How To Waterproof A Tent In 5 Easy Steps

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How to waterproof a tent. Water beads, blue tent.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to waterproof a tent to keep you and your gear dry no matter the weather conditions. I’m not sleeping in puddles anymore, and you won’t either.

The main steps: 

What You Need: 

  • A clean rag
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Sponge with an abrasive side
  • Gloves (optional, but recommended)
  • A mask (optional, but highly recommended if you have asthma or respiratory issues)
  • Seam sealer
  • Tent Fabric Sealant
  • Waterproof Spray

#1. Clean your tent

If your tent is not new(ish) ensure that it’s clean and free of dirt and debris. Use a mild detergent and warm water to clean the tent, and then allow it to dry completely before waterproofing. 

#2. Seal / Reseal the Seams

Check the seams first, as they are most likely the first point of failure. 

Inspect the tent and rainfly seams. Although you may notice the seams are already sealed, this sealant can degrade over time, and the lamination will come off, letting water seep in. 

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Verify the tent’s fabric material. 
    There’s one sealant for silicone-coated material and one for polyurthenathane-coated fabric (which is the more common type). 
    The process for sealing the seams is the same for either one. 
  2. Inspect for leaks:
    Set up the tent in a dry, bright spot (garage, yard, larger room… etc.) and examine the underside of the rainfly and the inner side of the tent.
    PRO ADVISE: set up your tent in the yard and soak it with a hose for a few minutes to inspect for leaks.  
  3. Locate the point of failure where you need to apply the seam sealant. 
    PRO ADVISE: Even though you only need to seal the leaky areas, chances are if one location has failed, another one is not far behind. So, it’s highly recommended to seal all the seams at the same time to have peace of mind on your next camping trip. 
  4. If you notice that some seam tape is coming off, gently remove it by rubbing it off with the abrasive side of the sponge. 
    If it’s not coming off easily, don’t force it. Leave the intact tape in place. 
  5. Prep the seams by cleaning them with rubbing alcohol and a clean rag.
  6. Apply the new sealant to the seams by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  7. Let it dry for at least 6 hours or overnight before packing it away.
    PPRO ADVISE: depending on your climate, let your tent dry for 24 hrs before packing it away. 

#3. Restore the Tent’s Urethane Coating

It’s time to reapply the polyurethane coating if you notice leaking, flaking, stickiness or dull spots on the tent floor or the underside of the rainfly. As an FYI, the tent floor is often referred to as the ‘bathtub’ or ‘tub’ because it usually runs up the walls a few inches. 

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. remove the flaking with a dry brush, or the abrasive side of a sponge
  2. clean the area with Rubbing Alcohol
  3. spread an even thin layer of urethane coating across the fabric
  4. let it dry for 24 hours before packing your tent away
  5. once dry, the waterproof barrier will appear as clear and somewhat glossy

#4. Renew the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Layer

It’s time to renew the DWR coating if you notice water/rain is not beading up on the outer section of your rainfly.  

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. setup your tent and attach the rainfly
  2. apply an even DWR coating over the rainfly
    PRO ADVISE: choose a DWR product that also offers UV protection to extend the life of your tent. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions before applying the product to get the best results.
    A general rule of thumb is:
    • silicon-based DWR products are applied to dry fabric. 
    • Water based DWR products, are applied to wet fabric. 
  3. Let it dry completely for 24 hours before packing it away.
    PRO ADVISE: you can also use DWR coating on your jackets, boots, and backpack to waterproof them. 

#5. Repeat the process. 

Waterproofing your tent is not a one-time thing. Be sure to repeat the process every few years or as needed to maintain the waterproofing of your tent.

Stay Dry

Waterproofing your tent is crucial for a comfortable and fun camping trip. It protects you and your gear from the elements and extends the life of your tent. Check out our article on Backpacker Checklist to ensure you don’t miss anything on your next adventure.


What are the benefits of waterproofing a tent?

Waterproofing a tent can protect you and your belongings from getting wet during rainy weather. It also helps prevent mold and mildew growth, which can damage the tent and cause health issues.

How often should I waterproof my tent?

It is recommended to waterproof your tent before your first use and then again every year or two depending on how frequently you use it and the conditions you use it in.

What materials do I need to waterproof a tent?

You will need a waterproofing spray or solution, a clean cloth or sponge, and a well-ventilated area to work in.

Can I use regular waterproofing spray on my tent?

It is best to use a waterproofing spray that is specifically designed for tents, as these sprays are formulated to work on the materials used in tents and are often more durable.

How do I apply waterproofing to my tent?

First, clean your tent with a damp cloth or sponge and allow it to dry completely. Then, apply the waterproofing spray or solution according to the manufacturer’s instructions, making sure to cover all areas of the tent that may be exposed to water. Allow the tent to dry completely before use.

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Meet AJ Yarwood, the outdoor enthusiast and the Creative Director of, dedicated to sharing unforgettable outdoor experiences with a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step. Join him as he navigates the wonders of nature, from towering peaks to hidden trails, sharing a treasure trove of tips and tricks along the way!