How to Waterproof a Tent in 3 Easy Steps

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To effectively waterproof a tent, you need to wash it, seal the seams, and then apply a waterproofing product designed for your specific type of tent material.

Let’s look at each of these steps in detail.

Step 1: Clean The Tent

Unless your camping tent is brand new, wash it before beginning the waterproofing process. Dirt, dust, and other debris make it harder for the water-resistant agents to stick.

  1. Clean your tent with a gentle soap and a soft sponge. Check out our guide on cleaning a tent for important tips and tricks to get your tent as clean as possible.
  2. Check for any holes or tears and fix any that you find before continuing the process (it’s pointless to waterproof a tent with a hole in it).
  3. Once you’ve finished cleaning and have mended any rips, set the tent up in your yard or driveway. Be sure to close the zippers.

Tip: Check and see if any area is actively leaking. Spray down the outside of the tent with water using a hose. Then, check inside for any damp spots or drips. Pay careful attention to the seams.

Step 2: Seal The Seams

A seam is anywhere that two pieces of fabric attach to each other. This connection point is one of the most likely places for your tent to leak. Even if your seams are not actively leaking, it’s essential to seal them preventatively.

For this job, you’ll want to use an outdoor fabric sealant, like Gear Aid – Seam Grip WP Sealant Adhesive.

  1. Brush on a thin layer of sealant using either the included applicator or a paintbrush.
  2. Allow to dry for 8-12 hours.

If you’re applying a high-quality tent waterproofing product, only doing the outside of the seams is typically fine. However, if you’ll be spending time in extremely wet conditions, I recommend applying seam sealer to both sides.

Step 3: Apply Tent Waterproofing Product

Now that you’ve finished the seams, it’s time to focus on the rest of the tent. Most tent fabrics contain some waterproofing properties. However, those properties lessen over time and, quite frankly, aren’t all that good in the first place for some tents.

Now, and this is important, choose the right waterproofing spray for your tent and rain fly material. Most tents are made from synthetic materials like nylon and polyester. However, you can find tents made from canvas and a hybrid cotton/polyester material.

If your tent, like most tents, is made out of synthetic material, then I highly recommend you use Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof! This 3-in-1 product sprays on your tent to add water repellency, increase fabric strength, and reduce UV deterioration. Check out this quick product video for a closer look.

Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof Product Overview
Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof

Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof

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And if you happen to have a canvas or cotton-based tent, they have a cotton tent waterproofer, as well. But first, read our in-depth article titled Are Canvas Tents Waterproof? to see if you simply need to season your canvas tent or waterproof it.

To apply Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof:

  1. Set up your tent and lay down the rainfly next to it.
  2. Wet down your tent and rainfly with your hose. If you just washed your tent, you won’t need to let it dry.
  3. Spray down the exterior of the tent and rainfly evenly with Nikwax.
  4. Wait a few minutes and wipe down any excess product with a damp cloth.
  5. Let the tent and rainfly completely dry.
Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof

Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof

Buy Now on Amazon

Clicking this link to make a purchase may earn us a commission at no additional cost to you.

Tip: I recommend a final setup and spray-down of the tent. This way, you know for sure if the tent is waterproof.

Re-Waterproof When Needed

Check the water-resistant properties of your tent, and especially the protective tent fly, regularly. These inspections are especially important if you store your gear in super-hot weather or if it has been sitting for a long time.

Waterproofing a tent, which is just one step to completely weatherproofing a tent, is not something you do once and forget about. It can – and will – break down over time. You can learn more about this in our guide on how long tent waterproofing lasts.

So, check your tent regularly to see if you need to waterproof it, and repeat the above steps as necessary to ensure you and your tent stay dry while camping!

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