How to insulate a tent

How to insulate a tent

A leaky tent can easily ruin a perfect camping trip.

When camping in the rain or snow, a fully waterproof tent is a must to keep you and your important gear warm and dry at night.

But it’s not about rest and enjoyment – a leaky tent can also be dangerous, especially if you’re camping in cold weather.

Today, I will be analyzing how to fix a leaky tent by improving the waterproofing on the seams, DWR coating, and urethane coating.

Here’s exactly how to insulate a camping tent.

Explained how to insulate a tent

Even the best tents experience wear and tear over the years. If you notice a leak in your tent, here are three of the most common culprits (with quick fixes).

Re-close the tent layers

Leaky tent seams are perhaps the most common cause of tent leaks.

Many tents come with airtight seams right out of the box. Others come new with taped seams without sealant.

Either way, the seams can wear out over time, allowing water to seep through. Fortunately, sealing tent seams is quick and easy.

All you have to do is remove any peeling tape leaving the clips intact there. Then clean the seams you are going to reseal with a rag and rubbing alcohol. Finally, apply new sealant along the clean seams before allowing the new layer of sealant to dry completely.

Personally, I find it much easier to see the seams in the process of re-sealing outside on a sunny day or in a brightly lit room. I also usually like to re-seal all the seams in my tent when I re-seal one since the others are likely to be on the verge of failure as well if one really needs repairs.

Know that you can re-seal the seams on both the tent body and the underside of the rain fly (in fact, re-sealing the gills seems to be the most important to keep the water out).

Re-apply DWR on a tent

Another common problem with tent waterproofing is DWR termination failure.

Simply put, if the water isn’t flushing (and running off) the rain fly like it used to be, it’s probably time to reapply the durable water repellent.

Fortunately, reapplying DWR to a tent is easier than re-sealing the seams.

DWR Tents comes in an easy-to-use spray bottle. Simply clean the rain fly (you don’t even have to let it dry completely) and spray a layer of DWR over the entire surface of the fly.

Let your new DWR paint dry for a few moments before wiping off any excess with a clean damp cloth.

Just be sure to let the DWR dry completely before storing.

Repaint of urethane tent paint

The final way to improve a tent’s waterproofing is to update your tent’s urethane coating.

You’ll know it’s time to do this if you notice any flakes on the floor of your tent or on your rainforest tent.

First, scrub the shedding off the rain floor and/or the tent floor. You can do this with the coarse green side of a standard green/yellow sponge plus a little rubbing alcohol.

Once all the paint has peeled off, apply a thin layer of tent sealant (certain types are available for silicone-treated versus polyurethane-treated fabrics).

Make sure the tent sealant is applied to the entire tent floor and/or rain mount. Each sealant has slightly different directions recommended by the manufacturer, so be sure to check again before applying.

Let your new urethane paint air dry for at least 24 hours (if not 48 hours) before storing your tent to make sure it’s all set.

Consider replacing Rainfly or your fingerprint

It is often possible to repair a leaky tent with the above techniques.

But tents and their various components wear out over time and need to be replaced.

The most likely culprit for a leaky tent is a rain leak. Often the tent itself remains in perfectly good condition, but the raindrop does not need to be replaced.

Before you pull the trigger on a brand new tent, be sure to check if the brand offers a raincoat replacement for that particular model.

Unfortunately, it’s not very common for brands to offer alternative rainfly, but you can certainly find ones that do (Diamond Brand is an example of a brand that does).

Some brands also offer alternative footprints (another common cause of leaks in tents).

If you can’t find a replacement rain moth or footprint, but your tent is still leaking, it’s probably time to bite the bullet and invest in a brand new tent, especially if you camp a lot in the rain.

In fact, some replacement rain flies are so expensive that it makes sense to replace the entire tent from scratch if there is a leak.

Buy a good quality tent to get started

For summer camping, you can probably get away with a typical budget tent.

In fact, a tent from Walmart will do just fine for most casual campers who camp a few times a year and always make sure to avoid rain.

But, for those who like to camp in the spring and fall or who don’t mind camping in a summer rainstorm, a quality tent is a must.

Not only is spending less on a higher quality camping tent (including superior durability) and overall waterproofing, but these tents usually come with more downpour.

Look for a full coverage rain cover for the best protection while camping in the rain. A rainfly with a vestibule area is a nice touch so you can hide muddy shoes outside and keep your tent clean inside.

Another benefit of spending more on a higher quality tent is that the waterproofing should last longer—especially with the proper care of the tent—than a budget model.

Check out our guide to the best family tents and our guide to the best camping tents for tips and suggestions on choosing a durable, reliable and fully waterproof tent from the start.

How to prevent future tent damage

Proper maintenance and care are the best ways to keep your tent weatherproof for years to come.

Perhaps the most important is proper storage.

We go further into the best practices for tent storage in our guide to cleaning a tent, but it all boils down to a few key factors.

First and foremost, let your tent dry completely before storing. When you get home from a camping trip, take your tent out of its sack to allow it to air dry.

Not drying a damp tent completely prior to storage can often result in a stinky tent on your next trip, but it can also cause premature wear and tear, including reduced waterproofing capabilities.

After letting my tent dry completely, I personally prefer storing my tent loose on a rack so that it doesn’t get squished tightly inside the stuff sack until my next landing.

Keeping your tent clean is just as important as proper storage. I always spend a few minutes scrubbing the debris inside, cleaning up stains (especially sticky ones like pine sap), and inspecting for any minor damage.

Repairing any damages – such as small tears – as soon as they occur is very important to extend their life and ensure their waterproof and weatherproof going forward.

Finally, I always recommend limiting the amount of sun exposure your tent gets.

Of course, this is sometimes not possible. When camping in the summer heat, especially in a wide open area with no shade, it’s nearly impossible to limit sun exposure (unless you go down and pitch your tent every day).

Just remember that, when possible, it’s best to pitch your tent somewhere with at least some shade, even if it’s only for part of the day.

UV rays can seriously damage the rainfly in your tent, especially its water-repellent capabilities.

If you camp in direct sunlight in the summer a lot, it’s honestly a good idea to invest in a pop-up canopy to place over your tent for shade (especially if your tent is a higher-end, more expensive one).

Additional Tent Waterproofing Tips

Tourist tent camping in the rain in the mountains. Ukrainian Carpathians.

Keeping water out of the tent is more than just about the quality of the tent itself – it’s also about using the tent properly.

The most important of course is the use of a rain fly. Don’t leave the rain fly indoors, or it will get soaked for sure. Also, make sure your tent has full rain cover (rather than partial rain) if you’re expecting rain in the forecast.

In addition to the rain fly, you should always use a rag or piece of land with your tent. Not only does this add an extra layer to keep water out, but it also improves the life span of your tent by preventing damage.

If your tent doesn’t have a footprint and you can’t buy a model that matches separately, a good old tarp will do the job just fine.

Another great tip to keep rain out of your tent is to find a camping site that is somewhat sheltered from the rain.

Tree cover is your best bet here (unless your campground provides shelters at every camp site), but hanging a tarp or using an awning can help, too.

Finally, be sure to pitch your tent on a slight slope to prevent water from pooling or running inside. Ideally, you want excess water to seep out of your tent.

Check out our other gear care resources

Maintaining the waterproofing of your tent is only one aspect of taking care of your camping equipment.

We recommend reading our complete guide to tent care as well as our guide to washing and caring for your sleeping bag for more camping gear care tips.

Our highly comprehensive guide to rain camping is a great resource for more rain camping tips and tricks to make your next wet trip more enjoyable.

And as always, feel free to reach out to me if you have further questions about how to insulate the tent.

Happy camping!

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button