How To Waterproof A Tent

This is an easy step-by-step guide on how to waterproof a tent! One of the worst things that you don’t want to deal with is waking up in the morning to a puddle of water inside your tent.

Camping is exciting for all ages. It can be rejuvenating, fun, or something in between. But it can also be a discomforting ordeal if you’re not prepared.

f you’re planning to go out tent camping, you will want to waterproof your tent no matter the weather forecast. In this article, we’ve got you covered.

Why Do You Need To Waterproof A Tent?

Before we dive into the steps on how to waterproof a tent, it’s helpful to know why do you need to do it in the first place.

Although you can buy waterproof tents in the market, some of them have lowgrade in actual performance. And while some have really reliable waterproof technologies, there are still other factors why you might need to waterproof them yourself.

Sun damage

Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause damage to the fabrics of a tent, reducing its waterproof effectiveness.  Especially if the temperature is too high, even by just a couple of days’ camping in the summer heat can cause damage to your tent. 

Tent’s age

Your tent’s age can also be a factor especially if you have been using it more often. The fabric of your tent will deteriorate over time as it is exposed to different elements with changing temperatures.

Waterproofing treatments can help prolong the life of your tent and enhances its waterproofing capacity.

Damaged seams

The strength of your tent seams can also be compromised as you use your tent and expose it to different elements. Like most tents in the market, your tent must come with fully sealed seams when you first bought it.

But seals can be damaged over time causing leakages, weakening its waterproofing efficiency. Applying a seam sealant can solve this issue.

Steps To Waterproof A Tent Using A Seam Sealant

It’s best if you figure out which section of your tent needs waterproofing treatments before you go covering your whole tent. Below is the step-by-step process of how you waterproof your tent using a seam sealant.

Step 1: Set Up Your Tent In a Dry Spot

Set up your tent and make sure to do it in a dry, open area with a lot of light and airflows. This will allow you to examine your tent easily. An open area with plenty of airflows will let you avoid breathing in any of the fumes brought by sealers. 

Step 2: Clean Your Tent

You’ll need to clean your tent before doing any waterproofing treatment. With warm water in a bucket, add a tech wash or some soft detergent. Sponge gently and target to clean the seams.

You can also wipe each seam with a rag and some rubbing alcohol. This will remove any dirt or dust in the seams. Inspect the seam tape. Leave the tape that is still intact, but gently remove the peeling ones if there are any. 

Step 3: Apply Sealer to the Seams

After your tent is properly cleaned, apply the sealer to all seams on your tent, ground tarp, and rainfly. Ideally, you should apply the sealer on the inside of the tent.

Read the instructions before you begin applying seam sealant and avoid breathing in the fumes of the sealers. You can wear a mask while you’re applying the seam. 

You can usually find the seams on the inside part of the tent and on the sides of the rainfly. Use a brush and make sure to cover all parts of every seam.

Step 4: Allow Sealer to Dry

Allow the sealer to dry completely before packing it away.  You can add another layer of sealer for extra strength. Make sure that the first layer is completely dry if you will want to add a second layer. Generally, a typical sealer takes around 8 hours to dry. 

waterproofing a tent-a person putting a fly over the top of a tent

Waterproofing Your Tent With A Tarp

Aside from treating your tent with waterproofing solutions, you can also add a waterproof tarp to your setup.

This may sound like a more old school method to you but this method can be immensely helpful especially if you’ll experience heavy rain while camping.

A good quality canvas tarp can last 20 years or more, and treating it carefully and sealing the tarp with a waterproofing agent every year or so is one of the best and simplest ways of having a waterproof shelter.

There are two basic ways to set up a tarp: setting up a tarp with poles, and setting up a tarp using a ridgeline.

Setting Up A Tarp With Poles

Setting a tarp with poles is a basic option to waterproof your tent. Although it is not necessary, having someone to help you with this will be better and easier. 

Step 1: Prepare All the Accessories You’ll Need

You will need at least three important accessories: a large tarp, a good lenght of paracord, and some grommet savers. 

Choosing the right tarp is critical. You will want a nice tarp that is big enough to protect your tent. A good size is about twice the size of your tent. But if the ground is wet, then you’ll need extra so you can also lay a tarp under the tent. 

Using paracord will secure the tarp in place and the grommet savers will provide a way to run rope and cable through your tarp.

Step 2: Set Up Your Poles

Using the paracord, create a line between two poles and leave an extra length of rope on each side. Create another line from each of these poles then secure the pole in a single spot by pinning it into the ground. Repeat this process until you have four poles fixed in place.

Step 3: Place The Tarp Over The Rope

Now that you have four poles standing in place, put your tarp right over the rope. From the corners of your tarp, run the ropes and pin them into the ground.

Make sure that one side of your tarp is a little elevated compare to the other. This will allow the rainwater to just slide down your tarp instead of staying stagnant in the middle. 

Your tarp should cover your whole tent. And since the water from the tarp will be sliding down through it, keep this area free from stuff such as shoes and gears. 

Setting Up A Simple Tarp Shelter Using A Ridgeline

This a very easily erected shelter using nothing more than a few basic items, so check out this great little video clip.

Waterproof a tent with a tarp using a ridgeline.

Step 1: Gather All Accessories and Secure An Area With Trees

Similar to setting up a tarp with ropes, you will also need a large tarp, paracord, and grommet savers. Your best bet for this method is to have a long rope and choose an area where there are trees in front of each other.

Ideally, there should be sufficient space between them to place your tent there. 

Step 2: Throw Your Rope Over A Branch Of The Tree

Throw your rope over a branch that is close to the trunk of the tree. The closer your rope to the trunk, the more weight will the branch be able to hold.

Step 3: Raise The Rope To Find Where You Want Your Tarp To Be Suspended

Pull then ends of the rope to raise it and find where you want the tarp to be suspended. You should have enough space for you where you can comfortably move under it. 

Step 4: Tie Your Ridgeline To The Tree

Now that you have positioned your ridgeline, tie off one end to the tree then place your tarp, while it is on the ground, over the unattached rope. 

Step 5: Raise the Ridgeline And Tie It Up

Raise the ridgeline by pulling the other end of the rope and tie it up by using an overhand knot with a draw loop. After you get your ridgeline suspended, secure the corner ropes using a bowline knot and a cow hitch. Fasten the other end to a tree using the same knot as your ridgeline.

For some, how to waterproof a tent with a tarp may sound daunting. But with the simple guide above, you’ll realize that the steps are simple and easy to do with just a few important accessories.

After all, dealing with this simple chore is much better than dealing with rainwater puddling inside your tent. 

Get Out There And Enjoy

Now that you’ve waterproofed your tent, it’s time to get out there and enjoy your camping adventure, rain or shine. You can now go on with your next outdoor journey with peace of mind that your tent will keep you comforted and dry. Get out and don’t let the weather forecast spoil the fun!


If you have any more questions about how to waterproof a tent, I’d love to hear them and I’ll be more than happy to answer them in the comments section below.

You may also like to read my Article on Camping in the rain.

Remember! Leave it cleaner than you found it, only footprints not rubbish.


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