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How to Stop a Tent From Leaking

Q: Every time it rains, the inside of my tent gets wet. And, yes, I have a rain fly and a ground cover. The water still seeps through and gets my pillow and my sleeping bag wet. Any tips?
— William, Edwards, California

A: First, check for any leaks. If you find one along a seam, apply a sealant like Gear Aid’s Seam Grip WP Waterproof Sealant and Adhesive ($8, gearaid.com). For the rest of the tent, use a waterproofing spray to fortify the fabric’s integrity — Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof spray ($18.25, nikwax.com) works well.

No leaks? The problem might be how you set up your ground cover. If your ground cover sticks out from the edge of your tent, rain will run underneath and can soak your gear through the floor, which isn’t completely waterproof.

Make sure your ground cover fits completely under your tent. For added protection, cut an interior footprint from a roll of plastic sheeting (you can get one at a hardware store for about $12). Cut it a little bigger than the tent floor so you can form it around the lower sides. This plastic liner will not only help keep water out, but it’ll also catch dirt you’ve tracked in; just shake it out when you break camp.


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7 Comments on How to Stop a Tent From Leaking

  1. If you don’t mind discoloring your tent somewhat, I find a cheap and effective solution is to apply Thompson’s Water Seal to the fly, floor, and any other parts that you want to fortify as a water barrier

  2. One of the biggest issues that causes wet tents is the rain fly not being taut. The fly should aound like a drum when tapped. String that thing out, this is an issue with newer Scouts where they don’t understand how to best set up their tent. Also, it is good to make sure that there is air flow through the tent or else it will be wet from condensation. I have camped for hundreds of nights and never used a ground cloth, but our troop tents had the tarp bathtub style bottom.

  3. I was in the program when we used REAL tents..I always used the Overnighter tent..never had a issue with it..always put leaves around the edges of the tent to wick away rain from getting into the tent..My ground cloth was the good old “space” blanket made in 1967 !! Used that thing for over 15 years before it finally died of old age…hahahaha.

  4. Davemasterofcool // March 16, 2021 at 5:13 pm // Reply

    Cool! Good to know.

  5. Tyvex works great for a ground clothe. It must be cut about 1-2” smaller per side to prevent water collection.

  6. Mark, T-101, Dripping Springs // March 14, 2021 at 5:58 pm // Reply

    I use an inexpensive “silver on one side / brown on the other” tarp that is as close as possible to the tent floor size.
    The thickness assists in smoothing out any bumps & lumps & any overage gets folded under (towards the soil, not the tent floor) & I also get an opportunity for a sort of porch to take off my shoes prior to tent entry.

  7. Clothing/gear laying up against the walls can allow water to gain access.

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