How To Waterproof A Tent

Rilor Staff
Update: September 14, 2020
Table of Contents

When camping or backpacking, the last thing that you ever want to experience is the rain. You simply just don't want water from drenching you and your gears. 

Of course, you can rely on your tent when it comes to defending yourself against the downpour. But have you ever thought about the waterproofing about your outdoor shelter? Specifically, how waterproof your tent is?

If you are not confident in answering this question, then you might want to learn how to waterproof a tent. Buying the right waterproof tent is a starting point, but don't fret if you purchased something else. Waterproofing can be simple, and there are numerous ways on how to do this. Here are they:

  • Re-apply the urethane coating - Tents have urethane coatings. They are typically applied on the floor and rainfly of the tent so that you are protected against moisture. 
  • Re-apply the DWR - A durable water repellent (DWR) is among the main reasons why you need tents these days are resistant to water. They are applied to rainfly so that they can effectively shed rain and precipitation.
  • Sealing the seams - It is important that the seams of the tent are sealed so that moisture and water from penetrating. 

Let's explore each of these methods thoroughly. 

How To Waterproof A Tent

Method 1: Re-Applying The Urethane Coating 

You can immediately know if there's a need for new treatment on the urethane coating if there are flakings on the interior of the rainfly or the floor of the tent. If you notice this form of deterioration, you will need to do the following methods. 

Things that you need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Tent sealant
  • A sponge that has an abrasive side

When picking a tent sealant, you need to make sure that it is compatible with your tent. Keep in mind that silicone-treated fabric uses a different sealer as compared to polyurethane-coated fabric. These days, tents are using polyurethane-coated fabrics. But to be on the safe side, just check the specifications of your tent. 

1. Put the tent floor and rainfly flat so that you can work easily. After that, scrub their surfaces so that you can remove the flaking as gently as possible. Use the sponge and alcohol here. 

2. Once you are finished scrubbing, you can start applying the tent sealant to the rainfly and tent floor. If possible, follow the instructions that are indicated in the sealant. 

3. Finally, let the new coating dry. Leave it for at least a day so that it can fully bond on the tent floor and rainfly.  

4. Sealants have flame retardant chemicals. To avoid getting exposed to them, wash your hands after you are finished applying the treatment. 

Method 2: Re-Applying The Durable Water Repellent

The rainfly is the primary defense of your tent against the rainwater. New tents often feature a rainfly that beads the water away from your shelter, thanks to their DWR treatment. 

Over time, the DWR of any fabric will wear off, especially if you use your tent frequently or if it is constantly exposed to the heat of the sun. 

Fortunately, applying a new DWR treatment is a task that you can do by yourself. You just need the right tools, and you are good to go. 

Things that you need: 

1. Pitch the tent first so that you can easily apply the treatment. Once it is erected, spray the rainfly with clean water. You don't have to spray it if your tent is already clean. But if it is dirty since you just have used it, you have to clean it first. 

2. After washing the tent, wipe it using the clean, damp cloth.

3. Once dry, you can already spray the waterproof treatment throughout the entire rainfly. Be thorough on this to ensure that your rainfly and tent will be fully coated by the treatment. 

4. Let the application stay there for a couple of minutes. After that, take another damp cloth and remove all the excess coating in the tent and rainfly. 

5. Leave your tent so that it can dry completely before you pack it. 

Method 3: Sealing The Seams

The next waterproofing technique that you should do religiously is sealing the seams of your tent. Most of the commercial tents these days have seams that are already sealed. There are various factory methods in doing this, such as taping and welding. They are effective, but this doesn't mean that they can remain forever. 

When the seams are sealed, water will not be able to pass through the tent. Over time, the sealant will deteriorate or get damaged, exposing you to water. 

If there are leaks on the seams that you have seen while you are camping, you have to seal right away. 

Things that you need:

  • Seam sealer
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Rag 

The sealant that you should choose must be compatible with the fabric of your tent. Again, let me emphasize that there are different sealers used in polyurethane-coated and silicone-treated fabrics. You need to ensure that you can get this right so that your tent will not be damaged. You can check the specifications of your tent to be on the safe side. 

1. Pitch your tent in an open space. It would be better if it is a place where it is exposed to the sun so that you will be able to assess the seams. Keep in mind that you need to apply the seams on the inner side of the body of the tent and on the underside of the rainfly. Things would be easier on your part if you will put the rainfly inside out so that you can access its seams right away. 

2. If you have spotted a seam tape that is already loose on the rainfly, remove it gently. Only remove the sections that are peeling already. Leave those that are still in good condition. 

3. Prepare the seams by cleaning it with the rag dipped in rubbing alcohol. 

4. After cleaning the seams, you can apply the seam sealer to it. 

5. It would really be great if you can apply the sealer throughout the entire seams. If one section is already loose, it is not possible that the rest would soon come after. 

6. Let the tent sealer dry completely before packing your tent. 

Method 4: Use a Rain Tarp

Sometimes your tent can't be waterproofed. Instead of relying on your tent to keep you out of the rain, you can throw a rain tarp over your tent that has no seams or holes. Rain tarps can completely cover your tent.

Learn more about the best rain tarps.

Rain tarps are designed to be durable and tough. They can also be multi-purpose and used as a flooring for rougher terrains that can tear up your tent.


These are some of the most effective methods of waterproofing your tent. They are extremely useful in maintaining the quality of your tent, especially if it has already withstood many outdoor adventures. It would really be bad if you are going to stash away a tent just because it is leaking. Learning these techniques would revamp the condition of your tent and prevent untimely expenses. 

Of course, these waterproofing techniques saves you from being wet while camping, right? 

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