How long does a tent last?

by | Apr 6, 2023 | Gear

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Thinking about buying a new camping tent?

Or wondering how much longer your current tent will hold up?

A blue tent at a campsite.

Unfortunately, tents don’t last forever, and their lifespan depends on a lot of things.

4 common types of tents and their estimated lifespans

Tents come in various sizes , shapes, and materials, each with its own unique features and lifespan.

Here are some of the most common types of tents and how many years you can expect to get out of using them:

Backpacking tents: 2-12 years

An ultralight backpacking tent at a campsite.

Backpacking tents are lightweight and designed for easy transport.

They’re typically made from materials like nylon or polyester, which are durable but can wear down over time.

On average, a backpacking tent can last between two to 12 years with moderate use.

Family tents: 5-7 years

A family of four inside a tent.

Family tents are larger and designed to accommodate several people.

They’re often made of nylon and polyester as well, but come with lots more heavy poles and have additional features like windows, doors, and potentially awnings.

With proper care and maintenance, a family tent can last between five to seven years on average.

Pop-up tents: 3-10 years

A popup tent.

Pop-up tents are designed for easy setup and convenience.

They’re typically made from lightweight materials like nylon or polyester and may not be as durable as other types of tents.

As long as you take good care of it, a pop-up tent can last between three to 10 years with moderate use.

Canvas tents: 20+ years

Our hot tent in the fall.

Canvas tents are known for their durability and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions.

They’re often used for long-term camping, glamping, or winter hot tent camping.

Because of its durable material, a canvas tent has the longest lifespan that can help it last up to 20 years or longer.

Will a more expensive tent last longer?

In some cases, yes.

But not necessarily.

More expensive tents usually come with higher-quality materials and better construction that can help them last longer than cheaper alternatives.

But if you take good care of your tent and keep it in great shape, even a budget tent should last several years before needing to be replaced.

So don’t let the price tag be the only factor in deciding which tent is right for you.

Instead, consider factors like size, weight, and weather conditions to choose a tent that will last as long as possible.

4 big factors that affect a tent’s lifespan

Your tent’s lifespan can be shortened or extended depending on how and where you use it.

The three main factors that can affect your tent’s lifespan include:

Tent quality

Two people setting up a tent.

The quality of the materials used in the construction of your tent is one of the most important factors that can affect its lifespan.

High-quality materials are more durable and resistant to wear and tear, which means they’ll last longer than lower-quality materials.

This is where price comes into play.

If you find a tent for less than $100, you can probably expect it to be of lower quality.

You don’t have to spend $1,000 on a tent, but you should also be aware of what you’re buying.

When shopping for a tent, be sure to look for one that is made from materials like ripstop nylon or polyester, and that has sturdy zippers, poles, and guy lines.

How often you use it

Camping gear and equipment in the trunk of a vehicle.

The frequency with which you use your tent can also have a significant impact on its lifespan.

If you only use your tent once a year, then it might last 10 years or longer.

But if you use it every other weekend throughout the camping season, then the material might wear down more quickly.

Exposure to the elements

Camping tent in the shaded trees.

UV rays, wind, rain, and even snow can all cause wear and tear on your tent over time.

In extreme cases, the fabric can become brittle or even torn.

To keep your tent in great shape for as long as possible, be sure to set it up in a shaded and sheltered area.

Proper maintenance and storage

Tent and camping gear in their stuff sacks/storage bags.

You won’t be doing your tent any favours by not drying it out before storing it away in your damp garage until next year.

This is how mould and mildew develops, which can significantly reduce the lifespan of your tent.

When you get home from a camping trip, be sure to take your tent out and let it air dry in your yard or somewhere out of the way inside.

Make sure it’s completely dry before packing it away.

Always store your tent in a cool, dry place—like a bin or storage box—and out of direct sunlight.

Signs that your tent might need replacing

Red tent nylon fabric.

Even with proper care and maintenance, tents eventually wear out and need to be replaced.

Here are some signs that it may be time to invest in a new tent:

  • Your tent is leaking, even after applying a waterproofing spray
  • The fabric is ripped or torn, and patches are not holding up
  • The poles are bent or broken, and can’t be repaired
  • The zippers are stuck or broken, and can’t be fixed
  • The tent smells musty or mouldy, even after drying it out or cleaning it
  • The tent is faded or discoloured, indicating sun damage

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to start looking around for a new tent.

Continuing to use a damaged or worn-out tent can put you at risk for leaks, tears, collapses, and other problems.

Check out the following tent guides to find out how to pick the right tent:

How to extend the lifespan of your tent

Proper care and maintenance can significantly increase the lifespan of your tent.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your investment:

Clean and dry it out properly

A person laying out a tent to dry.

If your tent is dirty and needs to be cleaned, make sure to use a mild, non-abrasive soap with a soft-bristled brush or sponge to gently remove dirt and debris.

A better option would be to use a tent-specific cleaning product like Nikwax tent and gear solarwash cleaning and UV protector, which cleans effectively without damaging water-repellency, increases fabric strength, and adds extra UV protection.

After cleaning, hang it up to dry in a cool, shaded area for at least 24 to 48 hours.

You may need to turn the tent over or flip it inside out halfway through the drying process.

Avoid overexposure to sunlight

A tarp set up over a tent on a campsite.

Setting up your tent in direct or even partial sunlight can cause your tent to degrade more quickly.

This is why it’s always a better idea to set up your tent in a shaded area whenever possible.

If you do need to set up your tent in a sunny or partially sunny area, use a tarp to protect it from the sun.

Use a footprint or groundsheet

A tent with two extra groundsheets.

A footprint or groundsheet is an extra layer you place underneath your tent to help protect it from damage caused by rocks, sticks, and other sharp objects on the ground.

It can also help prevent moisture from seeping into the tent from the ground.

When choosing a footprint or groundsheet, make sure it’s the right size for your tent and is made from a durable material that can withstand wear and tear.

Store your tent properly

Plastic storage containers.

As long as your tent is clean and fully dry, it’s good to be put away.

We always recommend storing it in a plastic storage bin with a sealed lid, whether you put it back in its stuff sack or not.

As long as it’s stored in a bin with a lid on it, it’s fine to put it out in an area of your home that may be slightly damp—such as a storage shed or your garage.

Get the most out of your tent while you can

Your tent won’t last forever, but if you follow these simple tips, you can help to extend its lifespan and ensure it stands up to the elements for as long as possible.

Have fun camping and enjoy your tent while it lasts!

Next up: How to stay warm in a tent (without electricity)

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Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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