Regardless of the type of shelter you use while camping, whether it’s an ultralight tarp you erect with your hiking poles or an eight-person base camp tent, you rely on it to keep yourself out of the elements. This is why off-season maintenance of your shelter is crucial. Again, start with with a thorough cleaning. Shake out your shelter, as well as your fly, to remove any sand, small rocks, or other abrasive debris. If you use a footprint, there’s likely some caked on mud, dirt or dust on the fabric—shake off as much as you can. Rain flies and tent walls are also not immune to mud splatters and dirt tracked in on feet. Set up the tent and use a mild soap, diluted in plenty of water, to give your shelter system a through cleaning.
Once it has dried, make sure all the zippers and buckles are in working order, then check all the fabric, mesh, straps, and seams for rips, wear, or holes. Replacement buckles and straps can typically be ordered from the manufacturer, and a product like Tenacious Tape is excellent for repairing tears or holes in the fabric—Gear Aid also makes patches for repairing tent mesh and a silicone sealer for repairing tent seams. For seasonal storage, fold your tent along the seams and pack it flat—don’t just jam it back into its stuff sack.