How Many Years Does A Tent Last (Explained)

So you’ve invested in a good tent want to use it for as long as possible. Or maybe you are just beginning to shop for a tent. How many years does a tent last? Can you look forward to enjoying your investment in a camping tent for many years to come? 

A tent will last 10 to 20 years based on the number of days used each year and how well the tent is maintained. The life expectancy of a tent can be extended many years beyond this when it is properly used, cleaned, and stored.

Follow along and I’ll show you how to get many years of great camping from your tent.

Tents can last for many years with proper use and care

What is the proper way to use a tent to make it last longer?

Take care of the floor by using a tent footprint or ground tarp underneath. A tent footprint or tarp will help keep your tent floor from being damaged by the ground underneath. Of course, you should always clear the ground of debris, rocks and sticks, and such. But using a tent footprint or ground tarp will give an extra layer of protection. 

Using a tent footprint or ground tarp will also help keep water away from the floor of your tent. 

Taking your shoes off before entering the tent is also a good idea. You can cause damage to the floor of your tent quickly when you’re scuffing around in your shoes.

If you use a cot be sure to protect the floor from the feet of the cot. We’ve written about how to properly protect the floor of your tent to extend the life of the tent floor as well as the tent. 

Pitching the tent in the shade when possible will protect it from too much sun damage. Over time harmful UV rays of the sun can cause the fabric of your tent to discolor and weaken and even weaken the water-repellant applied to the tent. Some of this can’t be avoided, of course, because you’re camping outdoors. But when you have a choice, choose the spot for pitching your tent that will get the most shade. 

Be careful with the zippers. Most tent zippers are heavy-duty. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be damaged. Go slow with the zippers and be careful not to force them when there’s resistance. 

Be careful with the poles when erecting your tent. Don’t be in a hurry and be careful not to snag or rip the tent sides or the tent pole sleeves.

When taking your tent down, if there’s dirt, bird droppings or bugs on it use a damp towel to gently wipe the tent off and let it dry before packing up.

How should I care for my tent to help make it last?

Carefully clean the tent once each year. A damp cloth and non-detergent soap are all you need to clean the tent. Before storing your tent each year wipe off any dirt and debris that’s accumulated. Use an old towel or a soft sponge for this. Be gentle. Scrubbing too hard can cause damage.

Don’t machine wash or machine dry your tent. Washing machines can be hard on tent material and mesh. Dryers, even on low heat, can cause damage to the tent material and seems. 

What is the life expectancy of a tent?

How many years your tent will last depends on how much you use it and how well you care for it. 

If you use your tent for 10 to 15 days a year, and you are careful with it, clean it properly, and store it properly, a tent should last 10, 15, or even 20 years or more. We have a tent we’ve used for over 20 years and it’s still in good shape.

Set your tent up properly, keep it clean, and store it right and you’ll get many years from your tent

How long will a polyester or nylon tent last?

As I said above, we own a tent we’ve used for over 20 years and it’s a nylon fabric. What’s made it last so long is the proper care of the tent itself, an occasional water repellent spray applied every three years or so, and careful storage.

How long do canvas tents last?

A canvas tent, with proper care, can last even longer than a nylon or polyester tent. Canvas tents well cared for can last a lifetime. 

The downside to canvas is that it’s heavier, so carrying it around and setting it up is a bit more cumbersome. It also takes up a bit more space when stored. 

Is it worth repairing a tent?

It’s worth repairing your expensive tent especially if the damage isn’t too large. 

We once camped through a terrible storm. When we woke up the next morning a neighboring tent had a branch that had fallen and pocked right through the top of the rain fly and the tent. In that case, it’s time for a new tent. We learned later that day that a tornado had passed nearby. 

If you have a small tear in your tent fixing it can be as simple as carefully stitching it up with needle and thread, and applying water repellant spray afterward. 

Even better than just needle and thread would be using a tent repair kit, which usually comes with needle and thread as well as patches and seam sealer to complete the repair properly.

If you have a broken zipper pull it can often be repaired or replaced. There are even methods for fixing the zipper itself. I’ve found this video really helpful for getting through a stuck or broken zipper. 

When should I replace my tent?

When you’ve had to make multiple repairs to your tent that are starting to fail or you have a large hole in your tent that would comprise its usefulness then it’s time to shop for a new tent. 

Another sign that it’s time for a new tent is when the zippers are beyond help. Sometimes as hard as you try the zippers just won’t behave any longer. It’s too bad when it comes to this but sometimes it does.

You may also need to start tent shopping when you find that applying seam sealer and water repellant doesn’t seem to keep the water out as well as it used to. 

With proper care, use, cleaning, and storage a tent should last many years. Just follow the advice above, use some common sense, and treat your tent with care and it will treat you to many years of happy camping.

  • Kevin

    About the Author

    Hi, I'm Kevin and I love getting outside. I want my articles to be as helpful as possible so that you can learn to enjoy getting outside more often yourself. So leave a comment if you have a question, find a typo, or think I missed something. I'd love to hear from you.

    You can learn more about me and find more of my articles here.

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