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Tent FAQs

1. What is a Vestibule?
2. What is the Rain Fly?
3. What is a Gear Loft?
4. What is a Freestanding tent?
5. What is a non-Freestanding tent?
6. Do I need to stake my tent down?
7. What are these nylon loops on my tent fly?
8. Do I need a ground sheet or ground cloth?
9. Should I put a ground cloth inside the tent?
10. What is a better floor, nylon or polyethylene?
11. What is seam sealing and do I have to do it?
12. What seams do I seal on my tent?
13. What are the top five ways to kill a tent?
14. Can I cook or put a candle in my tent?
15. What is better, clips or sleeves?
16. What is condensation?
17. What is the difference between fiberglass and aluminum poles?
18 What are season ratings for tents?
19. What is a single wall tent?
20. Should I stuff or roll my tent when I put it away?
21. How do I roll my tent when I put it away?
22. Can I pack my tent when it is wet?
23. My tent has mold/mildew. How do I get rid of it?
24. How do I wash my tent? Can I put my tent in a washing machine?
25. Why are there two weights for backpacking tents?
26. I have pine pitch or sap on my tent. Can I get it off?
27. Will ultraviolet light damage my tent, canopy or screen house?
28. My tent fly has UV damage. Can I get a new one?
39. My 10-15 year old tent stinks. What is it and what can I do about it?
30. My zipper won't work. What is wrong?
31. If I touch the walls on my nylon/polyester tent will they leak?
32. Can I waterproof my tent with silicone spray?
33. The waterproof (urethane) coating of my old tent is coming off. Can I recoat it?
34. Additional Questions?

1. What is a Vestibule?

It's a passage or small room attached usually to the outside of a tent door. It can be used for storing wet or extra gear. Vestibules are great for storing gear but a full vestibule can inhibit airflow into the tent as well as make it more difficult to get in and out of the tent. A tent with 2 vestibules you can store things in the one vestibules and enter and leave through the other. Vestibules are found on backpacking tents and large base camp tents. Large family style tents often do not include vestibule.

2. What is the Rain Fly?

It's the outer waterproof covering or top of the tent, designed to protect the breathable inner roof. A fly is always included with dome or non cabin tents (except Single Wall tents).

3. What is a Gear Loft?

This small mesh hammock or net attaches to loops in the upper interior corners of some tents. It is used for extra storage space for small items or accessories. They can lie flat like a hammock across the top of the tent or can be hung as a pocket along the side wall of a larger family tent. Some hammock types have pockets to help keep gear in its place and to add organization.

4. What is a Freestanding tent?

A tent that stands alone without the benefit of stakes or guy lines is said to be self supporting or freestanding. All tents need to be staked or guyed to prevent wind damage, the possibility of being blown away and to provide stability. Also guying out the fly helps ventilation, thereby reducing condensation by allowing more air to circulate under the fly. Most tent companies do not warranty wind damage to a tent.

5. What is a non-freestanding tent?

A tent that needs stakes and guy points in order to stand is non-freestanding. Many Ultralight backpacking tents, as well as larger cabin tents, are non-freestanding. All tents should be fully staked in order to prevent loss and damage as well as to aid in ventilation and condensation reduction.

6. Do I need to stake my tent down?

Yes you do! Your tent will blow away if you do not stake it down. Putting gear and equipment in the tent will not be sufficient. You must use stakes to hold it to the ground. Tents with damage from rolling around due to high winds are not covered by any warranty. Damage can range from broken poles to holes in the floor, fly and tent body as well as rips and tears. If you find yourself in conditions where stakes can not be used like the beach or on rock, you can use sand anchors or if on rock use larger rocks to tie off the tent to.

7. What are these nylon loops on my tent fly?

Those are guy line loops whose specific purpose is to stabilize the tent in high winds. In windy conditions you want to run 1-3 lines (depending on wind conditions) from the loop to stakes on the ground. They are necessary because even though you have staked your tent to the ground high winds can actually blow the top of the tent over. This can result in broken poles and ripped fabric. The lines will prevent the tent from shifting from side to side and and ease the stresses on the fabric.

8. Do I need a foot print or ground cloth?

Yes. A ground cloth or foot print prevents the floor from getting rips and holes as well as keeping it cleaner. The ground cloth is not for waterproofing. Remember, a tent floor is waterproof until you put a hole in it. A foot print should be either the exact size or slightly smaller than the tent floor. It is very important that the foot print or ground cloth not extend beyond the floor dimensions of a tent so water does not become trapped between the tent and ground sheet. If that happens, the waterproof rating of the floor will be exceeded as you move around the tent or even sleep.

9. Should I put a ground cloth inside the tent?

No. A ground sheet inside the tent will not protect the floor from rips or holes. In addition, a ground sheet in a tent can damage the tent floor if water or condensation is trapped underneath, by allowing mold or mildew to form. Or, in extreme cases, the urethane coating on nylon floors can delaminate.

10. What is a better floor, nylon, polyester or polyethylene?

Nylon and polyester. Polyethylene is a good durable floor material whose main virtue is its low cost. Nylon and polyester are more durable and longer lasting. All high-end tents have nylon or polyester floors. Nylon or polyester materials are easier to repair, pack up, and are lighter and quieter.

11. What is seam sealing and do I have to do it?

When two waterproof materials are joined by stitching, there are thousands of tiny holes that water can and will go through. Many tents now come with taped seams which will prevent this leaking from happening. However if there are exposed seams on your tent then these holes must be sealed shut with a seam sealer, which is usually a liquid urethane that must be applied to the affected seams.

12. What seams do I seal on my tent?

As a general rule any waterproof material that is stitched to another waterproof material needs to be sealed if it is not protected by the fly. Any waterproof material sewn to a breathable or permeable fabric need not be sealed because water will go through the permeable fabric anyway so sealing that seam is a waste of time and it is protected by the fly anyway. Some tents have Factory sealed seams usually done with a clear seam tape on the coated side of the fabric. These seams do not need to be sealed. You can seal them if you want on the other side of the seam, but it is generally not necessary. Putting sealer on the tape is not recommended as it won't stick. Generally, 2 light coats of a water based sealer on both sides of the seam is better than one heavy coat. Here is a list of seams that need to be sealed on most tents. Again if these seams are taped they do not need to be sealed. ??? All main fly seams need to be sealed. Perimeter fly seams can be ignored. ??? On the body of the tent any corner seams, reinforcements or stake loops need to be sealed. ??? Side wall seams where the floor and wall meet need to be sealed unless covered by the fly. ??? Outer seams around windows and doors need to be sealed on the outside. If webbing is attached to the corners, it should be sealed top and bottom unless factory taped. ??? If your tent has a sewn-in floor with an outside perimeter floor seam this seam needs to be sealed on the outside top and bottom all the way around the tent. This seam should not be sealed inside the tent because the seams are not accessible and you will glue the floor and wall together causing damage to the floor and wall. ??? Always seal any external guy point on the tent or any other stress point on the outside of the fly by overlapping the sewn area about ????" on either side of the stitching.??? seal the stitching of any Velcro loops on the fly.Never seal a seam directly adjacent to a zipper because if you get sealer in a zipper it is no longer a zipper. Remember to follow the directions on whatever brand of seam sealer that you use. Of course, each tent is different in what is sealed and what needs to be sealed. For more info on your specific tent, or if you have any questions please contact Campmor.

13. What are the top five ways to kill a tent?

1. Store it damp or wet (mold and mildew).
2. Leave it in the sun for 3-5 months (ultraviolet light damage).
3. Forget to stake it down (it will blow away).
4. Store food in it (critters will come visit).
5. Lend it to a friend (fool ;).

14. Can I cook or put a candle in my tent?

NO! WARNING! DO NOT OPERATE ANYTHING THAT BURNS FUEL IN A TENT: i.e. STOVE, CANDLE, GAS LANTERN OR HEATER.
Combustion consumes oxygen and can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, which could lead to serious injury or death. Although most tent materials are treated with a fire retardant they will burn if left in contact with a continuous ignition source and so will you.

15. What is better, clips or sleeves?

Both are good and both have advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes, setting up a tent with clips is easier especially with fiberglass poles as the ferrule (the metal end of the fiberglass pole) can get caught on the sleeves. Clips allow greater air circulation under the fly thereby reducing condensation. Clips can be faster to set up than sleeves, although in high winds some folks believe that continuous sleeves can be a little easier. Sleeves provide a more even distribution of stress on the tent, although it is rare for a clip to pull out due to wind especially in high-end tents. Continuous sleeves are better than non-continuous sleeves as they are generally easier to set-up. Sleeves do inhibit airflow under the fly. Mesh or vaulted sleeves allow more air to pass than solid sleeves.

16. What is condensation?

Condensation forms when the tent is warmer inside than outside (physics). When people are in a tent it will always be warmer in the tent than outside the tent. Warm bodies heat up the tent and the colder outside air hits the warmer tent wall forming condensation. Also, each person in a tent exhales approximately 4 oz of water each night. If that water cannot evaporate out of the tent through venting it will form on the tent walls and floor. You should leave every window or vent open as much as possible to minimize condensation especially if there are a lot of people in the tent or it is very small. Only close your windows if it is very cold or rain is coming in. Remember, the more ventilation the less condensation!

17. What is the difference between fiberglass and aluminum poles?

Fiberglass poles are less expensive than aluminum poles. They are more likely to break, especially in temperatures below 50 degrees. In order to get the same strength from a fiberglass pole it has to be longer and thicker than an aluminum pole which can be problematic for a backpacking tent. Aluminum poles are lighter than fiberglass, less likely to break, stronger and suitable for cold weather. They are more expensive than fiberglass and work well in any temperature. In backpacking tents, the sections tend to be shorter to make for a small pack size. Aluminum poles are essential for 4 season tents (snow and wind).

18. What are season ratings for tents?

3 Season
Spring, Summer or Fall. No snow - fiberglass poles. Since fiberglass is not as durable in colder weather as aluminum poles, you would want to avoid cold weather with a three season fiberglass pole tent.
3 Season Aluminum Poles
Spring, Summer or Fall. Cold weather, no snow - aluminum poles. The frame structure is not sufficient to support significant snow loads.
4 Season Expedition
Winter - heavy snow. Anytime anywhere - Arctic, Mt. Everest, Mt. Washington etc - even more aluminum poles, all vents and windows close. A tent that can take high winds and snow is a 4 season tent. It must have aluminum poles. It has the structural integrity to withstand snow loading and high winds (usually 3 or 4 aluminum poles). The ability to close all windows and vents to prevent spindrift or blowing snow from getting inside the tent is vital. These tents are not generally recommended for summer conditions because of weight and venting considerations.

19. What is a single wall tent?

Traditional double wall tents vent moisture through windows and breathable nylon walls and roof vents. Single wall tents eliminate all breathable nylon and a separate fly. The walls function as the fly. Primarily, with backpacking tents, this is done to save weight. Condensation is eliminated from the tent through hooded vents. All tents will have condensation at some times, but single wall tents may have a little more. The primary advantage to a single wall tent would be lighter weight and ease of set-up. Some tents identified as single wall tents are in fact are shelters that often use trekking poles as frames and are well engineered fly shelters that are very light.

20. Should I stuff or roll my tent when I put it away?

You should always fold and roll your tent and put it in its carry bag. Some people believe that if you fold and roll your tent the same way every time you will cause creasing in the urethane coating. This is no true; the coatings used today are very durable and will not crease. If you stuff your tent and it gets caught on the poles in the sack it will damage or rip the fabric. If you have choose stuffed the tent without the poles in the bag make sure you carry the poles in a secure place on your pack so they will not fall out and be missing when you setup camp.

21. How do I roll my tent to put it in that little bag?

First, shake out all loose dirt and debris and make sure the tent is dry. Never store a tent for a prolonged period if it is wet or else mold and mildew will form and begin to destroy your tent. Lay the tent flat and fold one third into the center lengthwise. Try to leave the windows and vents at least partially opened so as you roll the tent up, air won't be trapped and balloon. The fold should be just shorter than the tent bag. Fold the fly in thirds and lay it on top of the tent and fold the last third or the tent over the fly. Put the folded ground sheet on top of that. Take the poles and stakes and place them at one end or the tent and tightly roll the tent up. It should drop right in the bag.

22. Can I pack my tent when it is wet?

If you are backpacking, there will be times when you will have to pack it wet. Always set it up and dry it as soon as possible. Never store it at home or for long periods of time wet. If you have a family tent and you leave a campground with a wet tent you must open and dry your tent as soon as possible in order to prevent mold and mildew from forming.

23. My tent has mold/mildew. How do I get rid of it?

You can't. Mold and mildew form under the urethane coating and invade the fabric. If left untreated it will cause an awful smell and possibly lead to delamination of the urethane coating and weakening of the fabric. To treat mold/mildew fill a bucket with warm soapy water (no detergents please). Add 2 cups of lemon juice and mix. Set up the tent. Take a sponge and gently clean all areas of the tent inside and out. Rinse the tent by lightly sprinkling it with a hose. Let it air dry and be sure to stake it down. To clean the fly lay it on the ground and repeat cleaning procedure described above. After finishing one side, flip it over and do the other side. Rinse and air dry to finish.

24. How do I wash my tent? Can I put my tent in a washing machine?

NO! All tents must be hand washed. Washing machines put a terrible strain on stitching and can rip your tent in short order. To wash your tent fill a bucket with warm soapy water (no detergents please). Set up the tent. Take a sponge and gently clean all areas of the tent inside and out. Rinse the tent by lightly sprinkling it with a hose until rinsed. Let it air dry and be sure to stake it down. To clean the fly lay it on the ground and repeat cleaning procedure above. After finishing one side flip it over and do the other side. Rinse and air dry to finish.

25. Why are there two weights for backpacking tents?

To avoid confusion a number of years ago, the industry decided to provide a minimum weight or tent weight. The minimum weight includes the tent body, poles and fly. It does not include the carry sacks, stakes, guy lines or anything else that you would carry with the tent including, the ground sheet or footprint. This was done so all companies' weights would be comparable when choosing a tent. Some tents such as expedition tents have over a pounds worth of stakes. The total weight or pack weight is really the weight that is closest to what you would be carrying on a pack. This include lines, sacks and anything else that you would carry with the tent. Again this would not include the ground sheet or footprint.

26. I have pine pitch or sap on my tent. Can I get it off?

Yes a cloth dipped in either mineral oil or white gas will clean it.

27. Will ultraviolet light damage my tent, canopy or screen house?

Ultraviolet light is invisible and is always present during the daytime. It causes fabrics, such as nylon, polyester and polyethylene, to degrade and breakdown over time. Oddly enough, those are the very materials best suited to making tents. A tent, screen house or canopy made from any of those materials is subject to ultraviolet damage. Polyester lasts longer than nylon in resisting damage and dark colors fare better than light colors. A nylon tent left up continuously for about 3 months will be completely destroyed by ultraviolet light. A polyester tent fly would last about 5 months before it succumbs. Polyethylene has about the same UV characteristics as polyester. The material looks thinner, dryer and fades as the damage progresses. Finally, the material will shred and fall apart. All the tents, canopies, screen houses etc. that Campmor sells are intended for occasional use and not for permanent or season-long use. No tent company warranties ultraviolet damage and neither does Campmor.

28. My tent fly has UV damage. Can I get a new one?

Yes, from the manufacturer, but we don't recommend it. If the fly is destroyed by UV the body surely has damage too. You might not see it but it's there. So, if you spend the money for a new fly, the tent might not even last another season before it gives out.

29. My 10-15 year old tent stinks. What is it and what can I do about it?

If the smell is from mold or mildew see question 25. However when tents get to the advanced age of 10 years some of them begin to smell (like stale milk or baby vomit). This is the urethane coating and the fire retardant on the fabric beginning to break down chemically. There is nothing that can be done that we are aware of that will reduce the smell. Washing the tent will lessen the odor but not eliminate it. Campmor scientists are feverishly working on the problem but you might need a new tent. If we come up with any solution we will let you know.

30. My zipper won't work. What's wrong?

Most zipper problems are Slider problems. This is the piece that moves up and down and actually opens and closes the zipper. Usually, when this wears out, the zipper opens after you close it. Sometimes you can crimp the slider with pliers temporarily making the zipper work. But, what you really need is a new slider because the old one has worn out. This can happen over time or if sand or grit get in the zipper and wear it out. Replacing a slider is not hard. Campmor sells a slider replacement kit or our repair shop can replace them. A zipper only needs to be replaced if the teeth or coils are damaged. Replacing a zipper is not an easy task and should only be attempted by a qualified stitching engineer.

31. If I touch the walls of my nylon/polyester tent, will they leak?

No. If you touch a canvas tent wall or ceiling it will leak. Canvas absorbs water causing the threads to expand and thereby stopping water from going through. However if you touch the walls, you break the surface tension and cause a drip from that spot. A nylon/polyester tent has a waterproof urethane coating that prevents water from going through the fabric. What you will feel, though, is condensation. It is almost always present and certainly in prolonged rain or in tents with a high occupancy it will be noticeable. Remember, the more ventilation the less condensation.

32. Can I waterproof my tent with a silicone spray?

Yes and no. Silicone can be sprayed on to improve waterproofing but can not be applied as a primary waterproof coating. When your tent is new the nylon or polyester on the fly, floor or walls has what is known as a Durable Water Repellency or DWR. This is applied to the actual threads and is separate from the urethane coating on the underside of the fabric. The DWR causes water to bead up and run off similar to the wax finish on a car. As the tent is used or through age the DWR breaks down and allows water to stay on the fabric where it can seep through any breaks or abrasions in the urethane coating. Silicone renews the DWR so that water beads up and runs off before the water has a chance to find any breaks or cracks in the urethane. Silicone usually needs at least 2 coatings to be most effective but follow all directions with the product you are using. Silicone is to be applied to the outside or the uncoated side of the fabric; it will not work if applied to the underside or the urethane coating.

33. The waterproof (urethane) coating of my old tent is coming off. Can I recoat it?

You could, but it is a lot of work. By the time the coating comes off of a tent, the tent is usually in its advanced years (10-15) and maybe ready to retire. However, if you can't bear to let your old musty friend die, it is possible to recoat the tent. Most tents have the urethane coating on the under side of the fly and the inside of the body. First, the surface must be cleaned with a light soap solution (see above) and dried. Then all the loose urethane must be removed. Then, and only then, can you apply a recoat using a couple of products:

Follow all directions on the product carefully. Whatever you apply will not be as good as when the tent was new as it is only a surface coat and the original was sprayed on under pressure. Good luck.

34. Additional Questions?

If you have any additional questions about purchasing a tent, or the care of your tent, please contact Campmor's Customer Service Department.

 
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