How to Keep Your Tent Clean While Camping

keeping your tent clean when you’re camping can be a challenge, and it’s not something that a lot of people think about until they get there. Trekking in and out during the day and rummaging through your pack to find your gear in the dark will turn your tent in a pigsty fast.

To maintain a clean tent during your camping trip:

  • Sweep out or vacuum your tent regularly,
  • Leave your dirty gear at the door,
  • Store and eat your food outside,
  • Pitch your tent in the best location

Everything’s dirty in the great outdoors, and keeping your tent clean can seem like an impossible mission. Fortunately you don’t need super advanced technology or a license to kill to get this mission done. Just follow these simple steps in order to make your tent sparkle like new.

Clean Tent
ID 136379387 © Tatiana Kozachenko |

Cleaning The Inside of Your Tent

There’s just something about dirt when you’re camping – no matter how careful you think you’ve been it still ends up everywhere. The good news is there are several easy ways to get the dirt out that will keep your tent nice and clean.

Hand Broom

Call me old fashioned, but I like using a broom and dust pan. If you’re driving to your campsite then you can easily store a broom in the trunk, but if you’re short on space you can still find small hand brush with dust pan that will do the trick. A lot of people won’t want to have to carry another thing, but I think it’s worth it.

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If you’re feeling a bit fancier you can bring a battery-powered Dustbuster, and they work great! They’re not so practical for a backpack trip, but if you want to bring a little extra comfort from home and have the space this is a good thing to grab. Just be sure you have a backup in case the batteries die or something breaks.

Shake It Out Before And After Use

The best defense is a good offense, and you’re going to want to make sure you start with a clean tent. As you’re going to set up, make sure you shake out your tent to get any dirt and debris that traveled with you from the last time. Likewise, give it a good shaking before putting it away when you break down.

Tent entrance mat
ID 124045997 © Chernetskaya |

Keeping The Dirt Out

Remember that line about the best defense? There are also many things you can do to prevent dirt from ever getting inside. 

Entrance Mat

One of the easiest things to do is to put down a mat in front of your tent that you can brush off your shoes and gear on. There are mats that fold up so you can take them on the go, or you can go with a regular doormat.

A lightweight multi purpose mat like the Oceas pocket balnket can be used to keep your gear off the wet ground at nigh and double as a beach mat, yoga pad, or picnic blanket during the day.

Leave Your Dirty Gear Outside

Another option is to simply leave your shoes and dirty gear outside. Now I know you have some questions about that idea, like what if it rains? What about bugs? If you’re worried about moisture and creepy crawlies, you can always put your gear in a designated ‘dirty’ waterproof bag. That way the dirt stays outside your tent and nothing else can get in your stuff.

Create An Outdoor Gear Space

You can also put your shoes and gear under a tarp to keep them dry outside, which will allow for some ventilation as well. If you can find a way that works for you so that you don’t have to bring the dirty stuff inside, you’ll have a lot less cleaning to do every day.

If you’re wondering what gear you should bring to get the most out of your camping trip, see our post on the Essential Tent Camping Gear

camping gear outside tent
ID 29768178 © Stocksolutions |

Deodorizing Your Tent

No one wants to sleep in a tent that smells, and fortunately there are many easy and effective ways to deodorize a tent. 

Air Out Your Tent And Gear

For mild odor, the first thing you can try is just airing the tent out for a few hours. Take out your belongings and hong or place them in the sun for a few hours. The UV from the sun is a natural sanitizer that will help reduce the odors before you place them back inside.

Natural Deodorizing Spray

If there’s still some lingering funk you can also try spraying a fabric deodorizer inside. You’ll want to be careful with scented ones, because some scents will actually attract bugs like mosquitoes.

Using a natural lemon spray deodorizer can actually help keep mosquitos away because they are naturally repelled by the lemon scent. I’d rather have a smelly tent than a whole bunch of bug bites but given the option I’d choose neither.

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Keeping your shoes outside won’t just keep the dirt out, it’ll help keep odors out as well – especially if they got wet or your feet tend to sweat a lot during the day like mine do.

Pre-Clean and Deodorize

You don’t want to wait until you’re already camping to deal with a smelly tent if you can help it, and one of the best things you can do to prevent odor is give your tent a nice scrub down with some fragrance-free dish soap.

You can also soak your tent in a lemon juice, vinegar, and water solution. After soaking, be make sure to hang your tent or set it up outside in the sunshine to ensure it is completely dry before you pack it back in its bag.

If you accidentally stored a damp tent and you find mildew or mold, you can try soaking it in an enzyme-based odor eliminator. The solution won’t hurt the waterproof coating on the tent, and it’ll knock out your mold problem.

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Keeping Food, Animals and Insects Out

Now that you know how to keep a tent fresh, let’s talk about wildlife. Food will attract anything and everything to your tent including bears, raccoons, rodents, ants, and other beasties. The best thing you can do to keep critters out of your tent is to store your food outside.

Store Food Outside Your Tent

If you’re camping in bear country, you’ll really want to be careful with storing food. The last thing you want to wake up to is a bear tearing apart your tent. Many sites will provide a bear box if you’re staying in a campground, but if you’re camping in the wilderness then you can use a bear canister or a bear bag. These will keep other animals out too, but no matter what you put your food in, the important thing is you don’t keep it in your tent.

Eat Outside

You also don’t want to eat in your tent regardless of how you store your food. Crumbs are like dirt – it doesn’t matter how careful you are, they’ll still end up in your tent. That goes for food wrappers too because they carry food crumbs and scents.

Eating inside is a recipe for ants, not to mention rodents that will chew up your tent to get in as well. Eating inside just isn’t worth the mess, having to worry about cleaning it up, and paying the price if you don’t get it all.

eating outside tent
ID 45591242 © Tiplyashina |

Keeping The Outside Of Your Tent Clean

Now that we’ve gone through some ideas to keep the inside of your tent clean, let’s talk about some outside the tent ideas. Keeping the outside of your tent clean will extend its lifespan and help keep odors and animals away.

Find A Clean Location 

When scouting out where to pitch your tent, you want to keep cleanliness in mind. The ideal location is going to be in the grass, away from any trees that will shed excessive leaves, pollen, flowers, etc., and away from your fire pit. 

Finding a grassy area is the best way to avoid dirt, both on the underside of your tent and from tracking it in. Tree debris is more of a nuisance than anything, but pollen will stain your tent, and leaves and flowers can leave residue if they get stored with your tent. You also want to avoid getting ash and smoke from your fire on your tent if possible, this will not only keep it cleaner but also reduce the chances of burn holes from sparks.

Use Coverings

If you have to pitch your tent in sand or dirt (and even if you don’t), using a lightweight ground tarp is a great way to keep the underside of your tent clean. Choosing a size that extends under the vestibule of your tent provides a nice place to set your gear and shoes to keep them off the ground. 

To protect your tent from tree debris, you can get a fly to go on top or you can make your own by stringing up a tarp above it. This is a good way to get a little extra protection from rain, and will do a lot to keep the outside of your tent clean. It will also help keep your tent cool on a hot summer day.

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Organizing Your Space

An organized tent and campsite is almost guaranteed to be a cleaner one, and there are many things you can do to get your gear in order. 

Create A Clothesline

Clotheslines are your best friend. You can hang wet items from them to dry, you can hook your gear to it to keep it away from dirt and bugs on the ground, and you can even run lights down it at night to illuminate your site.

Camping gear on clothesline
ID 60208166 © Jzphoto |

Hooks And Carabiners

Bring along a selection of different sized carabiners and hooks to attach to the loops on the ceilings and sides of your tent. You can hang clothes, small bags, and anything else you want to be accessible while keeping them up and out of the way.

I always keep a few S-biners with me when I camping or out on the trail. They’re a small lightweight but sturdy S-clip that I use to hang my gear inside my tent, off my pack, or on a line. They’re also great for keeping small items together in a bag or bin.

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Designate An Interior Gear Space

If you do decide to bring your gear inside your tent, having a specific place for it is a must. You’re going to want to minimize the ability for dirt and debris to spread inside, so you’ll want to keep it close to the main entrance. If you have space you can use some stackable plastic storage bins, or if not you can set it on a foldable mat or another bag.

Closing Thoughts 

Keeping your tent clean while camping is much easier than it sounds, and by taking a few simple measures you can make sure that the last thing you have to worry about on your trip is dirt.

When you’re not camping, having your gear organized at home will also help keep it clean, and you will know exactly where everything is when you’re ready for your next adventure.


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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