How Long Does a Tent Last?

Having a good tent can make or break a camping trip. A shiny new high-quality tent can make a night outside feel as calm and restful as a five-star hotel.

On the other hand, a worn-out, cheap tent at the end of its life can quickly turn a night of camping into a nightmare.

There’s not much worse than taking an inadequate tent on a camping trip, only to find out it’s not up to scratch when it’s raining and your tent’s leaking at two in the morning!

Every tent has a life span. Your tent will last more time, or less, depending on how you treat it and what you do, or don’t do, between camping excursions.

If you want your tent to last longer than one season, keep reading to find out how long does a tent last and how you can extend the lifespan of a tent.

When should I replace my tent?

A good rule of thumb is to buy a new tent every five years. Most tents, on average, last five years. 

However, if you spend as little as possible on a cheap two-person tent from a discount store, then take it up a mountain for some backcountry camping, your tent might not last more than one night.

With a little TLC, you can keep your tent going another year or two, maybe even three or four, taking the total lifespan of a well-maintained tent to ten years.

After that, though, even the best tents will start wearing out. Their polyester fabric walls wear thin, and the seams start fraying and letting in water. 

Camping is a great hobby, but it can be tough on the equipment. Even the best outdoor gear wears down. Maintaining your kit will elongate its life but, unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. 

When it does come time to replace your tent, try to think about what you liked and didn’t like about the one you’re replacing. 

Also, try to spend as much money as you can. With camping equipment, there’s often no upper limit on price, so I say go as high as you can afford and your tent should last that little bit longer. 

How long do tents stay waterproof?

A good tent should keep you dry no matter how hard it’s raining. When you’re camping, you don’t want the added stress of wondering whether or not the weather is going to start entering your temporary home.

A tent that doesn’t keep the rain out is useless. It’s not just annoying, but getting soaked while camping can quickly become a serious problem. 

If you’re freezing cold in the middle of the night with no shelter, a leaky tent can quickly become a dangerous potential risk.

So, make sure your tent is waterproof before taking it out for a night in the wilderness. A quick once over, checking for holes, worn patches, and frayed seams should be enough.

If you haven’t used your tent for a while, it’s a good idea to set up your tent in the backyard and spray it with a fine mist from a hose. 

Give it a good spray down, then take a look. If your tent is waterproof, the water should bead and run down the tent’s outer walls. If it’s worn out, the water will soak through into the interior. 

Once your tent loses its waterproof capabilities, it’s one of the first indications that your tent is nearing the end of its life. 

You can re-waterproof your tent using waterproof coating and patches, but other things like zips, doors, and mesh windows will likely start deteriorating around the same time.

Do tents need to be waterproofed?

One of the best ways to make your tent last another season or two is by waterproofing it. You can get waterproof spray, washes, and other liquid-based coats to apply to the outside of your tent to improve its waterproofing. You can also resew or patch any holes or frayed seams where a worn-out tent might be letting the water in. 

Most tents are fully waterproofed out of the box, so you shouldn’t have to do this immediately. However, the waterproof coating is one of the first places a tent deteriorates, so giving it a wash or spray down with waterproofing can add extra years to your tent’s lifespan. 

How to make a tent last longer

Like pretty much everything else in life, tents last longer if you look after them. Without any TLC or maintenance, a hard-worn tent might only last a season or two.

On the other hand, by properly taking care of your tent, stowing it correctly, cleaning it, and re-waterproofing it regularly, you can almost double its lifespan.

First and foremost, clean your tent. After nearly every camping trip, your tent will have a layer of dirt on the underside, as well as a generous helping of dirt, mud, grass, and other natural elements you’ve dragged in from outside. 

Give it a sweep out and wipe down the walls with a warm soapy sponge. Make sure you clean the bottom of the groundsheet where the tent is in direct contact with the earth, as this is where it gets dirtiest. 

The next step is to let your tent dry out completely. You can do this by leaving it pitched up in a backyard, hung on a washing line, or draped over a couple of chairs in your kitchen. Make sure it’s in a warm, dry place with plenty of airflow. 

Never stow your tent wet. If you put away a wet tent, it will grow mildew and mould and seriously shorten your tent’s life. 

Another trick I like to do is to store my tent in a loose cotton stuff sack. When you fold or roll your tent tightly then put it away for six months or a year, these fold lines can turn into permanent creases, which will be weaker than the rest of the tent and prime spots for leakage.

It doesn’t take long to maintain your tent, especially if you do it right after getting back from your epic camping trip. Skipping a few simple steps could seriously affect your tent’s lifespan. 

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