Tent Introduction – Some camping tent basics
A few years ago choosing your camping tent was a much simpler affair as ridge tents were the main design. These days there are many different tent styles on offer from the quick erect tents to the spacious dome tents.
Most tents these days will have two layers. The outer tent (or fly sheet) will be waterproof keeping the interior dry. It will have numerous guy ropes and tent pegs attached to increase the stability of the tent. It will also have other features such as doors, windows, mud flaps and ventilation vents.
The inner layer will be made from lighter non-waterproof breathable material. Its role is to provide an inner room where equipment and occupants are dry, well ventilated and comfortable. The space between the flysheet and the inner tent allows condensation from the inner room to be ventilated out and thus preventing drips from forming. The outer and inner tents should not be allowed to touch as this will permit water to seep from the outer tent to the non-waterproof inner tent and cause problems.
The groundsheet is important as it prevents moisture from seeping up into the tent from below. The bedroom groundsheets should be the bathtub type to prevent draughts and create a more efficient barrier to moisture. For the communal areas, with greater traffic flow, it is usually better to select a tent with a separate groundsheet, as any damage to the groundsheet caused by this general usage is easier to repair.
Some tents are constructed outer tent layer first whereas with other tents the inner tent is erected first.
If the inner tent is erected first, it means that the tent poles are attached to the inner tent, and then the outer tent is thrown over this completed structure. This usually means that the tent is very taut and doesn’t flap about so much in the wind. The major disadvantage of this system is that the inner (non-waterproof) inner tent will get wet if the camping tent is being erected in the rain.
If the outer tent is erected first, the tent poles are attached to the outer tent and then the inner tent is hung from the outer tent’s structure. This allows the inner tent to be set up within the comfort of the outer tent in wet or windy conditions. When the camping tent is taken down it is useful to be able to pack up all the equipment, including the inner tent, get ready for the drive home and then take down the outer tent without getting wet.
Tips on pitching a tent
What to consider when pitching a tent? Be aware of the following tent pitching tips:
Shower block: The shower block is a high traffic area and can consequently be quite noisy. It is generally advisable to pitch your tent away from this area although not so far away that trips become a chore.
Roads: The main campsite roads and footpaths can also suffer from high traffic, be noisy, more dangerous and best avoided.
Rubbish bins: Avoid pitching your tent near to the campsite bins as these areas are noisy and can attract flies and rodents.
Wind protection: Select a pitch protected as far as possible from the wind, i.e., on the lee side of hills or trees, to avoid flapping tent fabric and reduced temperatures. Be aware that the direction of the wind when pitching the tent may not be the prevailing one and may change.
Flooding: Select a site which will not get flooded so be careful when pitching the tent near streams and rivers. Don’t forget natural dips in fields which may become boggy in excessive rain, generally plumb for higher ground.
Sharp objects: Ensure the tent is pitched clear of sharp objects to avoid damage to the groundsheet and uncomfortable sleeping.
Ants: For obvious reasons don’t pitch your tent near or on ant nests.
Flat: Ensure the site is flat to avoid uncomfortable sleeping and living conditions. If this is not an option, ensure the bedrooms are constructed with the sleeper’s head “uphill”.
A tent maintenance and care guide
Tents will last many years if you keep up to date with your tent maintenance. Below are a few tent care tips which should help to prolong the life of your tent:
• Take care to follow the instructions in the owners manual for proper setup and care regarding your tent.
• Ensure the tent poles are correctly pushed through the tent fabric sleeves to prevent the fabric ripping as the tent is erected.
• Don’t force the fibreglass poles into position as they may snap. Repositioning of the poles in the fabric sleeves usually gives enough slack to pull safely the poles up into their correct position.
• Remove any stones or sharp objects from the tent pitching area to prevent the groundsheet from being punctured.
• Put a secondary groundsheet beneath the main groundsheet to help prevent rips and punctures.
• Remove boots and shoes when entering the tent.
• Remove any stones from the tent as, if stepped on, they may pierce the groundsheet.
• Don’t cook or build fires near to the tent.
• Avoid hanging heavy objects from the tent as this can cause the tent to sag or tear.
• Ensure the tent is dried before being stored, either on the campsite or at home, to avoid mildew growth which can damage the tent.
• Avoiding creasing the tent when packing it into its bag as this can reduce its waterproof qualities. Consider buying a tent with an oversized bag to help prevent this problem.
• Try not to store the tent in a compacted bag, instead, store it loosely in a dry, well-ventilated area.
• Tent reproofing is possible using reproofing products which can stop leaks and avoids having to purchase a new tent.
• Never use detergents such as washing up liquid on your tent. It will prevent it from being waterproof.
Your tent repair kit
The following items should assist you if you need to undertake a tent repair whilst away from home. Generally, few repairs are ever needed (I have been camping for many years and if you buy a reasonable tent then very little will go wrong), but to be on the safe side, especially if you are to be away from home for a reasonable period, it is worth taking a few repair provisions :-
• Spare pole sections.
• Seam sealant to repair any leaking tent seams.
• A spare guy rope.
• Spare tent pegs.
• Needle and thread to repair any fabric rips.
• Reproofing solution (available from DIY shops and general camping stores).
Also, it is well worth taking some duct tape and a knife with you as many problems can be temporarily repaired by stitching the tape to broken fibreglass poles, ripped tent fabric, ripped groundsheets and so on.