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Any ideas about keeping dry in a tent?


Over the years, I have learned a number of things to help stay dry in a tent.


1. Use a good quality tent.


2. Consider the design of the tent. I prefer "A" frame tents or dome shaped tents. Try to make sure that the rain fly covers all the tent (some tents have large sections that extend out beyond the reach of the rain fly and every one of those I have ever seen have leaked; try to keep the walls reasonably taught - if they droop esepecilly at ground level they may form pockets that catch water and since the tent material is not designed to "hold" water, they will leak there; try t get a tent with a vestibule or at least one with a rain fly that extends out over doors and windows a good distance; has good ventilation (condensation is WET (the rainfly should not touch the tent walls and should be taught rather than loose and droopy); tie glow in the dark or or lease bright colored strips to the guy lines to make them easier to see so that you or others are less likely to trip over them.


3. Treat ALL seams with some type of sealant. All means all, not just around the floor. Wind can push rain sideways and if it hits seams the tent will leak - and every tent I have ever seen has leaked.


4. Keep the tent in good repair and make sure it is thoroughly dry before storing it.


5. Consider location for erecting the tent. Try to find a natural wind break. Try to find a spot where the ground slopes away from the tent on ALL sides. Erect the tent so that the length of the tent runs in the same direction as the prevailing wind - if the tent is not rectangular, put one corner towards the prevailing wind. Erect it so the door is away from the prevaling wind. Avoid low areas, trails, ditches, directly under trees (they drip for a long time after it rains.


6. Use a waterproop ground tarp under the tent. It will help keep the tent dry, insulate the floor of the tent, and help protect the floor of the tent.


7. Use a separate waterproof tarp on the floor inside the tent. If the tent leaks, and I have never seen one that doesn't, most of the water on the floor will be between the inside tarp and the tent floor helping keep you and your belongings dry. Keep the tent floor as dry as possible when it does get wet by using towels to keep the water soaked up.


9. Avoid wearing foot gear in a tent - it tracks in dirt and is hard on the tent floor. Use a small towel or plastic sheet or bag inside the tent door to place your footgear on - especially if they are wet.


10. Don't touch, or allow any of your gear to touch the tent walls - they are likely to leak right where they are touched.


11. Try to keep the tent dry while in use. It it is not raining, raise or remove the rain fly to help dry out the tent.


12. Use a good waterproof sleeping mat under your sleeping bag (or a cot).


Any other ideas?



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I'd also add to use your guy-outs! Stake them out taut, so that you have a good, even tension on the outer rain fly. (In fact, I prefer to use two guy lines per guy-out point and set them at a 45 deg. angle, so that the guy-out on the tent is triangulated. Around here, heavy rain is always accompanied with high winds.)

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Under item 7, you say to use towels to keep the water soaked up. I've found that using a sponge for this purpose works great. You can even find special 'tent sponges' made just for this.


And as an enhancement to number 12, you can get a waterproof sleeping bag.


You seem to have hit most of the high points, though, even though some of them can be a little hard to follow in practice entirely.


So while following those rules, have you still gotten wet in your tent?


Oak Tree

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I have a 3 yr old REI Half Dome model, and the main thing that makes it waterproof is the rain fly. If your fly does not extend out to cover your entire tent, then you're hosed... This tent also has the 'bathtub' type floor, which makes it waterproof up around 5-6 inches on the sides of the tent.


During our campout last weekend, we had rain from about 9pm Friday night until noon Saturday, and I was completely dry the entire time. I did have one leak, however, and that was the nylon webbing on the fly - the outer area of the webbing got soaked and came through the seam to the insides of the fly, where it dripped on me about once an hour. I repositioned my head so I wouldn't get one in the eye every 60 minutes.. :-)


I think most of these ideas work great, though if you are lucky enough to have a higher quality tent, these ideas aren't needed quite as much. I was very lucky on this buy... REI had it on their clearance web site for only 75 bucks... usually they run close to 200...






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Adding to #6. Ground clothes need to be fully under the tent. Many times I've seen ground clothes sticking out 12 inches or more around all sides of a tent. They are just acting like a gutter funnelling water under the tent.

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My suggestions is consider the conditions in which you are going to use the tent. Rain flys are usually not waterproof they are water repellant. Water proof requires some kind of solid barrier such as the bath tub type floor tents. If the rain is heavy or constant the flys will start to leak. Flys with a barrier develop cracks in the barrier after exposure to sun and repeated folding, then they leak. Our troop went rafting one year in Northern Wisconsin and it rained non stop from Friday night to Monday morning. Every fly started to have drive thru as I call it where the rain would hit and penetrate as a spray onto the tent. The only tents that didnt leak were the old voyagers which are canvas. They dont have rain flys but we got some tent fabric nylon and treated it with repellent, we use these as a sun barrier because those tents get really hot in the summer. The added flys kept the rain from beating on the canvas and the spray just ran off. In the area Im from three day heavy rains is not common but in some places they are, a friend from Seattle says it rains 250 days out of the year.

Water proof sleeping bags are good for 1 maybe 2 nights at best. They hold water in as well as out and the body moisture generated over night causes them to become wet inside just from use. Newer bags still retain their insulating value but your still wet.

Bath tubs hold water as well as keep it out. On the campout I referred to earlier every one of our A frame nylons with the bath tub floors were indeed that, bath tubs, by morning. Having sponges or towels to help bail the water is really important. We didnt have them because the fly completely covers the tent and till then we never had a problem. Now we have large bath towels in the trailer for that purpose.




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Number seven works the most...the best...


consider folks...two scouts in a tent...each carries a 'ground cloth' made of 4-6mil plastic (builders fabric) and a small roll of duct tape. If you OVER-SIZE the ground cloths so they actually 'run' up the tent walls ...say, four inches each side (5X7 tent requires a 5'8"x7'8" ground cloth) the only way these boys get wet will be stupidity...er, laziness...er an accident?


First, the boys set a cloth inside NOT under the tentfolding the sides up they use the duct tape to 'bind' the corners...making the proverbial 'tub'. pads, sleeping bags and clothes go inside (BACK PACKS NEVER DO)the second ground cloth become a "drip shield" if the tent or tent fly failes to keep out rain...condensation can be a problem but if they only cover what needs to be covered they will do alright...


most tents do not need a ground cloth under them if you select/clean your site well.... and as to the "odd stick or rock"...after a week of doing it this way check your "inside" ground cloth...thats where you will find holes...from shoes, zippers, pocket knives, edges of mess kit handles etc...almost all holes come from the inside...very few from the outside...even sticks will not generally penetrate the nylon any more/faster than they penetrate the plastic...if they go through the plastic they are coming through the floor...



another thought...for consideration...without an impervious layer to hold water... water that does get under the tent will more than likely go down through the ground rather than up into the tent...

been out for five days in a row- in a Eureka Timberline when over four inches of rain fell in a day... only water got on my gear was through the zippers before I 'covered up"...try this system... you might like it...



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I have personal experience with getting a wet floor due to the ground cover sticking out beyond the tent walls. One windy night when I hadn't gotten the guy lines taut enough, the wind blew the sides of my tent inward, so the ground cover was then exposed on one side. When I crawled out of my sleeping bag the next morning, I was surprised to feel my knees get wet. Luckily, my therm-a-rest mat kept my sleeping bag dry, but I learned an important lesson that day.

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Our last camping trip was the weekend that Dallas got 10" on rain in just over 18 hours.

We keep telling parents to not buy tents smaller than 9x9 in their boys want to use cots. Well two of them learned a hard lesson that weekend.

They were in 7x7 tents on cots and their sleeping bags touched the side of the tent. Well as we all know the bag acted as a wick and drew the water right in through the sides. We had our meeting last and both parents informed me that they had gone and bought new tents that are 9x9.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Less expensive nylon tents with only a single layer are usually waterproofed. The double layer(tent+fly) design on modern tents is supposed to allow moisture in the tent out. I find that if I don't leave the front door somewhat open on my one man single layer backpacker I will get condensation all over the foot of my bag even on a dry night. Of course, I camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where the nights are usually cool. I think that ventilation is an often overlooked issue with modern tents that often don't breathe that well.

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Last weekend my troop backpacked to the Indiana Dunes State Park - in northern Indiana right on the shore of Lake Michicagn.


This was my first time using a new Eureka Spitfire 2 (two-person version - I'm a BIG guy so I didn't fit inside the one-person Spitfire). My son used a new Spitfire 1 (one-person version). It rained a bit, so we both kept the fly doors zipped closed at night. It got to about 40F overnight, and by morning the inside surface of the rain flys were both soaking wet with condensation.


The great news is that neither of our sleeping bags got wet, which means that the condensation was enought to start dripping or running into the tent. It also meant that the tents were sized sufficiently to fit our bags and still not have them rub on the fly through the tent's mosquito netting. I did hear my son scream when he climbed out of his tent. Clearly the cold wet inside of the fly door rubbed across him as he got out - he didn't like that.


Beyond opening the fly doors at night - which we couldn't do since it was raining - I dont' think there is much that can be done to stop the condensation. It is just physics at work.


After I'd gotten out of the tent in the morning and removed my sleeping bag and pad (which was also bone-dry) I opened the doors and shook the moisture off of the outside of the tent fly to speed drying. That apparently started the condensation on the inside of the fly running & dripping, since after that I found a fair amount of water puddled up on the floor near where my feet had been.


I REALLY liked the Spitfire 2 for one adult (I left my backpack outside covered with a 55 gallon plastic bag). Next time I use my Spitfire 2 (next weekend for Adult Outdoor Leader Training) I plan to bring along a small synthetic sponge to soak up condensation/rain from the inside/outside fly surfaces.


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