How to Waterproof a Tent: Top Tricks and Tips

Knowing how to waterproof a tent can be invaluable, especially if you have an old one that you don’t want to get rid of. When you spend the time shopping for the best camping equipment, you’ll also want to make sure you maintain your investments. There are several methods to waterproofing a tent, including waterproofing spray, to create a liquid-proof seal that we’ll explore in this guide.

How to Waterproof a Tent

Preparation is vital when it comes to waterproofing, especially if you want to do it right the first time. You’ll want to find all of the target areas that need waterproofing and test to see where the weaknesses are. Using these steps, you’ll know exactly where to apply the protectant so that you’re ready for your upcoming backpacking or camping trip.

You’ll also want to ensure you buy the best camping tent for everyone. There are numerous designs to choose from, whether for solo campers or entire families.

Wet the Tent

First, you’re going to want to fill a bathtub with water and then submerge the tent. Pay close attention to the water to see if any bubbles start to form, as this is air traveling to the surface. If so, this is the area you should be paying the most attention to.

However, if you intend on waterproofing the entire tent, there’s no need to worry about this step.

Dry the Tent

Once you’ve found the target areas, mark them using tape or a washable marker that won’t stain the fabric. You will also want to let the tent dry in the shade unless you’ve invested in a UV resistant shelter. This process may take several hours, and your tent must be dry before continuing onto the next steps.

Prepare the Tent

As soon as the tent is thoroughly dry, you’ll want to set it up as usual. This process will show you all of the target areas that you have previously marked.

You will also see what sections are most exposed to the elements. You must be able to see all of the seams and places where waterproofing is the most necessary.

Reseal Seams

The number one location where your tent is likely to leak the most is its seams. These are the areas where two pieces of fabric are sewn together. If the seams are old or shoddy, water is likely to get in.

Before you begin waterproofing the rest of the tent, let’s start with the seams. After your tent is dry, we recommend placing it in a location that is indoors, such as a garage or basement. This step will allow you to proof the materials and leave them to dry without the threat of rain or wind.

Step #1: Clean the Seams

Using a soft cloth or sponge, you’ll want to take the time to clean the seams before applying seam sealer. You can use rubbing alcohol on the sponge to get rid of all traces of dirt and grime. Also, you’ll want to peel away any previous coating that might be peeling off in certain areas.

Step #2: Apply Seam Sealer

Now that the seams are clean, you can take your chosen seam sealer and begin to apply it to all of the sewn areas. Be sure to select the correct seam sealer depending on the type of tent you have. For example, silicone-treated tents need different products than polyurethane-coated ones.

Step #3: Allow Drying Time

Once you apply the treatment to the affected areas, you’ll need to give the sealant time to dry. There should be an approximate drying time on the container to follow, as every product is different. We recommend waiting an additional 30 minutes to one hour before continuing onto the next step.

Apply Urethane Coating

One of the most considerable disadvantages to urethane is that it wears down over time. People who use their tent quite often will start to notice chips of coating beginning to peel or flake off, especially under the rainfly.

You may also begin to see a change in the material used for the floor of the tent. If this is the case for you, you’ll need to reapply the waterproof urethane coating.

Step #1: Clean the Tent

If you used a sponge for cleaning the seams, you can retake the sponge and use the more abrasive side for this part of the project. You’ll want to scrub away any flaking pieces of protectant gently, as to not disturb the integrity of the rest of the tent. You’ll want to look at every corner of the shelter, even the bottom, to make sure you’ve removed all of the existing coatings.

Step #2: Apply the Protectant

Similar to the seam sealant, every protectant has its range of instructions you should follow. Be sure to choose a protectant that is ideal for the materials used in your tent.

Starting with a single thin coat, cover the entirety of the areas most exposed to the elements, and once this is done, let it dry for up to 24 hours. Afterward, you may want to consider applying a second coat if you don’t think the first was sufficient enough.

Protect the Rainfly

When you’re camping, and it begins to rain, your rainfly is what deters most of the water away. With that said, you’ll also want to take the time to protect this essential piece; otherwise, water will penetrate the materials quickly. Protecting the rainfly is typically one of the most straightforward steps of the process.

Step #1: Prepare the Rainfly

After washing the rainfly using a sponge and a soft detergent, you’ll want to give it some time to dry. This process shouldn’t take too long as a rainfly is typically designed to dry quickly.

Once dry, you’ll want to lay it out flat on a hard surface that you have protected with a drop cloth or tarp. Make sure all of the corners are out so that it’s lying as flat as possible.

Step #2: Apply Water Repellant Spray

Instead of using urethane coating or seam sealant on the rainfly, it’s a good idea to opt for water repellant spray. It’s a lightweight chemical that penetrates the fibers of the material and forces water to roll right off. At times, campers may even prefer to use a water repellant spray instead of urethane coating, depending on cost.

Do one thin layer of spray on both sides of the rainfly and give it time to dry. You can then apply a second or third coat, depending on your preferences. Once this is complete, your tent is ready to be used without the threat of seeping water.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to waterproof a tent is simple, especially since there are store-bought products for you to put to good use. Whether you rely on a urethane coating or water repellant spray, you can guarantee you can camp without the fear of your belongings getting soaked. Not to mention, the entire process may take a day or two at the most.

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