Enjoying the weather is one of the main reasons people decide to go out camping. Waking up to the bright sun in the sky beaming down. The feeling of a light breeze brush across your face as you hit the crest of a hill. Taking a swim in a nearby lake at the height of a hot day. These are the ideal scenarios, but we all know nature isn't always perfect.
Here we will go over some things to help you out when the weather is less than cooperative. Rainy days or even sudden rain showers are bound to happen if you are a frequent camper. We will look at some ways to keep dry while out in nature.
Common causes of Tents being wet.
Tents are made to protect you from the elements and any unwelcomed guests from the surrounding woods. They help keep you sheltered from winds and give you a place to rest at night. However, no matter how you try, there always seems to be water dripping inside your tent on those summer camping trips. The main reason for this is simple: condensation. A tent can protect you from a lot of things but not physics.
Condensation occurs when water in a gaseous state comes into contact with something cooler in temperature. The water molecules cannot get away from, say, a tent wall, and the gaseous form of water changes into a liquid. That is how you get condensation on the inside of your tent. Tents do such an excellent job of keeping things out, but that also means they do a good job of keeping things in as well. That also includes any moisture inside the tent.
Wet Clothes and Shoes
Many campers do not think of it; some of their habits bring moisture into their tents that get trapped in with them and cause the tent to develop condensation. For instance, bringing in wet shoes and clothes inside to dry is a huge source of condensation for campers.
You are trying to bring your clothes in to keep them safe while drying, but it never occurs to people that the water, once it evaporates off the clothes, has nowhere to go if the tent is completely closed. The easy answer to this is simply to find a place to let your clothes dry out during the day and store them in a sack at night.
The best way to dry things while camping is using the sun to dry them. This way, you can keep an eye on your items, and you don't have a soggy tent when you wake up.
Another reason for condensation inside a tent is people. This is kind of an unavoidable source. As we breathe, we produce moisture on our exhale. On average, a person releases about a liter of moisture while we sleep through the night. This moisture gets caught on the inside of the tent where we are sleeping and stays there.
The worst of this is the more people in the tent, the more condensation you are guaranteed to have in the morning. The best way to resolve this issue is by leaving an opening for the moisture to get out.
Open tent vents and doors
You can open a vent in the tent, crack open the tent door or rain fly, or maybe even open a tent window if you have one. There comes the risk of something crawling in if you do not have netting on any of the tent openings, so be sure to keep that in mind and weigh your options.
Using heaters and cooking inside your tents can produce condensation too. Many of the devices used to generate heat, like a heater or camping oven, create moisture by just being on and doing their job. Also, cooking itself produces a lot of moisture.
The food releases water as it cooks; boiling water for coffee or to cook with means a lot of that water is becoming water vapor and being trapped in the tent. Unless it is freezing outside, we recommend turning the heater at night and cooking your meals under the stars to avoid all that water being trapped in the tent with you.
An essential factor for tent condensation is the location of your tent. Where you place your campsite or tent for the night will determine how much moisture it will be exposed to on the outside, which will become condensation on the inside.
For starters, keep from picking the lowest point in the terrain. The low end is where all the cool air will collect overnight, meaning you will wake up moist and possibly really cold. Another location to avoid is any place that is too close to a body of water, such as a river or lake. The air will most likely be very humid, which will only worsen as it gets dark.
This final one may be obvious, but do not camp anywhere the ground is already wet or damp. Placing your tent over wet ground means the moisture only has one place to go, and that is the floor of your tent and possibly right into your sleeping bag.
The most obvious reason a tent gets wet is from rain. A lot of time, people expect tents to be totally waterproof. For the most part, they are, but when you have people inside a tent making it warm from body heat and water outside cooling the exterior of the tent, that will create condensation. There is also the matter that if it is raining hard enough, the rain may soak through the tent's materials and form small drips.
Best Solutions for Condensation.
We have mentioned some of these in the previous sections. Let us go over some and provide some other methods to help reduce the water build-up inside your tent. Staying dry can take some work, but it will be something you will not regret working on.
Firstly, there is the simple option of buying a double-layered tent. The two layers work in unison to help keep the inside of the tent dry and breathable while ensuring the outside moisture stays outside. The outer layer is called the rainfly, and when it is set up correctly, it provides a barrier between the elements and the actual tent itself.
The rainfly is made of a waterproof material that is not breathable but is sturdy, so water cannot penetrate it. It should be set up with some space between it and the tent body so if there is any condensation to form; it will happen on the rainfly and not on the walls of the interior tent.
The inner tent is made of a more breathable material that allows for ventilation to happen, as long as the rainfly is not pitched directly on the interior tent. The breathable fabric allows air to flow, reducing the chance of too much condensation building up on the rainfly from the inside.
When using a rainfly in humid conditions, you have to remember to dry them out after using them. Be sure to lay your rainfly out in the sun after use either in the morning when the sun is out or during a break time when you are hiking to ensure it is not wet when you put it up again the following night.
Keep wet clothes and shoes outside
Another way to keep the tent dry is by keeping everything wet outside of it. Tents are great at creating barriers around you, so bringing things like wet clothes or shoes inside means, all that moisture will stay inside.
Use a tent with a porch or foyer
There are tents now designed with a small area just outside the main tent body to put your wet things; utilize this space to store anything you have on that has gotten wet, like clothes and shoes. If you have to bring the clothes inside with you before you are able to let them dry, store them in a dry bag or stuff bag for storage to help keep the moisture in until they get a chance to dry.
Also, be sure to shake off any snow or excess rain off before going inside the tent. Keep a dry towel handy by the entrance to wipe up any moisture you see around the tent and on yourself to keep it from collecting inside and making condensation.
Maintaining the waterproofing of your tent.
There are many tents out there that are great at being waterproof. They do what they are advertised to do for the most part and are great at keeping people dry. However, the waterproofing does not last forever and needs to be maintained.
Keeping up a tent and its waterproofing may mean you have to put a little more work into upkeeping your tent, but it is cheaper than buying a whole new one, and you will be thanking yourself for doing it comes to the next sudden rainstorm when you are out camping.
Seam Sealer. The seams of a tent are made to keep things out, and they are sealed to ensure that. Over time, though, the sealing fades and needs to be reapplied to keep moisture from seeping in through them. It is a simple task that only requires a seam sealer, rubbing alcohol, and a clean rag. Be sure you get a suitable sealer for your tent. Waterproof tents are usually made up of Silicone-treated materials or polyurethane-coated fabrics.
The application is easy, and here are the steps on how to apply it.
1. Set up the tent, with the rainfly, in a sunny or well-lit area to see all the tent's seams. It would help if you set the rainfly up inside out so the seams are more visible.
2. Once you have the tent set up, look over all the seams on the rainfly and the inside of the tent itself. Be sure to take note of anywhere the seam tape peeling or coming loose.
3. Gently remove any of the flaking or peeling parts of the seam tape. Be sure to leave any tape that is not damaged. Then clean the area using a rag and rubbing alcohol.
4. Once the area has been cleaned and dried, you can apply the seam sealer to the seam. You may also want to use the sealer to all the seams. The fact that one area has started to peel or show signs of wear and tear means the rest are probably close to breaking as well.
5. Now just leave the tent out to let the sealer dry completely.
Urethane Coating. A large part of what keeps water from seeping into the materials of your tent is the urethane coating. This covers that rainfly of the tent and the tent floor.
If you have noticed there is flaking in these two areas, then that means the coating is coming off and needs to be reapplied. Just like with the seam sealer, be sure to get the tent sealer that is correct for the materials your tent is made of. Once you have the sealer, you will also need to have a sponge with an abrasive side and rub alcohol.
To properly apply the coating, do as follows:
Lay your rainfly and/or tent flat on a floor or dry surface.
Using the alcohol and abrasive side of the sponge, scrub the tent to remove any portion of the original coating that remains.
Following the sealant's directions, apply the new coat to the tent or rainfly.
Be sure the tent is laid out in an area where it will not be disturbed as the coating takes 24 hours to set totally.
Ensure you wash your hands if you did not wear gloves when applying the sealant. Before they have set, the chemicals may be harmful when directly in contact with your skin.
Durable Water Repellent (DWR). Just as there is a protective layer on the inside of the rainfly, there is also one on the outside. The Durable Water Repellent, or DWR as it is commonly known, helps the water from rain and condensation bead up on the outside of the rainfly and roll off instead of absorbing into the material.
This helps keep the inside of the tent dry and makes the rainfly all the easier to dry out between uses. If this coating wears out, all you need is a damp cloth, some water, and a spray bottle of a water-repellent product.
Then you just follow the steps below:
1. First, spray down your tent to ensure the surface area is clean and clear. If you have just washed your tent (don't know the best way? see our article on the Best Way to Clean a tent), then skip spraying it.
2. Next, evenly apply the repellent to the surface of the rainfly.
3. Wait a few minutes and then wipe any excess from the rainfly with a damp cloth,
4. Let the rainfly lay there until it is completely dry before putting it away.
If you use these three methods to upkeep your waterproof tent, it should last for years to come. Maintaining a tent is just like keeping any other piece of equipment you have. The more you take care of it, the longer it will take care of you.
Ways to keep your things dry.
Keeping your tent dry is a great way to ensure you stay dry while out in the woods, but you also want to keep your supplies and gear dry as well. Here are a few tips to help you do that.
Pack things that must stay dry first. Usually, the first things in the car or trunk are the last ones out. So, if you have anything, you must completely dry then put them in first. By the time you get to them, the campsite should have already been set up, or the tent is ready for you to move them into.
Pack dry bags and trash bags. Dry bags are a great way to store things you want to keep away from moisture while camping. They are not totally waterproof, so don't expect to be able to dunk them in water or anything, but are helpful for storing items like clothes or food away from the rain.
Dry bags are also tough and washable so that they will last a long time. Also, bring trash bags with you. Dry bags are great, but they can be space-consuming when packed, and the number of items you need to keep dry might not fit in them. Trash bags are a cheap and easy solution for this. They do a great job of repelling water and, in a pinch, make great ponchos to keep you dry as well.
Pack a Tarp. When a rainfly isn't enough, or you are having a hard time setting up camp in the rain, a tarp is a great solution. If you have picked a space surrounded by trees, you can use them to off the tarp. If there are no trees around, use walking sticks or poles to pitch the tarp. When in a tight spot and you need shelter during a sudden and unexpected rainstorm, a tarp can be just the thing to help you buy time to move items out of the rain.
Fun to do camping when it rains.
Rain while camping isn't ideal, but just because it is pouring outside doesn't mean the fun has to stop. There is plenty to do on a camping trip while it rains. It just takes some planning ahead and not being afraid of the rain.
Books. Simple enough solution to any rainy day. Bring a book. Many campers take time out of their trip to read anyway; they might as well take advantage of the opportunity nature has provided. Get cozy in your tent and read as you listen to the rain.
Take a short hike. Provided that the weather outside isn't horrible, a short rainy walk might be something people can enjoy. I love to stroll through the woods in the rain. Some of the best views can be enhanced by watching them in the rain, and it's a great way to stay cool during those hot summer trips.
Swimming. Many people don't think of this but swimming in the rain is a lot of fun. You are going to get wet anyway, so go for a dip. As long as you stay safe and do not swim out too far or near any dangerous currents, a nice dip can be fun.
Rain does not have to ruin any camping trip. As long as you have some know-how, are prepared, and pack accordingly, you should be good to go. In many places across the US, the rain is a blessing, and for many of us campers, it is a fun addition to our trip. Let us be sure to be thankful for all the weather God provides.