A little rain doesn’t have to put a ‘damper’ on your camping trip to the mountains with the family. In fact, the steady rain fall on your tent is actually quite soothing along with the intoxicating sweet smell of summer rain. Furthermore, morning dew is no joke when you’re outside all night. A waterproof tent will keep that moisture at bay. The wrong tent, however, might keep you out of the woods for a while and your family will be less than thrilled should nature decide to water the Earth. Crossing your fingers that it won’t rain on your crappy tent isn’t the best plan either. Knowing what to look for in a waterproof tent will help you determine the best tent for your needs.
What to look for when buying a tent
Waterproof claims mean nothing unless your tent keeps 100% of the water outside of your tent. Look for a lightweight tent with seam tape. A heavier camping tent tends to weigh the tent down, especially when wet, and it’ll also be easier to carry if hiking. Waterproof seam tape is arguably the most crucial feature to look for in a reliable waterproof tent. A tent with a one piece tub floor is also essential in staying dry. The floor should be made of waterproof material that comes up at least few inches on the sides before it is sewn to the tent walls. Seams on or near the floor of the tent are just asking for water seepage. Steer clear of those models!
Single Vs. Double Wall Tents – The best rainproof tent should repel water and dew from the outside. It also needs to breathe in order to eliminate condensation from the outside. A less than ideal tent will be loaded with moisture on the walls in the morning, regardless of whether or not it rained. Who wants to wake up to a damp and clammy mess? There are two types of tents to satisfy these functions…
- Double Wall Tent– A double wall tent uses a detachable rainfly over the tent to repel outside
moisture. It eliminates inside moisture with breathable tent walls usually constructed of nylon and mesh. The floor usually features a tougher duty nylon that goes part way up the sidewalls forming the ‘bath tub’ look. Again, no seams on or near the floor is key. The untreated nylon walls have mesh windows for ventilation and moisture management along with a double door (one mesh, one nylon). Sometimes, the walls are made entirely of mesh to save weight. The second part of the double wall system is the fly. The rain fly of a double wall tent is what separates the well-made, best tents from the lesser ones. The fly is often treated with a waterproof non-breathable coating to better shed water. Think of the fly as the tent’s “umbrella.” It attaches to the stakes and allows water to bead off of it away from the tent perimeter keeping its occupants completely dry. Double wall tents have more parts than a single wall, are heavier and cost less than single wall tents.
- Single Wall Tent– A single wall tent manages moisture with only one layer. In other words, there is no rain fly. The tent walls are usually a laminate of waterproof and breathable materials. Sounds like a technical shell, right? Such high-tech materials also come with a higher price tag. Single wall tents are most often used by backpackers, mountain climbers, and bicycle or motorcycle campers since they are so lightweight and contain fewer parts.
What To Avoid
Steer clear of waterproof tents without a dry entryway feature. It ensures that water pooled on the ground cannot rush into the tent and flood the area. Without a dry entryway, you risk your things getting wet inside the tent when you open the door. It also stands as a nice place to keep wet shoes.
No matter how attractive the price, avoid tents that feature an abbreviated fly that will inevitably allow water to pour onto some part of the tent. A tent that allows its non-coated walls (most double layer tents) to encounter continuous moisture will leak the moment the fabric is touched and stressed from the inside. A tent with such a design flaw will almost certainly ruin a camping trip the first time adverse weather hits.
- Air Out The Tent – A waterproof tent isn’t only about keeping rain out. Remember that moisture from your breath will build inside the camping tent overnight, especially in humid areas. Remove the rain fly during the day (if it’s not raining!) and open windows of a single layer tent whenever possible.
- Use a Ground Cloth – Some tents come with a ground cloth while they are also available for purchase. The ground cloth should be slightly smaller than the footprint of the tent. Their purpose is to help protect the tent floor from sticks, stones, and rough spots that could puncture the tent. They also help to keep inevitable ground water from seeping into the tent. A regular tarp can be used, but be sure to tuck the edges under the tent so that rain doesn’t run down the tent walls onto the tarp and consequently collect under the tent.
- Do Not Store Tent in a Stuff Sack – When you’re not camping, store your tent in a dry, ventilated area. This will keep it from sticking to itself and will lengthen its lifespan. Waterproof and breathable materials, like the fly, need air to maintain their properties. Use the stuff sack to pack your tent when going to and from the campsite.
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