Drying a tent may seem like a fairly straightforward task, but with the many nooks and crannies in a tent’s fabric and lining, it can be a problem making sure it is completely dry, especially after a particularly rainy trip.
Why Should My Tent Be Dry?
Ensuring your tent is as dry as possible before putting it into storage minimizes the risk of mildew, mold or water damage occurring. Mold and mildew are two preventable issues that often come about due to neglecting to dry the tent correctly, and can produce a smell that is very hard to clean away. There are ways to clean a tent that smells, but if the smell can be prevented with certain measures, then it’s worth preventing.
Even if you have to wait until you’re home to dry your tent off, a tent should only be stored up to 48 hours while wet, providing the environment doesn’t promote mold growth.
Read more about storing a wet tent here.
Keeping your tent dry can prevent further repairs that may come about due to water damage. Whilst tents are waterproof and are usually fairly robust, constant exposure, especially when they’re stored without being completely dry, will lead to damage and weakness in the fabric, which can lead to further leakage, fraying and holes forming in the material. As a result, this could lead to needing to repair the tent by patching it, or may lead to you needing to buy a whole new tent.
How to Dry the Exterior of a Tent
The tent’s exterior is the easiest part of a tent to dry. As it is the area which is most exposed to the elements, the elements usually help dry it out. A tent with a wet interior will dry best when left outside in the sun. Of course, if it is raining whilst packing the tent away, the chances of it drying off naturally are low. In this case, there are several ways you can reduce the amount of rainwater that the tent is exposed to.
One way of minimizing the rain hitting your tent is to use shelter. A shelter can be anything from a natural formation such as a ledge or large tree, to a manmade one such as tarpaulin or a gazebo. If you’re expecting rain whilst camping, setting your tent up under a shelter to stop the tent getting as wet is a good way to minimize the chances of leakage or water damage. It will also make the cleanup easier and won’t require as much time and effort to dry the tent. Some tips for keeping yourself and your tent dry during wet weather can be found in How to Stay Dry When Camping.
If camping in the rain, be sure to consider where your tent is pitched. A low ditch or area where water is likely to gather can be problematic or potentially deadly in the event of a flash flood.
The exterior of a tent can dry very quickly when erected in dry weather, and with ventilation available. If the weather is wet, a garage or even inside a house will also see favorable results. If assembling a wet tent inside, make sure to lay towels down. A fan being blown onto the tent can also help as it improves ventilation. Using a dry, clean towel to wipe it down can also remove excess water that may have pooled or accumulated on the tent’s surface.
How to Dry the Interior of a Tent
Once the interior of a tent gets wet it can be a nuisance to dry off again. Due to the shape of the interior of a tent, it’s easy to water to pool and gather, particularly in the corners and around the seams.
Water can enter tents in a bunch of different ways, but usually enters through a leakage or simply being walked in. The best way to prevent water from entering the tent through a leak is by using waterproof sprays and seam sealers. Waterproofing a tent is a habit best getting into if you camp even just once a year, as fabric weaknesses can occur naturally due to wear and the environment that the tent is pitched in.
Similarly to the exterior of the tent, drying the interior of the tent includes setting it up and hoping for most of the moisture to evaporate. This can be done both outside or inside, but works best outside and in sunny weather. Having a fan positioned to blow inside the tent can help speed the process up and reach some harder-to-get-to areas. If the pooling is particularly bad inside the tent, wiping it down with towels or napkins to remove the excess water may be a good option.
If the interior of the tent is leaking, check for the source of the leak. It can either be sewn up, patched up, or if the leak is coming from a seam, sealed. Fixing a hole or leak should only be done once the tent is dried and clean, to ensure the adhesive sticks and dries correctly.
Other Ways to Dry a Tent
Whilst the most effective and easiest way of drying a tent is to set it up and let it dry naturally in the sun, there will be circumstances which prevent that from working correctly. Either it be because you don’t have a garden or whether the weather isn’t fit for it, there are other alternatives that can be used. The next best thing is to set it up indoors or inside a garage, but if there is no space to do so there are other options available.
Hang it on a Clothesline
A clothesline can be set up either inside or outside, and can be left up indefinitely whilst your tent dries. This method is good if there is inconsistent rain outside. It shouldn’t stick to the tent whilst it’s hung up, and the tent can stay outside until the rain goes off long enough for the tent to dry.
Hang it in the Shower
Putting the tent in the shower or bath gives it a place to drain out. Make sure that you periodically move the tent around to ensure that water isn’t trapped inside any of the folds.
Put it in the Dryer
As discussed in Can you put a Tent in a Front Loading Washing Machine, the use of washing and drying machines are very unreliable when cleaning or drying a tent. It might work, but it also might damage your tent or damage the machine cleaning or drying it. This is a last resort, as it is likely to damage the tent. As a precaution, try using a delicate laundry bag and drying the tent on low heat with a slow spin. This method may be best for those with no other way to dry a tent which was particularly expensive. A cheap tent isn’t worth drying this way, as a new dryer would cost way more than the trouble it’s worth to dry a cheap tent.
What Not to Do When Drying a Tent
Whilst some methods may seem like they should work, they could cause more damage to the tent and lead to additional cost due to repair or replacement.
Don’t use a Hairdryer
Hair dryers are not advised for drying a tent out, due to the heat that they produce. Tents are particularly sensitive to extreme temperatures, and the material is likely to be damaged by a hairdryer.
Don’t use a Space Heater
Space heaters are similar to hair dryers in the way that they can damage a tent’s surface with the heat that they produce. Although tempting to use direct heat, the synthetic fabrics used up to make a tent are easily warped and weakened by extreme heat.
Discussed previously, there are ways to prevent as much rain hitting the tent by utilizing natural and manmade shelters. In addition to this, there are also preventative measures that can be taken to prevent mold from forming easily. Mold prevention spray exists for fabrics, but should also be used in addition to other drying techniques.
Using a tent footprint can also prevent rainwater from entering the tent through the flooring. These can be bought for specific tent models, or made from scratch. In addition to this, using towels as a carpet inside the tent can also reduce moisture. It’s also easier to clean and dry towels once back home than it is to clean and dry a tent.
Mentioned in Camping in the Rain, it’s also good practice to make sure that no water or mud is walked into the tent. This can be done by using different socks and shoes exclusively inside the tent, and leaving wet items outside the tent or in plastic bags to prevent any transfer.
Ensuring your tent is dry before going back into storage can increase its longevity and reduce the risk of molds, smells and water damage. Whilst it can be a struggle to dry a tent properly, especially if it has been packed away whilst in the rain, it is certainly doable depending on your circumstances. Some ways may be more finicky than others, but it is an important habit to get into if you’re invested in keeping your tent in the best possible condition.