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How to waterproof a tent

Why you should waterproof your tent…

Think about it folks. It’s 2 a.m. and you’ve just managed to nod off for the first time because the craziness that comes with camping has kept you busy…busy re-inflating cheap inflatable mattresses, or convincing the little ones that that weird noise is nothing more than a hungry raccoon rummaging through the garbage cans…er…so you hope. Convinced it’s going to be ok you close your eyes when the first drop falls…

Nothing short of discovering a rattler in your sleeping bag, can compare with finding yourself marooned in an unexpected (damn you weather app!) rain storm. Thoughts running through your head like, “Is this tent waterproof?!” and “Did the sales guys say this thing can hold up in rain?!” feel like too little too late, and while you’re trying to figure this all out the showers keep coming long and hard.

It’s a wonderful sound, that sound of rain on the tent. Almost magical but short lived when the first icy drop strikes. Smack. Bull’s eye!

waterproofing a tentOne would think all tents are nothing short of ‘bullet proof’ when it comes to rain protection (since these things are made for the outdoors) but this just isn’t so. We recommend you take extra precautions when heading out on the annual family vaycay.

Check out our list of the best waterproof tents here.

Looking at the science of it, waterproofing a tent or waterproofing your tent, can save you a horrid night with family moaning as you huddle in the flickering fluorescent lights of the pee (sorry) drenched communal. You know the kind.

So we thought we would spare you the drama and offer some handy (at least we hope so) tips and tricks to seal up your tent from water for good.

There is a lot of information out there and we want only the best and most user friendly tips for you. When all is ‘read’ and done, when the information is neatly packed and packaged, there are really only two essential components to a thorough tent sealin’ regimen.

And we believe following these steps will ensure a dry cabin come hell or high water. Or. Even if ‘them cats an’ dawgs’ come howlin’ from the sky’. Ok enough. Here goes.

1. Step of How to waterproof a Tent: Make sure you have all the gear.

A Rain Fly

Rain fly to waterproof your tentSo many campers, although always happy, find themselves stranded in a maelstrom of crapola weather without a rain fly or simply as it’s more commonly referred to…a ‘fly’.

Yup, there’s actually a tent part especially designed for them persistent droperello’s (our ‘word’).

And you’ll be ridiculously optimistic if you think that without this piece of fabric (actually canvas or polyester coated with urethane) you can launch even a mildly effective ‘let’s-stay-dry’ campaign on rainy days.

If you’ve been camping before (and we assume that if you are still reading this you love camping), then you would have seen these clever contraptions all around. A rain fly can be thought of as a ‘raincoat’ for your tent.

A Custom Fitted Tent Footprint

This is a post about waterproofing your tent so it would go without saying that a rain fly is essential. In addition to the fly, your arsenal of waterproofing gear would not be complete with a custom fitted or standalone ground sheet.

This is essential since it panels the base of your tent to keep moisture (and freaky crawlies) from gaining access from the south – so to speak. Folks don’t realize it but not all tents come with sewn-in ground sheets, and in many tents that do have, the sheet is simply too thin to last more than one camping season.

Our solution? Well…we recommend you look into buying a good quality polyetheline coated tent footprint on which to pitch your tent. And that you make sure (if you haven’t bought it already) that your tent has a good quality sewn-in ground sheet.

With this combo you will effectively have double the protection. If a tent footprint is too expensive you can make your own using a thin tarp and save yourself some bucks.

2. Step of How to waterproof a Tent: Apply a Good Quality Water Sealant

Waterproofing your tent is not going to be a success unless you fork out some cash (never as much as having to overnight in a motel because the fandamily is drenched) for an excellent quality waterproofing agent or seam sealant.

We had a look at some of these products and found that Texsport Waterproof Seam Sealer for tents, backpacks and outerwear repair provides a cost effective and easy to use solution. This colorless, washable, flexible and odorless spray reduces fading caused by the sun and most importantly will keep the water out! A cheaper alternative, and one that appears all over the net, is Atsko Silicone Water-Guard 10.5 oz.

So this is how you actually waterproof a tent?

In your approach to sealing that tent of yours we recommend you start by setting up your tent – at home – in your yard.

Shake the can as all cans deserve a good shaking and proceed by spraying the outside in a flowing sideways motion (2-3 feet from the tent surface) making sure to provide dense coverage.

Start with that fly on top before spraying the actual tent. Remember this stuff will appear wet on contact but soon dries. Be sure to read the manufacturers recommendations.

The most important areas (so don’t rush these) when waterproofing a tent are:

1. the tent fly (already mentioned),

2. that seam between the groundsheet and side panels of the tent and,

3. All along the door zipper.

There you go campers! Two easy steps, a little forethought and preparation and you can have a comfortable, warm and most importantly DRY camping experience. We wish you great adventure and be sure to drop us a line to share your tent waterproofing experiences. Cheers for now!


Image credits: featured image by Mikael Leppä/, campsite image by Robert Ashworth/ (CC BY 2.0)