Camping is not just a summer activity. If you like camping in all seasons, you will want a tent that is going to keep you warm and dry no matter the weather. But you don’t need to rush out and buy a new tent – learning how to waterproof a tent is easier than you might think. This post will guide you through everything you need to know about making a tent 100% waterproof. If you find it a hassle, you can always buy one of the best waterproof tent units we reviewed.

Learn How to Waterproof a Tent 

waterproofing is the process of completely sealing a structure against the elements

What is waterproofing, exactly? Waterproofing is the process of completely sealing a structure against the elements. You can waterproof your tent from home to ensure that it will keep you dry through all kinds of weather. Apply the same waterproofing steps for pop up canopy tents, 10x20 or any other size.

Don’t pay for a new tent, and don’t pay for a professional to help you waterproof it. If you managed to learn how to fold a pop up tent, you can also learn how to waterproof it, right?

This step by step guide will show you how to waterproof a tent cheap. And it’s not just for traditional camping tents - the tent waterproofing process outlined here is the same for these SUV tents.

Identifying the Area That Requires Waterproofing:  

The first thing you are going to want to do to waterproof your tent is to identify which parts need to be waterproofed.

To keep it simple, we can tell you that basically all of the tents should be waterproof. The rainfly and inner tent structure (if you have a double wall tent) should both be waterproof to prevent any moisture from getting in. You will also want the floor to be waterproof, especially if you do not use a footprint tarp.

Cleaning Your Tent:  

We've covered important questions like how to stay warm in a tent. Looking after your tent in general is also very important. To maintain the waterproof sealing on your tent, you will want to make sure you are taking proper care of it. When cleaning your tent, make sure that you do it by hand, and never try to wash the tent fabric in a washing machine.

Running a hose and scrub brush over the outside of your tent will be enough to remove dust and caked-on grime. If you are waterproofing your tent at home, make sure you clean it before you start the process.

What If the Wall Leaks? 

Sometimes, even if a tent is advertised as waterproof, you may find yourself facing leaks on a, particularly stormy night. Moisture can seep in through the seams or thin points in the wall and form a steady drip inside your tent.

Once a leak starts it can be hard to stop. To protect yourself and your gear, you will want to make sure your tent is fully waterproof before you head out and face the elements. Sealing the seams of the tent is an important step.

What's Needed for Sealing Tent Seams

a waterproof chemical sealant may also help to seal your seams – just make sure that the sealant is safe for use on fabric

If you are sealing your tent seams yourself, the waterproof sealing tape is a great place to start. A lot of brands sell seaming tape specifically for tents. Apply it to your tent seams on the inside, to ensure there is no moisture leaking in.

A waterproof chemical sealant may also help to seal your seams – just make sure that the sealant is safe for use on fabric, and apply it to the outside of the tent so that you are not breathing in the fumes while inside your sealed tent.

Refreshing the Urethane Coating On a Tent 

A lot of tents come with a urethane or polyurethane weatherproof coating when you first buy them. However, even on the best quality tents, that coating will wear down over time. Refreshing your urethane coating will help your tent stay waterproof through years of use.

Wondering how to waterproof a tent with a tarp? A tarp, or rainfly, is one of the most important weather-resistant parts of a tent and should be resealed with a urethane coating before every season of camping.

To refresh your coating, you will first want to clean the fabric of your tent or rainfly. Then scrape off the old, flaking urethane coating, and reapply a light layer of the new coating. Urethane coatings can be bought at most outdoor and recreation stores, usually labeled as a tent sealant. For the best results, get a coating that will protect against moisture and UV rays.

Refreshing the DWR On a Tent 

A DWR, or durable water repellent, can be applied to the outside of a tent or rainfly. DWRs are normally sold in spray form, and reapplying them is fairly simple. Just lay your tent or rainfly out on a flat surface (make sure it is clean first), spray the DWR over it and allow it to dry.

The Tent Waterproofing Process: 

Now that you know the basics of how to make a tent waterproof, here are the specific steps you need to follow to waterproof your tent. Go through all of the steps in this order, and make sure you give the tent time to fully dry before you pack it up to take on your next trip.

These steps will work best for a polyester tent, but you can use them as a guideline for how to waterproof a canvas tent, too.

Wash the Tent 

A tent in a field

Before you get started on waterproofing a tent, you are going to want to make sure that it is clean and dry. Follow the steps above, using a hose, soap and scrub brush to get all the dirt and debris off the outside of your tent and rainfly.

For extra tough, built-on stains, you may want to apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol. Do not use a steel brush or other abrasive materials, as it could damage the tent’s material.

Seal the Seams and Coat the Rain Fly 

Once your tent and rain fly are clean and have fully dried, seal the seams with sealing tape or chemical sealant. Make sure they are secure and dry before you move onto the next step.

Next, you will want to coat your rainfly with a urethane coating. Follow the directions above to refresh the urethane coating – make sure the brand you use will repel moisture and harmful UV rays.

Coat Walls and Floor With Water Repellant 

Finally, you will need to coat the walls of the tent, both inside and out, with a DWR or tent waterproofing spray or another form of non-toxic water repellent. Make sure that you take effort to coat the floor of the tent well – any moisture seeping up through the bottom of your tent can damage your gear and flood the tent before you even realize it is happening.

Let the repellant dry fully before you pack the tent away again.

Use a Ground Cloth Under the Floor of the Tent 

A girl with an umbrella in the forest

Even if you have fully waterproofed your tent, you are going to want as much weather protection as you can get on your camping trip.

Water seeping in through the bottom of the tent is one of the quickest ways to ruin your gear, soak your sleeping bags and ruin your trip.

For an extra safety measure, you should always pitch your tent on top of a footprint tarp or ground cloth. 

A waterproof tarp underneath your tent will help to keep you secure and dry, even through the rainiest weather.