Assistant Scoutmaster Ingles’ theory on
Care and feeding of your home in the woods (your tent)
One of the key elements in having a good time while camping is to have your tent ready to go for the next campout. I have been down that road when I thought my tent was ready to go and upon arriving at the campout, my tent had leaves inside of it and smelled very musty and had several dead bugs. I simply forgot to clean my tent after the last campout.
Upon returning from any campout, I set my tent up in my back yard on a nice day and let it dry. Sometimes, it is so muddy that I will get the hose out and actually hose it down, inside and outside then let it dry in the sun.
The stuff I use to keep my tent in good working order are -
Seam Sealer (used once a year, apply outside as the stuff stinks) -"seam sealer" is used to seal up the holes that happen where the tent has stitching I did not think much of the seam sealer stuff that comes with new tents till during a hard rain on one campout, it was dripping inside the tent. I took my flashlight to find out where the dripping was coming from and saw the dripping was along the tent’s seams. When the tent is set up, the fabric stretches and pulls the stitching apart which opens up a lot of small holes. Many tents will leak around the stitching. Seam sealer has a wax substance that helps plug up the holes and is best used when the tent is set up.
Zipper lub (bees wax, can be used anytime and anywhere) One item that done and does not need drying time. Just slide the bees was along the zipper then run the zipper up and down several times to spread out the wax. That makes the zipper slide much smoother.
Bees wax can also be used on anything that has a zipper. Winter coat, gym bag, and boots.
Tent pole repair. (pole repair kit can be done anytime, best to get and have one handy) Many of the new tent poles have an elastic band inside which makes setup much easier. Disaster seems to happen when this elastic ban breaks or the tent pole bends in the wrong direction. If the ban is snapped, it is easy to fix. Camping stores have repair kits for these poles, some have a metal tube which can help straighten a pole where it is bent in an odd place. It is best to check the condition of the poles and it’s elastic ban between campouts. Nothing like a surprise upon setting up your tent and hearing “snap”
Tent fabric. (tent tape can be used anytime) Between campouts, inspect the rain fly for rips and look a how the rain fly connects to the tent frame. Sometimes, the tent fly needs a repair with tent repair tape. One needs to clean the area that needs the patch, waterproofing on the tent will not let tape stick.
Goshen Scout Reservation Guides will use Duck tape for their canvas tape repairs but Duck tape does not work well with most fabric tents that we have. They make a special elastic tape that works well and it can be expensive. When fixing a tent with any tape, the waterproofing that the tent may have on it needs to be cleaned off with alcohol prior to sticking on the tape or the tape will not stick.. .
Tent’s “ventilation screen” (can best be done while tent is not set up) The "breathing screen" that many tents have, that lets the air flow through the tent, may need repair in order to keep the bugs out. They make a screen repair kit that needs to be sewn in. That may take time and some skill.
Waterproofing spray for the rain fly and shell. (done outside, once a year) Spray on waterproofing works well when applied several coats of "light spray". when applied as a thick spray, the spray will run and leave gaps as well as look very messy. Several light coats and letting the spray dry for a half hour between sprays works well. Should be done outside on a dry day. Process takes several hours.
Waterproofing the bottom of the tent.(done outside, once a year) I use "Recoat 3" which is a thick stuff that has to be applied with a paint brush to the bottom of the tent when the tent is upside down. That stuff takes several hours and up to 24 hours to totally dry. Use too much will result in a "white-ish" appearance.
Ground cloth. I don’t use the green tarps like most campers use. I use plastic sheets, much like you would see painters use when they cover the floor. Much easier to pack up.
When I wrap up my tent for the next use, I prefer to wrap my tent up in what is called the “Envelope method”. I put the ground cloth on the floor first, then put the tent on it "flat", then role up with use of the tent poles and stakes. The end flap is folded into the role which makes my tent keep dryer. I can drop my rolled up tent into water and it will stay dry. I will use the "envelope method" in reverse to pack up my tent at the end of a campout - especially with the tent is very wet.
When I get my tent ready for the next campout, I use the envelope method and remember the most forgotten items - tent stakes that are not bent. I also carry a couple of extra pegs.
This "envelope method" is not a Boy Scout creation. If you research this, you will find out that the Girl Scouts also use this method to wrap up their sleeping bags, tents, and other equipment. Further research will turn up others that use this method to keep their gear dry.
Water inside the tent. On one campout, I had about 2 inches of water inside my tent. Nice to find when it was about 10 pm and I was turning in for the evening. I left a window open – my error. At that time, it was raining very hard and I though about using my drinking cup to bail out the ‘flood”. I had a late night brain storm about installing a drain. Yes that was my thought, a drain. I got my pocket knife out and punched a hole in the bottom of the ‘flooded area’ and watched. The “flood” slowly went out the small hole. The hole also went through the plastic sheet I used as the ground cloth. That strange idea worked and has worked several times since that campout. I expected water to come back in that small hole but it has not. I had planned to patch that hole but it worked and I have left it open since. I bet you can’t find that suggestion in any camping book.
Summary. I pay more attention to getting my tent ready for the next campout over what I put in my backpack. I figure that even when I forget something for the backpack, I will always have a dry place to sleep.
Assistant Scoutmaster Ingles