A common question that we get asked about tents is why is there water in my tent and what do I do about it. Most people think that tents come waterproofed but the fact of the matter is that most are water-resistant at best. We wrote a general article that covers all the reasons why a tent might be wet here.
However, in this article, we are going to cover tent bottoms only.
So are tent bottoms waterproof?
Tent bottoms are not usually waterproof. While most tent manufacturers do add a layer of waterproofing on the bottom, it is usually lackluster and will not hold up for long. Since the bottom of the tent is exposed to the most wear and ground moisture, it is very likely to be the culprit when it comes to moisture in a tent.
We will walk you through protecting your tent floor and preventing future leaks by waterproofing.
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Protecting your tent bottom.
Many people do not realize how important this step is. The tent floor is the base of your shelter and usually has to hold up to debris under the tent, people walking on top of it, and having equipment sitting on it. One way to help protect your tent floor and keep it waterproof is by using a protective layer slightly larger than your tent footprint beneath the floor.
Some tents come with a tarp-like protective sheet that you can use under your tent to help protect it from debris and add a little extra thermal barrier between you and the ground.
If your tent does not have this sheet, you can simply use a heavy-duty tarp. This will have the same protective features and will also help protect against moisture from the ground wicking through the bottom of your tent.
We have a great article on using tarps under and over your tent here.
You can also find tent tarps here on Amazon.
Another option is a waterproof fabric such as canvas. If you use a fabric it is imperative that it be tear-resistant and that is why we recommend canvas. The downside is that tarps are usually more affordable than heavy-duty waterproof canvas.
A trick that i have only seen a handful of times (and I personally have now tried) is using interlocking foam pads as a footprint. You know the ones that look like puzzle pieces on the edges. You will need the heavy duty ones but it actually works great. Not only does this add a nice layer between your tent floor and the ground but you will get a nice padded floor as well.
The downside is if your campsite is not close to your vehicle, you would have to carry these pads to your site and they can be heavy to carry for long distances.
For more great reading we have an article about why you need a footprint under your tent here.
Remove all the debris that you can before you put down your footprint or tent.
I have been guilty of this, not only can debris be uncomfortable as you will feel it under your tent floor, but rocks, sticks any other objects with sharp edges can tear your tent floor. A tear is usually pretty easy to identify but debris can also lead to very small and hard-to-find holes. Unfortunately, water will find a way in even through very small holes.
Not only can debris cause damage but organic debris, such as grass, and leaves retain water under your tent and the longer water is there, the more chances it will find a way in a hole.
Waterproofing a tent bottom
As we discussed above, adding a footprint that is waterproof will help stop moisture from wicking from the ground through your tent floor but if you are camping during a rainstorm, this may not be enough. Since heavy rain can lead to water getting between the protective layer and the tent bottom it is important that the tent floor itself have an extra layer of waterproofing.
The easiest solution is to add a waterproof sealant. Although most tents come with a sealant on one side, we highly recommend adding an extra layer of waterproofing to this since most tent’s initial waterproofing will not be very good. Also, we highly recommend adding waterproofing to both the top and bottom of your tent floor. It never hurts to add an extra layer of protection.
One of the spray waterproofers we have had great success with is pretty affordable and can be found on Amazon here.
We have an article that you will enjoy on waterproofing your whole tent here.
More tips for stopping your tent bottom from leaking.
This may sound obvious but we have seen this many times. Always try to place your tent on high ground. This will keep water flowing away from your tent instead of under your tent.
Even when on high ground avoid depressions. you can easily overlook this in grass or ground littered with debris but if your tent is in a depression on the ground, water will pool under your tent and this can lead to moisture-wicking.
Make sure the ground under your tent is solid. Soft ground can lead to depression under your tent. The weight of your gear and just simply walking around inside your tent will cause the soft ground to compress and leave a hole or depression for water to collect.
Using a tarp or canopy above your tent can help too. You can angle a tarp to direct rainwater above your tent in a direction away from your tent. This can tremendously reduce the amount of water that gets under your tent.
If you are new to tent camping or have been doing it a while, be sure to check out our tent camping articles here. We have articles for tent newcomers as well as seasoned tent campers.