For those of us who enjoy sleeping in the embrace of nature and camp frequently, we should be familiar with our camping gear.
However, even for some experienced campers, we remain unaware that tents are not fully waterproof! Feeling the material, we might think that tents can repel water completely, but contrary to popular belief, tents are only water-resistant.
There is a difference between water-resistant and waterproof — the former only reduces the amount of rainwater seepage while the latter eradicates it completely.
As such, most tents are not waterproof unlike what is said on the package, which is nothing but a marketing tactic.
So, before you buy into a fake promise by the manufacturer, here are some of the things that you should be on the lookout for.
This is a common thing that you will find with most tent purchases. When manufacturers use waterproof rating, they are essentially referring to the hydrostatic head value of a tent.
Putting aside its complex name, the value simply measures how much water pressure the tent is able to withstand before water begins to seep through the fabrics. Generally, there is no such value whereby water will not leak through.
So, despite labelling it as waterproof ratings, the truth is far from that as the value only measures how water resistant the tent is rather than waterproof. While higher values can protect you from more leakages, it does not connotate that the tent is waterproof.
Waterproof Fabrics and Coatings
Due to the more affordable nature of nylon and polyester, most tents are made up of this material. However, these materials on their own are not waterproof which is why when looking at nylon and polyester tents, what matters most is the coating that they apply over the surface.
When it comes to coating, there are two common types: polyurethane and silicone.
For the former, it is the most popular go-to choice for coatings for most tents. The catch is that polyurethane coating is not the most effective because of how easy it is to wear it out. The coating is fragile to UV rays which means that you will not be able to keep your tent under the sun for long lest you risk damaging the coating. It is also surprisingly water-retentive which means that water will start to leak through when enough moisture accumulates.
For the latter, silicone is better than polyurethane as it has a longer lifespan and is properly waterproof. So, if you are looking in terms of coating, silicone would be the best option to look at. However, it is not a coating that is often used by most manufacturers. Most of these companies tend to use a combination of coatings.
As for waterproof fabrics, we have mentioned that nylon and polyester are not waterproof by nature. However, canvas tents can be waterproof after certain conditions are met. The interesting part about making canvas waterproof is to allow the canvas to absorb some water before the trip. When canvas absorbs water, the fibres tend to expand which tightens up the pores of the fabric and waterproofs itself.
Waterproof Tent Seams
Tents are usually a few parts joined together by seams and these seams are what make tents susceptible to leakages. As such, manufacturers tend to seal up the seams with different methods.
The first method is to directly tape the seams. This does not mean that they use typical commercial tape for it. Rather, the manufacturers heat up and melt specialised tape over the seams. Depending on the company, they normally tape the outside or inside seams or both.
The second method is to sew the seams invertedly. So, rather than have the seams sticking out which gives the rain chance to infiltrate, the seams are sewn in such a way that they only appear in the interior of the tent.
Last but not least, there are welded seams where instead of going through the whole sewing process, manufacturers simply join two pieces of fabric through heat and pressure. This method ensures that there are no gaps or holes, and are the most common method used in the market.
Waterproof Tent Floor
The floor is a commonly neglected part of a tent but is in fact one of the most important features of a tent. The base of the tent comes into contact with the ground which can sometimes be filled with sharp objects like debris and twigs which could easily cut into the fabric given enough force. As such, when it comes to tent floors, we should look at thicker coatings so that the floor will not be easily ripped by the ground.
How long can tents be waterproofed for?
As with most objects, tents are subject to wear and tear. This means to say that there is a limited lifespan for these tents to remain waterproof. Typically, tents continue to stay waterproof for one to two years. It mostly depends on how well you maintain your camping gear and the quality of the tent. If you took the extra effort to take note of the aforementioned factors and keep up with maintenance work on your tent, it can generally last longer.
One of the things you can do to prolong the lifespan of your tent is to keep it dry always. You can leave it out in the sun to fully dry up and ensure that all moisture is removed from the tent. It is also recommended to keep it in a dry storage room so that mould and mildew will not form. Additionally, using a ground tarp when you set up camp is another way to save on the cost of needing to purchase a new tent.
What you do need to watch out for before purchasing a tent is to ensure that the promised features stated of the tent do fulfil their promise of being waterproof. Many companies, particularly those that target the budget category, will boast about being waterproof but not having the proper certifications. It is important to do your research before making a purchase.