Imagine it: you hike all day to your ideal spot, overlooking a view you’ve been dreaming of for weeks, maybe even months. You set up camp and hear rumbles of thunder. Quickly, you assemble your tent and crawl inside to cozy up.
It’s warm in your sleeping bag, and your headlamp is ready to let you read when you a big juicy raindrop plops on your head. Looking up, there are several drops scurrying around the roof of your tent. It isn’t waterproof.
When it comes to camping, your tent is your home. The catch is, all of the ways in which your home is well-equipped for the elements, your tent inherently won’t be.
So how do you waterproof a tent?
First, you have to make sure the tent is clean and ready for chemicals but cleaning the dirty areas with warm soapy water. Next, you will have to use a waterproof seam sealant to seal the tent seems and finally seal the main area of the tent with a waterproof spray that can be found online or at places like Camping World.
Here’s what we will cover to get your tent sealed up tight
Always inspect your tent before a trip
Like any good boy or girl scout, it’s best to be prepared. Even if you have a tent in storage, you should check it before you pack it up for the trip. Taking a look at the tent before you’re ready to set it up in the wilderness could save you a lot of struggles later on.
While you’re assessing your tent for places that need water-proofing, it’s also a good idea to check old tents for damage. Holes can be patched up quickly and easily as you’re reinforcing seams.
Choosing the right tent sealant
Make sure you buy a proper sealant for the seams. Some people try to coat their tent in a layer of grease to repel rain, but it only ends up damaging the tent. For small tears or holes, no matter who tells you it worked fine for them, you don’t want to use candle wax.
Aside from the fire-hazard that goes along with your flammable tent, you could end up just making the hole bigger. The so-called quick fix will more than likely end up costing time and money in the end.
Waterproof tents can be pricey, so these waterproofing tips are a good bet for a tent you may already have or one that fits into your budget. Enjoying the great outdoors shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg, and it shouldn’t come at the expense of your comfort.
Waterproofing sprays are inexpensive, and so are tarps. While you’re out in the wilderness, they’ll seem priceless. The most significant investment you’ll need to make is the time.
There are many different sprays for sealing a tent on the market. The one we use is Kiwi camp dry heavy duty 120z. You can get it on Amazon here.
A three pack at the time of this article cost about $25.
Prepare your tent for waterproofing
First, you need to ensure that the tent you’re working with is equipped. Whether it’s brand new or years-old, waterproofing before a trip will save you from headaches and enable a good night’s rest.
Start with a clean, dry tent. Yes, you’re washing your tent. Use warm water and soap to wipe down the outside. Although some sources will suggest using a washing machine, it’s a good idea to avoid the quick option and do it with love by hand.
The material is delicate, and a washing machine thrashing it around for an hour doesn’t do you any favors in terms of keeping the strong and sturdy.
Instead, you can use a sponge for this step, but make sure it’s soft and nonabrasive. A rough surface will only serve to create little rips and tears where you least expect them, inviting little drops of rain when you’re least prepared. Handle your tent with care so it can return the favor.
After it’s washed, dry the tent completely. Drying should never ever take place in a dryer. Like the rigor of the washing machine, the dryer can also cause damage. The heat will wear down the material and protection that the tent already possesses.
You’ll also want to keep it out of direct sunlight while drying. Not all tents are UV-protected, and intense sunlight can cause damage. Stick to drying in the shade if need be.
Always, read and follow the instructions included with the sealer you choose. Not doing so could really cause problems down the road or in the woods.
Seal your and warterproof your seams
It’s important to have a designated outdoor area to go about waterproofing your tent. Many of the chemicals that you’ll want to work on your tent will need to be used in a well-ventilated area.
Take this task seriously and do it outside or, at the least, somewhere well-ventilated.
Decide which parts of your tent need waterproofing. Even if your tent is brand new, there will be areas for improvement. Many tents that are deemed “waterproof” have a few perks that will help keep the rain out, but ultimately could use a boost.
Even a domed roof and inverted seems can spring a leak.
A highly recommended way to increase your wet-protection is to properly seal the seams yourself. Pay close attention to where the floor and ceiling meet, as this will likely be the source of many a leak if it becomes a problem.
Most outfitters suggest sealing your seams not just as an added precaution, but as a necessity. With a seam sealer, apply a thick layer in this crevice and let it completely dry. Again – make sure your tent is out of sunlight. Not all tents are built for enduring UV, but even if it is, the sealant will dry more quickly and efficiently in the shade.
The seams will provide the framework for your real duty: waterproofing the floor. Once the seam sealers are dry, you can use a spray bottle or can of waterproofing spray. Many of these formulas will act as a waterproofer as well as a strengthener and UV protectant.
With all of these formulas, it can become more and more tempting to let your tent dry in the sun, but it may end up doing more damage than help.
Waterproof inside and out
It’s very important that this part takes place outside. You’ll need the ventilation, and you’ll want the space to spread your tent out. Open all of the windows and doors while you spray, and then make sure the coating is even by spreading it with a cloth. As soon as it’s done, get out, but leave the windows and doors open for it to dry.
Now the inside is done, you’re going to want to do the same on the outside. Arguably, it’s even more important to do it on the outside of the tent. This double-layer is a perfect way to reinforce your hard work and keep you dry in case of inclement weather.
The tent’s floor can be easily overlooked, whether consciously or not. If it’s raining outside, or it has recently, the floor is without a doubt the part that’s most susceptible to moisture. You’ll be noticing the difference when you hope to escape the elements and crawling into your tent only serves to keep you cold and moist. You’ll thank yourself for taking the time to do it.
Once your base is secure, you can move up the sides. You’re already well-versed in spraying and allowing your floor to dry. The same principles apply to the walls. Make sure all the seams are sealed and cover the outside of the tent with waterproofing spray.
Location helps helps keep water out
The location that your tent is set up is often overlooked, but this can be as important as waterproofing.
Like buying a home, there are three very important words to consider when out camping: location, location, location. It also falls to you to make sure the land where you decide to make camp is well-suited for your temporary housing. Stick to high and dry.
The dry part may be hard to control when it comes to precipitation, but there are some things you can do to help. Don’t put your tent in a cave or under a cliff that might cause run-off water. Also, you’ll want to stay high so that your tent doesn’t get flooded from streams and puddles.
Get some accessories to help keep the water out
Your tent will have an extra layer of protection and be more rain deterrent with a rainfly. A rainfly is that umbrella-like structure that sometimes comes as an added attachment to tents. Some tents come equipped with one, while others need to be purchased separately. Think of it as a hood: it can’t hurt, and it might actually keep you significantly drier.
There’s one very important tool that can take your waterproofing efforts to the next level: the tarp. The tarp is the swiss army knife of tents. In the most severe cases, the tarp will be the tent. It’s possible to fashion a teepee from a tarp and some well-placed branches.
If nothing else, it is a reliable roof over your head. A tarp can act as an effective rainfly when your tent didn’t come with one.
But the tarp does so much more. For the regular water-proofing practices, a tarp is a great option for reinforcement. Aside from the rain, there are a lot of things hidden, wedged, or growing from the ground on which you set your tent.
The tarp can act as a reinforcer to prevent scrapes and cuts that let water in. Since it’s also waterproof itself, it provides that extra layer of protection for the sensitive and important floor of your tent.
Remember, your tent is there to help and protect you. Taking proper care of it should be your top priority when planning a trip. Through water-proofing practices and the additional help of a tarp, you have all of the precautions taken for a successfully dry camping trip.