Have you ever found yourself in a situation while you’re out having a good time on your camping trip when all of a sudden it gets ruined by a sudden and unexpected downpour of rain? I’ve been there and it surely was not pleasant at all.
So for those of you who are lucky enough to have been spared watching your cozy tent turn into a swimming pool before your very eyes, it’s best to get ahead and prevent it from happening in the future by waterproofing your tent.
I’m going to give you a quick and easy step-by-step guide on how to waterproof a tent so you’re ready for any crazy weather that may come and you stay cozy and dry on your next camping trip.
What You Will Need
- Bucket with warm water – to use for cleaning your tent.
- Sponge – to wipe away and remove any dirt built up on your tent. Be sure to use a gentle sponge (not those ones with scratchy surfaces) as to not damage your tent.
- Soft washcloth/microfiber cloth – to help dry your tent.
- Toothbrush – to brush off any dirt on the zippers or tight places
- Alcohol – to help clean any plastic surfaces further (such as the zippers)
- Seam sealer – which you can buy or find online. You may also find some in your department stores like Wallmart or any camping shops
- Alternative: Seam Tape – if you cannot find seam sealer, you can also try seam tape, however, this cannot be used for ultra-light tents that make use of a silicone-treated nylon rainfly because the seam tape will not bond with the silicone. Seam tape can be faster and more convenient than seam sealer but you’ll need to check if it will work for the material of your tent first.
- Waterproof coating – to coat/cover any areas of your tent that may need some extra treatment
- A friend – because depending on how big your tent is, this might be a long process and having a friend to help you out can make it not only go faster but a bit more fun as well.
Time For The Fun
Finding Trouble Areas
The very first thing to do is to determine which part of your tent needs to be waterproofed. Get your tent and check it out carefully. Do you see any loose stitches somewhere? What about any holes? Or do you just go ahead and waterproof your entire tent? The important thing is to make sure you find all the trouble areas and mark them so you won’t forget where it is. Not every part of your tent needs to be waterproof, only those areas that will be exposed to rain.
PROTIP: Fill a bath with water and dunk your tent inside. Try to do it area by area. If air bubbles break to the surface, you’ve found an area that needs working on for waterproofing. After checking, mark your areas and then leave your tent to dry completely under some shade.
Clean Your Tent
The next thing you need to do is to clean your tent. It’s vital that you clean your tent well to ensure that the waterproofing agents that you use will properly bond to the material. The waterproofing agents will not work properly and efficiently if there is dirt all over your tent. So grab your bucket of warm water and start cleaning away.
Be sure to clean with a soft washcloth or sponge and do it gently as to not damage the material of your tent. Then use the toothbrush to brush away any dirt on the zippers and finish it off by wiping it with alcohol to get rid of any remaining oils or dirt. When you’re done cleaning your tent, set it out to dry in a shaded area. You can check out how to further clean and care for your tent on REI.
Start Sealing The Seams
Once your tent is dry and the seams are all clean, get your seam sealer ready. Remember to always read the instructions of the product beforehand, as some products may require a specific way of preparing or applying. Once you’ve read the instructions, pitch your tent in an area that is covered but well ventilated.
When applying the seam sealer, stretch out the seams so that the sealant can penetrate the seams better. Check out this video, so you have an idea on how to apply seam sealer. Use long and even strokes. For the first coat, it’s best to apply a thin layer first. Wait about an hour for the first coating to dry then apply a second coat. Make sure to cover any gaps you may have missed.
PROTIP: Turn the tent inside out and seal the other side of the seams as well to ensure you’ve sealed all those hard to reach places.
If you are using seam tape like the one here, be sure to stretch out the tent and apply as evenly as possible. If this is too difficult, you may have to disassemble your tent and apply the seam tape on a flat surface instead.
Waterproofing The Remaining Areas
Now it’s time to waterproof the remaining areas of your tent. If you can, you can use the waterproof coating all over the tent to ensure that your full tent is protected. With your tent still set up, spray your tent with the waterproof coating. The quickest way to go is to start from left to right, top to bottom and do it in short, constant strokes and go section by section.
Once you’ve covered your entire tent from top to bottom, attach the rainfly and repeat the process for the seam sealer if you haven’t already, and then apply the waterproof coating again. You can check out the process on this video from PNYprepper to give you an idea about how to spray your tent. If you want to apply a second coat, make sure the first coat is completely dry before applying a second coat.
Leave It To Dry
The last thing to do is to leave your tent out in the open area to dry completely. Double check your work to see if you have missed any seams or parts of the tent walls and floor. Once your tent is all dried up, you can pack it away and it should be all set for your next camping trip.
PROTIP: Pack some seam tape or seam sealer with you in your tent bag for your next trip in case you will need to do a quick fix while out camping.
Bonus Waterproofing Tips
Use a tarp underneath your tent whenever you set it up like mentioned in The Sky Above Us. This will help stop moisture or condensation from vegetation on the floor from getting into your tent. In addition, it will help protect the bottom of your tent from damage. Also, keep your ventilation flaps open and leave your door open until it gets dark. Andy Robertson from Wired discovered that this simple little trick helped keep the tent dry oovernight
Well there you have it, 5 simple steps to waterproofing your tent. Waterproofing your tent can really be the difference between a great camping trip and a disastrous one where you wake up in a pool inside your tent. So be sure to take this simple tutorial and get your gear ready before you go on your next trip! Did you enjoy this tutorial? Leave your comments or suggestions here, or tell me your camp stories where you got rained on!