How Long Do Nylon Tents Last?

There are many factors that contribute to the lifespan of nylon tents. For safety and practicality, knowing how long nylon tents last can be a valuable asset in your outdoor arsenal. Luckily, there are steps to extend and preserve the lifespans of nylon tents, all of which can save you money and time in the future. 

With proper maintenance and care, nylon tents can last a decade or longer before needing replacement. Through additional precautionary measures and upkeep, the lifespan of a nylon tent can be extended indefinitely. 

Although maintaining a healthy tent is not free, the money saved in the long run can be substantial. In the case of nylon tents, poor and deferred maintenance can result in premature damage after just a few years. The tips outlined in this article will help extend the life of your tent.

Nylon Tent
ID 29768159 © Stocksolutions |

Factors Affecting Tent Life

There are countless factors to consider when utilizing a tent, with the sun, snow, and everything in between threatening to disrupt the flow of tent well-being. Being aware of these factors will give you a strong advantage in maintaining your nylon tent for years to come.

UV Damage

Like human skin, nylon is not immune to UV damage, harmful ultraviolet rays are a constant presence in most regions. 

Injury caused by UV rays can appear in a host of ways, namely:

  • Faded fabric
  • Lost strength in the fabric; e.g., stretching, ripping, thinning
  • Eventually, the disintegration of the fabric

If pitched in high-altitude, with little shade and closer proximity to the sun, your tent can be damaged beyond repair inside a month. On the other hand, if you maintain your tent’s sun protection from UV damage by applying a UV protectant and setting up in shaded areas, your nylon will not bear the brunt of UV damage as much.

The prevention of UV ray damage is explained in more detail below, in the next section “Ways to Extend the Life of a Tent” section.

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Wind Damage

Exposure to wind over the course of a few weeks, or even days, can irreversibly damage a tent if proper steps are not taken to secure it properly. Especially in nylon tents, gusts can blow over and destroy unsecured or poorly secured tent structures.

Repeated storms can lead to holes or tears in vulnerable sections of your tent, with heavier gusts threatening to rip weaker fabrics from their anchors. 

Whipping and flapping caused by wind can also lead to detrimental effects, as poles and structural support can be stressed and weakened over time.

Among experienced tenters with well-made tents, the maximum winds to remain safe are 15-30 mph. 

Rain and Moisture

Although many tents are manufactured to be waterproof and made for all conditions, the presence of rain and moisture often leads to reduced lifespans. Mold and mildew are two hazards among many brought about by wet tent conditions.

Condensation of fluids within a tent will lead to saturation of a tent’s fabric, weakening the fabric altogether over extended periods of time. The waterproof coating can also disintegrate over time leaving your camping gear in a puddle on the tent floor.

As if getting soaked inside your tent wasn’t enough, the wet conditions make a perfect breeding spot for harmful mildew, further leading to tent destruction.

Waterproofing your tent annually is a necessary move to reduce the threat of rain and moisture, especially if you put a lot of miles on your tent. The disintegration of your factory waterproofing can cause issues with your tent interior becoming sticky and hard to set up.

Storage Conditions

When storing a tent, the rules are pretty basic: find a dry and cool spot. Try to avoid areas like car trunks, garages, or attics. Nice alternatives are basements and gear closets as they tend to have less variation in extreme temperatures. 

In muggy, warm storage units, tents are much more susceptible to foster fungi and material damage. Waterproof coatings are also at risk of damage or a reduction in effectiveness when not dried properly.

When it comes to folding your tent up, be sure to keep it loose so as to avoid restriction of the fibers. A mesh storage bag is an ideal storage option for many looking to stow their tents away in the off season.

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Ways to Extend the Life of a Tent

There are a handful of steps you can take to help get the most life out of your tent as possible, with the least maintenance. Following these steps will not only make your tent safer, but also stronger in the face of Mother Nature.

Waterproof Regularly

In order to prevent the issues associated with a water-logged tent, there are three measures to consider when waterproofing. As a benchmark, waterproofing should be done every 6-12 months that a tent is used. 

When waterproofing, you can:

  • Seal the seams: By applying seam sealants to the seam material of your tent. Moisture is much less likely to seep through.
  • Reapply the DWR: Durable water repellents will maintain your tent’s status of being water-repellant much to the same effect of a duck’s feathers.
  • Refresh the urethane coating: Most commonly seen on the inside and the floor of a tent, urethane coatings are the most prominent barriers against water.

See our detailed article for more in-depth information on repairing your tent’s waterproof coating.

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Keep Clean

If you wish to keep your tent functioning in the thick of rough conditions, keeping it clean during and after usage is essential. A few minutes of cleaning a tent can prove to be very valuable during future tenting adventures.

Before packing your tent away, be sure to remove any rocks, leaves, or dirt that got dragged along. This will prevent any ripping or build-up of material inside the tent.

Tents do not require deep cleans, especially nylon tents, which have thin material. Spot treating with soapy water, and ensuring the zippers and seams are not clogged is sufficient to maintain tent cleanliness. 

Refrain from using detergents or scented soaps, as these can damage the waterproof coating, reduce the breathability and attract insects. Also, take care not to submerge your tent in water, for the sake of the waterproof coating. 

Protect From UV

When it comes to protecting your tent from the sun, the recommendations are simple and straightforward: 

  1. If possible, avoid direct sunlight; opt for shaded areas.
  2. In direct sunlight, try to use a tarp or other cover to protect it from damaging ultraviolet light.
  3. Be sure to apply UV-protective solutions to your tent regularly, depending on the amount of sunlight your tent receives.

Just two weeks in the sun can reduce your tent’s material strength by 50%, so treat it how you would treat your skin, with care.

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Dry/Air Out After Use

Condensation in a tent is a silent killer, often going unnoticed when tents are not dried out properly and serving as a petri dish for problems. To avoid mold and mildew, follow the steps below.

How to properly air out a tent:

  • If in the outdoors, set it up in a sunny area and hang the rain fly separately.
  • If forced to pack a wet tent, dry it out as soon as possible.
  • If at home, set it up in a garage or outdoors to fully dry out.

Again, ensuring there is absolutely no remaining moisture in or on your tent is imperative to extending its life.

Use Ground Sheet

Groundsheets and tarps offer a host of benefits adding an extra layer of protection in all conditions. As a primary barrier to water and damage, groundsheets protect the underside of your tent from hazards of all sorts, including moisture and sharp objects. 

Even though tents typically have reinforced floors, adding a groundsheet to your set-up is a great idea. The extra barrier will make the inside of your tent more comfortable and help keep the gear you bring tent camping in top condition

Groundsheets will:

  • Keep the bottom of your tent clean and dry
  • Add an additional layer of insulation 
  • Help prevent rips, tears, and damage
  • Increase waterproofing
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How to Avoid Damage

Avoiding damage before it even happens is the most logical way to go about increasing the longevity of your tent. Keeping these measures in the back of your mind will aid you in avoiding damage to your tent.

Don’t Spray Tent With Harmful Chemicals

Opting for non-detergent sprays and cold water instead of bleach, chemicals, and perfumed scents will extend the life of your tent’s waterproofing and prevent the attraction of insects and rodents. Read all manuals, labels and tags for information before spraying your tent with anything other than the basics listed above.

Avoid Pitching Tent on Sharp Objects

While it should go without saying, avoiding sharp objects like sticks, rocks, and branches when pitching a tent is important. Scan the area carefully before pitching your tent to avoid preventable damage.

Don’t Setup Under Sap Trees

Sap can stick to your tent and become a real hassle to remove. The longer it sits on your tent’s material, the more difficult it becomes to get off. Struggling to remove sap can cause you to use excessive force leading to tears and rips in the tent material. 

Whenever possible, avoid pitching your tent directly under trees. It will help it stay clean and avoid dangerous branches and limbs (also known as widow makers) falling in high winds.

Keep Far Away From Fire Pits

Nylon is very susceptible to fire damage. Although it’s unlikely that sparks will cause your tent to go up in flames, it’s common for a tent in the path of blowing sparks and embers to suffer burn holes and melted spots. 

Maintain a safe distance between your tent and any open fire pits. Try to pitch you tent a safe distance of at least 25’ from any fire pit and when possible upwind. Dry flammable debris between the tent and fire should also be removed to reduce the chances of flames reaching your tent. 

It’s also a good idea to avoid using a camp stove inside a tent, as well as any candles or open flames unless you follow the proper precautions.. This will reduce the chances of damage from fire and the build-up of condensation and carbon monoxide inside your tent.

Closing Thoughts

By avoiding UV rays when possible, reducing exposure to heavy winds, eliminating excess moisture, and storing it in a cool and dry location, your nylon tent can last a decade or longer.

To save money, extend the life of your investment and avoid having your next camping trip ruined by waking up in a puddle in the middle of your floor, follow the steps laid in this article.

Happy Camping!


Beau is an electrical engineer with a knack for DIY repair and construction. When he's not tinkering with his projects he's on the road travelling and enjoying an exciting lifestyle with his young family.

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