Q. I have an 8-person tent I got from Wal-Mart a few years ago. It has been fine for camping in the backyard with the family but we are going to a couple of state parks soon so the convenience of running in the house if it starts to rain is not an option. The tent boasted “weather-tec” or something like that, basically claiming it will stay dry. I really don’t want to buy a new tent. How do you think it will fair if it begins to rain?
–Concerned Keith, Chicago, Illinois
A. Hello Keith. Thanks for the good question. Your gut is right on — there’s indeed a good chance that your tent won’t be truly waterproof. Inexpensive tents from stores like Wal-Mart may be just fine for fair weather outings. What they usually lack is durability, weather-proofness and they are often heavier than high-end camping gear.
I hear what you’re saying about not wanting to buy a new one so it’s good to know there are a couple things you can try to make your tent work. First, you could get a basic tarp at the hardware store (probably will cost you less than $15) and hang that above your tent. That way, the tarp shelters your tent and takes the brunt of the rain during a storm.
Second, you could treat your tent with a waterproofer like Nikwax Concentrated Tent & Gear Solar Proof ($13-$39; http://www.nikwax.com), which you mix with water. Simply pitch your tent, spray it down with a hose, and then use a sponge to cover the entire thing with the Nikwax mixture. For a tent as large as yours, you’ll likely have to use most of the 1-liter pouch, which costs about $39 bucks. The Nikwax will boost your tent’s water repellency and prevent the fabric from being damaged by prolonged exposure to the sun. Will it make your Wal-Mart tent ready for an expedition on Everest? Not a chance, but it should get you through a season of camping fun.