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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tenting in wet weather

The near daily rain storms we’ve been having has got me thinking about tent living. There’s nothing worse than a leaky tent. Well, a leaky house isn’t too great either. With the promise of 5 sunny days, I once removed the roof from my house so as to put up a second floor. It started raining the evening of the first day and didn’t stop for a month. The weather man is the Prince of Lies.

A tent is a house. Maybe you are using it for just the weekend, or maybe for months on end. It’s your shelter; it’s where you live. A leaking tent is just as uncomfortable as my house was with a missing roof. You can’t sleep with water soaking your bedding. Water drips into your coffee and makes your cooking splatter. It’s a miserable way to live.

A common solution is to stretch a tarp right over the tent. That can either work just fine or be worse than useless. A tightly rigged tarp, well tied off and with no water collecting valleys can keep you dry. Many tarp arrangements, however, just blow off, collect water to dump in one big splash, or provide little protection on a windy day.

I’m not a big fan of the tarp solution. It’s better to have a well made tent that doesn’t need a tarp. Tents with separate rain flys, in my experience, work best. The rain fly should almost completely cover the tent, nearly reaching the ground. A good fly has a lot of tie downs so as to keep its shape and position in windy weather.

Tent seams should be sealed on at least an annual basis -more often if needed. I like the seam sealers that go one like roll on deodorant. They are easy to use, so are likely to get used. There are also sprays to restore a fly’s waterproofing. Even a very good tent, if used often or constantly, will need a waterproofing touch up now and then.

I prefer a tent where the rain fly extends beyond the main body of the tent and forms a small screen room. Tents can get claustrophobic, especially if you are stuck inside due to bad weather. The screen room is a good place to set up a couple chairs and a small table. You can look outside, cook without water falling in your food, yet you can keep your mud boots on. It’s a good transitional space between the outside and the main part of the tent. It’s your tent’s mud room, (if you are from the north,) or your Florida room. (if from the south).

If the weather is sunny, the tendency is to not even think about your tent will perform in a storm. That’s how tents get set up in low spots with a sloppily assembled fly or no fly at all. When a surprise storm hits, you want to be the guy sitting comfortably in his screen room drinking a hot coffee. You don’t want to be the guy he’s watching for entertainment. The wet guy running around in the rain trying to secure a tent that the wind’s tearing out of his hands.



  1. Around here tenters have forgotten what rain is. Hope they keep there tents in wet-weather condition.

  2. I know TX. If it's not a drought, it's a flood.

  3. We tent campers in Florida got it "covered" lol

  4. Had a tent once that was "too tight". It was my aunt's tent. Out camping once, it rained overnight. My aunt woke up and went to light a cigarette, but the lighter wouldn't light in spite of being full of fuel. Fortunately it dawned on her to open the window, and as soon as she did the lighter lit up. Heh, a cigarette saved her life! Whenever I use that (or any other) tent, I make sure to leave a window cracked open.

  5. Craig: Wow! never head of one being air tight before. A fly would allow the tent to breath, so it must have been a flyless tent.

  6. I have always had crummy cheap tents and when it rained I paid the consequences.

    I bought me a Kodiak canvas tent and even though it was pricey it was worth every penny.

    Currently have it set up in my backyard to store some boxes while we had company. It rained about two inches, with wind and pea size hail and I did not get a single drop inside.