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Cleaning and Caring for your gear - Tents and Rain Jackets

Cleaning and Caring for your gear - Tents and Rain Jackets

Posted by Richard Lievaart on 4th Feb 2021

All of the gear we own and use outdoors is designed to be light and flexible but also strong, waterproof, warm and durable, depending on what the product is.

In this series of blogs we will take you through what we find to be the best ways to look after your tents, waterproof shells, down jackets, boots and backpacks.

Great all round tips I have always tried to stick to with gear:

  • Avoid – Avoid damage ( take off the down jacket before you walk through a bush)
  • Store correctly – Keep tents dry, don’t leave your down sleeping bag in its stuff sack
  • Maintain – Use the correct products to clean and look after gear regularly
  • Know the lifespan – Eventually your tent or jacket will just be too old and it’s time for a new one

Avoid damaging your tent by packing it away dry and storing it correctly.


Our dry gear always takes a serious beating, from having to keep us dry from outside moisture while still breathing so we don’t sweat too much is all a constant balance. We know how it feels to take that rain jacket off after a day of hiking in the rain or unpacking your tent when you get home after a wet hiking trip. These layers have done some hard work and need to be looked after so they keep working for us.

That wonderful feeling of a sticky flysheet is always something to avoid. This is caused by the polyurethane coating that was originally applied to the surface of the jacket or tent flysheet breaking down. This layer is essentially liquid plastic that dries into a waterproof layer that is generally heat resistant as well. The combination of this layer with the nylon or polyester protects your tent from the elements while still allowing it to breathe

The polymers that make up the polyurethane layer start to dislocate from each other in a process called delamination. This can lead to your flysheet sticking together while it’s folded in its bag which can cause hassles when it’s time to pitch your tent, especially when you are setting it up on your own. It also does not smell great.

An example of an old jacket that needs to be reproofed, vs a new one.

Age is not the only thing to eat up your tent's coating, not drying it out before packing it away can also cause the tent to become sticky. When your tent is stored damp the water molecules react with the polyurethane coating and cause it to delaminate. You could also get mould and mildew and other big issues from storing your tent while wet so it’s easier to avoid the problem by giving it a chance to dry first.

One of the other causes of polyurethane delamination is rolling up your tent too tightly. Just like the water molecules not being able to evaporate from a damp tent that is stored, gas molecules from polyurethane coating also need to be given a chance to evaporate. This is called off-gassing.

In many cases we do not smell the gas because it is able to evaporate easily and there is not enough of it to cause a strong odour. In the case of your tent being rolled too tightly, the gas molecules cannot escape and they not only smell bad but they can cause the polyurethane to delaminate.

All of this goes for your rain jackets as well. Let it dry properly before putting it away and avid packing it away too tightly.

Ok, great so now my tent is dirty and I don’t want to put it away like this….

To clean your tent, soak it in a luke warm water bath, let any stains get properly wet and then give any problem areas a scrub with a solution of Nikwax Tech wash (read the bottle for instructions). A soft brush works nicely on for this. Let this all soak again for about 5 min and then wipe down the tent with a wet cloth, rinsing the cloth regularly. After cleaning your tent or jacket, treat it with Nikwax TX Direct Spray (follow instructions on the bottle).

Wash your waterproof gear by hand, rather than in a washing machine.

When the tent is dry and the fly sheet is treated you can add seam sealer to all the insides of the joints and seams. Use a brush or sponge to apply the seam sealer. Use sparingly and allow to dry for 12 hours. It’s easiest to do this part when the tent is setup and all the seams are taught.


Tips:

  • Never use a washing machine for this sort of gear. Machines are quite rough. Rather hand wash so you know that you won’t end up with a piece of untreated nylon for a flysheet.
  • Never use laundry detergents. The chemicals wear out any tech gear very quickly.
  • If you are using your tent in coastal areas remember to rinse the tent poles regularly to avoid corrosion
  • Carry a roll of tenacious tape with you in case your tent or flysheet gets ripped. Duct tape will also work as a temporary fix.

Next blog we will be looking at cleaning down jackets and sleeping bags.

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