to remove any accumulated grit. Open the vents, windows and doors to let air circulate, and leave it set up until it's completely dry. Don't forget to check the underside of the tent floor; you might need to tilt it up on its side or lay it out upside down to allow this portion of the tent to dry out once the rest of the tent is already dry.
Step 6
Wipe your tent poles and stakes down with a soft, dry cloth as you disassemble your tent for storage. This is usually sufficient to remove accumulated grit. If you feel the poles or stakes need further cleaning, wipe or scrub them with a damp cloth, then wipe them dry with another dry cloth before storage.

Tips & Warnings

Combat even the faintest whiff of mildew immediately by mixing 1 cup lemon juice and 1 cup salt in 1 gallon of hot water. Use this solution instead of the mild soap when you wash your tent down.

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

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