Many modern tents are already waterproof at the time of purchase, but you should verify that yours is, and treat or repair any vulnerabilities present, before putting it to use. Waking up with water dripping on your face is always unpleasant, but when the temperatures are low, damp conditions can be dangerous. Ensure that your tent has no holes, seal the seams and apply a waterproofing agent to stay dry during your next trip.
Pitch your tent outside. Inspect all the panels for rips, tears or holes, paying special attention to the floor and rainfly – holes in the walls are not as problematic. Clean the area surrounding any rips with rubbing alcohol and a clean rag and let the area dry completely. Cover the patch in the adhesive contained in the patch kit, place it over the damaged spot and place a book or paperweight on top of the patch to supply pressure. Allow the adhesive to cure as long as the manufacturer’s instructions recommend.
Inspect the seams of the tent’s rainfly and floor to see if they have been sealed. Sealed seams have a shiny coating that covers the tiny holes caused by the sewing machine used by the manufacturer. If the seams are not sealed, or the sealant appears to be flaking away, clean the seams with an alcohol-soaked rag and allow them to dry completely. Apply a thick bead of seam sealant along each seam. After allowing the seams to dry for at least one hour, apply a second coat of sealant. Allow the second coat to dry completely before proceeding.
Examine the floor and rainfly of your tent to determine which side – if either – already has a waterproof coating, which should give the material a glossy look. This is important because some waterproofing agents should be applied to either a coated or non-coated side. Clean the appropriate surfaces with alcohol and apply the waterproofing agent to the tent. Allow the tent to dry completely before proceeding.
Test the tent by spraying it with a garden hose for several minutes. Check all the seams and any repaired areas for signs of dampness or leakage. Repair or re-treat any non-waterproof areas as necessary.
Items you will need
- Rubbing alcohol
- Clean rag
- Tent patch kit
- Heavy book or paperweight
- Seam sealant
- Waterproofing agent
- Garden hose
- Turn the tent inside out to reach hard-to-access seams.
- You can use seam tapes instead of seam sealing pastes or liquids to plug the tiny holes in stitched areas of the tent.
- Do not mistake condensation – which results from the temperature differential between the walls of your tent and the cold air and ground outside – for a leaky tent. The only way to prevent condensation forming inside your tent is to increase ventilation.
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