Anna and I were arranging wood for campfire when it started raining buckets, so we decided to wait in our tent till the rain stops. Unluckily, water started leaking through the rain fly and the tent, in less than an hour all of our stuff was soaked, and we didn’t have any option except waiting for the rain to stop. I wish I had known how to waterproof a tent before leaving for the trip.
Thankfully, the rain stopped after three hours of its start, but instead of enjoying our time by the campfire we had to dry our equipment.
So, the moral of the story is; Always check your tent’s waterproof capability before you leave for camping.
‘’It is better to be prepared than to get ready’’
When to Waterproof a Tent:
Most of the times we waterproof a tent without knowing the real reason behind the wet interior, water can seep into the tent even when the waterproof coating is intact, and the seals are seamed.
Majority of the times the interior of the tent gets wet because of the reasons that do not require repair.
Make sure the tent rainfly doesn’t touch the inner tent, if it is the case, then your tent doesn’t need a waterproof coating but proper assembling.
The tarp beneath your tent sometimes stick out of the tent, and because of that water beneath the tent ooze in.
Plus, When the vestibule of the tent is not properly set, then it may allow raindrops to seep in. Make sure you set up the vestibule properly.
Proceed to the next step when it is confirmed that the tent leaks because of the waterproof coating or seams.
Find the problem
The second step is to find out which part of your tent precisely needs waterproofing is it the rain fly or the floor. To find it, take out the tent on a dry day, set it up, douse it with water and look for the bubbles that emerge on the inner surface of the tent.
Also, look for patches and holes on the rain fly and ground tarp. There are tapes for tent on Amazon which you can use to fix the holes and patches.
Note that before applying the waterproof coating spray on the rain fly and the floor tarp, fix the patches and holes first.
Clean the Tent:
The third step is to clean the tent as applying waterproofing treatment on a dirty tent is of no use.
What you need for Cleaning the Tent:
- Warm Water
- Non-deodorant soap
How to Clean the Tent:
Wash it with warm water and non-deodorant soap. Avoid deodorant soaps as the smell of the soap may attract insects later. Mix the soap in warm water and apply it to the tent with a sponge and wash it gently. Do not use the rough side of the sponge to wash nylon and polyester tents as it may damage the fabrics. After you have washed the tent with warm soapy water, rinse it with clean water.
Refresh the Waterproof Coating
The waterproof coating of a tent worn out with time, instead of buying a new tent or rain fly, refresh the coating it will save you some pennies.
What you will need:
- Waterproof spray
- Dry cloth
After you have washed the tent, it is time to refresh the water repellent coating. Before you spray the waterproof coating make sure your tent is wet and clean. Start spraying the exterior of the rain fly and wipe off excess coating with a dry cloth. Allow the rain fly to dry completely.
The repair process of the ground tarp is similar to that of the fly. Fix the patches and the holes and spray the waterproof coating on it.
Sealing Tent Seams
Factory taped seams come off over the years. And if water ooze in from one of the seams it is better to seal all the seams.
Locate the seams first; Double layer tent seams are under the rainfly, and single layer tent seams are on the inner body of the tent.
Seam sealant are different for silicone-treated fabrics and polyurethane-coated fabrics, so before buying a seam sealant check your tent fabric.
After you have identified the seams and fabric, Turn the tent or rainfly inside out, lay it flat on a dry and leveled place. Remove peeling seams gently.
After removing peeling seams, apply seam sealant along the length of the seam and smooth it out. Next, leave it to dry for at least 6 hours in a dry place. Note that some seam sealants require the seams to be cleaned with a rag and alcohol first, so read the instruction on the seam sealant first.
A quick summary of the steps:
- Douse your tent with water and wait for the bubbles to emerge inside the tent, this way you will know which part of your tent needs waterproofing.
- Wash the tent.
- Repair patches and holes with tapes that can be used on synthetic fabric and are washable.
- Spray the waterproof coating on the wet rain fly and ground tarp.
- Leave the tent to completely dry.
- Identify the seams of your tent
- Turn the inside out, and remove peeling seams gently
- Apply the seam sealant along the length of the seam
- Leave it to dry completely, at least for 6 hours.
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Fakhar has been a camping enthusiast since he was a small kid. He belongs to the area, which has the second-largest mountain and most glaciers. Thus, he has been around people, who know everything about nature and the wilderness.
For the love of nature, he chose Environmental Sciences as his field of study and graduated with distinction. Apart from working for a non-profit organization, he wanders on the Karakoram and Hindukush ranges with his camping equipment that he loves to collect.