Wet Tents & Camping In The Rain: Everything You Need To Know

The aim of this article is to answer every question you may have about having a wet tent or camping in the rain. If you have a particular question then feel free to scroll through and check out the headings. Hopefully, as well as finding your answer, you will learn a little more.

What is the hydrostatic head of a tent?

In simple terms, hydrostatic head is the amount of water resistance that the material of your tent possesses. It is represented by how tall a column of water, held up only by your tent material, can become before gravity pulls it through the material’s weave.

So a hydrostatic head value of 4000mm would mean that the material can resist the pressure created by a column of water up to 4000mm tall. The higher the value, the more water pressure the material can withstand and in turn, the more water resistant the material is.

Which hydrostatic head value is waterproof?

To be regarded as waterproof, a material must have a hydrostatic head of 1000mm. However, this doesn’t mean that the material is completely water resistant. In most cases, this wouldn’t even be a good hydrostatic head value for a tent.

What is the best hydrostatic head value for a tent?

A tent with a hydrostatic head of about 2000mm should be able to withstand general rainy conditions in most cases. However, if you are expecting extremes then you may want to consider a tent with a higher hydrostatic head value.

Are all tents waterproof?

The hydrostatic head value is not the only factor that determines how waterproof a tent is. We also need to consider, structure, design, how good the seams and zips are and any extra waterproof coatings.
With this in mind, we may find that some tent manufacturers claim that their tents are waterproof when they may in fact not be. This can be especially true with very cheap, low end and non-brand tents. We are not suggesting that all cheap or non-brand tents are not waterproof. However, they are more likely to have issues than trusted brands made from robust materials.  Here are some good budget waterproof tents on Amazon.

How do you make a tent waterproof?

There are many reasons a tent may not be waterproof. A cheap tent may not have been manufactured as well as it could have been. You may have a trusty old tent where the waterproofing has simply become worn. Even using the wrong cleaners and detergents can ruin your tents waterproofing.

If you have a tent that needs waterproofing for whatever reason then the first thing you need to do is get hold of a good waterproofer. They’re not too expensive and can be a great way to rejuvenate a tent and save money on buying a new one.
It is absolutely essential that you have a warm dry day when reproofing your tent. If you are in any doubt what so ever then this is not the right day, don’t risk it. This is because, ideally, you need to pitch your tent outside and it needs to be able to stay pitched until the waterproofing dries.

If your tent has an inner skin and outer shell, as most modern tents do, then you do not need to erect the inner skin. This is because it is protected by the outer shell, which provides the cover, and this is all we need to erect. Once you have erected the outer shell take your time to check the material, seams, and zips for damage.

Your tent needs to be completely clean and dry before any waterproofing is attempted. See earlier in this article for tips. Now you are ready to use your waterproofer. Make sure to follow any safety guidelines provided with your waterproofer. If for any reason you do not have any safety guidelines then make sure to at least wear gloves and even a mask and safety glasses if you see necessary.

You may be instructed or decide to apply by cloth, brush or spray. Whichever application method you use, you need to make sure to apply even coats that cover the whole surface of the material. Make sure to wipe off any excess waterproofer. You will find that you will make a much better job by applying numerous light coats with drying time in between, rather than one thick coat. Also, consider multiple coats if your tent has leaked previously or you are planning to be using your tent during some heavy downpours.

Once you are happy that the whole of the outer skin of your tent has been coated with your chosen waterproofer, you need to leave it out to dry. Make sure it is completely dry before packing your tent away, making sure to follow any guidelines provided.

How do you make tent seams waterproof?

There are numerous tapes and sealants available for tent seams. Most of these products will contain their own set of instructions. But assuming you have a product that you are not sure how to use, here are some tips.

Firstly locate the area where the seam is leaking. It needs to be clean and dry for a sealant to work properly, use an alcohol wipe or an equivalent cleaning product. Apply sealant in the troubled area, and allow to set fully. Once the product is dry, test to make sure you have fixed the leak. A good way to test the seam is to set up the tent and spray with a garden hose. If you were unsuccessful then use these steps again until the seam no longer leaks.

What do you do with a wet tent?

An important part of tent maintenance is to make sure your tent is packed away clean and dry. Firstly, make sure to remove any dirt from the tent, whether this means wiping down the exterior or cleaning up inside with a dustpan and soft brush.
Give the tent a good shake, getting rid of excess water. Next, use an old towel or some rags and soak up as much of the remaining water as possible. Make sure the tent is fully dry before packing away.

If you have no choice and have to pack your tent away whilst it is wet then you need to unpack and air out the tent as soon as possible. If possible, this is best done by erecting the tent, in better weather, and letting it dry out. If this is not possible then you will need to hang it up the best you can indoors. Do not put your tent in front of a heat source as this could result in serious damage or even fire. Failure to dry and air out your tent can result in it becoming smelly and possibly even moldy.

How do you get mold out of a tent?

There are many types of mold and some can be dangerous. We suggest, rather than trying to identify the type of mold you are dealing with, to treat them all with the same care. Wear a mask, gloves and take any other safety precautions specified on the products you chose to use.

The first thing we need to attend to, in a situation where our tent has gone moldy, is to kill the mold. You need to use a product such as Lysol or a specific mold killer. Whichever you chose, make sure it is specifically designed for fabrics. It is better to do this job outside away from the home.

Begin by using a soft brush to completely remove any loose mold from the tent fabric. Next, use your chosen mold killer to saturate any affected areas. Don’t be sparring at this stage. Mold spores are nasty and we don’t want to take any chances. Go over it twice to guarantee the mold is killed.

Rinse well with warm water. Make sure to remove all the residue from the cleaner. When you think you have rinsed it enough and have got rid of all the mold and mold killer, rinse it again.

Once you are satisfied that your tent is mold free and rinsed thoroughly you need to dry and air it out. Again, this is best done by erecting the tent, in good weather, and letting it dry out. If this is not possible then you will need to hang it up the best you can indoors. Do not put your tent in front of a heat source as this could result in serious damage or even fire.

Your tent should now be free from mold, dry and safe to use. However, there is a good chance that mildew stains will be remaining on the fabric. Mildew stains don’t look great and can make the tent feel old and grotty. Here’s how to remove them…

How do you remove mildew stains from a tent?

If you have just taken the steps to remove the mold from your tent then make sure the fabric is free from any mold killers or cleaners. Mixing chemicals can be dangerous and cleaning products are no exception.

What you use to remove the mildew stains depends on the material of your tent. But in all cases, you will need to leave the material to soak or give it a sustained wash. If you don’t have anywhere to do this outside, it is now safe to take your tent inside and use your bath if desired.

You can use chlorine free bleach on most fabrics as long as they have not been dyed. If you are dealing with a dyed colored fabric then use a solution of 1 cup of lemon juice and 1 cup of salt to a gallon of warm water. Color safe fabrics need a solution of 2 tablespoons of bleach to a quart of warm water.

Your tent should now be free from mildew. Again, make sure to dry and air out thoroughly before packing the tent away. If you do not do this properly then you may find yourself with more mold and mildew issues the next time you come to use your tent.

Can you put a tent in the washing machine?

Every tent is different so the best thing to do is consult the guidelines of your particular tent and stick to them. However, we are assuming that you don’t have access to these instructions and are looking for advice. In this case, The short answer in most cases is no. You will find that the majority of tent washing instructions will tell you that they are not to be machine washed.

This is for a variety of reasons. Some tents will simply not be able to take the process and come from the wash shredded or misshaped. Some tents are so big that even if they would be ok in the washing machine, the machine simply won’t be able to handle the load and it will not be cleaned. Some tents will be fine with regards to maintaining their structural integrity but the process will wash away any waterproofing it may have had.

What causes condensation in tents?

Condensation is caused in tents for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the human body is made of up to 60% water. This means that, unless you do not plan to sleep in your tent, you are already against it. The average person actually breathes out around a pint of moisture a night, which is unavoidable. Now image you are sharing a tent with multiple people and we can really begin to see how condensation can become an issue.

Coupled with this is the effect the air has on the moisture. Warm air carries moisture whereas cold air drops moisture. The best way to picture this is dew on a summers morning. The warm, moisture filled, evening air begins to cool through the night. As the air gets cooler, it can no longer hold the moisture which is then dropped to the ground.

A similar effect takes place in a tent. The warm air inside the tent carries the moisture it has acquired to the side of the tent. The material of the tent is so thin that when the warm air meets it, it is immediately cooled by the outside air. This leads to the air dropping the moisture on the sides of the tent.

In more severe cases we can find the entire contents of our tent have been affected by condensation. This is because the air in the tent was warm too begin with and carried a lot of moisture. Through the night, the temperature in the tent has dropped to a point where the cold air can no longer support the moisture. This means the moisture is dropped, covering most surfaces.

Now that we know this, we need to bear in mind that we are most likely to encounter condensation when camping through cool nights after warm humid days. Think about this before you set off and prepare accordingly.

How do you stop condensation in a tent?

There is no guaranteed way to stop condensation in your tent. But what we can do is take measures to prevent it.

A good airflow through your tent is the best way to avoid condensation. This means making use of your tent’s ventilation system. Most tents will have vents or a meshed area at the top of the inner skin. Make sure these vents are open and any mesh areas are not covered up. Some people have a tendency to place items such as clothing on top of the inner skin. This can cover up the mesh, add moisture to the air and is generally a mistake.

As long as it doesn’t mean letting in more water due to rain or it is far too cold, you should also make use of the mesh doors of your tent. This feature is not just to let you see the views without being invaded by insects. The mesh doors also allow for extra ventilation. You don’t have to have the outer doors fully unzipped if you do not desire, unzipping just a corner can aid the air flow in your tent and reduce condensation.

After learning what causes condensation in a tent, it should go without saying that we need to avoid storing wet things. Where ever possible, leave any wet kit outside, away from the tent. It is a good idea to create a separate shelter for storing your gear if possible.

Although it may sometimes be tempting to boil the kettle or warm up some food within the tent, this should be avoided at all costs. Not only is cooking inside a tent very dangerous, and could lead to a fire, but it creates a lot of moisture in the air.

Also, avoid tent heaters where possible. As before, they will increase the air temperature and in turn increase moisture. Try to keep yourself warm rather than attempt to heat the whole tent. The correct clothing and a good sleeping bag are always more important than any sort of heater.

If possible, bear in mind the direction of the breeze whilst pitching your tent. Align vents accordingly. Although we wouldn’t advise pitching your tent so that it is at the mercy of the elements, avoid areas which are too sheltered. Your tent needs to breath and sheltered areas can restrict ventilation. Not only this but sheltered areas can also create their own condensation, adding to our own issues.

Bodies of water can increase humidity. Where possible, pitch away from the water to help reduce condensation in your tent. If you are fishing and need to be close to the water then consider facing the doors away from the water side.

Try not to touch the sides of your tent as water may begin to seep through. Make sure not to rest your kit, bags, and clothing, on the side of the tent also. As mentioned earlier, it is a good idea to have a separate shelter to house your kit.

why can’t you touch the sides of a tent?

When you touch the inside of the tent you break the surface tension and allow moisture to be drawn through the material. This creates a point that is susceptible to condensation, even once you are no longer touching the area. Condensation collects in the affected area until it forms droplets. This is what can create the illusion of a leak.

How do you remove condensation from a tent?

If you didn’t take the necessary precautions or were simply caught out by the weather, then you may find yourself in a situation where your tent is full of condensation.

Give the walls of the tent a quick wipe over with a towel or a cloth to remove any excess moisture. Avoid pressing on whilst doing this and causing more water to seep through.

If you are making camp for the day and the weather is fine then take all your wet items and put them out to dry. Leave your tent as well ventilated as possible so it can dry out also.

If you need to get moving then remove as much excess water from your tent and kit as you can and pack them away. Once the sun is shining and temperatures have improved, take them back out and give them a chance to dry off. This allows you to make better use of your time. Keeping moving when it would take your tent and gear a long time to dry and resting when they can dry quickly.

Why is there water coming through the tent floor?

The majority of the time people ask this question, it again turns out to be issues with condensation. People believe that the floor of the tent is letting in water because that’s where the water gathers. Stick to our condensation tips above and you won’t go far wrong.

In other cases, check your tent for rips and tears. Use your hose to check the seams and zips and make sure they’re not leaking. If you still can’t see whats wrong and aren’t ready to replace your tent then you may want to create a barrier between your tent and the ground.

How do you keep your tent off the ground?

Before you pitch your tent, peg out a groundsheet or tarpaulin. Pitch your tent on top of the sheet and you will have a lot more protection from the rain and sodden ground. Not only that but the extra sheet will aid the insulation of your tent and will help you to keep warm.

Where should you pitch your tent in the rain?

Water will always work its way down where ever possible. This means we need to avoid pitching our tent in areas such as valleys, at the bottom of hills and bankings or any crevis where puddles could form.

Try to pitch your tent away from any sort of natural pools or rivers. Places that look they could be prone to flooding as they are low lying or show signs of previous water damage. Ideally, we want to be above ground level, where the water will flow away from us and have no place to form pools.

Ideally, we want to pitch our tent on a slope. By slope, we mean a steady gradient, not a steep hill. The entrance should be facing downwards. This means your head will be in the higher part of the tent when sleeping, and you won’t need to stop yourself from rolling. This also helps to eliminate the chance of water retention in the tent’s entrance. You don’t want to be having to crawl through, or over, a puddle when trying to get out of your tent.

You should also look for a spot with surrounding trees and or rocks. This can help you tremendously when pitching your tent in the rain.

How do you pitch your tent in the rain?

This is another chance to utilize a tarpaulin. If you are going camping in the rain then it would be a good idea to take more than one with you. Construct a roof to work under by tying the tarpaulin to the surrounding trees and rocks discussed in the last section. Try and pitch the tarpaulin roof so it slopes in a way that carries the rainwater away from where you plan to pitch your tent.

As mentioned above, you may wish to use a groundsheet or tarpaulin on the ground before erecting your tent. If you chose to do so, make sure to set this up before taking your tent out of dry storage.

By utilizing the tarpaulin roof, we are hoping to keep the whole structure of our tent dry. However, our primary concern is the inner skin. Make sure to construct the outer shell first and leave the inner skin stored and kept dry until it is needed. Once the outer shell has been erected and the flysheet added you can carefully erect the inner skin.

If you find that the tarpaulin roof is sturdy and is doing a good job of helping to keep your camp dry then you may wish to leave it erected. If this is the case, you may be able to utilize the area to store some of your wet things. This makes more sense than storing it inside your tent and causing condensation.

If the tarpaulin has served its purpose but is looking a little worse for wear in the wind, or you don’t think it will last the night without needing further attention, then take it down. You do not want to have to get out of your tent in the rain when you are trying to keep it dry.

do you keep your tent dry in the rain?

After you’ve gone through all the trouble of pitching your tent in the rain and trying your best to keep it dry, the last thing you want to do is get inside whilst wearing all your wet clothing.

The first thing you need to do to avoid this is to make sure everything you need to do is done. You have water, any food you plan to eat, your lights ready and you have been to the toilet. You don’t want to be inside your dry tent in your dry clothing and then realize you need to go back out in the rain.

Leave any wet clothing and kit outside the tent. In the porch of your tent, if you must, or under the tarpaulin shelter, you created earlier. Take off all your wet clothing before entering the main tent where you have left your nice dry clothing ready to change in to.

If for any reason you do need to go back out in the rain, take off your dry clothes and get back into your wet kit. It sounds grim, but you don’t want to go out in your dry clothing. Even if your quick and your clothes only get a little a damp, you’re going to get cold when the water soaks in and increase your chance of condensation. Use the tips from earlier in this article to avoid condensation.

How do you pack a tent in the rain?

Firstly, do not mix wet clothes with dry. Use plastic bags to keep everything separate. Not only clothing, but you also need to keep the inner skin of your tent away from the wet outer shell. Keeping the inner skin of your tent dry is the most important part of camping in the rain.

Finally, if it’s still raining when you’re set to leave, pack everything into plastic bags in your backpack before starting to dismantle your tent. As before, take care to leave the inside of the tent dry whilst packing the shell separately, preferably in an exterior compartment. The rainfly should go in a separate plastic bag too.

If all that has helped you decide that you’re ready for a new dry tent, then check out these waterproof tents on Amazon.