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So, you got your tent and you’re ready to embark on a wilderness adventure, right? If it were only that easy. Before you head out to the campsite, it’s important to ensure that your tent is completely waterproof.
Yes I know, the product description online notes that the material will keep you dry, but what about the seams?
No matter how tight the stitches are, there is always enough room for moisture to squeeze through. Leaving you and your camping buddies in a damp situation.
Instead of hoping that your tent holds up to the elements, safeguard your camping experience by waterproofing your shelter and learning how to seam seal a tent.
The Seam Sealing Process
Don’t break out the sealer yet. First, we need to ensure the tent is clean and dry. Once all tidy, pitch the tent in a well-ventilated area and grab some protective equipment.
The seam sealant can give off toxic fumes and irritate your skin if mishandled. I would suggest wearing disposable rubber gloves and an old long-sleeve shirt to be safe. Depending on which sealant you use, two tips are often overlooked in the prep process: time and weather.
Some products take up to a day to dry, so you will have to leave your tent pitched overnight – hence don’t try and do it in the park. Also, if the forecast calls for showers, plan to waterproof your tent at a different time.
Excessive moisture can not only lengthen the drying time but completely mess up your sealant’s composition.
The seam sealing application is probably the easiest part of the whole process. I’d like to give you a blanket explanation of how exactly to apply each product, but every sealant is different. Instead, I’ll lay out a few ballpark estimates and general guidelines.
First off, always read the manufacturer’s recommendation for both the tent and the sealant product. Many camping tents will provide a schematic for which seams you will need to waterproof.
If you can’t find an explanation, carefully seal all the seams on the tent floor, rainfly, and lower part of the tent body. Always begin by asking yourself, “Where is the most likely place that water will enter the tent?” and go from there.
Instead of brushing on the sealant all willy-nilly, I like to use painter’s tape on each side of every seam I intend to seal. That way, I don’t make a mess. I’ll start with all the interior stitching, then do the outside. Apply and let dry.
Pro Camper’s Tip
When seam sealing the interior floor, you can apply three or four stripes of sealant perpendicular to the direction you sleep – not on the seams. Once dry, the strips of sealant will provide a non-skid floor, so your sleeping pad doesn’t slide around at night.
3. Post-Treatment Care
After the recommended curing period has passed, wait another 24 hours to ensure the sealant has set, no matter what the instructions say. To test the quality of your work, turn on a hose or sprinkler – or wait until a rainy day – and sit in your tent for an hour.
During this time, you’ll want to inspect all the stitches and seams, looking for leaks. If there is still a problem area, dry off the tent and patch it with the leftover sealant. You’ve done it.
One final precaution in the sealing process, store the tent unfolded and unstuffed to ensure that none of the sealant sticks together.
Tent Seam Sealing FAQs
Now let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions about seam sealing a tent.
How often should you seam seal a tent?
If your tent is unsealed, you will want to waterproof it before heading out into the woods. Other than that, I seam seal my tent once per year in the spring, before the main camping season starts up. But, it would be best if you inspected your shelter after every use, ensuring the stitches and seams are not defective. If you find a few weak spots, make sure to treat them before you venture back into the outdoors.
Do new tents need seam sealer?
Some tent manufacturers factory-seal the seams. While others choose not to spend the money since it can be a lengthy and time-consuming process. Although the material itself is waterproof, it has to be sewn together to fit the tent’s design. This leaves stitch holes in the fabric, leading to a potential water leak. If you want to stay warm and dry in your camping tent, seam sealing is a must.
What’s the difference between seam sealing and seam taping?
Seam sealing is an applied adhesive polymer that fills the needle holes between stitches. On the other hand, seam taping is when the waterproof tape is either adhered to or double sewn into the seams. If a tent comes seam taped from the manufacturer, you will not have to use a seam sealer.
Which tent seam sealer is the best?
If you are looking for a general product, two of the best silicone tent sealers are Gear Aid Silnet and Gear Aid Seam Grip. Gear Aid also makes a water-based seam sealer and it never hurts to have a repair kit handy! Be very careful about choosing your sealant product!
You wouldn’t want to ruin an expensive tent with a cheap knock-off brand. Many tent manufacturers recommend a specific sealant on their website which is compatible with the fabric.
Pro Camper’s Tip
Seam tape will not stick to silicone-impregnated nylon.
Wrapping Sealing It Up…
Seam sealing a tent is a must if you want to make sure your camping trip is dry and cozy. Don’t forget to regularly inspect the stitching to increase the life of your tent and return to this article if you have a question.
Or leave a comment. We’re always ready to help!
Follow the provided tips and tricks to waterproof your shelter and you’ll be swimming in outdoor adventures, not in a tent full of water.