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When most people think of tents, they think of temporary shelters used when camping; they’re pitched for a few days and then broken down to be stored until next year! However, some people use tents as a means of more permanent shelter. Which begs the question of how long a tent can remain set up.
Depending on the quality of tent, type of material, how well it is maintained, and climate the tent will be set in, a tent could remain set up anywhere between 1-5 years before needing major repairs or replacement.
Tents have become incredibly high-tech and durable. It is not hard to imagine how one could easily live in a top-notch tent for an extended period. In this article we’ll detail the types of tents that are most durable for indefinite sheltering, and how to best maintain a tent that is left up for extended periods of time.
Table of Contents
What is the General Life Expectancy of Tents?
A tent’s lifespan greatly depends on how well it is maintained and whether it is safely stored and cared for overtime.
If you are planning on living in a tent for longer than a few months, it would be wise to invest in high-quality tents made of exceptionally durable fabrics and synthetics to protect you in the snow and the high desert heat if necessary.
Most tents can go 2-3 years without needing any kind of repair of heavy maintenance. However, these tents are typically not set up 24/7. Most tents are pitched 1-2 times a year for a week or so and then stored away in the garage.
Making a tent last when not in permanent use is hard enough, let alone keeping a tent in pristine working condition when in constant use. The lifespan of a permanent or semi-permanent tent will depend largely your ability to do regular maintenance like keeping the tent clean inside and out as well as inspecting it for the signs of early failure.
Increasing The Lifespan of a Tent
Environmental factors will have the largest affect on the lifespan of your tent and there are some steps you can take to protect it from premature failure.
Isolation From The Ground
Pitching your tent on a solid foundation like a wooden platform that is elevated from the ground will stop the floor and lower sections of the sidewalls from getting wet. Sitting on a damp or wet surface will cause mildew and mold to build up on the fabric and lead to rotting of the tent material.
If an elevated structure isn’t an option for you then at minimum use a high quality ground sheet or tarp. This will protect the bottom of your tent from damage and also make it more comfortable to stay in.
- WATERPROOF - The waterproof tarp is made of high density 210D oxford rip-stop fabric with leakproof taped seams, which effectively prevent...
- VERSATILE - The must-have rain tarp can also be used as hammock rain fly, tent footprint, ground tarp, tarp shelter, sunshade, picnic mat...
- DURABLE - Rip-stop fabric tent tarp is durable enough to prevent abrasions and punctures. Reinforced corners with grommets and upgraded...
Tents are perfectly capable of handling all types of bad weather, strong UV exposure and the odd dropping from trees and animals. In the longer term all these things can reduce the life of your tent.
Using a tarp or overhead structure to protect the roof of your tent from overhead dangers will give your tent the most protection. Just laying an extra layer of fabric over top can cause its own problems with moisture issues. Keep an air gap between your tent and the extra covering to allow the tent roof to breath properly. It will also help the tent stay cooler in hot weather.
- HEAVY DUTY OUTDOOR TARP: This 10mil thick tarp is sure to endure the test of time. Made from premium polyethylene material for durability...
- TOP NOTCH PROTECTION: Keep your equipment and stuff safe in severe weather. These weatherproof and waterproof covers keep rain, snow or wind...
- SUN AND WATER PROTECTION: With UV blocking, these drop cloths protect your belongs from sun damage. They also protect from moisture, dust...
Performing regular maintenance like cleaning off leaves and organic matter is important to the longevity of your tent. It will prevent decay of the fabric as well as stains and discoloration. To bring a faded or stained tent back to life you can paint the canvas walls and roof of the tent with a new color or decorative design.
Applying waterproof sealer a few times a year for permanent tents or at the beginning of the season before erecting your tent is a preventative measure to protect your investment. Don’t forget to seal the seams as well since they’re the most susceptible to leakage.
- ULTIMATE PROTECTION FOR OUTDOOR FABRICS - Waterproofing plus UV and stain protection for boat covers, car covers, bimini tops, sail covers,...
- PRESERVES FABRIC QUALITY - Does not change the breathability, color, or feel of fabric, ensuring original texture and appearance
- EXTENDS FABRIC LIFE - Great for use on new fabrics, greatly extending their service life and revives old fabrics by providing an additional...
How Long Can Tents Stay Up?
There are many kinds of tents that function as permanent structural shelters. Military tents, for example, are meant to survive any kind of weather. Those types of tents are pitched anywhere between months to years.
The odds are, however, that the tent is likely to outlast the person. By this we mean… your tent is likely to stay up just fine for months or even years. It is you who is likely to grow tired, bored, and inconvenienced by the tent.
Different Types of Tent Living
Perhaps you are simply looking to do an extended camping trip. Where normally you’d camp for a weekend, you’re considering camping for a month. You haven’t, until now, even considered whether a tent will fare being pitched beyond a couple of days.
Or maybe you are looking to go off the grid and live a more nomadic lifestyle. Maybe you want to make-shift an old army tent, or glamp out a yurt to build a long-lasting home. Whatever your intent, there are tents of every kind that can sustain you for lengthy periods of time. Though, the type of material certainly determines what exactly that length of time is.
Canvas (Camping & Wall Tents)
Canvas Wall Tents are constructed of heavy duty materials and can withstand 4 seasons of weather. Many come with a stove pipe flap to allow the use of a wood stove for winter use.
The floors are made of durable PVC and they come in different sizes to comfortable fit a family of any size. They are also popular for use as hunting camps, Ice fishing huts a many other outdoor accommodation options.
- STANDARD FEATURES: Canvas Alpha Wall Tent includes the complete tent with aluminum frame, rafter angle kits and free-floating PVC floor, NO...
- MULTI-FUNCTIONAL FEATURES: Our camping tents include military grade YKK Zippers that provide enhanced product life and enhanced durability....
- INTERIOR FEATURES: Our 4 season camping tents are spacious enough to accommodate large group of people, families and friends making them...
It is possible to make a long-term dwelling from a canvas tent. Don’t believe me? Watch this video: “A Look Inside Canvas Tent Living.” This family of four moved from the suburbs to off-the-grid New Mexico and built their tiny home a few acres of land. They built the home from repurposed materials and a canvas tent!
To maintain the canvas tent, they fortify it with a translucent plastic tarp that covers the entire canvas, so that rain and moisture don’t ruin the canvas fabric. This family has lived there for a year with zero leaks or maintenance issues of any kind. They don’t have a second home; this is their permanent dwelling.
Many Yurts stay up year-round. There are hundreds of Yurt rentals throughout the United States, including this yurt rental community called Under Canvas. Under Canvas promises a safari style type of glamping experience. It makes one feel both out-doors, while being safe and secure (with a proper bed) in-doors.
These types of rental yurts can sleep anywhere from 2-7 people. They are durable, made of a thick weatherproof canvas, and remain up during summer and winter months. This company has Yurt rentals in the following gorgeous regions: The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Zion, Glacier, The Great Smoky Mountains, Mount Rushmore, and Moab.
Permanent Tent Living
There is also community in Maine that has made their homes from yurts. Sharon Minogue, the creator and one of the residents of this New England yurt community, saw round portable tents in North Carolina called Yomes. Yurt + Home = Yomes.
Thus, Sharon built her ‘yome’ from collapsible lattice framework and heavy duty Pacific Yurts. Inspired by Mongolian yurts which were durable, Sharon’s yome can support 100 pounds of snow per square foot and withstand winds of up to 142 miles per hour (yowzah!)
While the bottom of Sharon’s home is not made from tented materials, it is rather impressive she’s managed to maintain her Yurt based home, with little maintenance required, when 99.9% of homes today are built with shingled roofs. It really makes you think about what makes something a home, and the versatility of materials that can be used. The fact that a yome must be built to last 24/7, 365 days a year tells you just how durable tents are meant to be.
Most military tents are made from a type of snow cloth or canvas material. This GI 10 Man Arctic Tent is an excellent example of a long-lasting, durable tent. This type of tent offers supreme ventilation thanks to the four built-in ventilators on opposite sides of the tent (and located near the peak as well.)
- Ventilation. The arctic tent is ventilated by four built-in ventilators on opposite sides and near the peak of the tent . The ventilators...
- Snow clothe. There is a snow cloth sewed to the bottom of each side of the tent. When the tent is pitched, the snow cloths are flat on the...
- Liner. A fire-resistant liner, made of 5.2 ounce permeable cotton sheeting is provided to insulate the arctic tent to prevent frost from...
Of course, the snow cloth is what makes this tent ultra-durable. It is sewed to every side of the tent, including the bottom. The cloth helps to deposit the snow for insulation purposes. It is also lined with a fire-resistant, heavy duty liner. It is made of 5+ ounces of permeable cotton sheeting that insulates and protects against frost.
You can see in this video how easy living off the grid in this type of tent can be!
How to Maintain a Tent
If you are pitching a tent for a long period of time, you’ll want to care for it by doing the following:
- Be kind to your poles – don’t bang the ends of the poles together. Be careful with them. Most pole damage occurs upon set up, not break down.
- Be gentle with the zippers – use both hands and pull slowly, always. It is not worth the expense of having to repair the zipper on such delicate and expertly crafted tent materials.
- Be diligent with your seams – overtime, the seals will wear. To add extra prevention, use seam tape to seal the seams.
- Be cautious of UV ray exposure – your tent will wear down faster if it is exposed to high intensity UV rays for extended periods of time. UV rays break down materials like nylon. When in doubt, select a polyester tent if you know it’ll be pitched in the sun for long durations.
- Be preventative with moisture – don’t let mold build up in your tent! Be sure to air it out after rains or dewy mornings.
The Key Take Away
Most tents are built to withstand various kinds of climates and durations of time before giving up. Canvas tents, snow cloth tents, and yurts are ultra-hearty tent choices when considering pitching for extended periods of time.
Remember to fight off moisture: moisture is the enemy! Mold will cause rot, which is not only bad for your health, but deteriorates your tent material as well. Depending on the climate in which you settle, the way in which you treat your tent, and the length of time you pitch it, will all ultimately depend on your tent’s lifespan.
Generally, you can look forward to setting up your tent for months without breaking it down, without having any worries or maintenance issues. Beyond that, if treated with care, and there’s no moisture issues or tears, a well-made tent could remain set up for anywhere between 1-3 years without needing any kind of repairs.