Have you ever unpacked your tent just to get hit square in the nose with an unholy wave of stink? Dust, conditions, mold and mildew during storing can all contribute to an odor you can do without in your tent. Luckily, we’ve got some tips for you on how to clean out your tent safely, how to store it properly and ways to keep it smelling fresh on the trail.

What’s the best way to clean a tent?

The best way to clean a tent starts with figuring out just how dirty it is. If there’s just a little whiff of something strange, you can probably eliminate the smell by fully airing out the tent before your trip.

Open every zipper on the tent and hang from a high place if possible. Setting the tent on the ground won’t be quite as effective, as air-flow is restricted. Spritz your favorite deodorizer or fabric refresher in the tent and air out all day.

How do I deep-clean my tent, and what chemicals do I use?

If your tent has really been through it, however, there are some additional steps to take including scrubbing out the inside of your tent. To do this, pitch the tent in its entirety in your backyard, and get ready to scrub.

You can buy a specially formulated spray like this Nikwax Tent & Gear Solar Wash, or use good old soap and water.

The important thing is to make sure not to clean with any scented products, and make sure your soap or wash has no detergent as this will affect the UV shield and fabric quality of the tent.

Plus, scent will attract bugs and small animals to your tent on the trail. A natural soap like this  unscented Natural Flower Power Soap is a great option.

How do I store my tent so it doesn’t stink?

Storing your tent to prevent odors building is extremely important. After finishing up cleaning and deodorizing your tent, let it dry out and air completely.

Storing your tent with any trace of moisture in it will introduce mold and mildew, which is an unwelcome surprise on the trail.

If you’re not hitting the trail immediately, store your dry tent loosely in a cool, dry place.

The tent sack makes sense when you’re saving space on the trail or a camping trip, but it’s not necessary to store it there around the year. Storing it loosely will promote air flow and keep it smelling fresh. Only put it in the stuff sack just before your trip.

Avoid storing your tent in hot, humid areas or tightly concealed spaces like the trunk of your car to promote breathability as well!

How can I keep my tent smelling fresh when I’m out backpacking?

Each morning when you pack up your site, you can take a few precautions to keep your tent fresh. Condensation often builds overnight in the rainfly or bottom of the tent, so you’ll want to break down the tent as early as possible in order to hang over a tree limb to air out and dry.

Again, you don’t want to roll your tent at any point with moisture.

Scentless deodorizing spray is okay if for some reason you’ve really accumulated a smell, but it’s important not to bring anything with a heavy scent as it will attract all manner of creatures on the trail. For safety and space-saving, rely on airing out the tent with as much time as you can spare, and checking for dryness before packing up!