How To Waterproof A Tent (3 Simple Steps)

Few sounds are as relaxing as the pitter-patter of rain on your tent when you’re camping.

However, the joyful relaxation quickly disappears when that rain soaks through your tent, soaking all of your belongings.

Luckily, it’s easy to prevent leaks when you follow our step-by-step guide on how to waterproof a tent.

So, let’s look at our simple 3 step process and highlight the potential pitfalls.

Step 1: Clean The Tent

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

You can clean your tent with any gentle soap and a soft sponge. Check out our guide on how to clean a tent for important tips and tricks to get your tent as clean as possible.

While you’re washing your tent, check for any holes or tears. Fix any damages that you find before continuing the process (it’s pointless to waterproof a tent with a hole in it).

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.

Now it’s time to check and see if any area is actively leaking. Spray down the outside of the structure 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. As you’d imagine, 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 adventure-gear specific sealant, like Gear Aid – Seam Grip WP Sealant Adhesive. Products with other intended uses don’t always hold up to the demands of a camping trip.

Brush the sealant on using either the included applicator or a paintbrush. It’s okay to be generous with your application. There’s no problem with using too much. It will merely take longer to dry.

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, applying seam sealer to both sides will bring extra security and peace of mind.

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, be sure to choose the right tent waterproofing spray for your tent and rain fly. The product depends on the material used to make your tent. 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 we highly recommend you use Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof! This 3-in-1 product sprays on your tent to add water-repellency, increases fabric strength, and reduces UV deterioration. Check out this quick product video for a closer look.

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 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.

Finally, check your work before putting the tent away.

We recommend a final setup and spray-down of the tent. This way, you know for sure that there are no leaks.

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

You’ve put in the work and done all of the steps necessary to waterproof your tent successfully. It’s better to be sure now than to have a tent disaster on your next adventure!

Tip: Using a tent footprint can also help prevent water from soaking in through the bottom of your tent.

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 weatherproof a tent, is not something that 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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