The average adult camper has to buy a new tent every 3.8 years and a new sleeping bag every 3.7 years, according to the annual American Camper Report survey. Lanterns, flashlights, grills, stoves, coolers, airbeds and camping chairs also have to be replaced every two to three years on average. All this can add to the expense of a camping trip, which already averages $380, based on estimates derived from USATourist.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can trim your camping expenses down by following a few hacks to make your gear last longer so you have to replace it less often.
Tents can cost between $100 and $300, making them one of your most expensive gear purchases. Boys’ Life suggests a few simple, inexpensive techniques you can use to make your tent last longer and cut down on tent replacement costs. Keeping water out of your tent will extend its lifespan. Most tents come with their floor seams and rainflies already sealed. Make sure to check your seals, and you should also do resealing maintenance every few years. You can get a tube of tent seam sealer for less than $10. Keeping your tent doors and windows open when it’s not raining will also help vent your tent and reduce moisture.
Laying a ground cloth — also called a footprint — under your tent will protect it from getting poked and ripped by rocks and sticks. You can buy a ground cloth for $10 to $50 depending on the size and quality you want. Your footprint should be slightly smaller than the bottom of your tent so that it does not stick out on the sides and collect moisture.
To avoid tears, be careful when zipping and unzipping your tent, pulling zippers slowly. Unzip tent doors all the way before stepping through instead of pushing through partially open flaps. Don’t wear boots inside tents, especially if you’re wearing hiking boot crampons.
How you handle your poles can also affect the lifespan of your tent. To prevent your pole sections from separating inside your tent sleeves and tearing the fabric, push them rather than pulling them. To protect the poles themselves, put them together slowly one section at a time, avoiding snapping them together. Break poles down in the middle first to reduce strain.
Your tent’s rainfly is more sun-resistant than other parts of your tent’s fabric. Leave the rainfly on during the day for extra protection.
Be sure to keep your tent clean between camping trips. Wash off any dirt with cold water, non-detergent soap and a sponge. To prevent mildew, dry your tent before packing it away, air drying it or using a dehumidifier.
Along with tents, sleeping bags are one of your most expensive pieces of camping equipment, costing $50 to $500 or more for the highest-quality bags. Climbing expert Matt Park offers some tips to prolong the life of your sleeping bag. Optimally, sleeping bags should be stored uncompressed to avoid crushing the insulation. For long-term storage, most bags come with a sack made of a breathable material such as mesh or cotton, or you can hang your bag up by its loops in a dry, dark place. For short-term storage, you can use your bag’s smaller stuff sack, or you can purchase a compression sack. Use these smaller sacks only for short-term durations during your camping trip, never for long-term storage between trips. Suppliers such as Cabela’s provide a full range of sleeping bags, with storage sacks typically included.
Protect your bag from abrasions by clearing objects from under it and avoiding stepping on it. If your bag does get ripped, you can buy sleeping bag repair tape and kits for less than $20. Duct tape will serve for temporary repairs but should be replaced as soon as possible. If you know how to sew, you can sew a patch on. If you need help, your manufacturer may be able to fix your bag for a small fee.
Dry your bag out if it gets wet. Ideally, you should hang it somewhere out of direct sunlight when it’s drying. Avoid compressing your bag when it’s wet.
Periodically, your bag should be washed. If your bag is made of down, you’ll need to use special down wash, since normal laundry detergent can strip down of its oils. For synthetic bags, use synthetic base wash. Nikwax sells both types of wash for between $10 and $20.
Lanterns & Flashlights
Lanterns, which can cost anywhere from $10 to $100, are the most frequently replaced piece of camping equipment, according to the American Camper Report. You can make both lanterns and flashlights last longer by removing batteries when not in use. Moisture and temperature extremes shorten battery life, so store your batteries in a dry, cool (but not excessively cold) location. Camping lantern review sites also suggest selecting a model with multiple settings options, which enables you to extend battery life by choosing a lower setting. Some LED flashlights also have multiple settings.
Stoves & Grills
Stoves and grills, which can run from as low as $25 to as high as $1,000, also get replaced frequently. The key to making both stoves and grills last longer is good maintenance and periodic cleaning. The Mountain Equipment Co-operative says carbon deposits and other debris can often cause stoves to malfunction by blocking the flow of fuel. Reduce build-up by blowing out flames when not in use instead of letting them flicker out. Wipe stoves and grills down after each use, and clean periodically when in storage. Loose debris can be wiped away with a paper towel, ground-in dirt and grease can be scraped or scrubbed away. Use a cover to keep cooking equipment free of dust and moisture when in storage.