I have a rather nice 1-2 person hiking tent from over 20 years ago. It's still made, with very few changes, and is a double wall design that pitches in one go. I thought it was nylon but the current model is polyester; it's certainly synthetic.

It was put away clean and dry some years ago, tightly wrapped in plastic and stored in an unheated loft. I expected to use it again soon but never did. Now I need a light tent again, I want to see if this one is still useful. I can pitch it in the garden, but what should I do to make sure it's OK?

  • If it has a urethane layer on the inside of the fly, it could have degraded to the point of uselessness, just over time. That's something I saw countless times when I worked in an outdoors gear store. It even happened to me, and I take care to dry my gear completely before storing it. If the urethane is sticky, it's probably not very waterproof anymore.
    – Gabriel
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 15:31

3 Answers 3


Additionally to what April mentioned I would:

  • Check if any of the plastic parts (if there are any) got brittle. If they did I would replace them (this should be easy if the tent is actually still produced).

  • If the zippers are metal, check them for rust. If they are rusty and tend to get stuck I suggest cleaning them with a mild rust solvent, like WD40. Take care not to get any of this on the actual tent fabric though (also don't use this on plastic zippers!).

  • Check that you have the needed number of pegs. Many tents can be set up with a minimal amount of pegs in good weather, with the option to user more pegs/cordage in windy conditions. Make sure you have enough pegs for the worst case (and maybe a spare or two).

  • Check all the area/seams/ribbons where most force is applied to the tent: e.g. where cords are attacked, near loops to place pegs, where tent poles are fixed, etc. These areas are bound to experience the highest load so are bound to wear out first.

  • Check all elastic parts/cords/loops. Elastics have the tendency to become very brittle and just dissolve after some years, chances are that they won't hold up anymore and need to be replaced.

  • 4
    This model relies on bungee cord; it wouldn't surprise me if that had perished. I can't remember whether it has rubber loops for the pegs or not. In fact I'll check the bungee cord now, rather than waiting until I can pitch it.
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 16:04
  • 2
    Certainly not WD40; that's a water-displacing chemical designed solely to polish ones missile. It predates modern plastics and as such, no thought was given to the damage it does to plastics in the long term. I wrecked a lot of expensive stuff before I got wise. Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 22:40
  • +1, but got me wondering... Could the fabric itself become brittle as well?
    – Roflo
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 23:45
  • @Roflo What I've seen happening is fabric with some rubber-like coating where the rubber coating got brittle and started flaking off... Fabric itself can also get brittle, but probably not polyester, and not within 20 years if stored correctly.
    – fgysin
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 13:01
  • @ChrisH Good point, I've updated the answer with regards to elastic things.
    – fgysin
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 13:02

Putting it up in the garden sounds like a great idea, as it will let you check if:

  • all parts are still there,
  • everything is in working condition,
  • you still know how to actually put it up.

One more important thing worth checking is if the tent still is waterproof. In case there is no rain in the forecast for the next few days, you can try to simulate it with a help of a garden hose or in some similar way. I would especially check the seams. If there are signs of leakage, it can be fixed with a waterproofing spray.

  • The hosepipe crossed my mind (mine is currently frozen, so I'm hoping for a chance to test in good weather before I need it).
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 16:02
  • 5
    Putting it up also helps to air it out and get rid of some of that old tent smell, which makes it much more pleasant when you're actually staying in it.
    – walrus
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 16:57
  • 1
    I would assume that it will leak. Set it up in a covered but outdoor area (garage w/ door open, etc) and treat appropriately, let it dry/cure, then move it outside for the hose test. I'd also re-lube zippers, re-wax seams if appropriate, etc before the hose test.
    – ivanivan
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 18:44
  • 11
    Don't forget the first step: very sheepishly checking it for spiders. Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 18:51
  • 3
    @walrus it needs it! It's currently airing in the spare room until the weather improves
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 20:36

One specific thing point not otherwise covered is seams: seam sealant may need renewing, and seam tape may well have fallen off or be about to. I resealed one before the first time I used it, and some more seam tape failed that trip.

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