How Long Should A Tent Last? Well, It Depends…


It would be great if everything we ever bought lasted a lifetime, how easy would life be if that were the case!? Unfortunately, that is not how things work. Things wear down, they break, they tear, they leak, etc. The same goes for tents. It would be nice if they never had to be replaced. How long should a tent last? Maybe you are thinking about replacing the one you have and are wondering if you should get a new one.

So, how long should a tent last? A tent should last at least 5 years of continuous use if it is well taken care of. A tent can last much longer or much less depending on many factors that affect a tent’s life.

I have often wondered how long my tent should last. I always like to try and take care of the things I have, my tent included. There are some factors within our control that we can utilize to take care of our tents and make them last as long as possible. However, there are also things that are out of our control that could shorten the life of our tents. Knowing how to care for our tents and when it is time to replace them is essential for continued great camping trips.

By the way, If you are in the market for a new tent, then you should click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.

Average Lifespan of a tent

The average lifespan of a tent varies so much that it is impossible to tell. There are a lot of factors that can play into how long the tent will last. The best thing you can do is treat the tent well and it should return the favor. Another important thing to keep in mind is the quality of the tent that you are buying in the first place. A good quality tent should have a longer lifespan than a low-cost budget tent. That rule usually applies to anything you purchase. If you look at your purchases in the long run then getting a good quality tent could cost you less in money and headache.

You could say that in theory, a tent could last you a lifetime if you follow the proper steps to improve its longevity. A great way to gauge the quality of your tent is to look at your manufacturer’s warranty on it. If they believe in the quality of the product then their warranty would reflect that. If there is no warranty then maybe the tent’s quality isn’t up to par. Another way to get an idea of the quality of your tent is to look at online reviews of it and see what other tent owners think of that brand and model. 

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t let the expected lifespan of your tent bother you too much. Just take care of it and know when the time comes to replace it. It does help, however, to know what can affect the longevity of your tent and how you can prolong it as much as possible. 

What affects the longevity of a tent?

There are plenty of things that affect how long your tent is going to last. Some of them are within your control and some really aren’t. The 3 main factors include your frequency of usage, what kind of elements your tent gets exposed to, and the care and maintenance you provide it.

Frequency of usage

If you use your tent more often then chances are that it is not going to last as long. This is because it will be exposed to more elements and develop more wear and tear. This doesn’t mean that you should go camping less, not even close. This applies to everything you have and use. Just like your car with adding more miles, there is going to be more wear and tear. Your tent’s usable life is very similar.

Most campers only use their tents in the summer maybe for a total of 10 nights or so a year. That is very low usage. If you are doubling or tripling that usage then your tent may not be able to hold up as long. Even if you do use your tent more frequently than average, the wear and tear can be mitigated with proper care and maintenance. You also need to try and limit the tent’s exposure to rough conditions if at all possible.

Elements exposed to

The weather is something that can take quite a toll on your tent. Some kinds of weather are worse for your tent than others but they all take some kind of toll on your tent. For example,  heavy wind can be very damaging to tents. I myself have lost a tent pole because of the heavy wind. The wind can bend and break the tent’s poles and thus alter its integrity. Luckily in most circumstances, tent poles can be repaired or replaced easily. The best thing to do in high winds is to take your tent down and wait them out if at all possible.

Another example of bad elements is the sun. A nice clear sunny day might be great for us, but for your tent is can spell disaster. UV rays are harmful to your tent. They can degrade the tent’s fabrics in the rain fly and the canopy. If possible, set up your tent in the shade to avoid the sun’s rays from beating down on it.

The next best alternative is to cover up the tent yourself with a tarp or a canopy of some sort. If you can’t do that then breaking the tent down altogether is the best thing to do during the sunniest part of the day and putting it back up later that evening.

Rain is another example of elements that could be damaging to a tent. Although your tent should be designed to be waterproof, it doesn’t last forever. The rainwater could end up degrading the fabric if constantly exposed and not allowed to dry. Mold and mildew could develop as a result, which is why it is important to dry your tent as soon as possible. After being exposed to elements the essential step you must take is to care and maintain your tent to keep it going.

Care and maintenance

Be selective in where you set up your tent in the first place to avoid elements and to ensure the surface you set up your tent on is not going to damage the bottom of the tent. One thing you can do to protect the bottom of your tent is to get a tarp or tent footprint to lay down before placing your tent down. I have written a lot more on using a tarp/footprint here in more detail. Go slow when setting up your tent to avoid any damage during the setup.

Once you have your tent up you want to be gentle with it such as when you use the zippers or when inside of it by not wearing shoes on your tent floor. Then when you are ready to pack your tent up, flip it inside out to shake it out and keep it clean, store it dry only and clean it when you get home if necessary. I have written about the proper cleaning of your tent in much more detail here. Storage is the next step and you want to ensure the tent is 100% dry and that you loosely roll it up and place it in a dry area.

When is it time to get a new tent?

You might be wondering if it is time for you to get a new tent. The answer to when the time is right is when your tent is no longer a viable shelter for you when camping. In many cases, a tent can be repaired enough to make it a useful shelter again, but if your tent cannot be repaired so easily then it may be time to replace it. If your tent simply won’t stay waterproof then it is definitely time to replace it.

Ask yourself first if it is realistic for you to fix or repair something on your existing tent. Use your best judgment, small holes can be patched up. Small cracks in a pole can be repaired. The waterproofing features can also be fixed. I wrote a lot more on waterproofing your tent in this article. If it’s more trouble then it’s worth and you think it might be time then getting a new good quality tent will be a good choice for your next camping trip.

Conclusion

You should expect your tent to last at least 5 years if you take care of it and have a low frequency. There are many things that can affect the lifespan of a tent and so technically there is no rule of thumb to how long they will last. All you can do is treat your tent with care and give it the maintenance that it needs and it will return the favor. Once your tent can no longer provide proper shelter then it may be time to replace it.

My Favorite Camping Gear

  • Air Mattress: click here to check out my favorite on Amazon.
  • Tent: click here to see my favorite tent available on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Pad: click here to check out the one I love on Amazon.
  • Sleeping Bag: click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
  • Camping Stove: click here to see the best camping stove on Amazon.

Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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