Damon’s learnt the hard way about the importance of good tent maintenance (as his girlfriend no doubt reminds him). Read on as he shares his easy three step guide about how to clean a tent.

Why Do I Need to Clean my Tent?

Picture this: the sun’s just gone down. Everyone’s getting closer and closer to the fire whilst trying to predict which way the smoke is going. For some reason it just isn’t your day and the smoke decides that it’s going to follow you all night. After moving, dodging and repeating ‘white rabbit’ one too many times, you accept your fate, turn around and close your eyes.

We’ve all been there…

However, it’s at the end of the trip that you realise how much damage has actually been done. After having a shower, the smoke-stained stench on your clothes becomes unmistakable. You think back to that quick coffee stop and how bad you must have smelt. Luckily clothes can be easily cleaned… but what about the tent?


How To Clean Your Tent Damon Tually, photo Tim Ashelford

Nice and dry | @tim_ashelford


Tents need just as much attention as your clothes after a weekend away. There’s nothing worse than setting up the tent that’s been in the garage for three months to find mould, dirt, or a heady smoky aroma. That’s why it’s important to clean your tent before you do your final pack away.

Here are three simple steps to make that tent good-as-new after an old-fashioned adventure.

Step One: Ventilation and Shake Out

When you get home from your trip, take your tent from its bag and air it out. It can be as simple as throwing it over a fence or erecting it somewhere dry, if you have space. Make sure the tent is in a shady area out of direct sunlight in order to prevent further UV damage.

Drying the poles and pegs is even simpler than drying the canvas. Just lay the unassembled poles and pegs out somewhere airy and dry, again, out of direct sunlight.

Once the tent is dry you’ll want to get rid of those annoying grains of sand and dirt that just don’t want to leave, especially inside the tent. This can be done by erecting the tent and sweeping it out with a dustpan and brush or giving it a good old shake upside down with the doors unzipped (I don’t know about you but that’s definitely my go-to move).

Step Two: Clean

This doesn’t need to be done every time you go away on a short trip but it’s a good idea to clean your tent properly at least once a year, or after a longer trek.

Get yourself a bucket of warm water (you can also add a splash of non-detergent soap or a specific outdoor gear cleaner like Nikwax, according to your tent’s instructions) and use a rag to give it a scrub down. This should get rid of all the bird droppings, tree sap and dirt. You can also give it a final full immersion treatment once you’ve scrubbed all the really dirty bits. Then give it a rinse or three with clean water.

Step Three: Set up, Pack Down

Lastly pack the tent away when it’s completely dry (you may need to set it up again to let it dry thoroughly). Never pack away a wet (even just slightly damp) tent, as this will make for prime real estate for mould.

If that smoky smell stubbornly stays, even after washing, leave the tent set up and unzipped out of direct sunlight for a longer period of time (3 – 5 days). After this your tent will be smelling fresher than newly trimmed lawn or, for you city slickers, freshly ground coffee – both do the job for me!

Check you’ve replaced everything you need to set up your tent back in the bag. This one’s really important (and it’s a dream being able to grab your tent knowing that nothing’s missing). Now you’re ready for your next adventure.


How To Clean A Tent Damon Tually, photo by Jon Harris

Everything in order – @jonharris_photography

That Time When…

I learned my lesson about good tent maintenance the hard way. I had only just started dating my girlfriend when I planned a South Coast camping trip with her. We packed the essentials (warm clothes and chocolate) and set off. We arrived at the campsite at dusk to a howling westerly. We opened up my tent bag… only to realise that there were no pegs! It wasn’t a great first impression.

Moral of the story is, if I was the motivated, organised, proactive man I told my girlfriend I was, then I would’ve cleaned, re-packed and made sure all of the gear was there beforehand. Trust me, it’s worth it.


Feature image by @kate_miles_