Make Your Old Tent Like New

©istockphoto/joytIt’s nev­er easy to let go of a favorite tent when it’s near­ing the end of its life—especially when you don’t have the time or mon­ey to invest in a new one just yet. While you still will need to spend a lit­tle bit of time and mon­ey, you can put off the big-tick­et expense with these five easy fix­es and upgrades to your old one.

Revive It
Despite what many peo­ple claim, it’s pos­si­ble to get stink out of old tents using enzyme-based clean­ers. If your tent has only a mild odor, re-coat­ing it will also like­ly ban­ish that musty smell. You’ll still want to wash your tent in a sink (not a wash­ing machine) first with a spe­cial­ty clean­er. If you don’t see a lot of cracks and peel­ing in the water­proof­ing, you can revive your tent by fol­low­ing that pre-wash with a wash-in, brush-on, or spray-on prod­uct.

If it’s peel­ing, scrub off as much of the flakey coat­ing as you can using a stiff brush and then throw it in the wash machine with hot water to try to remove the rest. Set the tent up and use a seam seal­er to coat all the seams. Then apply two coats (let the first dry 24 hours) of a polyurethane (PU) sealant. The flex­i­ble fin­ish will make your tent look very close to new.

Re-Cord It
If the ten­sion on the shock cords in your tent poles are too slack, you run the risk of the tent pole fer­rules not ful­ly seat­ing when you set the thing up (espe­cial­ly in the dark). This is one of the clas­sic ways poles break. If the pole seg­ments that make up the pole don’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly snap in place or stay togeth­er any­more, one option is to com­plete­ly replace the shock cords in them. The oth­er, which is a much eas­i­er fix, is to sim­ply short­en the exist­ing cords. Both options will still give your poles five to 10 more years of func­tion­al life.

To replace the entire shock-cord, you’ll need to tie a stiff leader cord on each new shock cord to get the thing to thread through the pole. Oth­ers sug­gest adding a length of Spec­tra or Dyneema cord to each end of new shock cords. Appar­ent­ly, this improves the abil­i­ty of seg­ment­ed poles to “snap togeth­er” and increas­es the cord dura­bil­i­ty.

To short­en exist­ing shock cords, pull (care­ful­ly, using an extra strong grip pli­er) the alu­minum end caps off each pole. Hold­ing onto the slack cord, pull it until it’s taught (on the open end), keep­ing all the pole seg­ments togeth­er. Cut the cord and tie a small knot. The cord should be about 65 to 75% of the length of the pole. Slip the lit­tle knot inside the last pole seg­ment and replace the end caps. That’s all there is to it.

Replace Tie-down (guy) Cords
The only thing more impor­tant than a prop­er taut stake out is being able to see where the guy lines are in the dark. This is an easy fix. Install new light­weight reflec­tive guy cords on your tent.

Upgrade Your Stakes
Chances are your old ones are flim­sy and bent. Ditch ‘em: Today’s stakes are way lighter and more effec­tive. You can even get stakes spe­cif­ic to a cli­mate or soil com­po­si­tion. Both Y‑beam, hex or three-sided alu­minum stakes are the most ver­sa­tile and will work for a diver­si­ty of envi­ron­ments. Spi­ral stakes are good for secur­ing tents in sand, while con­cave (spooned) alu­minum stakes are a good way to nail down a tent in snow or sand. Back­pack­ers obsessed with ultra­light trav­el cov­et tita­ni­um or car­bon fiber-core alu­minum stakes in bolt, nee­dle or peg styles. Think twice about ultra-ultra light­weight tita­ni­um shep­herd hooks, how­ev­er. Even when the tips are coat­ed or paint­ed, they have a ten­den­cy to van­ish into thin air. Some peo­ple solve this by per­ma­nent­ly attach­ing them to their tent loops with tiny Zip ties, but that options car­ries the risk of the stakes pierc­ing tent fab­ric.

Upgrade the Inte­ri­or
LED tent lights are not only fun but help you nav­i­gate your tent inte­ri­or with­out dis­turb­ing the hik­ers in the tent next door. The best mod­els ide­al­ly have 6 lumen bulbs with a min­i­mum of 10 hours of bat­tery pow­er, and attach direct­ly to tent fab­ric via mag­nets with red, high, low, strobe, and sig­nal mode options. By adding a stor­age crib or gear line to your tent’s inte­ri­or you get quick unclut­tered access to gear, gad­gets, or cloth­ing. Lines with hooks and S‑biners allow you to attach the line ver­ti­cal­ly to max­i­mize stor­age and save wall space, or you can set them up hor­i­zon­tal­ly if you want fast, eye-lev­el access to your gear.