View Full Version : Can a tent shrink?

Powder River
02-20-2009, 16:29
I have an REI 2 man quarter dome that is a few years old, and hasn't been used in a while. The other night I pulled it out and set it up in the basement just to make sure it was ok. It's made of silnylon, and the rain fly was stuck to itself in a bad way, and took a few minutes to peel apart. Worse was setting up the tent itself, I couldn't get the poles into the grommets. I yanked, pulled, cursed, levered. It was coming up just a centimeter or two too short, and required an extreme effort to get it there. After 15 minutes I gave up, and came back later and somehow managed to get it in. The seams along the pole lines seemed to be stretched to the breaking point, and the floor of the tent seemed to be mis shaped at the tension points. I had an even more difficult time getting the poles out of the grommets, and again required over 20 minutes of effort.

My guess is that the tent, especially along the seams, has shrunk. It didn't used to require this much effort to set up or take down. Maybe some exposure to a hot car trunk has done this? I certainly don't want to take this out on the trail now, and have to deal with that kind of thing when its cold out.

02-20-2009, 18:07
Nylon tents expand when wet and contract when dry(ing). From what you describe, it sounds like it may have been stored wet and/or exposed to extreme conditions packed in your trunk. With proper care and storage, quality tents should provide many years of usage. If my tent isn't bone dry when I return from a hiking trip, I set it up in the garage and allow it to dry completely, clean off any dried mud/dirt, and then pack it for storage in its storage sack.

When handled this way, when you go out again, it may be a little on the tight side the first night out, but nothing like you described. Sounds like this tent of yours may be permanently damaged. If so get a new one and follow above care.

Jack Tarlin
02-20-2009, 18:13
Interesting thread.

I also was wondering if my tent had grown smaller over the past year.

Unfortunately, the simple truth is that its owner had managed to grow significantly larger. :eek:

Desert Reprobate
02-20-2009, 18:18
You might try to soak it good and then set it up until it dries.

02-20-2009, 18:57
Powder River
Sounds to me that you have a PU coated ripstop nylon tent (not silnylon) that has been stored wet or slightly damp and has deteriorated.

02-20-2009, 19:23
what a great question! i have an old 2-person that i pulled out last fall after 3 yrs in storage and my poles wouldn't fit either. when i finally got them in, it was bowed up in all kind of crazy directions. i got inside and whatever side i laid down on the other side popped up in the air. it was stretched WAY too tight. it sounds exactly like what happened to yours. i don't have a clue why though. i never put anything up wet and it was stored in my camping room inside the house. no moisture, nothing. let me know if you figure this out. i don't think there's any fixing my tent tho. good luck with yours.

Powder River
02-20-2009, 20:28
Powder River
Sounds to me that you have a PU coated ripstop nylon tent (not silnylon) that has been stored wet or slightly damp and has deteriorated.

The tent is the REI Quarter Dome UL 2 from about 2006:

Upon inspection, the floor is UL ripstop, the fly is silnylon but the tent body is made of mesh and a very light nylon that is not coated at all. The pole sleeves are a heavy weight nylon that is not coated. There is no delaminating anywhere. The tent is basically brand new; bought it over two years ago, has been used maybe 4 times and has never been put away wet. The last time I used it I remember drying it in the sun really good before putting it away. It hasn't been left in a trunk for any length of time, just the typical transport for a vacation or camping trip.

In other words, very lightly used and very well cared for.

02-20-2009, 20:40
Hum, interesting question and equally interesting answers. I guess a tent would expand and contract just like most things. To what extent this occurs would be interesting to know. I also wonder how and where the tent was stored. I suppose a tent manufacturer would have the answer for you.

02-20-2009, 20:41
Even as tent put away dry, if stored in an area too warm, over time, will have the Polyurethan (PU) coating stick to itself. It isn;t a good aidea to cram a tent into a stuff sack and just store it away. I usually keep my tents hanging or folded over lightl and stored in large bins.
AS for shrinkage, it does occur, Set your tent up and leave it be for a few hours or so and it should stretch out.

02-20-2009, 21:25
I too own a Quarterdome, that I purchased in 04 or so.

Sometimes my tent requires superhuman effort to stretch it out and get the pole in the grommets. Other times It pops up with just a gentle tug.

I can't figure out exactly whats going on. This problem is what made me go out and buy a Halfdome tent for my Boy Scouting sons. They don't have the upper body strength to put up the quarterdome when it wants to be difficult. The halfdome is 1.5 pounds heavier but it is childs play to set up.

02-20-2009, 21:29
i dont think it can shrink. * shouldnt of left the tent how it was stowed away. if * left it hanging or a different way maybe it would of been easier. Its probably just the fact that it was packed up for a long time

02-20-2009, 22:19
I've got the same tent. If I haven't set it up for awhile it is usually really hard to get the poles into the grommets. I've always found that it just needs stretching out some. I usually can get it pitched by myself, but sometimes I need a hand. On multiple day trips, it becomes easy to pitch the second day. I think this is because it's been stretched out. I've been able to put it up in cold weather too. I used to be worried about damaging it, but now I just pull on the tent hard until the pole gets into place. Personally, I always like how tight it is when pitched.

02-20-2009, 22:57
Just a shot in the dark - are all the pole ferrules completely seated? I had this problem before. A little silicone lube on the ferrules helps them seat. Only other problem I had before was setting up a four season tent at around 5 degrees (North Face VE 24) - yes - a long time ago. Cold weather definitely shrinks nylon.

02-20-2009, 23:35
Try pitching the tent as best you can in the backyard. Soak it with a garden hose set on a light spray. It should loosen up after awhile. When it dries out, check to see if it's not as tight as when you started. Depending on several factors, I'm thinking it might be a little better.

Wise Old Owl
02-20-2009, 23:45
I with Toolshed on this, Tents don't last forever and if they are stored improperly - well it happens. The neat thing is that new tents are not as exspensive.

02-21-2009, 22:57
It hasn't been left in a trunk for any length of time, just the typical transport for a vacation or camping trip.

In other words, very lightly used and very well cared for."Maybe some exposure to a hot car trunk has done this?" My comment was based on your initial comment which you seem to now contradict.

Anyway, tents that haven't been used in a while do require a little 'muscle' to pitch the first night out, but I haven't found it to be a problem that concerns me.

02-21-2009, 23:38
Yes indeed sil nylon shrinks. I had to get my new tent pole whittled back by Henry Shires for my tarptent so it fits. I broke the first pole on my hike in '07.

02-24-2009, 18:13
Powder River
If I had read your initial comment a bit more carefully I provably would have arrived at a better "guess". For some reason I thought that the fly on those tents was PU coated nylon however typically when it deteriorates it sticks more than shrinks.
Yes silnylon does shrink in a dry/ hot environment and expands when cold/wet. This is why , for example some have commented on the unnecessarily large TT stuff sacks only to find that they are a bit tight when the shelter is stored wet.
I am not aware of silnylon shrinking permanently.

02-24-2009, 20:16
If you sprinkle a little baby powder on the PU, it will stop the sticking when stored.