Matt Johnson

Tips on How to Make Your Tent Waterproof For Rainy Camping Trips

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Sep 14, 2021Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Camping is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of life, but it’s hard to enjoy your time outdoors if you’re constantly worried about getting wet.

While you may not always be able to plan it out beforehand, there are ways you can make your tent more waterproof to protect yourself from the rain and thunderstorms.

Whether it’s choosing a tent fabric that has a waterproof coating or one with a heavy duty tent floor, there are plenty of options out there.

It can be difficult to find the right terrain for camping that will protect your tent from water damage. You’ll want to look for a location with good drainage so water doesn’t accumulate around your tent and makes it more susceptible to flooding.

If you’re planning a camping trip, keep reading to learn how to waterproof your tent so that it can withstand the elements while you’re out in the wilderness!

Being Prepared for All Types of Weather

Camping is an excellent method to get out of the city and see nature in its purest form.

But what if you encounter unexpected inclement weather on a camping trip? Or maybe your car broke down on the side of an unfamiliar road in March without any cell service! Whatever the case, you need to be prepared for wet weather whenever you’re outdoors.

That’s why camping enthusiasts must always be prepared for anything that might happen during their adventure. This is especially true when there are unpredictable storms in spring or fall time.

Whether it’s blowing, raining, or even thundering, your tent needs to be waterproofed so that you stay dry and comfortable during your escape from the rat race.

Also, keep in mind that water can come from above, below, or from the side and you need to be prepared for it no matter what.

Selecting Suitable Terrain for Your Tent

One of the most basic considerations to keep water outside of your tent is to select suitable terrain.

The right tent location will allow adequate runoff of water and not be in a flood plain. You’ll also want something that is suitable for your tent floor to rest on.

Consider the condition of the ground and whether there are any large rocks or other obstructions that may damage your tent floor. You’ll want to look for a location with good drainage so water doesn’t accumulate around your tent and makes it more susceptible to flooding.

Ideally, you’ll want to be on higher ground where water doesn’t rush to your tent. Although we’re always looking for a flat surface, you want to find a place with a slight grade. This will ensure that water doesn’t pool around your tent.

So, before you set up your tent, make sure the area is ideal.

Make your own suitable area.

However, there are some instances when none of the terrain is suitable. You just have to go with whatever you find.

If that’s the case, you’ll have to resort to other weatherproofing measures. We’ll cover digging trenches around your site later in this article.

You may have to clear an area and make your own camping pad.

Before you place your tent, you’ll want to ensure the ground is dry. Wet ground will be a haven for mildew.

Waterproofing Spray on Old Fabric Tents

Waterproofing a Tent Using Silicon Sealant

It’s important to remember that waterproofing sprays are not one-size-fits-all. The most important thing is to make sure you buy the right type of spray for your fabric.

These are sometimes referred to as DWR sprays. A DWR spray is a durable water repelling spray, which is great for both your outerwear or for tent waterproofing.

One type is for water-resistant coating, while the other is for waterproofing, which is perfect for protecting against rain, snow, and even light sprinkles of water.

How do you know which one to use?

To be on the safe side, it’s always best to ask around before purchasing any waterproofing spray. But if you’re not sure which to buy between water-resistant coating or waterproofing spray, you can check the tent manufacturer’s website and they may be able to give you some tips.

Another factor is what type of environment you’ll be camping in. Different water repellent brands work better in different climates and environments.

The one we like the most, which works on tent seams, tent fabric, and even the tent floor is a Gear Aid DWR spray.

While they market it for outerwear, we found that it works great for tent waterproofing. Simply spray a generous amount of the DWR coating along the tent seams and the tent surface before each trip. Ensure you get all of the seams as they tend to be the primary cause of a leaking tent.

Digging Trenches to Prevent Water from Entering Tent

To prevent water from entering your tent, start by digging trenches around the outer walls and tent floor. This will help to redirect any rain that might otherwise seep into your tent.

It’s worth noting that no amount of tent sealant or seam sealant will protect your tent from a flood of water.

You want to ensure that water is redirected away from the tent. Dig trenches at least one foot away from the outer walls of your tent. A trench that’s located too close to the outer wall will do nothing for protection. This is because all of the water will still come into the tent.

Ensure that the ground between the tent and the trench is sloped toward the trench. Water will run off the tent, onto the ground and into your trench.

If your tent isn’t already waterproofed, it is recommended that you do this before digging trenches to keep your tent safe.

Resealing the Tent Seams with a Seam Sealer

Check and Seal the Seams of the Tent

More often than anything else, the tent seams are the primary cause of a leaking tent. Over time they get worn out, dry rotted, and don’t hold up as well after a camping season or two. Harmful UV rays can wreck havoc on seams.

However, don’t worry, we’ll guide you on how to seal seams like a pro.

First, you have to know exactly where the water is coming in from. For this step, take everything out of your tent you don’t want wet.

If the weather is nice, pour some water on the outside of your tent. If you have access to city water, use a hose, that’s even better. Now, examine the inside of your tent’s seams for any water leaks. Often, these are very tiny pinpricks at each edge of a seam where rain seeps through.

However, if you’re doing this and it’s already raining out, you’d better hurry!

These small leaks around the tent seams can grow into bigger leaks, so you need to take care of them as soon as possible.

Sealing the seams the right way.

If the seams are torn or have holes, one way to fix these leaks is by sewing them together with needle and thread. Of course, you’ll need to be handy with a sewing kit.

Another way to fix up the tent seams is with seam tape. It’s a heavy duty tape that is designed to repel water.

Additionally, you can also apply a sealant with UV protection that won’t wear off easily. Once you apply the seam sealer, allow it to dry for at least a few hours. This will allow it to dry fully.

If you really want to ensure the seams won’t leak you can do all 3 fixes. This is the ultimate water repellency. Sew the tears, cover them with seam seal tape, then follow up with a seam sealer spray. Be sure to wipe off any excess sealant.

Purchase a New Weatherproof Tent

If you’ve tried everything above, the last option is to simply purchase a new tent. Preferably a weatherproof tent. Of course, this isn’t the ideal solution if you have a tent, but sometimes it’s the only.

Hopefully you’ve tried everything we’ve outlined above. But sometimes, you just have to get a new tent, especially if your old one has had repeated use.

This will protect you and your family from the weather. It’ll provide comfort and provide some peace of mind for you during an outdoor trip.

Depending on the age of your tent and how many camping seasons its been through, a new waterproof tent might be the best option.

The thing about tents is that they can be expensive. Buying one on sale or getting one second-hand may not be the best idea. Otherwise, you might be back here reading this again.

One of the reasons that I recommend new tents is because they are always better quality. Modern tents have better weatherproofing technology than used ones, and you will get more life out of camping gear if it’s new.

The average tent is generally water resistant straight out of the package. So you won’t have to waterproof a tent if it’s new.

Here’s our favorite waterproof tent for glamping.

We’re not going to do a full review on this tent, but our favorite tent is the Dream House waterproof cotton bell tent.

Why do we like this? Well, it’s a glamper’s dream! But not only that, it’s completely waterproof!

If you want to add additional water repellency, add a spray on water repellent to the cotton. Be sure to read up on the type of water repellent and ensure it’s okay to use on cotton.

Maybe we’ll do a full review on this tent at some point. We really like it, so we probably will.

Go and waterproof a tent!

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about how to make your tent waterproof. From choosing the right tent fabric to having a quality tent floor, there’s much you can do to waterproof a tent.

We’re always trying to stay comfortable and dry, so hopefully, you can enjoy your trip.

Tents are an investment and when they get wet from snow or rain, it can ruin them for good. Of course, they’re made for that weather; however, too much can take a toll on them.

In order to keep your tent in tip-top shape, make sure you emplace them in non-flooding areas.

Be sure to repair it as necessary by using a high-quality silicon sealant or seam sealers on seams where fabric is stitched together at raw edges.

This will prevent water from seeping through any stitch holes in the material. It also helps to resist water around zippers and buttons too.

Lastly, protect fabrics against mildew by using a spray-on clear coating of silicone after every use. At the very least, before storing away until the next season.

You can find this type of product pretty much anywhere you buy camping gear.

Whether this is your first camping trip or you’re a veteran preparing for your next outdoor adventure, you’ll want to apply some tent waterproofing measures to keep you dry for the whole trip. If you follow these tips to waterproof a tent, you’ll be good to go.


Matt Johnson

Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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