How Long Do Tents Last?

You’re new to camping and want to know how long do tents last? Do you buy a new one every season or so, or can a tent become a family heirloom, passed from generation to generation?

How long do tents last? Weeks? Years? Decades? It’s another “how long is a piece of string?” question that’s hard to answer. Your tent is one of the essential pieces of camping gear you will buy. 

But, we can tell you what factors play into a tent’s longevity, so you may be able to hand down your favorite tent and all its memories to your kids when you go to the great campground in the sky. Read on to find out how to make a tent last!

Related: Looking for a big tent for the family? Find out what the best large tents for camping are.

Average Lifespan of a tent

The camping world is full of “how long is a piece of string?” type questions – and this is another one! There is a lot of variation to consider, such as

  • storage conditions,
  • the time it is used outdoors for,
  • the elements your campsite is exposed to,
  • the quality,
  • the warranty,
  • and the material the tent is made of.

Some of these things are in your control, and others are not. The three main things that you have control over are:

  • The frequency of use,
  • What weather you expose your tent too,
  • And the care and maintenance you give to your tent.

If you treat a tent well, a tent should last many years. A good quality tent will also last longer than a cheap summer tent and looking at the manufacturer’s warranty will give you an indication of how long they think you will get out of it, on average. 

🌳⛺🔥🌳Used a week or so every yearUsed a month or so every yearUsed practically every weekend
Cheaper 2- season type tents1 – 5 years1 – 3 years1 year
Middle of the road tents4 – 10 years3 – 7 years2 – 5 years
Specialist and expensive tents10 + years7 – 10 years5 – 7 years

Polyester tents

Polyester is a hard-wearing material and is great for tents. Polyester is usually waterproofed and has a high hydrostatic head rating. It does mean that the tent needs ventilation to breathe, and if you don’t have any, you might get condensation, and with condensation, your get mildew and mold.

Regular re-waterproofing and an inbuilt UV resistance rating make this a long-life choice for tent material.

Canvas tents Last For A Long Time

Canvas tents can last a very long time and is made from thick, durable cotton that is heavy but ideal for car camping in winter camping due to its insulation properties. It’s also very UV resistant compared to most manufactured materials.

Quieter than polyester and nylon in a breeze, you can also fix canvas and cotton tents with a needle and thread if you do manage to cut them.

These tents are prone to molds and mildew, so you’ll need to remove that between uses, but overall, you can expect more than a decade out of a well-maintained Canvas tent.

Nylon tents

Nylon is lightweight and relatively cheap common tent material. Generally found at the 2-season end of the tent continuum. Nylon is lightweight and great for backpacking tents but can be prone to ripping and tearing under stress.

What factors make a tent last longer?

How often you use the tent

The more often you use your tent, logically, the more it will be exposed to the elements and will wear out sooner.

Storage conditions need to be optimal as well. Cool, clean, dry areas with plenty of ventilation but protection from rodents are where tents need to be stored. I lost a tent to a family of mice that ate concentric circles through the tent floor. An amazing pattern but rendered the floor of the tent useless, and their toileting habits left a smell in the tent that was suboptimal for sleeping!

Weather conditions

Use your tent for the season it was intended for to get value for money out of your tent.

Sunny days are great for us humans, but the UV rays aren’t so good for your tent. Putting your tent up in the shade as often as possible helps reduce exposure to those damaging UV rays.

High winds can stretch and break various points on your tent, like poles and eyelets. Try not to pitch your tent where physical damage like this is likely to occur. Maybe even take it down and repitch when the wind stops.

Constant rain will put your waterproofing to the test, and if water pools on the tent, the weight can stretch the fabric and make weak spots that might let in the water over time. Using a tarp over the tent is good practice and great for helping protect your tent.

Don’t pack up a wet tent either. Let it dry so mold and mildew don’t grow on it and degrade the waterproofing and the fabric.

Maintenance and tent care

Be mindful when you put up your tent and take care not to pull on zips, stretch things too far or too tight and yank things into place.

Don’t wear shoes inside your tent. It reduces the mud/dirt/sand coming inside and the chances of your weight puncturing a hole on something sharp underneath and putting a hole in the tent base.

Using a footprint

A tent footprint can be a specialized piece of equipment or just a folded-up tarp. Its purpose is to protect the tent floor from damage, so it stays waterproof and you stay dry!

Waterproofing spray and seam sealer to re-waterproof the tent

Check the hydrostatic rating of your tent and if it’s pretty low or you think you will encounter a lot of rain, improve the waterproofing with some seam sealing tape – the first place for a tent to spring a leak is usually the seams. Then use some waterproofing spray on the tent walls or use a tarp over the top of the tent.

Type of tent – Conventional, pop-up, or instant tent

Check your tent’s “season” rating. A four-season tent is likely to be expensive and is designed for camping in extremes. It should be high quality and perfect for backpacking and sheltering in during storms, snow, and high winds.

A two-season tent is really a fair-weather spring and summer camping tent and will not stand up to more extreme weather. These tents are usually a lot cheaper and are not made of high-quality materials.

Pop-up and instant tents are usually 2-season tents that are on the more attractively priced end of the tent cost spectrum. These kinds of tents will not last as long as more robust and expensive tents will.

Durable tent pole materials

When you put up your tent, make haste slowly and be gentle with your poles, especially when pulling and tugging the tent over the top. The less stress the pole is under, the longer it will last.

Fiberglass tent poles are cheap and light and often the first to break in a wind gust. Replacing them with aluminum poles that are stronger and more flexible will add more life to your tent.

Four tents pitched on a hilltop overlooking a hilly view.
Look after your tent, so it is in good condition to look after you when the weather goes bad!

What is the right time to get a new tent?

The best time to get a new tent is when the tent is more hassle to maintain than the cost of a new one. If you are spending a lot of time sourcing parts, sewing up rips and seams, waterproofing, and fixing tent poles, it might be time to retire your tent and relegate it to the spare parts pile.

Storing your tent in a dry place, pitching your tent with care out of the scorching sun and gale-force winds as well as maintaining a waterproofing schedule, and using a footprint will increase the life of your tent for years.

Your tent will let you know when it’s had enough, and if you’ve taken care of her over the years, you can relinquish your old tent knowing you’ve got as many years of memories out of her as you can. And that’s all you can ask!

Happy camping! 😊

Next up: Are you excited to go camping with your friends but don’t know how to get started? Check out our guide on how to plan a camping trip with your friends.

Back one: Fancy trying out the comfortable end of camping? Glamping might just be what you’ve been looking for! Get started with our glamping packing list.

Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

Kara grew up in New Zealand where camping in the backyard as a child turned into multi-night trips in the National Parks as a teenager and then a full blown backpacking adventure for a year in Asia, by herself in her early 20's. Camping, bush walking, car camping and road trips still feature heavily in her current life style. She lives right next door to a World Heritage National Park on Springbrook Mountain and highly recommends having them as next door neighbours!