How Do You Know If Camping Tents Are Really Waterproof?

If you are like most other people who go tent camping, you want a tent that will keep you dry if it rains.  You probably rely heavily on the term ‘Water Proof” to help guide your decsion on whether to buy a particular tent.  You probably want the roof of your tent to be waterproof and you want the floor to be waterproof but you don’t really know what makes a good tent floor and a good tent ceiling.  Therefore, this BLOG will provide some useful information about tent fabrics, tent materials and tent construction.

To be called waterproof a fabric must be specially processed to be impervious to water and not permit the passage of water. Waterproof means that the fabric of camping tents has been coated with polyurethane and the seams have been taped, making that area of the tent impermeable to water. The “mm” rating of the fabric refers to the amount of water the fabric will hold before it leaks. A 1500mm coating, for example, will

Catoma Minute Man Tent - Waterproof Camping Tents

Catoma Minute Man Tent - Waterproof Camping Tents

withstand a 1500mm column of water for more than one minute before a single drop might appear through the fabric. That’s strong enough to prevent rain from leaking in a 75 mph hurricane-force storm. Here are some other Levels of waterproofness.

  • 800mm is medium protection for light showers. (Summer)
  • 1200mm is high protection suitable for most conditions
  • 2000mm or higher is premier protection for use in all conditions

Some camping tents like the Catoma Minute Man Tent use a floor material with a 3000mm Coating for Maximum Waterproofing.  Many tent floors are made of Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC which is a thermoplastic polymer. PVC fabric has a sheen to it and is waterproof. It is commonly used in coats, skiing equipment, shoes, jackets, aprons, bags and tent

OSIRIS 12 person family camping tunnel tent - Waterproof Camping Equipment Company Tents

OSIRIS 12 person family camping tunnel tent - Waterproof Camping Equipment Company Tents

floors because of this.

The actual cloth or canvas of camping tents has to protect you from the wind and the rain while remaining breathable. The earliest materials used were leather and cotton. Nowadays, almost all camping tents are made out of nylon or polyester taffeta. Most camping tents fall under the following categories:

  • Single Wall Constructions: only have single layer of Tent cover. This single cover has to take care of all the needed functionalities: water and wind resistance, durability, breathability, etc.
  • Double Wall Constructions: have an outer fly sheet and an inner Tent. The fly sheet is waterproof and the inner Tent is breathable and transports moisture to the outer fly sheet.


The fabric color will determine what light conditions are inside camping tents and how well your camping tents stand out against the surroundings.

Some common Features of tent covers:

  • Polyurethane Coating: This is coating applied on the tent fabric to make it more durable and waterproof. Multiple number of coatings or ‘passes’ determine the added protection but at the cost of extra weight.
  • Waterproof/breathable laminates: Tent cover uses a layering system of different materials to form a strong and waterproof but breathable fabric.
  • Ripstop: This is a polyester taffeta with thicker threads weaved into the material at regular intervals. Thicker threads will prevent small rips in the Tent to get worse. The Catoma Minute Man Tent uses a floor material with a rating of 70D Ripstop Nylon.
  • Clear Film: This is a see through material often used for windows and skylights.
  • Single-needle Stitching Seams: These are seams with a single line of stitches.
  • Double-needle Stitching Seams: These are seams with a double line of stitches, stronger than single stitching.

Most tent manufactures provide waterproof ratings with the specifications for their tents and they all strive to make their tents waterproof but in my opinion, some of the higher quality waterproof tents are:

Trek Tents Cotton Canvas Straight Wall Cabin with Fly - Waterproof Camping Tents

Trek Tents Cotton Canvas Straight Wall Cabin with Fly - Waterproof Camping Tents

If you fail to properly stake out your rainfly, it’ll just collect the rainwater and conveniently channel it inside your tent. So always keep the rainfly tight with the guy lines taut.

Another good idea would be to re-waterproof your fly. With wear and tear and time, all tents eventually lose their ability to repel water. Luckily it’s easy — and cheap! — to rejuvenate it. Start with a tube of Seam Grip (about $7). Put on your rainfly on top of your tent inside out and carefully reseal all the seams. While you’re at it, apply Seam Grip along the inside perimeter of your tent’s floor, too. Then flip your rainfly over, pitch it properly and spray it with a silicone

Alps Mountaineering Aztec 3_4 Backpacking Tent - Waterproof Camping Tents

Alps Mountaineering Aztec 3_4 Backpacking Tent - Waterproof Camping Tents

waterproofer like McNett’s Thunder Shield (also about $7). Do all this and you’ll be dry from here on out.

If you don’t have a tent or have an emergency need to stay dry, use a tarp over a tent to keep it dry.  If you can find a building construction site, ask if they have any extra Tyvek.  Use plastic tarp clips to tie down 4 corners of Tyvek sheet over tent and/or suspend from rope tied between 2 trees.  It’s lightweight, will not rip and it is waterproof.  You can also use Tyvek under tent or on inside fllor to cut down on wear and tear.

Lots of boy scouts use Thompson Water Seal on their rain flys and floors to keep them waterproof and it does an outstanding job but don’t use it on synthetic tents as it will eat them right up.

In summary, check your waterproof ratings when you buy a new tent, apply waterproof seals to the rain fly and floor periodically, use a tarp over your tent and under the floor and you’ll stay dry and comfortable.  And remember, “The Joy is in the Journey”.


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