One of the most important features of any tent is how waterproof it is.
Unless you’re camping somewhere with very little rain, a tent that can’t withstand any precipitation is basically dead weight that you should’ve saved yourself the effort of carrying.
There is absolutely nothing worse than finishing a long hike, hunt, or cycle just to get into your tent for some much-needed rest and find it flooded, or worse yet, being woken in the night by the drip of frigid water on your face and belongings.
To put it bluntly, you absolutely need to make certain that you get a quality tent that is waterproof before you undertake a serious tent camping trip.
And while it may be hard to believe, there are many great waterproof tents out there, some of which are incredibly resilient and can withstand extremely impressive amounts of rainfall and still keep you and your equipment safe and dry.
In this guide, we’re going to look at waterproof tents and how to tell that they’re waterproof, as well as the pros and cons of using a waterproof tent, and some other interesting and important talking points to ensure you get the perfect tent for you and your needs and are able to get the best experience possible when using it.
Are Tents Waterproof?
It really depends on the specific tent you’re discussing. Not all tents are waterproof, and there are some which are designed specifically for hot or dry climates where rainfall isn’t a concern.
However, there are also a lot of tents which purport to be waterproof, only to fail spectacularly when faced with even the most modest amount of precipitation.
You absolutely do not want to be finding out if your tent is waterproof or not on your trip, and ideally, you should be certain that your tent is waterproof before you take it anywhere other than your backyard.
How Can You Tell If A Tent Is Waterproof?
Your best bet when trying to work out if a tent is waterproof is to first look for a reputable brand and a specific model from that brand that is well known for its solid waterproof credentials.
There are several excellent waterproof tents available, and while it’s tempting to get a cheaper knock-off tent and save a few extra bucks for fuel or food, you’ll often find that these tents fail when it really matters and this can lead to your camping trip being totally ruined.
There are other ways to tell if a tent is waterproof too.
You should look for the hydrostatic head rating of the tent, as any waterproof tent will have this rating, which essentially indicates how much water pressure the material of the tent can withstand before the waterproofing starts to fail and water begins seeping in.
Some typical ratings you will find are;
1000mm – 1500mm rating: Tents with this amount of hydrostatic head can handle dry weather to some light precipitation, and most 2 or 3 season tents will fall into this category.
Moderate or consistent rainfall is likely to quickly overwhelm these tents and lead to a very wet and cold night’s stay.
3000mm rating – This category is capable of handling moderate rain and snow and will protect you in some pretty miserable conditions.
However, in extreme conditions or terrain where the wind and rain can be really bad, some water may still find its way into the tent eventually, especially if the tent is heavily exposed or not erected optimally.
5000mm – The best 4 season tents will often have a hydrostatic head of 5000mm or more, and this makes them very resistant to a lot of heavy rain, making them ideal for more harsh conditions.
Naturally, these tents need to be erected properly to work well, and a poor setup will often compromise their effectiveness, so make sure you practice well before erecting your tent in the wilderness!
What are the Pros of a Waterproof Tent?
The main pro of a waterproof tent is that it will keep you warm and dry should conditions conspire against you.
The comfort and safety of this type of tent can make your trip much more comfortable and enjoyable, and will also protect your gear and clothing from getting wet, allowing you to deal with whatever mother nature throws your way.
What Are The Cons Of A Waterproof Tent?
There are some cons to waterproof tents, however, primarily being that they can be more expensive, and can get warm inside more quickly leading to condensation build-up on the interior of your tent, which can sometimes get you as wet as if your tent wasn’t waterproof, to begin with.
Good ventilation is critical to avoid this, so make sure you buy a waterproof tent that has adequate ventilation and is well regarded in this aspect of its performance to avoid getting wet from within your waterproof tent!
Are Some Tents More Waterproof Than Others?
Yes, as previously mentioned, tents with a higher hydrostatic head, particularly those in the 5000mm + range will perform much better in waterproofing than tents with lower or no hydrostatic head rating.
You can supplement any tent’s waterproofing however by adding an extra tarp or layer of protection strapped over the exterior of the tent, and there are often specially designed tarps to help reinforce your tent waterproofing if you’re really concerned about getting wet.
Tents can be made of various materials, but the most common and effective materials used to make waterproof tents are polyester and nylon, both of which are strong, light, and waterproof.
Good seam design is critical for waterproof tents as water will often find its way into tents with bad seams extremely easily.
This is because the stitching in these areas creates channels and holes that water will easily seep through, rendering your tent as leaky as a rusty old boat.
Make sure that the seams are either taped, inverted or welded, to ensure that they are reinforced enough to not allow water into your tent.
As always, it’s best to go on reputation with tents and find solid comprehensive reviews of the tent’s waterproof performance before you buy to ensure you avoid disappointment.
Can Waterproof Tents Withstand Heavy Rain?
Yes, the best waterproof tents with a strong hydrostatic head rating of 5000mm+ and a quality design can withstand truly impressive amounts of rainfall.
How Long Do Tents Stay Waterproof?
It depends on the amount the tent is used, and how well it’s cared for, but generally, a good waterproof tend should remain waterproof for at least a few years before you may need to seek to replenish its waterproofing.
Waterproof tents can be extremely effective and keep you warm and dry in the worst conditions, but there are many knock-offs out there that are little better than hiding under an old tarp.
For a truly waterproof tent, you will need to find a quality brand and model of tent that is well known, and ensure you test it before taking it on a serious camping trip to ensure it has no faults or issues that could leave you exposed to the elements.