How To Waterproof A Tent In 5 Steps


how to waterproof a tent

Getting a new waterproof tent can set you back at least several hundred dollars, especially if you want a good one. 

Using your old one in inclement weather is possible, but you’ll first have to waterproof it. 

Here’s how..

1. Clean The Tent

If the waterproofing on your tent doesn’t seem to be doing its job anymore, the first thing to do before you re-waterproof everything is to clean your tent as best as possible.

clean your tent before waterproofing

If your tent is moist or dirty in some places, the waterproofing will not hold — no matter the type of product you end up using. 

The waterproofing will come off because you will be applying it on a layer of dirt rather than on the actual tent.

To clean your tent, simply use some warm water and a sponge.

Important: Do not put your tent in the washing machine, this will damage it and make it unusable.

2. Seal the seams

This shouldn’t take more than 30 mins.

tent seams are key when it comes to waterproofing

First find a good-quality sealant, a pair of gloves (only if you want to avoid getting the sealant on your fingers), a dry place to do all of this work, as well as a brush to apply your sealant with then follow these steps:

  1. Rub the seams with alcohol and then leave them to dry. 
  2. Apply a sealant layer along the seams and then allow them to dry for at least nine hours.
  3. If neccessary apply a second coating after the first has completely dried. 
  4. Finally, use a sprinkler or hose to see whether there’s any water getting through the seams. 

Note: Make sure that you get the right type of sealant. Some can be specifically manufactured for vinyl or canvas, for example, while others can be strictly designed for polyester or nylon. 

3. Waterproof the tent floor

Also known as the tent ‘bathtub,’ your tent floor is essential when it comes to protecting both yourself against the elements, but also everything else, such as your sleeping bag, your backpack, or any other gear. 

a tent

To waterproof it follow these steps:

  1. Clean the floor with an alcohol solution.
  2. Then apply sealant to the entirety of the floor.
  3. Leave to dry for at least 9 hours.

4. Waterproofing the fabric walls

  1. Depending on the product that you use, you may need to dampen the tent wet prior to applying the sealant.
  2. Make sure to avoid any mesh parts of the tents such as the window openings.
  3. The recommended method of application is to spray some of the product on a cloth and then spreading it all over the tent walls. 
  4. Once this is done leave the tent to dry for at least 9 hours.

5. Waterproofing your tent using a tarp

A tarp is inexpensive and a handy thing to have with you when you’re camping.  

It can be pitched over your tent to keep the rain off, a good tarp will make prevent water from getting into even a fairly damaged tent.

a tent tarpaulin

If you can camp between several trees and you have several stakes available, you can improvise a ‘rain fly’ by tying it to the trees. 

Even a heavy-duty tarp can become slightly less water-resistant since it gets damaged in time but they are easy and cost-efficient to replace.

When should you waterproof your tent?

If your tent does need waterproofing you should do it when you know you are going to have good weather for at least 24 hours so it can be allowed time to dry properly.

Generally, tents shouldn’t need waterproofing more than once every couple of years providing you are not using the tent for more than 3-4 weeks a year.

3 Methods To Avoid:

1. Lard

One piece of advice that you are likely to come across if you’ve researched this topic before is to apply lard or grease to your rainfly.

Depending on the amount of lard you’ve applied to the holes that are causing the leakage, this might work.

However, grease is also extremely bad for waterproof coating, which means that you might create more problems rather than solving one and being done with it. 

Another con of using lard or grease to solve this issue is that it can smell horribly. 

Plus, it can make for a magnet for insects, especially ants, so unless you want to have some ‘little friends’ joining you while you’re sleeping, we suggest sticking to the product ideas we’ve recommended. 

2. Duct Tape

Applying duct tape to the areas you want to waterproof is another tip you might have stumbled upon. 

This, too, can be a pretty bad idea since, at one point or the other, you might want to remove it. 

When you do this, you’re likely to rip some of the fabric in the proximity of the hole, therefore compromising your tent walls. 

3. Candle Wax

What about waterproofing a tent using a candle? There are two main reasons to avoid doing this. 

The first is that if you try to drop the wax on the holes by keeping the candle close to them, you can risk setting your whole tent on fire. 

But the second is that if your tent is made of various types of plastic, you might ruin the water-resistance of the material by exposing it to the high temperature of the wax or hot fuzz (or worse, flame). 

In a nutshell, all of these three ideas can do more harm than good. 

Conclusion

Getting a tarp, a good waterproofing spray, and a seam sealer can set you back far less compared to purchasing a new waterproof tent, so why not try the DIY tips that we’ve showcased here?

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on how to waterproof a tent. Do keep in mind that if you regularly go camping, you might have to invest in a heavy-duty tent off the bat so that its waterproofing lasts for at least half a year. 

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