Don’t let a leaky tent dampen your spirits. There are various reasons why you may find water inside your tent including the age of the tent, tears in the paneling, and even condensation. The good news is that there are a few fixes for leaky tents so you won’t wake up in a soggy sleeping bag.
Here is a summary of the main reasons why your tent may be leaking or have water and how to fix it.
- Age of your tent – Unless you want to do repairs often, you may want to invest in something newer.
- Tears, rips and holes – These leak problems can usually be fixed with patch repair kits for tents.
- Unsealed Seems – This kind of leak is simply to fix with a seem repair kit.
- Water seaping through the fabric – This means you probably didn’t have a weather-proofed tent. You will need to dry it out and weatherproof it.
- Water is coming in under your tent- You probably didn’t use a footprint with your tent. Using a footprint will help prevent this leak.
Here are a couple of great article we wrote to help you out once you finish this one-
Things That may Cause Your Tent To Leak
The Age of the Tent
Sadly, if you have a tent that has experienced more than its fair share of camping trips, it may be prone to leaking. Older tents can experience water problems and not just because they may have a tear or rip. When you store the tent, especially if it is wet, the trapped water can lead to mildew that eats away at the tents once sturdy materials.
Even the sun can eventually weaken the material with prolonged exposure. You should first try to figure out where the leaks are occurring. If water seepage or drips are happening at the seams, then it may be an easy fix (more on that below). However, if the paneling itself is becoming wet it may be time for a new tent.
Tears, Rips, or Holes
The most common reason for a leaky tent is a hole. After repeated use in climates that can be harsh and full of pokey sticks and sharp thorns, it is common for a tent to suffer some minor damage.
The rip or tear should be easy to find as it will likely be the wettest place in your tent. Rips and tears are common along the bottom edges of the tent where the tarp like base meets the thinner paneling. However, you can also find holes along the seams and near the top of the tent caused by errant poles sliding in and out of the guides or the occasional tree branch.
Once you locate the point of entry for the water you have a couple of options to repair it, discussed in detail below.
Most tents are sold with tape sealed seams. These are vital in keeping water out of your tent. The stitching on the tents paneling naturally results in small perforations in which water may leak through. Most moderately priced to higher-end tents tape these seams to prevent against such occurrences.
Whether you are a frequent camper or only an occasional camper, you should regularly inspect your seams for any damage between trips.
Weather and Condensation
Sometimes an obvious culprit is to blame for a wet tent, the weather. If it is a particularly cool night, condensation may build up on the inside of your tent. These moisture droplets can be seen gathering on the ceiling of your tent, running down the sides, and pooling on the floor. This doesn’t mean your tent is leaking, however. When you exhale or use a kettle or other steam producing items inside your tent, it can create a warm atmosphere within that when it meets the cool outside air can cause condensation.
Really bad weather can also cause the inside of your tent to become wet. Heavy downpours can force rain droplets through tiny holes on your tent’s paneling and seams. Gusty winds can lift the rainfly and allow water inside.
Tents typically come with waterproof ratings, these ratings are measured using a hydrostatic head test. This test essentially measures how tall of a column of water a fabric can hold before it starts leaking through the material. The greater the hydrostatic head rating the more waterproof the tent is considered to be.
However, there are two important caveats to your tents water resistance. First, the hydrostatic head test does not take into consideration gusty wind-driven rain. Additionally, repeated use of the tent can break down the materials and any waterproofing treatments. Either or both of these factors can play a role in why your tent may be leaking even with a great waterproof rating.
You Didn’t Weather Proof It
Did you know you should weather your tent before its inaugural trip? Even if the manufacturer claims that their tents don’t require weathering, it may still be a good idea. Weathering involves setting up the tent, letting it get wet, and then letting it air dry.
Your tent can either get wet naturally by the rain or you can thoroughly soak it with a hose, then let it dry. Weathering helps to expand the threading used in the tent seams to more tightly fill the needle holes or stitching, and prevent against leaks. If you don’t weather your tent you may experience leaky seams your first one or two trips.
Tent tips for finding a leak:
How to Fix a Leaky Tent
To fix your leaky tent, you must first figure out where and why it is leaking. Look for small holes or tears, try to figure out where the water is coming in by searching for pooling or areas where water is trickling, and considered the weather.
If you suspect that your tent is leaky due to driving rains, gusty winds, or condensation then there is likely not an issue to solve; your tent should fare better next time in less inclement weather.
As a precaution against condensation, you can leave all wet or damp items outside of your tent. Also, do not boil water or use steam producing items inside your tent.
If strong winds and heavy rain is to blame, you can consider bolstering your rainfly with a tarp. If the sides of your tent become soaked, try to keep objects away from the sides and don’t lean on them as it may cause water to seep through.
If you find that you have a hole or a tear you can try a couple of different methods to patch it. If the tear is relatively small and in the paneling, you can likely repair it with some specialized repair tape.
To do this lay the tent out flat and clean the outside area surrounding the hole (rubbing alcohol works best). Cut a circular shape from the repair tape that is big enough to cover not only the hole but one inch around the circumference of the hole. Press the patch firmly over the hole and let it cure for the amount of time specified by the tape manufacturer.
If the hole is in an area that experiences a great deal of tugging or tension you may want to patch the inside as well. If the hole is on the mesh you will need to purchase a mesh repair kit. You will similarly use the kit, cleaning the area, placing the patch, and letting it cure.
If your tear is quite large, it is probably best to have it professionally repaired or purchase a new tent. Professional repair companies may be able to sew up the rip or place a heavy-duty patch.
Leaky seams require a different solution. Most tents come from the factory with taped seams to prevent water leakage. However, seams regularly experience tension so it is wise to check them frequently.
If you find a leaky seam it is easier to use liquid seam sealer than tape. Be sure to choose an appropriate seam sealer for your tent material. You will then want to set up your tent as you will be sealing from the inside.
If any of your seam tape has come loose you can gently peel it away. Then carefully clean all your seams, including those on the rainfly (again, rubbing alcohol works well). Finally, apply the sealer to the seam and allow it to dry. You may want to seal all of the seams while you are at it.
Sometimes, your tents waterproofing may have degraded and other times the tent may have reached the end of its lifespan. If you suspect the waterproofing is beginning to fail but it is still a decent tent you may be able to re-waterproof it.
You can purchase either a durable water repellent (DWR) spray or a urethane coating to return your tent to its previous state of water-resistancy. Both of these items can typically be purchased at outdoor or camping stores and come with easy to follow instructions.
It usually involves setting up the tent, applying the coating, and then wiping away the excess and letting it cure. If this doesn’t solve your problem, it may be time to retire your tent.
Some tents can last a lifetime while others last only a few years. It largely depends on the quality of your tent, the care and maintenance performed, and how frequently the tent is used. A high-quality tent can be pricey but can be considered an investment for the frequent camper.
Saving Your Soggy Tent
With close inspection and a little intuition, you should be able to figure out why your tent is leaking. Once you have deduced the problem you can then choose an appropriate (and often easy!) solution so you can remain a dry and happy camper on your next trip.