How to Waterproof a Tent?

George Hanson
George Hanson
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Last updated: August 09, 2023
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Camping is a great way to get out in nature and enjoy the wilderness, and with a variety of tent options available for almost any situation, there’s a camping solution for everyone. But tents, like everything else, wear down over time. And with tents, one of the obvious ways we see this wear and tear is in its ability to repel water. Once a tent is no longer waterproof, it’s just a matter of time before you find yourself wet and miserable in the middle of the woods. The good news, though, is that there are plenty of ways to keep your tent waterproof or to refresh it if it’s on the older side. It’s recommended to waterproof your tent at least once a year, but it also depends on how often you use your tent and in what kind of environment, so adjust this information accordingly.

Don’t forget the ties

How to Waterproof a Tent?

Ties are one of the things that are most often overlooked when it comes to keeping a tent dry and free from water and moisture. The truth is, the ties of your rainfly have a big job and work hard to keep you dry and happy in weather conditions. When putting your rainfly over your tent, you want to make sure your ties are tight. We recommend using a hitch knot when securing your ties because hitch knots are easy to adjust if needed. Also, consider replacing your ties with reflective ones. This can make setting up a rainfly in the middle of the night much easier.

Setting up a rainfly with your ties while it’s actually raining is not recommended, as it’s almost impossible to keep them from sagging.

If you have no option, though, just know you may have to adjust them once the rain finally stops.

The ground cloth is important

Ground cloths keep water out of the tent in rainy or wet conditions. But the problem with it is, if there’s too much rain, the ground cloth can actually collect water and direct it into your tent instead of keeping it away, which is the exact opposite point of using a ground cloth. The solution is to make sure the seam on the tent and the ground cloth are joined together. Tuck the ground cloth into the seam and seal it. The good news is, most modern tents nowadays come with ground cloths already sewn into the tent seams itself, so you really only have to worry about doing this with older tents.

Seams should be repaired

One of the most common places for a tent to leak is around the seams. New tents are properly sealed there, and some even come with waterproof coverings or tape to keep the seams in perfect condition for a long time. But extended use and weather will have an impact on every tent, sooner or later, so it’s important to fix your seams occasionally. The good thing is, it’s fairly easy to do:

  1. Clean all the seams with a soft cloth and rubbing alcohol. You’re going to want to treat the inner side of the seams, so turn the tent inside out.
  2. Use a seam sealant meant for your type of tent. Therefore, make sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  3. Apply the seam sealant to all seams, even if only one is leaking. If one seam has been weakened, they all could use resealing. Make sure you do this in an area with good airflow, as the sealant is a chemical that shouldn’t be extensively inhaled.
  4. Let the seam sealant dry.
  5. If you have an older tent, it’s recommended that once the seams have dried, you may want to seal them again, just to make sure that the seams are effectively treated to extend the life of your aging tent.

Your seams are now ready to face the elements once more!

Replace the urethane coating

Many tents are treated with a urethane coating, especially on the floor and on the rainfly. Once the urethane coating is aging, it may flake off.

If you see flaking from your tent, it’s a sign that the urethane coating may need to be refreshed. Though it’s important to note that not all tents use a urethane coating so check with the manufacturer information of your specific tent.

Once you’ve verified that you need to replace the urethane coating, you’re going to rub off any old coating using a sponge and rubbing alcohol. Then, following the instructions of the specific urethane coating you’re using, you will apply a thin coating of new sealant to the rainfly, your tent’s flooring, and anywhere else the urethane coating needs to be replaced. Then the tent will need to dry for at least 24 hours.

Urethane is a flammable chemical, so it’s important you do this in an area with good airflow, and that you wash your hands and clothing that may have been exposed to it.

DWR coating will stop water

How to Waterproof a Tent?

DWR stands for durable water repellent, and this is the coating that makes rain, water, and moisture bead up on the fabric of your tent. If you notice that water no longer beads on your tent, and perhaps it’s even seeping through in spots, it may be time to refresh your tent’s DWR coating. Luckily, this is an easy step for almost any tent owner. You’ll need to purchase a DWR coating spray of your choice, but there are a lot of options. Once you have one, you’ll set up your tent outside.

DWR coating needs water to adhere to your tent or rainfly, so you will need to spray it with clean water. A garden hose is the easiest choice for this step. This is a great time to clean your tent as well!

With the tent or rainfly still wet, you will spray the DWR coating on the fabric. After a few minutes, you will want to wipe off any excess with a damp cloth. Once the tent has fully dried, it can be packed up for your next trip!

Canvas is a great choice

Canvas tents are an excellent choice for those people who camp regularly, due to their natural waterproofing abilities. But many people don’t realize that canvas needs to be weather-exposed before it develops its waterproofing abilities. This is because the water and dampness cause the fibers of the canvas to tighten together, so without first being exposed to moisture, the tent won’t be waterproofed the first time you use it.

There’s an easy solution to this problem, though. All you have to do is set up your tent at home and spray it down with water. This will cause the fibers to tighten, and once the canvas tent is dry, you can pack it up and put it away, knowing that the next time you break it out, it will be ready to face all the rain and moisture that nature can throw at it.

A tarp can keep you dry

Some people don’t like the idea of using chemicals to treat their tent to make it waterproof, and that’s understandable. Some chemicals are stronger or more dangerous to use than others, so if the chemicals are something you’d like to avoid, the good news is there’s another option for you. Purchase a tarp.

A waterproof tarp can be a great way to protect your tent from the elements. You’ll need to purchase one that’s large enough to cover your entire tent.

Rigging up your tent with a tarp will keep all the rain and water off it. Just make sure you don’t store anything you don’t want to get wet where the tarp will be directing the water flow.


Many things can cause a tent to lose its waterproofing abilities, whether it’s an older model, a shelter that faces a lot of rough environmental conditions, or one that’s just lovingly used all the time. Keeping your tent waterproof, though, will not only keep you happy and healthy while being out in the wilderness, it can also ensure your tent’s good working condition and extend its lifespan as well, making it a tent that will be with you for years to come despite all the weather mother nature wants to show you.

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