How Long Does Tent Waterproofing Last?

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The last thing you want when you’re camping is your tent to start leaking when it rains.

Luckily, it’s completely avoidable!

In this guide, you’ll learn all about tent waterproofing, including:

  • How long tent waterproofing lasts
  • How to identify when it needs to be reapplied
  • How to waterproof your tent yourself
  • And how you can make the waterproofing last longer

So, let’s get started!

What Is Tent Waterproofing?

Out of the box, most tents have waterproof coatings with a minimum strength of 3000 HH, which is enough to withstand most rainstorms, light snow, and dew that forms on its exterior.

Waterproofing doesn’t mean you will not see any condensation form on your tent if you lock up all its vents, since that will largely depend on how well-ventilated your tent is.

The HH in 3000 HH means hydrostatic head, a precise measurement of how much water a fabric can repel. You can convert it to millimeters for a visualization of how high a column of water can be before it starts to leak through the tent weave.

For example, a 3000 HH piece of tent fabric could hold a column of water that is up to 3000mm tall.

did you know Did you know…

Some tent manufacturers run rigorous waterproofing tests to ensure the highest qulity product for their consumers. MSR Gear, for example, even runs accelerated aging tests to show that their Xtreme Shield coating lasts up to 3x longer than standard coatings.

The minimum waterproofing of a tent should be 1000 HH, enough for light showers and very light snow. However, big gusts of wind and continuous rain may cause a tent with this level of waterproofing to leak. Anything more than a minute-long shower requires a waterproofing level of more than 2000 HH.

The groundsheet of your tent must have a higher HH rating, since people will sit down and lie on it, causing it to undergo more pressure. While many tent and jacket brands feature HH ratings on their labels, some brands like Gore-Tex don’t utilize hydrostatic head tests for their products.

Does Tent Waterproofing Wear Off?

Tent fabrics are not inherently waterproof. They have a thin coating that gives them a plastic-like quality without compromising on ventilation. They wick water away from the outside while preventing condensation from forming inside. As you use your tent more and more in various weather conditions, even if you don’t experience any snow or rain, its coating will slowly weaken, and it will become more susceptible to leaks.

As a rule of thumb, the higher the HH rating of your tent, the longer it will take for the waterproof coating to wear off, but it also depends on the environments in which you camp.

For example, if you camp in spots with a lot of cloud cover but almost no rain, your tent’s waterproofing can last for many years. If you camp in places where there’s a lot of direct sunlight, heavy rain, or mounds of snow, you might need to re-waterproof your tent at least once every two years.

How Long Does Tent Waterproofing Last?

The answer depends on the HH rating of your tent, and the conditions you put your tent through. It’s better to re-apply waterproofing to your tent when you notice it needs it (See Do I Need To Waterproof My Tent for more information).

Related: How Do You Know if a Tent Is Waterproof?

You can run a simple test at home once or twice a year by setting your tent up and hosing it down. If it leaks, re-waterproof it.

This will save you time, money, and hassle!

You can also check a few key points like its roof, rainfly, and sides, which are spots that are most directly hit by water and sunlight.

You might see that the coating is visibly starting to flake. Grab a spray bottle and fill it with water. Spray the water onto the areas where there’s visible damage to the coating, and if the water starts soaking through the fabric, you need to re-waterproof your tent.

How Do You Waterproof A Tent?

Once you’re sure your tent’s waterproofing capabilities will no longer suffice, it’s time to re-apply a waterproof coating.

You can waterproof a tent in 3 simple steps:

  1. Clean the tent: You can do this by simply using a gentle soap and sponge. Check out our guide to cleaning a tent for some important information.
  2. Seal the seams: Since seams are a likely place for leaks, it’s important to properly seal them. Brush on the seam sealant using the supplied applicator or a paintbrush. For best results, apply the sealant to both sides of the seams. I recommend you use Gear Aid – Seam Grip WP Sealant Adhesive.
  3. Apply a waterproof product: The type of tent waterproofing spray you use will depend on the type of material your tent is made out of. Tents are made out of either canvas, a synthetic material, or a combination of both. Most tents are typically made out of synthetic material. If this is your tent, then I recommend you use Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof! To apply the waterproofing product, simply spray down your wet tent with Nikwax, wait a few minutes, and then wipe down any excess product with a damp cloth. Allow the tent to dry completely.

Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof not only adds waterproofing to your tent, but it also increases fabric strength, and reduces UV deterioration.

And don’t forget to waterproof your tent fly, as well!

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