How to Weatherproof a Camping Tent

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The weather is unpredictable, and even though the forecast says it’s going to be a sunny day, you could be in for a downpour. When camping outdoors, the last thing you want to hear is the sound of your tent leaking.

The success or failure of your camping trip depends largely on your tent, and you always want to feel warm and dry in your tent.

Although most tents are somewhat waterproof. But over time, a tent’s waterproofing ability may decline. After a certain number of camping trips as well as sun and rain, the tent’s waterproof material will deteriorate as well as suffer wear and tear.

Whether it’s a cheap pop-up tent or a high-end backpacking tent, waterproofing needs to be renewed from time to time.

Fortunately, waterproof tents are not difficult. Below we will provide some advice on how to waterproof your tent to avoid any leaks.

Waterproof Fabrics

No fabric is truly waterproof. Under extreme pressure, water will pass through. However, under normal conditions, water will not pass through a waterproof fabric unless the water pressure reaches the fabric’s “waterproof rating”.

The fabric on the outside of the tent is usually nylon or polyester. Although they are not waterproof fabrics, they still have some water resistance. Underneath them, you’ll find a coating made of polyurethane. It allows your tent to breathe without letting water drips through.

The outer layer is then treated with DWR, a liquid polyurethane that bonds to the fabric and seals it against water.

Why a tent needs to be waterproof

Sun damage

When a tent is exposed to sunlight for long periods of time, its fabric can be damaged by the sun and lose its waterproofing properties. Strong sunlight can break down a tent’s waterproof coating. If you want your tent to last longer, avoid the sun as much as possible.

Prolonged use

Tents are also subject to dirt and dust when outdoors. Then after a long period of sun and rain, the waterproof substance on the fabric will deteriorate. Multiple uses will also subject the tent to wear and tear. The sealant at the tent seams may also come off.

Cleaning your tent

Before waterproofing your tent you need to clean your tent.

Prepare some mild detergent or soap, sponge, cloth, water, bathtub, etc.

Add water and the right amount of cleaner to the bathtub. Put your tent into the bathtub and soak it for a while. Then gently scrub the tent with a cloth or sponge. For stubborn stains, you need to focus on cleaning.

Note that all cleaning procedures need to be done by hand, do not use the washing machine to clean your tent. Finally, dry the tent.

Seal the seams of the tent

Seams are the biggest weakness of a tent. Because that’s where two pieces of fabric are sewn together, where there are tons of tiny pinholes. Although your tent’s seams are sealed, the sealant will deteriorate and wear off over time, allowing water to leak into the tent.

Sealing your tent is a quick and easy job that takes about 30 minutes. You’ll need a rag, alcohol, and seam sealant.

If you find a tear in the seam, make sure you put tape on the back to hold the seam together. Then wipe the seam with a damp cloth dipped in alcohol and remove any large pieces of sealant that come off.

For a well-adhered sealant, you do not need to scrub or tear it off. Apply the sealant evenly to the sealed joints. Be sure to wipe any excess from the outside of the seam before the sealant is completely dry.

Then follow the tips in the sealant instructions and wait for the sealant to dry. Typically, you will need to wait 12 hours. In the meantime, you need to keep the tent out of the sun.

It is important to note that you need to choose the right sealant for your tent. Most tent fabrics use a polyurethane coating and you can use PU sealant, but some tents that use a silicon coating will need a different type of sealant.

You can check your tent label or contact the manufacturer to get the right product. If your tent only has one seam that is leaking, you do not need to reseal all the seams.

Refreshing polyurethane or silicone coating

Tents with a polyurethane coating are more prone to chemical breakdown. Silicone coatings are more durable.

Again, you still need to have a rag, alcohol, and tent sealant on hand. Unlike tent spray, this is a topical treatment.

Place the tent on a flat surface, then gently wipe off the peeling coating with alcohol and a rag. If the rag doesn’t work, you can try using an abrasive sponge.

Follow the sealant instructions and apply the sealant evenly to your tent.

Finally, you need to wash your hands to avoid any residual sealant damage to your body. It takes about 24 hours for the new coating to dry.

Refreshing the DWR on your tent

The final step in waterproofing your tent is to renew the durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the outside of your tent. That coating works by helping water bead up and run away from your tent.

It doesn’t last as long as the waterproof sealant on the tent and seams. You will need to renew it more frequently.

Set up your tent and spray the tent rain fly surface with water. Without waiting for it to dry, spray the waterproofing spray evenly on the outside of the rainfly. Finally, leave the tent to dry thoroughly.

Canvas waterproofing

If you are using a canvas tent. Then you may find that your tent will leak when you use it initially.

This does not mean that you have purchased a poor-quality tent. Because once cotton canvas gets wet, its water-resistance actually improves. The cotton fabric tightens up once it gets wet, effectively closing all the small holes in the rough fabric.

Tent waterproofing with a tarp

If you don’t like the idea of using chemicals to treat your tent, or if you think waterproofing your tent is a hassle, you might consider using a tent tarp. Just set up your tent as usual and cover it with your tarp.

Final words

Although waterproofing your tent may be a hassle, it will extend the life of your tent. If you’re a green camper, this is well worth it because it prevents your tent from going to the landfill prematurely.


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