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How to waterproof an inexpensive tent


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.

nikwaxSecond, you could treat your tent with a waterproofer like Nikwax Concentrated Tent & Gear Solar Proof ($13-$39;, 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.

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18 Comments on How to waterproof an inexpensive tent

  1. Does the Walmart product leave a smell?

  2. It’s important to first find out the spots where there are leakages because they’re the spots that need more attention. You should apply the sealant on these spots and also the seams that are mostly exposed to weather should also be examined and apply sealant where necessary. The exposed seams could be found somewhere on the body of the tent, the floor of the tent, and also the fly.

    • Check out Hawk Tool’s fabric waterproofer, it comes in a concentrated bar that rubs on. It doesn’t smell like chemicals and it lasts way longer than the cheap spray stuff.

  3. The Weather-tec on our Coleman 4 person tent has worked well. I’ve let my son and his friends “camp out” in the backyard during rain storms and they’ve been happy and the laptop they watch movies on comes out bone dry. Our cub scout den was caught in torrential downpours and my son and I came out nice and dry. Some families who had more expensive tents didn’t fair as well as we did.

  4. Anyone waterproof spray the floor? I use a ground tarp, but have read post about treating the floor as well? Spray on the outside of the floor?

  5. inquiringmind // March 15, 2017 at 8:36 am // Reply

    Will waterproofing a Walmart tent harm the manufacturer’s fireproof coating on the tent?

  6. $4 ? Try $20.00 for water proofing spray at Walmart

  7. I use a tarp over my tent and treat with the silicone waterproof spray. I use the tarp also to make a porch covering.

  8. we have purchased walmart tents for 18 years and never had a water problem. The reason being we also purchase waterproofer sold near the tents and put a good coat on every spring. It is about $4 a can and it takes 2 cans for a couple coats on a 4 man tent. We usually break the poles after 3-4 years and go buy the next tent. My guys are scouts so we camp at least once a month and usually a lot more

  9. I would recommend in addition to use seam sealer on all seams on the fly and tent.

  10. Am in england looking at buying a 12 man tent but some ov the coments a have seen about them say they leak a little what is the best thing to use to stop it leaking like a spray or wax does any one know what a have to get and how much

  11. campergirl // June 30, 2009 at 4:48 pm // Reply

    We also have an 8-person tent from Wal-Mart and the only time it’s seen rain was a total disaster! Water-proof guarantee notwithstanding, water poured in like a faucet from the center of each of the three roof domes. (None came in from the floor, though) Thanks for these suggestions…

  12. Buy a can of Atsko Silicone Water-Guard spray at Walmart for about $4. One coat of it on a tent or anything and it will be water proof. Much cheaper than Nikwax products and just as effective.

  13. thanks i have the same problem

    • Anonymous // June 2, 2015 at 1:18 pm // Reply

      This is the same product we’ve used to waterproof the majority of the tents in our home. It’s exceptional and lasts for years. The only time it has failed is when we’ve failed to apply it before rain. 😉

    • Thanks so much!! Yes, I have used this in the past and it does work well. Thanks for the reminder. Just purchased a 12-person Cabin tent from Walmart.

    • What they said ^. I used the cheap silicone water guard spray at Walmart two coats around $5 bucks and the water just bounces right off. It rained 5 days and nights at summer camp we got the left overs of a hurricane off the gulf and not one leak.

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