Nothing can ruin a camping trip faster than waking up in a damp, musty tent. Having your tent wet is not just uncomfortable – it can lead to mold and mildew, which pose health hazards. Plus, excess moisture buildup can damage your tent’s fabric over time.
That’s why learning how to properly air out a tent is a crucial skill for any camper. Taking the time to dry out your tent after each trip will extend its lifespan and prevent nasty surprises on your next adventure.
Why Airing Out Your Tent is Crucial
The Dangers of a Wet Tent
As mentioned, a persistently wet tent creates an ideal environment for the development of mold and mildew.
Exposure to mold spores can cause everything from headaches and congestion to chronic lung illnesses in those with compromised immune systems. And mildewis also no joke – simply touching a mildewy tent surface can give you a rash.
A moisture buildup inside your tent can also lead to:
Unpleasant musty odors
Deterioration of waterproof coatings
Warping or weakening of poles and fabric
By airing out a tent regularly, you allow moisture to fully evaporate so mold and mildew cannot take hold. This keeps every component of your shelter in peak condition.
The Importance of Tent Care
Buying a tent is a significant investment for avid campers, who often time spend thousands of dollars in a tent with all the specs needed for their trips.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise that with proper maintenance and care, a high-quality tent can serve you on many more camping trips and adventures. But remember: the tricky part is knowing how to take care of your tent.
Here are some tips:
Air out your tent after every trip, even short overnighters
Check for rips and re-coat with seam sealer if needed
Wash the tent body every season
Keep it stored loosely when not in use
Avoid direct sun exposure when packed
Check expiration dates on tent stakes, poles, etc.
Following this basic tent care checklist will add years to your shelter’s lifespan. Don’t wait until it’s too late – some time spent on maintenance as soon as you purchase your tent can save you from unnecessary replacements down the road.
Types of Tents and Their Materials
Let’s go through popular tent materials so you can make the most informed maintenance decisions.
You can check our recent article HERE for everything about tent materials.
Canvas vs. Synthetic Tents
When it comes to tent material, there are two main options:
Made of natural, breathable cotton canvas
Heavy duty and extremely durable
Can withstand harsh weather well
Prone to shrinkage when wet
Heavier, making portability harder
Usually made of polyester or nylon
Coated with waterproofing treatments
Lighter weight and more portable
Provides less airflow than canvas
As you can see, canvas and synthetic tents both have pros and cons. You may want to go synthetic for backpacking trips and reserve heftier canvas tents for car camping.
Tent Coatings and Waterproofing
To keep you dry in the rain, most new tents come with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating.
This chemical treatment causes water to bead up and roll off the tent surface rather than seeping through. However, DWR coatings degrade over time with sun exposure and abrasion.
You’ll know it’s time to re-coat your tent when you notice:
Water soaking into fabric instead of beading up
Dark, wet spots left after rainfall
Fabric feeling stiff and lifeless
Look for tents with quality, long-lasting DWR formulas. A good DWR coating should last at least a few seasons with proper care. Don’t forget to reapply seam sealing regularly.
How to Air Out a Tent: Step-by-Step Guide
Now that you know why airing out your tent is so important, let’s get into how to do it right.
Setting Up the Tent for Airing
Choose a warm, dry, sunny day to air out your tent
Find a flat spot of ground without sticks or rocks nearby
Layout the tent footprint if your tent has one
Assemble the tent poles and stake corners
Try your best to get the tent in full tent set up position
This allows all fabric surfaces to be exposed to fresh air and sunlight. Think of it as a practice pitch to keep your tent set up skills sharp before your next camping trip!
Cleaning and Drying the Tent Floor and Fabric
We’ve written in the past about how to clean & wash tents, so here is the summary:
Sweep out debris from the tent floor with a broom or brush
Mix a mild soap with warm water
Dip a soft non-abrasive sponge in the solution and gently scrub the floor and walls/ceiling to remove dirt and stains from the tent’s fabric
Use a dust pan to remove any leaves, grass, etc.
Rinse everything thoroughly with clean water
Allow the tent to dry completely before packing it up
Give special attention to any visibly soiled spots on your tent walls or doors. Cleaning the tent regularly will also help remove foul odors.
Airing Out the Tent Indoors vs. Outdoors
Ideally, you should air out your tent outdoors on a dry, sunny day. But if hearsh weather forces you inside:
Set up the tent in a basement, garage or large room
Place fans around the tent to improve airflow
Leave tent doors open as much as possible
Allow longer dry time since you’re using a less ventilated area
Before taking down an indoor tent, inspect it closely and ensure it’s completely dry. Even a little moisture left inside can cause mildew.
Tips for Quick Drying
If you need to dry out your tent in a hurry before packing it up, this is for you:
Using the Rain Fly and Tent Doors
Drape the rain fly off to the side to prevent blocked airflow
Fully open all tent doors and roll up door flaps
Position the tent to catch prevailing winds
Use a towel to absorb any morning dew
This allows for maximum air circulation and acceleration of the drying process. Within a few hours, your tent should be ready for storage or transport.
However, our recommendation is to always go for the full & not rushed drying process.
The Role of Air Circulation
The key to fast tent drying is promoting ample air flow.
Avoid drying tents in:
Shaded areas with no direct sunlight
Low-lying grounds with poor drainage
Areas with heavy rain or high humidity
Instead, try drying on:
Windy hilltops and ridges
Gravel or sand substrates that won’t hold standing water
Slanted tarps propped up on a slope
Also, turning the tent every so often helps all sides dry evenly.
Tent Repair and Maintenance
No tent stays in perfect condition forever – repairs and upkeep are inevitable. Make sure you have these supplies for maintenance and fixes:
Basic Tent Repair Kit Essentials
Replacement shock cord
Tenacious tape for tears
Tent repair kit with patches, pole splints, etc.
A stuff sack for storing loose parts of freestanding tents
Having these on hand before you notice any tent damage makes fixes easier and reduces potential downpours in your tent!
Seam Sealing and Duct Tape
Two versatile items that deserve special mention are seam sealer and duct tape, as they have multiple of uses for tent repairs and maintenance:
Re-seal leaking seam tape
Works even in cold weather
Make emergency pole splints
Fix rips and tears temporarily
Patch holes in rain fly
Seal tent stitching
Repair broken poles
Duct tape and seam sealer will get you out of a jam when full tent repairs aren’t feasible. They are must-haves for every camper’s repair kit. Neglect them at your own risk.
Heading out for a fun camping adventure? Don’t forget to air out your tent after each trip, even if short, to prevent moisture build up.
Quick recap of what to do:
Start by fully setting up your canvas tent or new tent and wiping down the clean surface of the floor to remove any tree sap or debris
Use a mild detergent and warm water to scrub the walls and ceiling to eliminate odors and refresh the waterproof coating
Always allow the tent to completely air dry before packing it into the tent bag to avoid funky smells and mold
Pay extra attention to drying out canvas tents, as their heavy fabric takes longer to dry out
If your tent needs more permanent repairs, use cold water sealant to fix rips and re-seal seams
Quick drying sessions remove moisture build up, extending the life of your tent and its coating
Finally, store your completely dry tent loosely rather than cramming it into a small sack
With this basic care, your shelter will be ready for many future camping trips and adventures.
Bon voyage on your next fun outdoor adventure!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to air out a tent?
The ideal way to air out a tent is to set it up fully on a dry, sunny day with good airflow. Open all doors and windows and use a large tub under the floor to catch any excess water dripping through mesh.
How long does it take to air out a tent?
It usually takes 2-4 hours to air dry a tent completely. You can speed this up by hanging damp sections on a clothesline or positioning it over four chairs to promote airflow underneath.
Should you air out a tent after every trip?
Yes, you should air out a tent after even short 1-2 night trips. The humidity generated inside tents can lead to mold and unpleasant odors very quickly. Airing it out fully is the only way to prevent this.
How do you air out a smelly tent?
To remove funky smells from a tent, set it up and spray the inside with a mix of lemon juice and water. Let this solution sit before rinsing it off with clean water. Then let the tent air dry fully before packing. You can also air out the tent indoors near boxes of baking soda. The baking soda will help absorb musty odors over 2-3 days.
How can I speed up drying my tent?
To help your tent dry fast, set it up in an open area with plenty of sunlight and airflow. You can also use fans to circulate air and speed evaporation. Choose a breezy spot so wind can help dry your tent’s coating and fabric quickly.