Should You Waterproof a New Tent? (How to do it and why)

Have you ever wondered if you should waterproof a brand new tent before you use it? I’ve had some bad experiences with new tents so now I always make sure I waterproof them before I use them for the first time.

You should waterproof new tents prior to using them for the first time. Rainfly and floor seams usually need more sealant and inconsistencies in the manufacturing process can cause other seams to leak. The additional UV and rain protection will also extend the tent’s life.

Keep reading to find out how to waterproof your new tent.

Does a New Tent Need to be Waterproofed?

Waterproofing a new tent should be one of the first things that you do before you use it. This allows you to fix any inconsistencies in the sealing process from the manufacturer and it also lets you inspect it before you take it into the wild.

Newer tents will most likely be tape sealed on the inside. This is when a waterproof tape is sewn into the inside of the seams of the tent. You don’t need to seal these unless there is an obvious defect in the seams.

The rainfly and seams around the floor are usually the areas that need some extra love. They’re just not normally sealed as well as they should be in my mind.

How to Seal the Rainfly and Floor Seams

You can improve the seal on the rainfly and floor pretty easily. Start by turning the tent and rainfly inside out. Once you get the tent inside out, you can spread the material apart to fully expose the seam.

Brush the sealant onto the seam in an even coat and let it dry. Make sure that you’re in a well-ventilated area since the sealants normally contain a lot of chemicals that you shouldn’t be breathing in. If you’re trying to seal a tent that’s been used or it has anything on the seal, be sure to clean them before you apply the sealant. You can also use alcohol to clean the seams before you seal them.

I recommend Coleman Seam Sealer. It’s about 1/3 of the price of some seam sealants, has its own applicator, and does the job.

How Often Should You Waterproof a Tent?

Some people say that you don’t ever need to waterproof a tent and some say that you need to do it every year. What’s the real answer?

I fall in between the two. Once you seal the floor seams and rainfly when you first buy the tent, you don’t need to waterproof it again unless it starts to leak.

I have tents that are 10 years old and still stand up to the weather with no problem. Unless you’re having problems, I’d say save money and don’t worry about waterproofing your tent after the first time.

Why Tents Leak

Tents are sewn together during the manufacturing process. The needles put holes in the seams and can let water in. Usually, there’s tape sealing the main parts of the tent from the inside to keep tents from leaking.

Keep in mind that all tents aren’t waterproof! Some of the cheapest tents are normally “water-resistant”. This means that they can withstand a light misting but not much more. Make sure you look for a tent with a higher MM rating to make sure it isn’t going to leak.

How Waterproof Should a Tent Be?

Tents come in a wide range of waterproof ratings. These are listed in MM, which stands for millimeters of water that it can withstand before the water penetrates the material.

Tents usually come in a range of 800 to 10000MM ratings. Anything over 1000MM is usually considered waterproof. As tents are exposed to the UV rays of the sun, mud, dirt, wind, and rain the chemicals that keep the water out tend to break down and the tent gradually loses some of its waterproofing.

Don’t Confuse Condensation for a Leak

Just because your tent is wet inside, doesn’t mean that it’s leaking! Normally, it’s going to be condensation causing that water to form inside your tent.

Condensation forms when warm moist air hits a cooler surface. This happens all the time when you’re inside your tent.

The moist air that you’re exhaling comes in contact with the cooler sides of your tent and ends up causing condensation to form on the walls and roof of your tent. If you’re in a humid area, this effect is even more pronounced. Now it’s not the end of the world if you have a little condensation forming on the inside of your tent, but it’s nice to keep everything from getting wet when there’s no reason to have to deal with it.

These are the best steps to take to keep the condensation that forms inside your tent to a minimum:

  1. Ventilate Your Tent – Rolling back the rain fly or leave the vestibule door open. This lets the warm, humid air escape from your tent rather than building up inside your tent.
  2. Remove Wet Clothes or Shoes – Always dry your wet clothing and shoes outside of your tent if you can. Keeping them inside increases the humidity inside.
  3. Cook and Boil Water Outside – There are a lot of times when cooking and boiling water inside your tent may seem like a good idea. Doing this puts warm moist air directly inside your tent and will lead to a ton of condensation on the inside of your tent.
  4. Avoid Camping Near Bodies of Water – Areas near lakes, streams, rivers, and other water are higher in humidity. If you camp near these bodies of water, you’re going to have to deal with more condensation than you would in other areas.
  5.  Avoid Setting Your Tent up in a Low Point – Cool air collects at lower parts of the landscape. This causes the walls of your tent to be cooler and increases condensation.

Anything that keeps moist air out will benefit you in the long run.

Adding a Tarp to Keep Water Out of Your Tent

The best way to use a tarp to keep your tent dry really depends on where you’re camping. If you’re in a wooded area, you should use some kind of ground cover. If you decide to use a tarp you just need to lay it down before you set up your tent then fold the edges under the tent on all sides.

This will keep groundwater from seeping into your tent and prevent rain from gathering on the tarp and flowing straight under your tent. If you’re camping in a sandy area, then you don’t need to add a ground cover under your tent. The sand will absorb the water and keep it from pooling under your tent.

Another way to use a tarp to keep water off your tent is by setting it up above your tent. I think this is the best use of a tarp when camping.

Place the tarp in the best position to block any rain. This means thinking about wind direction to keep windblown rain from reaching your tent.

Waterproofing a Tent Floor

If you use a tent a lot, then you may notice the urethane coating flaking off. If you see this happening, then you’re going to need to reapply the urethane coating.

Waterproofing a tent floor is just about as easy as sealing the seams. You just need to clean it up before you apply the new coat. To knock this out all you need is rough scrubbing material (like the back of a sponge or scotch bright), rubbing alcohol, and a tent sealant for your particular type of material (Either silicone-treated fabric or polyurethane-coated fabric).

Start by using rubbing alcohol and the scrubbing material to loosen and remove any of the flaked floor sealant. Then, apply the new sealant as directed on the bottle. It’s that easy. Give the floor about 24 hours to dry before you pack it back up.

Related Questions

What is the best way to waterproof a tent? The easiest way to waterproof a tent is to follow these steps:

  • Clean the tent surfaces.
  • Reseal all of the seams.
  • Reapply the urethane coating on the floor and rainfly.
  • Reapply the DWR (durable water repellent) layer on the outside of the tent.
  • Allow it to dry between each step.

Can you waterproof the inside of a tent? You apply a sealant to the seams and a urethane coating to the floor of the tent on the inside and the DWR (durable water repellent) on the outside of your tent. You don’t want to apply the DWR to the inside of the tent.

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