Did you know that you need to waterproof your tent regularly?
So many people don’t realize that this is their responsibility and set themselves up for a wet and miserable camping trip. (Then they leave an unfairly negative review for the tent company, even though it wasn’t the company’s fault!)
But here’s the good news! Just five minutes of preparation can help you avoid a miserable night sleeping in a puddle. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost a lot of money or take any skill to waterproof your tent fabric, but it will make a massive difference in your comfort.
This article will tell you about five of the best tent waterproofing sprays on the market right now. Plus, I’ll explain how to apply them properly so that you can enjoy a dry and comfortable night’s sleep on your next camping trip.
In a Hurry? Here Are My Top 3 Picks
5 Best Waterproofing Sprays for Tents
Atsko Silicone Water-Guard
The best-value waterproofing spray on the market right now is the Atsko Silicone Water-Guard. This doesn’t double as UV protection like some more premium products do, but it’s cheap and effective for waterproofing your tent.
Most users rate this highly. But there is some disappointment from people who expected the spray to transform a non-waterproof jacket into a raincoat.
Just to be clear, these sprays are for maintaining the waterproof coating on your tent or clothes that degrades over time. They’re not going to work magic on a soft hoodie!
Make sure you shake the can often as you use it, or you might find that you have a lot of left-over liquid that you can’t get out.
- Great value
- Odorless when cured
- Easy to waste product (shake can often!)
Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent
I would personally go for the Kiwi Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent. Honestly, I’d pick this one because it’s what we had in my home growing up, so I know that it works well.
You can use it on your shoes and coat as well as your tent. It should make a significant difference on those wet and windy days that can sometimes get through your kit’s defenses.
I’ve used other brands, but I find that this one allows your outdoor gear to breathe, unlike some of the cheaper options. This will help reduce condensation, so you can have a more comfortable night without someone’s breath dripping on your forehead!
- No UV Protection
Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof
Nikwax is a well-known and respected brand. It is the best overall choice because it offers UV protection as well as waterproofing. It’s biodegradable and it doesn’t contain funky chemicals such as PFCs or optical brighteners like some of these products do.
Despite the product description’s claims, I don’t rate this much as a tent cleaner. Honestly, I think you’d be just as well off with water and gentle soap. So, rather than wasting your money using this to wash your tent, keep it for weatherproofing!
UV damage will dramatically reduce the life of your tent, so you can add many years of use with a two-in-one spray like this.
If you get the concentrated version, make sure to dilute it properly. So long as the instructions are followed, this will be the best choice for most people.
- UV protection
- No PFCs or optical brighteners
- Very effective
- Can damage tent if not diluted properly
Scotchgard Heavy Duty Water Shield
You can use Scotchguard on loads of different materials, including polyester, nylon, polypropylene, cotton, leather, and suede.
I love that it leaves your tent nice and breathable. It dries completely clear and odor-free, so your tent won’t look or smell weird after you’ve given it a once-over.
Scotchgard does work out to be pricey because you need to use quite a bit more of it than you might with other brands. So, while it’s undoubtedly a high-quality waterproof spray, it’s not the most affordable one.
If you don’t mind giving your kit at least two coats of waterproof solution, this would be a great choice.
But you’d probably want to keep it for backpacking shelters rather than large family tents.
- Need a lot of it
Canvak - Water Resistant Canvas Preservative
Canvas tents are gorgeous, but you need to take good care of them. If you’re lucky enough to have a canvas teepee or bell tent, I’d get a product like Canvak to make it last far longer than it would otherwise.
If you don’t treat your canvas tent, problems like mildew will crop up pretty quickly. And you don’t want to use silicone, which will block the breathable fabric you paid extra for.
Canvak is an industry-standard product that will cover about 100 square feet of canvas. A lot of people use it for boat covers, but you can use it on any canvas you’ve got!
The best application method is to paint it on with a brush.
I would advise you to be very generous with this product. If you try to spread it too thin, you’ll waste your time and money. But if you use plenty of it and work it into the canvas, you’ll protect your tent for years to come.
- Prolongs canvas life
- Easy to apply
- No UV protection
How to Use Tent Waterproofing Spray Correctly
Different brands of waterproofing spray might vary, so check the can or bottle you buy. But, generally speaking, waterproofing your gear is a quick and straightforward process.
Here are the steps to take:
- Make sure your tent is clean - wash it with water and gentle soap if necessary. Don’t use strong chemical products and don’t scrub with anything abrasive. Let it air-dry.
- Check dilution - make sure you can use your product directly without diluting it. If you use an undiluted formula, you might do more harm than good.
- Shake well - if you are using a can, shake it well before use, and keep giving it a good shake throughout the process. For example, you might spray for five seconds, then pause to shake a few times continually. This helps prevent product wastage.
- Spray - you need to keep the can around eight inches from your tent. Spray in a sweeping motion and try to cover all the material uniformly.
- Let it dry - let the product air-dry for a few hours. Depending on the brand, you might have to leave it overnight or even for 72 hours before it’s completely cured. This means it will be odorless and nontoxic.
- Do another coat - I always recommend a second coat if possible. This will ensure that you cover any patches you missed the first time around.
Remember that silicone-based sprays are for nylon tents, not canvas tents!
If you’re using a solution without an aerosol spray, I recommend getting a large soft-bristle paintbrush to apply the treatment. This is the quickest and least messy approach, based on my experience!
Waterproofing on the Cheap - The Sponge Method
You can save money and reduce product wastage by using a sponge instead of a spray bottle. Just soak the sponge in waterproofing solution and wipe it all over your tent.
The sponge can help you get even coverage without spraying more solution than necessary.
But if you’re too stingy, the whole exercise will have been pointless. So, make sure your entire tent gets treated.
Most tent waterproofing sprays are not suitable for canvas. If it’s silicone-based, you don’t want to put it near your lovely canvas bell tent!
But it is even more critical to waterproof a canvas tent than a nylon one. Not only will the tent leak if you don’t protect it, but it will also start growing mildew and other fungi, which can make you sick and wreck your expensive tent.
So, get your hands on a proper canvas preservative, which you will generously apply with a large paintbrush. It won’t be sticky once it has fully dried, but it can take a good couple of days to get to that point.
When to Waterproof Your Tent
I waterproof my main tent three times a year.
I do it first thing in spring, just before summer, and just before autumn. I don’t bother doing it before winter because I don’t use my three-season tent in the snow.
You don’t have to waterproof your tent that often if you don’t camp a lot. But I recommend that you do it at least once a year and consider redoing it after you camp in heavy rain.
That’s because wet weather can wash away the existing waterproof coating, so you might need a new coat of armor.
If you notice that your tent starts to leak where it didn’t before, this is a good sign that you need a respray. But it might just be condensation, so make sure you’re leaving a vent open at night to let moisture escape.
If it doesn’t seem to be either of those things, you might need to reseal your seams.
Waterproofing Versus Seam Sealing
Waterproofing and seam sealing are both great ways to protect and restore your tent. Waterproofing is a fair bit easier. All you have to do is spray the surfaces of your tent and let it dry.
Using seam sealant takes a bit more effort because you have to paint the sealing glue with precision along the seams. It’s not difficult or expensive, though. If you put on some good music, you’ll be done before you know it.
Make sure you don’t get any sealant in the zipper. (When it comes to the waterproof spray, it doesn’t matter if you get some in the zipper at all.)
There’s quite a bit of inaccurate information online about waterproofing your tent. To make sure you’re not left feeling totally confused, here are the answers to some common questions.
How long does tent waterproofing last?
It depends on your climate and how often you camp. One big rain event can compromise your tent’s waterproofing, so you should consider reapplying it after very wet weather.
In normal conditions, you might want to waterproof your tent every few months.
Why is my tent leaking?
Your tent might be leaking because of the way you set it up. Make sure your guylines are nice and tight so the wet outer layer can’t touch your inner compartment. If you’re using a tent footprint, it should be smaller than the base of your tent.
Don’t forget that you can open a vent to reduce condensation, which might seem like leaking.
You should also seal the seams and respray your tent with a waterproofing solution to prevent this from happening again.
Do tents lose their waterproofing naturally?
Tents lose both their waterproofing and UV protection over time, which leads to leaking and further deterioration of the tent walls, seams, and zippers.
It’s your responsibility to keep on top of this so your tent doesn’t prematurely end up in the trash.
How do you check if your tent is waterproof?
You can check your tent by setting it up in the yard and wetting it with a hose or watering can before your next camping trip.
A spray test will give you a good insight into any tears, but it’ll be hard to know how your tent handles long-term rain without getting it out in action.
When in doubt, just give it another spray. There’s no harm in being overprepared.
Do new tents need waterproofing?
You don’t have to spray a new tent, but it won’t do any harm, either. I like to waterproof spray all my new tents before using them in rainy weather because it gives me peace of mind that I won’t wake up in a puddle.
Can I use a waterproofing spray on my canvas tent?
Don’t ever use a silicone waterproofing spray on canvas. Despite what you might read online, you’ll wreck the breathability of your tent this way.
You need to use a proper canvas preservative, which you can easily pick up in most home improvement stores.
It’s not the end of the world if you take a new tent camping without waterproofing it. New tents typically have enough weather protection to get you through your first trip. But once you’ve been hit with heavy rainfall, you must give your tent some TLC.
Atsko Silicone Water-Guard is probably your best value product at the moment, but make sure to spray it vigorously, so you don’t leave too much solution behind in the can.
Setting aside time to waterproof your tent every now and then is more important than which product you choose. So long as you take care of your tent, it can take care of you, too!
I hope you found this article on the best tent waterproofing sprays helpful, and I wish you many happy and dry camping adventures!
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Rachel is a freelance adventure writer and founder of Highly Sensitive Nomad. When she isn’t writing, she can be found wild camping in the mountains and swimming in the lakes of Europe.