3 Secrets To Keep Your Tent Dry In The Rain

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Northern California lake with rain coming

It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent. - Dave Barry

One question that novice campers often find themselves asking is: Why do you need to worry about keeping your tent dry in the rain when the tent is waterproof?

Experienced campers will tell you that even though most tents are waterproof when you have tremendous amounts of rain looming over your camp, there is danger and risk of water in your tent and wet gear.

If your tent or gear gets wet, use this weird fabric to dry up the mess instead of paper towels.

So, how can you camp in the rain and remain 100% dry? Here are 3 tips to keep your tent dry in the rain and have an exhilarating camping outing:

Staying Dry In Your Tent

The first step to staying dry in your tent is to keep tabs on the weather. This is one of the best reasons to leverage your phone while on a camping trip. However, certain GPS devices will also give you a weather forcast. By knowing when it will rain, it will allow you to organize your activities.

You might even want to invest in a radio for weather emergencies at home or at the campsite.

But if you are away from your tent such as on a hike,this tent will fit in your pocket.

The next step is to attach your rainfly before the rain starts. This sounds obvious, but if the weather is warm, many people prefer to leave the fly off to maximize ventilation.

Finally, make sure the fly is zipped up when the rain comes. Otherwise, rain can seep in through the doors.

Mark Wilcox wearing his rain suit camping in the rain.

Keeping Your Tent Dry

First things first, location, location, location! Pick the right camping spot to prevent flooding or heavy rainfall from violating your nesting site.

It’s important to pick a site that is a little higher up and far from any bodies of water. That way you don’t get flooded. No one wants to wake up in a puddle.

Another important thing to pay attention to is trees. You should avoid trees because the water will continue falling long after the rain has ceased. Plus, trees and lightning don’t mix well, and if it’s too windy, you might have to deal with falling branches. Bottom line, avoid low ground when picking a campsite.

After you’ve found the perfect spot for your tent, you can begin using the proper products and techniques for keeping your shelter dry.

Most tents are hand-sewn and have a few patches of mesh, like windows and doors, which are only kept together with a zipper. Waterproof doesn’t mean watertight.

You can buy a seam sealant which seals all of the small holes in the hems of your tent. You should do the first coat at home on a dry day.

Then pitch the tent at home when the forecast calls for rain. And check the tent out after it’s spent the night in the rain while you are sleeping dry in your bed. And fix any missing spots.

Another, lightweight, spray-on solution is water repellent. Spray it onto your tent because this will help protect the outside of your shelter just like the seam sealant helps protect the inside.
And bring extra of each with you on your trip.

Another tip you can use is to put a tarp over the top of your tent like this example:

A pop-tent with an additional tarp tied over the tent to prevent rain from hitting the tent

If the rain does not hit the tent, then you don’t have to worry about the seams holding. You might even be able to keep the doors of the rain fly open to allow for more ventilation.

Like I mentioned before, the ground is as cold as the air, and it’s just as wet during a rainstorm. Make sure you place a tarp underneath your tent. The most important thing to remember when using a tarp is to make sure it isn’t sticking out around your tent. It needs to be at least 1” shorter than the circumference of your shelter.

If you let your tarp spread around the outside of your tent, you will wake up with a moat around your tent. Moats belong to castles, not your tent.

Your body temperature and breath is warmer than the air and will cause condensation to drip all over you and your belongings–which means it’s now raining inside.

Open up a vent or “crack” a window. This way any moist air can circulate and exit your tent which will help keep your tent dry.

How To Protect Your Tent From The Rain

Rain is part of the camping experience. There is nothing better to sleep to than the sound of the rain hitting your tent. However, there’s nothing worse than trying to sleep in a leaky tent.

Thankfully, most modern tents will come rain-proof out of the box. Thus before you take your tent out on the first camping trip, make sure you do test it for leaks. And return it if there are leaks.

But there are additional steps you can implement to protect the tent from the rain.

Start with a tarp under your tent. You may also hear this referred to as a footprint. Your tent might even have a footprint built for it. These types of footprints are pre-cut for the dimensions of your tent.

However, you can use any tarp you have for this. You want to make sure that your tarp is under your tent. Otherwise, it can funnel water into your tent.

The tarp or footprint protects your tent from the rain in two ways. First, by acting as a barrier against rocks or twigs that can rip your tent floor. Second, it also acts as an additional moisture barrier.

Another option is to place a tarp over the top of your tent. Hang the tarp from trees or with tarp poles. Make sure to angle the tarp so that rain flows off the tarp. Otherwise, the tarp can collapse with the weight of the rain. You want to be sure to angle the water to slope off the side and not over your tent doors. The overhead tarp protects your tent from the rain by preventing rain from reaching the tent itself.

Finally check your tent poles after the storm.

Keep Yourself Warm and Dry

One of the most important reasons for keeping yourself and your sleeping quarters dry is because your warmth is important. You don’t want to be stuck out in the wild, shivering or stricken with hypothermia.

The best way to keep yourself warm and dry is by layering your clothes. If you dress correctly then you can regulate your body temperature, prevent yourself from soaking through and keep the wind out of your clothes.

There are great brands of clothing to choose from that are made specifically for camping during inclement weather. Now, whether you’re looking to build a new camping wardrobe or not, the important thing to do is to pick a wool or polyester base, add some layers on top, and then end it with a waterproof jacket or poncho. The jacket will block out the wind and keep your undergarments dry which, therefore, keeps your precious skin dry. Wetness equals coldness, and dryness equals warmth. It’s simple math kids!

However, if you don’t want to carry a full rain suit but want protection in your pack or pocket then check out this survival poncho.

I recommend that you bring at least two rain outfits so you can change if one becomes compromised. Just make sure to keep it in a plastic bag, so it stays dry while it’s off of your body!

If your clothes do get wet make sure you hang them up! Bring some rope and pins so you can create a clothesline. Trust me, you’ll be thankful when your clothes are dry and don’t smell of mildew. If it’s still raining, you can set up a tarp above your clothesline. If it does get sunny make sure to lay your wet clothes out in the sun! They’ll dry much faster, and they’ll be warm like they came out of a dryer.

One important note I have is to avoid leaving your wet clothes in your actual tent because they will create moisture and condensation. Like I said above, put them under a tarp or out in the sun–if the sun is available.

While we’re on the subject of clothes and keeping warm, tuck your clothes for the next day into a mesh bag and stuff it into the bottom of your sleeping bag. Come morning time they’ll be nice and toasty warm. No one wants to shiver all day and then put cold clothes on.

Speaking of sleeping bags, grab yourself a bivy sack to put over your sleeping bag. It will add insulation and will keep your sleeping quarters free of any moisture. You should also double up on your sleeping pads to add extra insulation. The ground holds the temperature of the air, so if the air is cold, then the ground is cold. Put that extra sleeping pad between you and the ground to keep yourself extra protected.

Energy Levels

If you’re like me, and everyone else in the world, rain makes you a little lazy. It’s cold and wet, and everything around you is cold and wet. Personally, it makes me want to curl up in bed with hot cocoa and a good book (not a bad option but you might be stuck there all day).

One great tip is to face your tent toward the East so you can grab any morning rays of sun that may peer through the rain clouds.

You can also use the rain to your advantage and create some ambiance for yourself. String up some LED lights around your campsite, light candles (or battery powered candles) inside mason jars or use lanterns and flashlights.

This way your darker day will be surrounded by some soft lighting, like your house when the power goes out during a thunderstorm. It was always peaceful to live in a grey world surrounded by candlelight–unless it’s due to a snowstorm, then it’s just cold and awful.

Set up an outside area with a tarp. You can set up your table with games or cards and snacks. That way you’re not stuck “indoors” while you’re on your “outdoor” vacation.

The tarp will shelter you, a way to air out your tent, by not being inside it, and a way to hang out together.

If curling up in your sleeping bag with hot cocoa and a book sounds too introverted for you, make some comfort food. Bring along some mac and cheese. If you bring the boxed version, you can use coconut oil instead of butter, and plant-based milk that doesn’t need to go in the fridge as quickly as regular milk does… make sure you don’t use a vanilla flavored one because it’s legitimately the worst.

You could even do a pizza or lasagna. Or you can drink hot cocoa and hang around your lanterns with some friends and a deck of cards!

No matter what, try to stay as warm and dry as possible while you’re out in the wild. Rain can surprise us sometimes, and you don’t want to be caught unprepared.

In conclusion, bring on the comfort foods, activities, tarps, sprays and layers to keep your camping trip rolling and don’t ever let the rain dampen your good time!

How To Stop Condensation In A Tent

There are two ways you can get wet in a tent. The most obvious way is a leaky tent in a rain or snowstorm. However, a tent that is not ventilated properly, can make you and your gear just as wet via condensation. Even without any rain!

Use these tips to reduce the chances of tent condensation.

An infographic that shows you how to prevent tent condensation

Reason for tent condensation

It is wise to know why you have tent condensation before understanding the different preventive measures. So, the basic principle for condensation is when humid air comes in contact with a colder surface, such as the roof or walls of the tent. The same thing happens when you take a shower in the bathroom. The mirror becomes hazy because of the humid air touching the glass surface. Whenever there is moist air in the tent, it will experience condensation.

Best tents to avoid condensation

There is no best tent suitable for all seasons, locations, and climates. One thing that you always need to remember while camping is choosing the right spot. Your camping spot also decides the amount of condensation you may experience inside the tent. A good camping site usually doesn’t trouble you with frequent condensations. However, you can also try some of the tents below to stop condensation:

1. Single-wall tents

The best way to prevent or stop condensation in your tent is to have enough ventilation. This helps the humid air to pass easily without touching the tent’s roof or walls. Single-wall tents are ultra-light, and they come with tarps. This allows air to ventilate inside the tent. However, you may have to take insulated sleeping bags if you are planning a camping trip in winter. But, it is the best choice for those who camp in warmer weather conditions.

2. Double-wall tents

Double-wall tents usually have less airflow. However, you can use it both in summers and in winters. These tents can retain your body heat at night. They also don’t eliminate any internal condensation. In fact, they try to keep the humid air away from the tent and from your body.

Even the most expensive tents have condensation in the morning even though you take preventive measures. This is because of your breath. While a single man’s breath may not be too much of a problem, if you have your kids inside, you will notice condensation on the walls and roof in the morning. However, double-wall tents collect the humid air from your breath through the mesh lining inside and into the rainfly. This prevents the moist air from touching the walls and roof.

How to prevent or stop condensation in a tent

Now, for the tricks that you have been waiting for so long. There is a three-fold strategy that can help stop condensation in your tent.

i. Picking a suitable camping spot.

ii. Minimize the sources that can add moist or humid air in the tent.

iii. Ventilate.

Let’s take a deeper look into how you can implement these strategies.

1. Picking a suitable camping spot for the night

There is a thumb rule that you should always follow while setting a tent: pitch on a dry ground. That’s the least you can do to stop condensation in a tent. If you have been pitching beside streams or ponds because of their beautiful location, you got it all wrong until now. Never ever pitch your tent beside streams or rivers, no matter how beautiful the spot is. Moist water is a strict no-no inside tents. When you camp beside ponds and lakes, the humid vapor enters your tent, making it damp in the morning.

Ideally, you should select a dry spot, preferably under trees. Good camping spots are always away from lakes and rivers. They have ample trees around. Trees can suck humid air to make sure there is no condensation in the tent. Most importantly, air under trees is warmer than beside lakes. This will help to keep your rainfly warmer also. So, even if there is condensation, it will take place on top of the foliage instead of inside the tent.

2. Minimizing the sources that can add humid air in the tent

There are three sources that can add moisture in your tent:

The existing humidity level or moisture content in the air in your camping spot. This is totally unavoidable. So, there is no way you can prevent this.

  • Humid air that grows inside the tent when you breathe. If you have kids or your partner, the moisture content will be higher.
  • If you have any wet items in your tent like wet clothes or anything like that, it will add to the moisture level, leading to condensation at night.

The first thing you should do is pitch your tent. Make sure you pitch it in a dry place and under the trees. That will at least make sure that you can deal with the moisture level in the air. Breathing inside the tent is something that you cannot help. Not breathing is no option at all. So, you will have to stay content with a small amount of condensation due to your breath. But, the amount is so small that you may not even understand it is there in the tent in the morning.

The one thing you have in your control is not hanging wet clothes in the tent. That’s again a strict no-no. If you went for a bath in the nearby lake, make sure you dry your clothes elsewhere. The tent is the last place you should use to dry them. Ideally, you should dry your clothes during the day. Keep the clothes in a bucket or the back of your car and take them out the next morning. Soggy clothes in the tent mean a hazy tent in the morning.

3. Ventilate

The reason why tents tend to condensate in the morning is that they don’t have enough ventilation. Once you tuck those walls down, you literally make yourself a caveman. But all jokes aside, ventilation is the best way to stop condensation in the tent. The air in the tent is usually heavier and more humid than the air outside. You would want to replace the inside air with the one outside, but that’s not easy. That’s when you need to follow a few ventilation strategies.

  • Always pitch the tent door towards the direction where the wind is blowing. Even if there is a gentle breeze, the tent will stay drier at night.
  • Pitching the tent also involves a unique trick that can stop condensation. Always stake the tent tautly and don’t forget to tension the fly to maximize the airspace between the wall of the tent and the rainfly. The more airspace the tent has, the further the walls will be. This will take longer for them to condensation. By the time they do accumulate a few drops, it will be early morning.
  • Open all the rollup sections and rainfly doors when you are inside. This will allow enough ventilation so that the walls and roof don’t condensate at night. However, make sure you keep guarding the tent against animals and reptiles.
  • Cross ventilation is crucial if you want to stop condensation in the tent. Open all the rainfly vents, especially the ones facing in opposite directions. It will allow enough air to flow inside and take the humid air out.
  • Open all the inner tent windows.

Keeping doors and windows open will allow better ventilation, but it may also become the gateway for insects and pests. So, you will need to take pest-repellants along when you go camping.

What if it rains?

That’s purely bad luck! You may experience more condensation than you expect because of the increased moisture content around the tent. Staying inside the tent when it’s raining is more like pitching the tent beside a pond. However, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Keep a bandana or camp towel handy. Wipe tent condensation as soon as they appear on the walls and roof. This will help to keep your gears safe. Condensation can drip on your gear and damage it permanently. So, always carry a couple of camp towels.

  • Try to stretch the rainfly far away from the tent. This is only applicable for double-wall tents. Try stretching the rainfly along the corners and sides of the tent. Many fly clips stick to the base of the inner tent. Take them out separately so that it increases the airflow between the layers of the walls.

  • Bring extra tarps and rope with you. If you have trees, you can tie a tarp to them like Mark and his buddy Scott did to keep their cooking area dry:

A tarp tied to a set of trees to keep a camp kitchen area dry in a rain storm.

  • You can buy additional extendable poles plus some rope and stakes to create a rain canopy with a tarp. This is also useful for creating shade in the summer.

A tarp tied to extendable tent poles to create a canopy.

Yes that example is in Mark’s backyard. He was testing out a new set of poles before going on a camping trip.

How To Dry A Tent

Camping trips are a lot of fun, but they can also be really messy.

Sleeping in your tent is great for the experience, but it’s not so great when you wake up to find that your tent has been soaked with dew or rainwater from the night before.

Or worse, you unpack your tent at the campsite but are greeted by the smell of mildew.

It is important to dry your tent after a camping trip to prevent mold or manage to the tent.

There are three ways to dry your tent.

You can lay your tent outside in the backyard on a sunny day.

Make sure to flip the tent over to get everything dry. You can hang your tent to dry in a bathroom.

Or you can even lay your tent to dry in the back of your pickup truck if your bed has a cover on it to prevent someone from stealing it.

How To Pack A Wet Tent

My friend Scott will ask to go home early if there is a chance of rain on the last night of our camping trip because he hates dealing with a wet tent.

If you have room in your vehicle, I prefer to pack my tent into a large trash bag and then put it into your vehicle. That way you don’t have to worry about the carrying case of the tent getting moldy.

Another trick I have is to use a larger carrying case for your car camping tent. I use a very large duffle bag to carry my tent. I was forced to move to a duffle bag because after years of use, my tent’s carrying bag finally fell apart.

The benefit of the trashbag or duffle bag is that it’s easier to pack the tent and it keeps everything else dry in the car.

Keep your tent in its own stuff sack when backpacking. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about a wet tent on a backpacking trip. You have to hike out.

When you are car camping and the rain has stopped, put the tent outside to dry out as soon as you can.

If you are backpacking, you may have a chance to dry out your tent during a break on your hike.

Related Articles


How to Keep Your Tent Dry Inside

Look for a tent with a bathtub floor. These tents have a barrier on tehir bottom that extends up the side of the tent. Test your tent at home in the rain before the first camping trip. This will let you fix any leaks. Use a tarp under the tent. Either attach a rain-fly over the top of the tent or use another tarp.

How to Keep Your Tent Dry in Rain

Use a tarp below the tent and a rain fly over the tent. Plus test at home first and fix any leaks before your next camping trip.

How to Keep the Bottom of a Tent Dry in Snow

Put a tarp under you tent. This will act as a barrier. And you will want to look for a tent with a vestibule or porch so that you can take shoes off outside the tent to minimize tracking snow inside.

Empty Anything That Catches Water

Once the rain is over, make sure that you empty any pots, chairs, cups, etc that filled with water. This will eliminate stagant water which encourages mosquitoes. And while we have a great article on how to repel them, it’s best to avoid them breeding in the first place.

How To Keep Tent Floor Dry In Rain

My friend George woke up with an inch of water in his tent during a rainstorm.

The first step is to make sure that your tent is not at the bottom of a slope. You want your tent on the middle of a slope so that water will not pool under your tent.

The next step is to use a footprint. Remember to keep the footprint tucked under tent to avoid having the water pool around the edges.

The third step is to keep your rainfly closed.

If you do get water in your tent, use a towel to wipe it dry.

How To Set Up A Tent In The Rain

First, keep everything but your tent in the car or your backpack until the tent is pitched.

If you have an extra tarp with rope you should hang it overhead to provide cover while you set up your tent.

If it is raining hard and you are in a position to wait for the rain to slow down then wait for the rain to stop or at least slow down to sprinkles.

If your tent has a separate rainfly lay it out first. Some tents have a rainfly that is designed to be pitched independently of the tent. If you have a tent like that put up the rainfly so that you have a dry spot to work.

Otherwise, you must work quickly. Once the tent is pitched with the rainfly and before you stake it out, dump any water out of the tent.

Then finish staking the tent out.

You can also check out the book about camping in the rain by our own Mark Wilcox.