We are finally into March - where the frost begins to dissipate from many parts of the country, and the camping materials you've stashed away can once again come out of hiding. This is a great time to triple check your equipment for any discrepancies that could cause you problems. Finding any issues with your gear early on is a great way to prevent headaches out in the field, allowing you to replace critical components or equipment before venturing out into the wild again.
As tents are a common item found in everyone's box of camping goods, I wanted to talk a bit about how to properly clean and maintain your tent. Especially for casual campers, inspecting and maintaining what will be your housing for a few days or more is extremely important. While you don't need to deep clean your tent between each use, at least one deep clean per year is recommended to increase the longevity and comforts provided by your tent. Before breaking the tent down it's always a good idea to remove any trash and spot clean any spills, messes, or tree saps.
If you're able to, setting up the tent in your yard, or simply hanging it up in an open space within your home, is a great way to get a visual inspection of the entire structure. Look for holes, tears, etc., that need to be patched. It's a good idea to check the seams to make sure everything is still tightly sealed. From here you can also inspect for places to spot clean - tree sap and bird waste being some of the most common stains to scrub away. For this it's recommended to use a non-abrasive sponge or towel.
Once you've spot cleaned you can determine if you'd like to go the extra step and give your tent a good deep clean. If it saw frequent use last season I would especially recommend it regardless. At least if the stink was coming from you, you could take a dip in a river to lessen it - but not so much if it's coming from your tent.
Prepare a bathtub or large vessel with lukewarm water. You can use specific tent cleaners, which I recommend as they're formulated to protect the water-proofing coatings on tents and rainflys. Prep the tent by making sure all zippers are open, soaking it in the soap and cleaner mixture for several minutes. After draining the solution, you'll fill this again with clean water and begin the soaking process. After 2-3 clean water soaks, the tent should be sud free, and hung up to dry. Once this is complete, you'll have a freshly clean tent that's ready for another season!
As always be sure to plan accordingly for your trip, bringing extra food and water with you. Never push yourself past your means, as there's always next time!