Do you have a tent sitting in the closet ready to be dusted off for a camping trip – but you are worried whether your tent is waterproof or not?
What many people are not aware of is that almost every tent on the market is water resistant BUT the amount of water the tent is resistance too comes down to a few factors.
There is also a difference between water resistant and waterproof.
On the whole, almost every camping tent is water resistant. Tents are generally made of either nylon or polyester and both fabrics are naturally water resistance. Some tents have thicker or multi liners making them waterproof. The waterproof rating of a tent is expressed in millimeters.
It makes a big difference when it rains, and just a few inches of water can make a huge difference in how your tent holds up.
Let us take a look at the different types of tent, which you have and whether your tent will with-stand the elements you are about to go adventure in.
How to tell if your camping tent is waterproof?
Any basic or standard tent will be water resistant. This will stand up well in small showers, but you may find leakages into your tent in heavy downpours – especially if you press up into the roof of your tent!
If you find this happening to you and your tent, it is possibly a sign you have a standard water-resistant tent with a single layer of waterproof lining.
Serious camping heavy duty waterproof tents will generally have a premium cost associated with them, as well as a label or symbol attached to the tent.
These tents usually have a separate layer of waterproof material on the inside of the tent. This material is usually thick enough to withstand heavy rain and strong winds without taking on water.
This layer of waterproof material is generally located in a fairly firm pouch, usually sewn into a pocket on the inside of the tent.
You would think though that just a standard tent, without the additional costs of waterproof layers and linings, from a simple material like canvas would be perfectly fine to resist against water, but last year I was been surprised by the difference in water resistance between one side of my small day to day tent and the other.
I concluded that one side of my tent was either damaged or needed sealing.
Then I realized the resistance of my tent will of course change depending on which side of the tent the weather is hitting the strongest. A strong west wind will hit my tent harder on the west side than the east side. Obvious really, but an easy mistake to make.
How to waterproof your tent
If you have a standard tent, you do not have to go rushing down to a camping store and pick up a new expensive tent. At least not yet and especially if it is just for a single or once a year use.
Your trip though will decide this for you. If you are likely to encounter very heavy rain for prolong periods of time, you may find a new tent waterproof camping tent is the only option.
That said, you may be able to use some tips and tricks to make your tent even more waterproof and get through your night or two outdoors.
We will look at some options here:
Camping Tent Waterproof Spray and Seal Sealant
How good is camping tent waterproof spray and is it worth it?
Camping tent waterproof spray will have little effect on a 3000mm or more waterproof rating tent. It can be very helpful though on standard tents to help seal seams that have started to gape and split through regular use. The higher the waterproof rating of a tent, the less effective waterproof sprays are.
It is worth checking to see whether the seams are taped on the inside of your tent. If they are taped, and are still in place, you may only need a silicone spray instead of needing seam sealer along the seams.
A general-purpose silicone spray, to renew the urethane coat, can be used on other accessories made from cotton, nylon, canvas etc.… not just a tent.
To waterproof your tent, just follow the below simple steps:
- Clean your tent with fresh clean water
- Apply a tent waterproof solution or spray
- Use a sealant and a brush to reseal the seals of your seams on the inside of the tent
Here is a good video from Go Outdoors showing how to seal the inside of the tent seams for the best results:
Add a Tarpaulin Covering to Waterproof Your Tent
You will need to secure it properly, but if you are looking for a quick and easy hack, to help you get through your camping trip, you could use a tarp covering to drape over your tent.
This will provide an extra barrier from the elements and will be a much cheaper alternative to rushing out and buying a new waterproof tent.
These can be picked up for $10-$20, so an inexpensive alternative.
Just make sure you fix these properly to the ground. In high winds or rain, they can have a tendency to be picked up by strong wind currents.
How long do tents stay waterproof for – an average guide
Modern day tents, even the standard variety, can stay waterproof for years and years. A tent on average will stay waterproof or water resistant for 5 years.
But how can you tell if you need to reproof your tent?
Top Tip: If water is sticking to the sides of the tent, rather than running clean away, then it is time to reproof and reseal it. This often means the seal may be cracking, splitting, or coming loose.
A simple remedy is a seal sealant. This can be picked up from any camping store, or online retailer such as Amazon.
Simply brush the sealant, which will come in a handy tube with applicant (resembling lip balm or glue tube) and brush across the affected seal.
Tent fabric will usually take at least several coats (this is the reason why you need to apply a little bit of sealant at a time) to give the best, lasting protection.
The type of tent you have does not affect how often you need to reproof. It is a good idea check your tent semi-yearly for general signs of wear and tear.
How do you measure how waterproof your tent is?
Each specifically designed waterproof tent comes with a waterproof rating.
This is usually expressed in millimetres.
Here is a helpful waterproof rating guide:
This camping tent waterproof rating states that the tent has been stress tested, usually with a cylinder to the top of the tent, to the amount of water in the millimeters shown.
This rating generally starts from 1,000mm and up to 10,000mm+.
Of course, it stands to reason, the higher the waterproof rating, the more expensive the tent is likely to be.
You should always try to find a waterproof tent that has a rating of at least 3,000mm or above.
Obviously, every tent has its own unique features and design that will set it apart from other tents. Look at all the tents USPs (Unique Selling Points) to help you decide on what tent is right for you, right for your adventure and the right camping tent for the future.
Does the rain go through a camping tent?
If you have ever had the misfortune to press against the roof of your tent whilst it is raining, or after a downpour, you will likely have noticed you get wet!
The fabric of all tents is designed to breathe. Tiny, perforated holes surround the tent, but what this means is by pressing into the tent you expand the canvas structure and expand the small holes creating slightly larger holes for the rain, that is sitting on top of the tent, to flow in to.
In theory though if you do not press against the sides or roof of the tent, the rain should not be able to go through the canvas. There will always of course be tent movement for many different reasons, so do not be too alarmed to see the odd tiny puddle or drip or two.
I have also learnt from experience that if the window, or door opening, is not completely zipped it will leak a little.
The rain will still flow into the tent. It is an opening after all, and the wind will carry the rain through any potential opening.
This can be prevented by making sure that all parts of the fly are sewn down properly. The zip pull should have no give and just sit flat across the fly.
If though you find water is dripping through the canvas without affecting the structure, it may mean you need to reseal your tent seams. It may also be useful to spray your tent with a silicone spray, which will act as an additional protective barrier.
As a last resort you may need to upgrade your tent, especially if it is many years old and has been resealed several times.
What are the best waterproof tents for heavy rain conditions?
Just to make things simple, especially for those just looking for a straightforward answer to the question, here are three recommended waterproof tents:
- Teton Sports Mountain Ultra Tent
- MSR Hubba Hubba NX Tent
- Coleman Dome 4-Person Tent
There are of course lots of tent manufacturers, and many do a great job.
Some people choose a tent based on past experiences with the brand, others based on friend, YouTube, or website recommendations.
Researching best waterproof tents online bring you SO MANY conflicting results.
Where do you even think about starting?
My experience researching many things online always draws three distinct conclusions:
- The companies offering the highest affiliate commissions for their products always have the largest number of positive video reviews on YouTube – how strange!
- When many large brands are competing in the space, lots of recommendations are based on brand loyalty than tried and tested side-by-side experiences
- When you find lots of conflicting reviews, or lots of reviews and recommendations for lots of different products – and no clear winner – then most of the products will do a good enough job
I want to expand on the last point a little.
People choose products based on brand experience, good reviews and trusted recommendations.
If you pick up product and feel it does a great job, you will give it a great review. If there are 30 companies all selling the same product, and all do a good enough job, you will be overwhelmed by the number of people recommending a huge number of products.
If though just 2 of those companies offered amazing products and the other 28 offered just ok products, then almost every review you will see will point you towards the top 2 brands.
The best waterproof tents are those with the highest waterproof rating. On a consumer product-based search, this is likely to be up to 10,000mm.
At this level, your tent should be able to withstand harsh and persistent heavy downpours repeatedly.
As I mentioned, you should always aim for a waterproof tent of 3,000mm or more, but how much more is going to be dependent on your adventure plans, and budget of course.
Are Camping Tents Waterproof – Wrap Up
Here is a summary of everything we have covered:
- On the whole, all modern tents offer some kind of water resistance
- Higher end budget tents can be better prepared for the rain, and have a waterproof rating
- Waterproof ratings are show in millimeters (mm) – the higher the rating, the better the rain resistance
- Waterproof ratings generally start from 1,000mm and up to 10,000mm and beyond
You can waterproof your tent by either using a waterproof spray and seal sealant or simply by placing a tarpaulin over your tent for added protection from the rain