How to waterproof your tent and protect your belongings

16th May 2016

Even where a tent is described as fully waterproof, there’s still the risk of waking up to a damp groundsheet and wet possessions. From dealing with minor repairs through to ensuring your tent is properly sealed, here are the essentials for stopping the rain getting into places it shouldn’t.

How waterproof is your tent?

A tent billed merely as ‘weatherproof’ might be tough enough to deal with the odd shower, but may struggle to withstand a heavy downpour. For an indication of just how waterproof an individual tent is going to be, look closely at the Hydrostatic Head (HH) rating. This indicates the strength of a nylon tent’s PU waterproof coating.

For more information about waterproofing and breathability, check out our handy guide to buying a tent.

To be described as waterproof, a tent must have a HH rating of at least 1000. The higher the rating, the greater the downpour the tent will withstand without water seeping through the weave of the fabric. A tent with a 3000 HH rating should provide effective protection against moderately heavy rain. Tents with much higher ratings (8000 HH, for instance) are designed to face up to extreme conditions, including torrential downfalls.

Polycotton tents work in a different way: the fabric absorbs water before closing up to create a stiff waterproof barrier. With this type of tent, (depending on the manufacturer’s instructions), it’s usually advisable to pre-treat it before your camping trip by erecting it in your garden and spraying it with a hose.

Check for rips and tears

A high HH rating counts for little if there’s a tear present to let the water in. Inspect the tent and groundsheet before erecting it. Deal with rips and tears by applying a self adhesive tent patch, which often come as standard with new tents. Tent repair kits (including patches) can be bought for less than £5.

Repair and seal seams

The seams are the most common source of a tent leak. With most new tents, the seams are pre-sealed with factory seam tape. If there is any evidence of water penetrating the tent, inspect the seams to check whether the factory seam tape is starting to fray or come apart. If it is, apply a mild abrasive to remove the previous tape adhesive. Next, apply a seam grip adhesive to reattach the seam tape.

If the tape has deteriorated badly, remove the tape completely and apply a bead of seam grip directly along the seam itself, making sure that it extends to at least ½ cm along both seam edges.

The perimeter floor seams might not be sealed as standard on your new tent, although these areas can sometimes by a source of leaks. As such, for good measure, apply a film of seam grip to these seams.

Check your tent set-up

A ground tarp is your essential barrier against water seeping up into your tent from the ground. It also helps to protect against condensation. When setting up, ensure it is properly tucked into the seams and sealed. It should not extend beyond the footprint of the tent at any point.

If you have a choice of pitch, aim for level ground (the higher, the better). When pitching, ensure your rain fly is fully extended to prevent rainwater pooling in pockets.

Make full use of your awning or vestibule by using this area to take off wet clothes, thereby avoiding carrying in rainwater to your tent. When it’s not raining during the day, open the windows and make use of the vent so moisture can escape.

Sleep easy knowing you’re fully protected

To find out more about how to stay protected on your camping trip, take a closer look at our comprehensive camping insurance packages designed for the novice family camper through to the seasoned outdoor adventurer.

Designed to safeguard your entire camping holiday, the cover protects your tent, camping equipment, contents and personal effects from loss or damage caused by fire, theft and storm damage (the most common type of tent claim). Get a quote today or request a callback at a time that’s convenient for you, and see how much you could save!

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