How To Waterproof A Tent: Step By Step Guide

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Ever wondered why when you camp, water starts to enter the tent from above? It’s probably due to the waterproof coating from the tent starting to wear off. Now, what is the waterproof coating?

As the name suggests, it is a water-based coating to prevent water from sticking or entering the tent, also known as DWR (Durable water repellent).

Why should I waterproof the tent? Because water that enters the tent can make you feel uncomfortable and cold during rain.

Ken and Jules from Outdoormagnet, a travel couple from Asia will share with you some tips on how to waterproof a tent.

Also, Read how to set up a tent in minutes.

When to waterproof the tent?

It is time to waterproof the tent when you notice water entering it a few days before the camping trip. Water entering the tent is an obvious sign that the coating has worn off or is starting to degrade and it isn’t an exception to high-quality tents which some people may think that it is.

Professional campers have a period for waterproofing their tents and you should too. A not-so-good sign of when to waterproof your tent is when it starts to mould, that’s right, mould.

Moulding is an obvious sign that the tent is absorbing water and water would stay there for a long time.

Suggested read – 25 Travel Essentials Helpful during your trips

Why does the waterproof layer degrade?

One of the main reasons it degrades is due to UV rays from the sun. Just like our skin, tents do get damaged from prolonged exposure to the sun.

Other than that, is use and age, which means that the tent has been used for a very long time and does indicate that you should re-waterproof the tent. When the seams of the tent start to wear off, it can cause water to enter the tent and would damage the waterproof layer.

Things to prepare

Just like cooking, you need to prepare the ingredients but instead, it’s about the tools. You need your tent, a waterproof coating solution, seam sealer, warm water, rubbing alcohol, soap and a sponge.

Everything is quite self-explanatory except the waterproof coating solution and the seam sealer. Some coating solutions can come in paste-like substances, which is okay for using, using a spray-based coating is recommended, and for the sponge, don’t use steel wool or any rough scrubs for the tent as it may damage the tent itself.

Seam sealers are paste-like and will come with a brush for the customer, if there isn’t, you can use a paintbrush to apply the seam sealer instead.

How to Waterproof a Tent: Step-by-step Guide – 6 Important Waterproofing tent tips

How to set up a tent
Don’t you love camping?

Step 1: Clean your tent

Before you apply the waterproof coating, you should clean the surface of the tent, and even the canvas if you need to. Mix some soap with water and use the sponge to gently scrub the tent or the canvas until you don’t see any dirt.

Keep an eye on the seams, don’t miss that spot. A mild detergent will do the trick for washing, try not to use harsh soaps or chemicals like Clorox because it can damage the tent permanently.

Tip: Don’t put the tent into a washing machine, it will damage the tent.

waterproofing tent tips, tent waterproofing
Waterproofing a tent is important.

Step 2: Apply the waterproof coating

Before you dry the tent, spray or use a sponge to cover the tent with a waterproof coating. Make sure to apply the coating all over the tent including the corners. Wipe off excess coating if there is any and leave the tent to dry underneath a cool and shady area.

Follow the instructions for the waterproof coating if needed, as different coating types have different instructions. You can spray the cloth first and then wipe it on the surface, which works if you don’t want to get too messy.

How to waterproof a tent
Set up a tent with ease.

Step 3: Dry the tent

Quite an easy step for this one, but you may need a friend or a family member to help out with moving the tent. To dry the tent, dismantle the tent and leave the tent under a cool and shady area spread out fully.

When the surface of the tent looks dry enough, turn the tent inside out to make sure the insides are dry too.

Step 4:  Seal the seams

Seams play an important role in keeping water from the edges of the tent which is as important as the canvas and the rainfly. Just like the coating, seams can degrade or wear off due to long periods of using them.

If you are wondering how to seal a tent seam, first turn the tent inside out to get better access to the seams, check for any peeling of the seams, but keep the intact sections. Use some rubbing alcohol to remove tent coating and a cloth to clean the seams before applying the seam coating.

Note that you should apply the seam coatings on all the seams even though one part looks good. After that, just leave the tent to dry.

how to seal a tent seam
Family Camping Trips

Step 5: Clean the tent floor or the canvas

Canvas protects the tent from receiving dirt and water from the bottom and it must be waterproof at all times. To do this, just turn the tent over to the underside and spread it out or lay the canvas on the ground and spread it out fully.

Following the same ways to waterproof a tent, just wash it with water, apply the coating and let it dry. Do it on both sides of the canvas and the bottom of the tent.

Step 6: Keep the tent in a cool and shady place.

Pack the tent as you usually do and keep it in a storeroom with plenty of shade. As mentioned in the reasons why the waterproof coatings degrade, UV rays can damage the tents, even if you don’t use them often.

Other than that, you should be good. Do note that periodic maintenance of your tent is needed to keep it in good shape.

That’s all about it, remember that a friend in need is a friend indeed, do get help or help others with their waterproofing. Going solo would be hard and would take more time than with a friend. So, have fun when waterproofing the tents.

I hope Ken & Jule’s article on steps to waterproofing a tent was helpful. For more such travel and camping tips you can follow Outdoormagnet on Facebook and Twitter.


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Awarded by Meghalaya Tourism, Joydeep Phukan is a travel writer & a certified mountaineer based in Assam of Northeast India. He is on his mission to travel offbeat India and share his stories and tips about culture, travel & adventure with you through The Gypsy Chiring Blog.

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