It’s an hour before that long-awaited camping trip, and you look out the window to see rain!
Oh no, where did that come from you ask out loud, it’s supposed to be sunny all weekend.
You look around at all the gear you have laying out and stop at your tent, suddenly it hits you as you say,
I mean aren’t all tents waterproof?
In all reality the answer to that is, not all tents are waterproof. The vast majority of tents are water-resistant, which means they will resist or slow down the penetration of the rain but this is not the same as waterproof. While some tents are waterproof, water-resistant tents will need waterproofer added to become “waterproof”.
First, we will tell you what o look for but if you are still not sure, we will give you some examples of tents with some pros and cons.
Just what exactly is a waterproof tent then?
Waterproof means that the folds of camping tents have been coated with polyurethane and the seams have been taped making that area of
the tent free from water entering in.
Tents also use mm (800-1500 and up to 3000 for extreme locations) to measure the type of rating that they are. This is also important in determining if your tent is not only waterproof but
what types of settings and elements it may be good to use in.
Let’s take a 1500mm tent for example.
Higher ratings mean higher waterproofing to when the tent fabric is subjected to a 5″ column of water that is x mm deep (800-1500) for a minute before a drop of water comes
through. Most 1500mm tents are professional high-end tents and can weather a severe storm or a 75 mph force wind.
Before we move on into the other ratings, remember that all tents are not waterproof for good reasons.
It could simply mean that it would be labor-intensive and costly for the manufacturer or a tent that is used in your basement as a child’s play area. A popup tent is great for the backyard, a festival or keeping the kiddos occupied but may not be a good choice in the rain for long periods of time.
There are ways to check how waterproof your tent is by taking time and checking the following areas:
- Seams. The area where tent material is stitched together, check to see if sealed. Go to the inside and check for a waterproof coating.
- Zips. Doorways are problem areas for the rain to enter. If a tent is well designed you will see a fabric and at times a plastic cover.
- Hydrostatic Head. If you have 2000mm HH on your tent that’s ok for mild weather, if you’re in a major heavy downpour though, it may still have water come through the fabric weave. Remember though, even a tent with 8000 HH is going to leak if not sealed. You should be able to find the HH rating on the tents packaging but if you don’t have it, you can contact the manufacturer.
- Bathtub Sewn in Groundsheet. This attaches to the tent. While not necessary it does save time when putting up your tent. This must be a “bathtub” groundsheet. The sides of the groundsheet will turn up at the sides reducing water from entering. Try to have a lot of HH here, possibly 10000 HH made with stronger material than the main tent.
- Stitching. Every stitch is a hole, therefore look at the seams again for a waterproof coating. Rainproof Entrance. Are you able to enter and exit and not have a lot of rain coming in on you? Have a shelter or a type of ridge so you won’t get water pouring into puddle on the tent floor.
- Waterproof Treatment. Check to see if the manufacturer applied it by simply reading the label on the tent.
- Skirt. Ok, Ok not really a “skirt.” This is material that is extending out from the tent side and away from your groundsheet. It looks like a “skirt.
Tents that are water-proof
800mm tents are great for the summer and 1200mm for all conditions. The following examples of these are not the only ones on the market so please do research and shop around:
Field & Stream 3 Dome Tent
- Amazon $39.99
- Sleeps 3 (maybe tight if you have a lot of gear)
- Dome Shaped
- Easy set up and has 2 fiberglass poles and shock cords
- Has a fly and a gear loft
- Bathtub style floor
MIL-TEC Mini Pack Standard Two Man Tent
- Military 1st at $57.95
- Good for summer camping
- Comes in a drawstring bag with handle
- 1200 mm tents are good choices for most conditions
Cabela’s Getaway 6 Person Dome Tent
- Amazon $179.99
- Weighs 15 lbs 13 oz
- Good size door 56.7″ H
- Great interior space with gear storage
Adventure Dome 6 Person Tent
- llbean.com $299.99
- 91 SQ FT tent area
- Weights 17 lbs
- Takes minutes to set up due to small design
- 2000 -3000 mm rated tents are extremely high-performance tents and can be utilized in all conditions.
- A tent somewhere in the extreme arctic weather would potentially have this type of rating.
BEST TENTS FOR RAIN (small groups)
Tough 3 Season Tents 2-3 Person Tent
- Noted as being one of the best tents out there.
- 6 different colors including orange-red and sky blue
- Everything is included with the package and weighs less than 8 pounds
- Rainfly is waterproof and lasts for years
- Easy to set up in 60 seconds
- Awesome ventilation
- 2 D Shaped doors with easy access to mesh windows in front and back to let hot air out
- Tight fit if you have a lot of gear
Coleman Instant Tent 4 Person – $84.22 Amazon
- Coleman is a brand that’s been around for years
- Uses Weather Technology System
- Cool air vent ports and air Flo vent to help move air
- Rainfly awning to protect from the sun or rain
- Set up in about a minute and a half
CON’s Tight if you have lots of gear
ALPS Mountaineering Lynx 1-Person – Amazon $84.99
- Easy to set up
- Polyester tent fly
- Lightweight at 3 lbs 8 oz
- #8 extra-large zippers
CON’s Not spacious for a lot of gear
TETON Sports Mountain Ultra 2 Tent – $134.99 Amazon
- 3 Season Tent
- Rainfly included
- Heat taped seams
CON’s Space could be an issue if both have lots of gear
Eureka Timberline 4 Tent – $239.95 Sportsman Warehouse
- 3 Season 800mm
- Bathtub floor
- Large windows
- Easily assembled
Size (better suited for 1 if a lot of gear)
BEST TENTS FOR RAIN (Large)
Coleman Evanston Screened Tent – Amazon $249.99
8 person capacity
Separate screened room
15 minute set up with rainfly included
Coleman Weathermaster 10-Person Outdoor Tent – Amazon $299.99
- Cabin like feeling
- WeatherTec System
- Hinged door
- Angled windows
Wenzel 8 Person Klondike Tent – Amazon $167.69
- Screen room attached
- Full mesh roof option
- Weather Repellent Polyester with polyurethane coating
- 16 x 11 in size
- 6.5FT Center
Only actually sleeps 5 in the tent and the other 3 sleeps in attached screen room (does have zip-up windows)
Too heavy for backpacking
Dark rainfly traps heat even when windows open
NTK Cherokee GT 8 to 9 Person – Amazon $154.95
- Weighs 18.7 lbs
- Easy to assemble
- 6.1FT Center
- Detachable room divider
- Double layer full-coverage rainfly
- Mosquito Mesh
- Antifungal floor
- Lifetime coverage on poles
Only fits 2 “wide” cots comfortably
Coleman Montana 8-Person Tent – Amazon $119.17
- WeatherTec System
- Extended door opening
- 6.2FT Center height
- 15 minute set up
- Built-in CPX LED lights (6)
- Rainfly included
- Narrow but roomy
- Better suited for 3-4 people
- Can get hot due to no back window
- Still worried about your tent not being waterproof? That’s alright, you can waterproof it yourself
- self to ensure you’ve got coverage. There are 3 ways to waterproof.
- Seal Seams. Seal those babies up with a seam sealer to help keep moisture out.
- Refresh urethane coating on the inside of rainfly and floor
- Refresh DFW (Durable Water Repellent). Doing this will help your rainfly shed water
KIWI Camp Dry Fabric Protector 10.5oz – $7.39 Target
KIWI Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent 12 oz – $7.49 Walmart
Cabelas 9 oz Waterproofing Aerosol – $6.99 Cabelas
These listed waterproofing products may not be enough for the size tent you have so plan accordingly. Also, these are only a few examples of what’s out there and places to purchase.
You are able to find waterproofing products also at Amazon, Field, and Stream, Camping World and at your favorite go-to camping facility.
Maintaining the life of your tent and its capabilities is also important. Try to keep everything together, clean your tent thoroughly after each use, allow to completely dry and thoroughly
inspect for any damages before you put it away.
In going back to that original question of “Are All Tents Waterproof.” Remember no they are not. To ensure your adventure is not a “washout” always read the tent label, check waterproof
ratings and if needed apply waterproof seal products to rainfly and floor.
Now stop worrying about the rain, pack up your gear and get to camping!
Here are a few related questions.
Can you make a tent more waterproof?
The simple answer is yes. We listed a few of the products for this above under “waterproofing products”.
What is the best material for tents?
We find that by far cotton/canvas tents are much better. They are more naturally water-resistant when weathered. The noise factor is much lower with cotton.