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Waterproofing a tent

tentsealer-200×148.jpgMy tent leaks! Water runs through the rainfly! What should I do?

— Damp Dan, Simpsonville, S.C.

A. Dear Soggy Sir, there could be a couple of different things going on that could make your tent so leaky.

First, if you fail to properly stake out your rainfly, it’ll just collect the rainwater and conveniently channel it inside your tent. So always keep the rainfly tight with the guy lines taut.

Another good idea would be to re-waterproof your fly. With wear and tear and time, all tents eventually lose their ability to repel water.

Luckily it’s easy — and cheap! — to rejuvenate it. Start with a tube of Seam Grip (about $7). Put your rainfly on top of your tent inside out and carefully reseal all the seams. While you’re at it, apply Seam Grip along the inside perimeter of your tent’s floor, too. Then flip your rainfly over, pitch it properly and spray it with a silicone waterproofer like McNett’s Thunder Shield (also about $7). Do all this and you’ll be Dry Dan from here on out.

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10 Comments on Waterproofing a tent

  1. I completely agree with ACW with regards to Thompsons Waterseal. I have an official BSA canvas pyramid tent that I bought when I first started Scouting in 1977, and it is still waterproof. When I was using it regularly, I would re-waterproof it every spring. But now, I only use it two or three times a year, and the last time I put a coat of Thompsons on it was in 2000. I used it last summer, and it remained dry during a two week campout, through three gale-force storms. Thompsons is simply amazing stuff. Just don’t use it on synthetic tents though–it will eat them right up…

  2. CampScout10 // April 8, 2008 at 10:35 am // Reply

    My old tent leaked…so I bought a new one that one leaked too! 🙁 Once I did this it stoped leaking!!!:):):)

  3. an emergency blanket (not the foil looking kind) works really well as a “ground tarp” inside the tent. I lay mine out inside the tent. it also helps with cleaning-just shake out the tarp instead of the whole tent.

  4. The best I’ve used for canvas is Thompsons Waterseal. This stuff works on cement, wood decks and YES on Tents. I have a tent that is well over 20 years old and it made it smell like new again. The tent will NOT get hard and brittle. Set the tent up and buy a cheap squirt bottle or use an empty windex bottle and spray from the top down. Wet the canvas good and work your way to the bottom. It stinks and takes a while to dry so do it on a sunny day and have enough time. One gallon will do an 8′ x 10′ canvas cabin tent. The trick is to wet the canvas good, so it is better to have too much than too little. If your tent has mildew issues wash them out with soap and water, let dry before sealing. I have not used this on Nylon tents or materials other than canvas so don’t advise it.

  5. scout 1139 // March 9, 2008 at 11:53 am // Reply

    i dont understand when he says put it along the perimeter on the floor someone explain please????

  6. Dixie Runner // March 8, 2008 at 9:46 pm // Reply

    What is the hot setup to waterproof an old canvas military tent that leaks through the canvas. This tent is about 15ft in diameter and about 10ft tall with 6ft sides. I would need several gallons to apply witha roller or a sprayer. Please advise what and where I could find ti. Thank you very much!

  7. Awesome! Last camping trip my sleeping bag was drenched with water! Too bad I didn’t bring one of these along.

  8. I’d like to try this too! It’s good that the products are cheap!

  9. I’v had the same problem, I’ll try this.

  10. Cool. I have both products

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