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Family Tent Camping Checklist:
This list was put together by Dervla O Meara mother of 4. So please forgive that the list is mostly tailored for the family camper.
PDF Download Checklist
Dusting off your gear:
1. Check your tent. You carefully repaired and cleaned your tent before it went away last winter right??? But its always worth your while to open it up again before going away to make sure that everything is ok. Check that your poles are all there and intact and that your tent was dry and no mould or mildew has grown on it.
2. If repairs are required best to do them before you go away and do not postpone.
3. Open & Air or even wash your sleeping bags have them fresh for your camping trip.
4. Check your airbeds for any leaks and repair or replace if required nothing worse then sleeping on the cold hard ground.
5. Unpack your gas stove and check that its working and make sure you have enough gas for your camping trip.
6. Check that all your Lanterns and Torches have fresh batteries or bring the spares along.
7. Clean out your ice box and freeze your ice packs for your first day camping have some spare ice packs to place in the campsite freezer when you arrive but have them labelled.(Better ice boxes will keep ice for a few days now.) It is worth checking out the section on ice boxes.
8. Check for any latest items that will make your camping experience even better this year. Perhaps the Wardrobe or the Camping Toilet so there is no more late trips to the bathrooms with the young ones.
Setting up your Tent:
It should be noted that all new and used tents should be weathered before holiday use. The canvas or tent covering material requires a few soakings before it fully closes.The first time it rains a fine spray will probably come through, but it will soon stop. If you pitch a tent in a period of drought do not resort to weathering it with a hosepipe. If a seam persists in leaking they can be proofed with a wax treatment, Fabsil can be applied or indeed seam seal. Always apply seam seal on the inside of the seam. Remember that all needle holes make a hole in the tent material. The stitching is designed once it gets wet a few times to expand. Once expanded the stitching seals the needle holes. Most modern tents have a pre seam sealed tape applied to the inside of the fabric covering the majority of these stitching holes.
Remove any sharp stones from the area you pitch your tent on to avoid damage to the groundsheet. Avoid pegging the pegging points and guy ropes too tightly to allow for strain from e.g. strong wind and children tripping over the pegging and guy ropes points. Ensure zips are closed during pegging & erection. Hammer pegs into the ground at an angle for greater stability keeping the tension even on all sides. Dirt should only be removed from your tent by a soft brush and clear water. Do not use detergents, as this will effect the waterproofing of your tent. If however your tent requires to be cleaned you may have to reproof it afterwards.
Be gentle with zips:
If you want to stay warm and comfortable inside your tent, take care of your tent zips. Never force them. Take the strain off by cross pegging at the base and keep them closed when they’re not in use. Peg out your tent with the zips closed. Metal zips can be waxed if they become too stiff to use, nylon ones do not need attention providing the teeth are kept clean. Always close zips before packing up your tent. Make sure there is not too much tension on zips and do not attempt to use them while they are under tension. Tension can be released by bringing the pegging points closer together either side of the zip. (Because of the general misuse of zips tent manufacturers will not guarantee zips.) Treat zips with care.
Zips are not guaranteed.
Images of Mildew on Tents.
Images on Condensation
If you want a comfortable holiday, try to find a flat level piece of ground to pitch your tent and check the ground for stones and sharp objects. Beware however of the grassiest spot in the campsite because this is often where all the water drains after rain and you could be on a very squelchy spot. Avoid pitching under trees that drip sap and do not pitch your tent while a bonfire is burning because the smoke can cause temporary damage to the canvas. Before erecting your tent it is a good idea to lay down some polythene now they have footprints!, to protect the underside of the inner tents and the ground sheets.
When it rains:
You can’t hope to be lucky with the weather all the time, so it is best to memorise a few simple hints about camping in the rain. First, in wet weather, make sure that nothing chafes against the tent fabric as this may allow water to seep in. Check also, that the inner tents are well clear of the sidewalls. In rain or heavy dew the canvas will probably shrink a little, but this is simply the weave of the canvas closing to give maximum protection. If the tent is pegged under correct tension it will go back to its normal size, but if the tent is packed away wet, at the next stop the tent will be found to have remained in its shrunken state. Gradually increasing the tension on the pegging while the tent is up should bring it back to its proper size. Large dome tents may need to be re pegged in the rain and or at night time as the material tends to stretch and loosen in the rain.
There are also dry weather hints that are worth remembering. Like: cotton cloths can be weakened and faded by prolonged exposure to strong sunlight. With normal holiday and week-end use, a tent will have many years of life, but if it is to be left standing for an extended period in a sunny climate, play safe and seek a shady site.
When you are enjoying the novelty of living under canvas it is the easy to forget that fire precautions are even more important than when you are at home. Mostly they are just plain commonsense. Keep naked flames and gas appliances away from tent materials and never change gas supplies or re fuel stoves inside the tent. Keep them well away from naked flames and don’t smoke. Don’t cook inside small tents and avoid oil splashes. Keep a fire extinguisher or fire blanket handy.
Striking camp usually means going home, so there may be a temptation to pack your tent any old how and worry about it later. Resist the feeling. Take note of these last four hints and your tent will reward you with many more happy holidays. Try not to pack up the tent when it is wet. Remove any mud or grass from the tent and roll it up towards the door to let the air escape. If you have to pack the tent when it is wet it should be fully erected and pegged out under tension as soon as possible and allowed to dry thoroughly. Clean and dry ground sheets, poles and other items before packing them away.
Tents are best stored fully opened out in a dry well aired place. If this is not possible, give the tent a good airing on a dry day at least once or twice during the winter. Always pack poles and pegs carefully to avoid damaging the canvas or groundsheet in transit.
Remove dirt and stains either by brushing or by gentle washing with “Tent Clean” or a mild solution of “Fairy Liquid” or a similar product. Never use detergents, and don’t scrub. Rinse well, dry, and re- proof only if necessary. If tent fabrics start to leak or wear thin, seems or panels can be re- proofed with any proprietary spray, solution or wax. Small holes and tears should be patched with eyelets checked and renewed if necessary. It is a good tip to spray the curtains tapes, etc. attached to the walls of the tents with a spray re-proofer as many of these are supplied un proofed and tend to act like a wick. Please check with us the correct treatment for particular materials.
When you are pegging down your tent drive in the pegs at an angle for maximum grip. Don’t overstretch rubber guy loops. Use a proper peg extractor or another peg to pull up pegs. Never tried to pull them out by pulling on the rubber guy loops. If your tent needs extra guying points attached a seamstress can do it for you. A tent with no external guying points can be guyed on the inside. O'Meara Camping have a range of different pegs in stock. Always carry a range. O' Meara Camping have "pile driver" pegs and everyone should at the very least have some.
Always peg all points and guy ropes to allow for changes in weather. Peg guy ropes close to tent to avoid people tripping and damaging your tent. Note synthetic material tends to expand at night so re peg before going to sleep.
In the picture shown above, I show how a tent should be properly pegged. This kind of pegging equally applies to Dome tents, Frame tents, Caravan awnings, Party tents gazebos etc. The tent in the picture really is well pegged and guyed and would / should withstand most bad weather.
The pegs supplied with some tents are so poor that they are next to useless in hard ground. Some pegs are so poor that they should come with a warning! O Meara Camping have sourced spare extra pegs that all campers should purchase and bring with them.The pegs are useful in most conditions and can be hammered in with a proper hammer. Please do purchase some extra pegs.
There are many different types of pegs used for different ground surfaces. Common sense should tell you that short pegs are useless in sandy conditions. Soft pegs will not get a grip in hard ground. Long pegs are great in soft ground but impossible to hammer down far enough in hard ground; so you fall over them. Special sand pegs are so expensive that O Meara’s who did carry them in stock only to discover that no one would buy them.
Do carry a range of pegs. Do bring spare pegs and spare guy rope. Do bring spare rubber bands. Rubber bands are incredibly robust for pegging and act as a shock absorber. Children invariably fall over pegs and guy ropes but where a rubber band is attached the fall does not usually tear the tent as the rubber stretches and takes the shock. If you can peg using a rubber band (even where rubber bands are not supplied) the rubber bands will extend the life of your tent.
Image #1 & #2 are the "Continental Peg" Ideal for sandy conditions and they have a large groove which can grip the ground better giving the peg more grip.
Image #3 is the plastic peg again ideal for sandy conditions. However plastic pegs can break and not to be used if the ground is too hard or cold as plastic become brittle when cold.
More #4 & #5 are the "Skewer Peg" they come in a variety of lengths and strenghts. Most suitable for soft ground.
Image #6 is the Tie Down Peg / Anchor Peg. Ideal for securing down a Marquee or Ratchet Strap. I have even used this peg for pegging down my Trampoline.
Image #7 is our most popular peg its the "Rock Peg". Its a must have peg. When pitching your tent on hard ground or where there are a lot of rocks beneath the surface the rock peg will hammer through almost anything.
Image #8 "Wooden Peg / Ash Peg"
Maintaining Your Tent:
O Meara Camping carry a range of replacement poles to suit the tents that they supply. In an emergency you can repair a damaged pole by sleeving the damaged area or by binding it with strong duct tape. Ideally purchase spare poles and spare shock cord for your tent day one so you can carry out a repair on site. Elastic cord is only a device to keep your poles in one section. Do not use the elastic to pull the poles out of the sleeve. Poles should be pushed out so as not to damage the shock cord. It is time consuming to repair shock cord. The replacement is a simple D.I.Y. job. O' Meara Camping will replace the shock cord for you but you have to pay for the shock cord and the time it takes to thread it through the poles.
Dome Pole Replacements:
O Meara Camping have a section under accessories where you can source dome tent poles in sections. The poles generally need to be all replaced at the same time so the integrity of the set is the same. Left over poles will then get you out of any trouble in the future. Scout groups are advised by O' Meara Camping to buy the same tents where possible so that spare parts are inter changeable. On line purchasers of tents not supplied by O' Meara Camping may not be able to replace broken poles easily as we may not have the diameter of pole originally used. Some unusual tents have made there way to us with two widths of pole used in the same section of poles. It just means that a repair is going to be much more expensive ..as they say be careful out there.
Tents get a fair old battering from the weather and sometimes we can even trip over a guy rope! A roll of duct tape is a handy spare in the event of a tear. Seam Grip will repair a straight tear and all that is needed is tape on one side of the tear and seam grip the other side. The tape can be removed as soon as the Seam Grip has cured. The repair is almost invisible and fantastically good. A seamstress or sewing machine can repair most damage by sewing the damage back using the tents own material or by using a patch. The tent bag is usually the same material and colour and a good source of patching material.
Not guaranteed so treat with care. Modern zips are fantastic but use a bit of common sense. Peg the tent to protect the zip bursting open. Zips can be replaced by a seamstress but the cost can be frightening. Sometimes the removal of the original zip can take hours and time is expensive.
Guy lines, Rubber bands, Shock cord:
All these parts wear out and need to be examined and replaced as necessary. Rubber bands are used at pegging points as they act as a shock absorber. The rubber bands need to be regularly replaced as they perish and loose their elasticity. Shock cord needs to be replaced as soon as signs of weakness appear on the elastic string.
Sewn In Groundsheets:
Many modern tents have complete ground sheets sewn in to the tent. Be careful to remove sharp stones underneath so that the ground sheet does not become damaged. O Meara Camping sell ground sheets of all sizes that you can use underneath if you wish. The stronger the groundsheet underneath the better.
Waterproofing Your Tent:
Cotton tents particularly need to be weathered before they become fully waterproof. Stitching is usually cotton and it needs to get wet to swell and fill the stitching holes. Taped seams has helped hugely in smaller tents. Water inside your tent may not be a leak! Condensation with synthetic tents is a big issue. Ventilation is the cure. Ireland with dampness and colder nights makes condensation worse than most countries. Ventilate the tent by opening doors windows flaps when the weather allows.
Is the main waterproofing solution. The tent should be clean and dry before the waterproofing is applied. A brush or spraying device may be used. Fabsil comes in small aerosol cans for small uses. Golf gear, ski gear as well as camping gear can benefit from waterproofing action. I have even used Fabsil to waterproof a motorcycle jacquet! Larger tents may need to be erected to waterproof them. A bucket of Fabsil and a clean / new brush need to be used to apply the liquid. Start from the roof and work your way down. Leave about a foot 30 cm at the ends as the liquid will gravity feed down itself if applied with a brush. Fabsil will slightly alter the colour. In my experience a gallon is needed or more for a family cotton tent. After using Fabsil the tent will need airing to get rid of the smell of Fabsil.
Fabsil how it works:
Fabsil is a liquid wax. The wax is made liquid by the addition of white spirits. The white spirits act as the carrier for the wax and once applied starts to evaporate. Wax is left behind making the material waterproof.
Fabsil is manufactured by Grangers and their web site is (http://www.grangers.co.uk/product.cfm?cat=17&productid=22)