How Often Should You Waterproof Your Tent?- Easy Guidelines

Keeping your tent waterproof is essential for having a good camping trip. What you don’t want to do is find out too late that you should have already waterproofed your tent. Your tent is one of your biggest assets when you are camping, and you want to try to keep it in tip-top shape. 

Luckily, waterproofing a tent isn’t all that bad, but how often should you waterproof your tent? I too have wondered this since the very first day I got rained on while camping. I did some research and put together my findings here.

So, how often should you waterproof your tent? There is no set timeline for how often you should waterproof your tent. Inspecting your tent regularly will help you determine when it is necessary to waterproof your tent.

In order to know when it is necessary to waterproof your tent, you need to perform regular inspections of your tent, ideally before you leave for a camping trip. It helps to keep a few waterproofing essentials on hand for when the time comes. Actually going through and waterproofing your tent is pretty easy. 

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Why your tent needs to be waterproofed

Your tent is your only shelter when camping and if it doesn’t hold up to that basic requirement, then what’s the point? No one wants to get rained on during a camping trip. Plus, we all know that water inside of a tent can spell disaster for its longevity. Increasing longevity has a lot to do with keeping a tent as dry as possible.

A properly waterproofed tent is not only protected from the rain, but the coatings also help a little bit with harmful UV rays. Another one of the tent’s worse enemies is the sun. Waterproofing is like medicine to your tent that prolongs its life and lets you enjoy getting outside. Tent’s really aren’t all that rugged. They are actually quite fragile. They need all the help they can get. If water is trapped inside of your tent for prolonged periods of time then mildew and mold could develop and ruin the tent.

How to inspect your tent to see if it needs to be waterproofed

One of the best habits to develop is inspecting your tent. Not only for waterproofing but just in general to make sure everything is in working order. There are a few things to look for when it comes to finding our if your tent needs to be waterproofed.

Do you see stuff flaking on the inside of your rainfly or on the floor of your tent?

If so then it could be urethane coating that is on the tent. The urethane coating is part of the waterproofing features of your tent. What you need to do is finish scrubbing off the old coating using something a little abrasive and applying a new tent sealer on there. If there is not flaking then you are probably fine, unless of course, you see it not working in person. It always helps to have some tent sealer on hand just in case.

Do you notice water not coming together as droplets on your tent?

If so then you might need to re-add some durable water repellent (DWR) coating to your tent. This needs to be done on the exterior of the rain fly and is very simple to do since you will just be spraying a waterproof spray onto the rain fly. Clean off the rain fly with water and then spray the water repellent evenly onto the rain fly. After a few minutes, you can gently wipe down any excess residue from the spray. Then let it dry completely and you are good to go.

Did you experience a leaky seam? Or find seam tape coming loose?

This one requires a bit more work than the last two, yet it is essential. You can see the tent seams inside of your tent should be nicely factory sealed. If you see some of the seam tapings come loose then you can remove it and patch it up with a seam sealer. Clean the seems with rubbing alcohol first then apply the sealer to the seams and let it dry completely. It might be easier to do this with the tent flipped inside out.

When to inspect your tent

Ideally, you should inspect your tent each time before a camping trip. Sometimes you don’t always get a chance to. I any case, just do quick inspections whenever you have the time. If you are going camping then you should have the time when you get to your campground. If you don’t have some free time when you are camping then you are doing it wrong. Bringing along the waterproofing products could be helpful in the event that you discover something during your inspection that needs to be fixed.

How to waterproof a tent

There are 3 ways to seal your tent, I have talked about them during the inspection, but as a recap they are:

  1. Sealing the seams with a seam sealer.
  2. Applying a urethane coating.
  3. Adding a durable water repellent (DWR) coating.

One important thing to keep in mind is to make sure that you get the right kind of sealer and sealant for your tent. Your tent will require different types of sealants based on the kind of fabric it is made of. More often, tent waterproofing materials are made up of silicone or polyurethane. Both types of fabric will require different types of sealer and sealant. Your tent should have easy to find any indication of what fabric it is made of on the box or bag that it came in. You can also check your manufacturer’s website to find out. You might even find it on the tag that is somewhere inside of your tent.

When it comes to sealing the seams, you will need seam sealer. These seams are on the bottom of the rain fly and on the inside of the tent. It makes things easier if you flip the tent inside out to access the seams. If the seams are dirty then clean them with rubbing alcohol and a rag. Apply the seam sealer to the seams and allow to dry for as long as it is recommended on the seam sealer’s instructions. 

The urethane coating is generally applied to the entire rain fly. Apply a thin coat to the entire area, and be sure to follow any special instructions on the bottle as they may have different drying times. Adding a fresh layer of the coating can give you peace of mind for your upcoming trip and it is easy to do. This can also be done on the floor of the tent, it too usually has a urethane coating on it that can be reinforced.

The durable water repellant is the easiest to do. Durable water repellent is a spray that goes on the entire exterior of your rainfly. Just spray it on evenly on your fly (as long as it clean) and take a damp rag after a few minutes and just pat it down to clean up and excess coating. If it isn’t clean then wash it off gently first. Allow the tent to dry completely and follow any special instructions that might be on the spray bottle. This spray coating should cause rain to form together and fall right off of your tent.

Other things to keep in mind

Always follow your manufacturers recommendations when it comes to every aspect of your tent, including waterproofing. If they have special recommendations for their tents then it is best to follow it to maintain the longevity of your tent. You should be able to find their recommendations in a booklet that comes with your tent or on their website. Sometimes they have specific sections on waterproofing that can be useful.

It is better to have the repair materials on hand before you need to use them rather than after the fact. Re-upping your tent’s waterproofing is relatively cheap, easy, and quick to do. Take care of your tent and it will take care of you. Being prepared for any situation is something you should try to develop when you are into camping.


There is no set time frame for how often you should waterproof your tent. You should ideally inspect your tent before each camping trip to make sure everything is in working order. A properly waterproofed protects not only you but the tent itself. There are 3 ways to waterproof your tent and all of them are relatively cheap, easy, and quick to do. Take care of your tent and follow any special manufacturers recommendations and it will last you for many more camping trips to come.

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Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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