Are Camping Tents Waterproof? (Read This First)

Are Camping Tents Waterproof

Everyone likes to be outdoors once in a while. If you like camping, you must be used to the basic requirements for an enjoyable camping trip.

One of those requirements is a good camping tent, which you want to ensure is waterproof in case you are caught in a downpour.

Most people, even some experienced campers, believe all camping tents are waterproof and can keep you safe, but is this true?

Not all camping tents are waterproof. While some tents are indeed waterproof, most are simply water-resistant. For this reason, camping veterans have come up with some handy tips and tricks to help you get a perfect waterproof tent. One such way is spraying the tent with a silicone-based water guard spray.

This article will look at the difference between water resistance and waterproofing, guiding you through how to waterproof your tent.

It also covers how to enjoy your next camping trip without getting wet if it rains.

Are Camping Tents Completely Waterproof?

Are Camping Tents Waterproof

Most camping tents are not entirely waterproof. Only a few brands can boast of 100% waterproof tents. The majority are really water resistant.

Waterproof materials will not let water through, no matter the quantity or extent of the downpour.

On the other hand, water-resistant materials can only prevent water penetration to an extent. Eventually, water will seep through a water-resistant material if left out for so long.

An example of a high-quality waterproof camping tent is the Teton Sports Backpacking Tents (Mountain Ultra Tent).

When you want to buy a camping tent, you must look out for a couple of things. These things will help you decide the extent of protection you can expect from the tent.

#1. Waterproof Rating

The waterproof rating is the first thing you should look out for before you buy your tent. It tells you how much water the tent will withstand before water seeps through the fabric.

This rating can be as low as 1000mm and as high as 20,000mm. Generally, the higher the value, the higher the resistance level.

Tents within 16,000 and 20,000mm can withstand heavy rain, wet snow, and some degree of pressure.

However, those below 5,000 mm cannot withstand pressure and can only hold against light rains and dry snow.

#2. Waterproof Fabric

The basic fabric for most tents is nylon and polyester. On their own, these materials cannot withstand or resist wet weather conditions.

To remedy this, manufacturers apply a coating over the fabric surface. This coating comes in two types – silicon and polyurethane.

Polyurethane wears out quickly, especially if you leave it in the sun for a long time. Also, this coat will allow water to leak through after a short while.

Silicon, on the other hand, lasts longer and is entirely waterproof. It can withstand the sun’s ultraviolet rays and will keep you dry from the rain.

Most companies tend to combine these coats to achieve a substantial result.

#3. Tent Seams

All tents are made by joining smaller parts together at the seams. Because of this joining, the seams are highly susceptible to leakages, especially if not properly sewn and sealed.

Manufacturers have three ways of sealing tent seams: taping, sewing, and welding.

Welding requires using pressure and heat to join seams without leaving any holes. This is the most common method today.

How Do I Know If I Have a Waterproof Tent?

There are two times to know if your tent is waterproof – when buying it and whenever you go camping.

When buying, you should consider the waterproof rating, the seams, and the tent fabric. From the section above, it is clear that you should buy tents with higher waterproof ratings.

While all seam sealing techniques are effective, you should check at the store if any seams have begun to fray.

Additionally, it is good practice to always check your tent before going on a camping trip. Doing this will ensure you know if the seams have a tear or rip.

You can hose down your tent before a trip to be sure and to help increase its water resistance.

How Much Water Can Camping Tents Keep Out?

The amount of water a camping tent can keep out depends on the Hydrostatic Head and the type of coating.

The Hydrostatic Head (HH) measures how much water a tent can resist before water starts to pass through. It is measured in millimeters, and it determines the waterproof rating.

The lowest rating is 1000HH or 1000mm, which can exceed 10,000HH.

Some materials, like laminates, have high ratings because they do not let water pass through.

Another factor that can increase your HH rating is the type of coating on the fabric—however, the more coatings, the heavier the tent.

How to Waterproof Your Tent?

If you do not trust your camping tent’s waterproof rating, want to be sure, or find that your tent has begun to leak, you should waterproof your tent yourself using any of the following. 

#1. Sealing the seams

The seams are usually the first parts of the tent to wear out. To properly seal the seams, you will need a piece of old cloth, rubbing alcohol, and a sealant.

Sealants are usually peculiar to the tent type. For example, if the coating on your tent is more polyurethane, you will need a polyurethane-based sealant.

To seal the seams of your tent, you should follow these steps:

  1. Set up your tent in a cool, spacious place where you can inspect the tent and work without inconvenience. 
  2. If any parts are coming off, carefully remove the tape or thread but leave the other parts intact.
  3. With the old cloth or rag and the alcohol, clean the seams in preparation for the sealant.
  4. Apply the sealant to the seams, and work carefully and gently. You can apply this to all the seams, whether they have come apart.
  5. Allow the seams to dry before packing up the tent.

#2. Recoat the tent

If you notice that the insides of your rainfly have begun to flake, you need to recoat your tent. To do this, you will need an abrasive sponge, rubbing alcohol, and a tent sealant.

This sealant is also peculiar to the original coating on the tent. If you have a silicon-based coating, you should use a silicone-based sealant.

Below are the steps to recoating your tent:

  1. Lay the tent flat on the ground and gently scrub the flakes off using the abrasive sponge and rubbing alcohol.
  2. Using a brush, apply the new sealant all over the rainfly in thin coats. You should follow the instructions on the sealant bottle for maximum effects.
  3. Allow this coating to dry for at least 24 hours before repacking your tent.

#3. Refresh the Durable Water Repellent

Usually, rain is supposed to bead off your tent as it rains. But if it is not doing that anymore, you need to refresh the coat.

To do this, you will need a clean, damp cloth, some water, and the water repellent (which should be preferably spray-on)

The tent has to be a bit wet before you apply the repellent. After setting it up, you can wash it or spray clean water on the tent.

Next, apply the waterproof spray all over the exterior and allow it to stay for a few minutes before wiping down the tent with a damp cloth. This wiping helps to remove any excess coating.

Finally, allow the tent to dry totally before packing it up.

Below is a table showing the requirements for the three waterproofing methods discussed above.

Waterproofing MethodMaterials Needed
Seam sealantA piece of old cloth (rag), rubbing alcohol, and a sealant.
Recoat the tentAn abrasive sponge, rubbing alcohol, and a tent sealant.
Refresh the durable water repellentA clean, damp cloth, some water, and water repellent.
Josh Matthews

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