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How Waterproof Are Roof Top Tents?

How Waterproof Are Roof Top Tents?

Are you concerned about just how waterproof a roof top tent will be?

The short answer:

A quality roof top tent will be very waterproof. Choosing a waterproof roof tent should be based on its waterproof rating, floor protection, and quality of seams. Also consider the presence of awnings for additional rain protection over windows and entry points.

With roof top tents you typically want to ensure that it has a greater level of waterproofing than a regular ground tent. Luckily, they have been made to do just that.

Traditional ground tents are typically water-resistant, rather than actually being waterproof. They are constructed from very thin fabric topped with a rainfly just in case it happens to rain.

Although the fabric type can vary, they are typically made from easy to clean polyethylene.

Roof top tents, on the other hand, are made from much thicker fabric and also have that extra rainfly layer. Almost all roof top tent fabrics are made with an impregnated poly-cotton.

Not only does this provide much more reliable waterproofing, but it also keeps the tent lightweight and flexible.

Do Roof Top Tents Lose Their Waterproofing?

Over time the efficiency of waterproofing will decrease. For people who use their roof top tent 2 or 3 times a week, you’re likely to need to reproof every two years. If you use your tent more than this, it may need reproofing more frequently.

If you’ve just recently bought your roof top tent, the waterproofing should last for a while, so it isn’t something you’ll immediately need to worry about. Typically, you’ll be able to tell when your tent is needing reproofing as it will become visibly noticeable. An obvious sign is seeing the outer coating start to flake off.

There are of course some additional steps that you can take to ensure your tent stays waterproof for a lifetime, such as:

  • Before you use it, set up the tent and remove the rainfly. Then, spray the tent with water. This helps to bond the stitching tighter together, which in turn, prevents more water from coming in. Let the tent dry completely before packing it back up or it could cause irreversible damage.
  • Consider investing in a tent that has a canopy-covered entrance. Ensuring that the inside of the tent stays dry is a crucial part of preserving the waterproofing. Opening and closing the door all the time will allow water to get in easily. The canopy should be long enough to cover your ladder.

How Do You Seal a Roof Top Tent?

Step 1 – Wash The Tent

Before applying a waterproof sealant you need to properly wash the tent. The easiest way to do this is by filling a bucket or tub with warm water mixed and tent cleaner. If you use a tent-specific wash, it won’t damage the fabric in any way.

Zip open any windows and doors, turn the tent inside out, and place it in the bucket along with the rainfly. The tent cleaner should specify how long the tent needs to be soaked for. Once ready, rinse the tent cleaner off with warm water.

Some waterproof sealants require the tent to be completely dry, and others require it to be damp, so you should check this before deciding on your drying process.

Step 2 – Seal The Seams

The seams of a tent are particularly problematic as they let water through easily, if not properly sealed. This step may not always be required, but it’s worth checking.

For this, the tent generally needs to be dry. Lay the tent out in a space big enough that you can access all of the seams, such as a kitchen table. Simply squeeze some sealant onto the seams and spread it along using a small paintbrush.

Leave the treatment to cure before moving on to the next step. This could take up to 24 hours.

Step 3 – Re-Waterproof

If you suspect that the urethane coating on your rainfly is degrading, you’ll need to apply a new urethane coating before a durable water-repellent.

To do this, simply scrub off the remainder of the coating with the abrasive side of a sponge and surgical spirit. Apply a new, thin layer of urethane coating and allow it to dry for 24 hours.

For the durable water-repellent, again lay your tent and rainfly out in a large, flat space. Check if the fabric needs to be damp or dry and adjust accordingly. Spray the DWR evenly over the tent and rainfly and leave it to dry completely before packing it away.


How Do You Dry a Roof Top Tent?

Making sure your tent is dry before packing up is important – but also difficult. If you live in a climate that has long precipitation periods, then getting a break in the weather can be hard to come by.

Packing tents away when they are wet can cause damage to the fabric and waterproofing, so ideally you’d let it dry beforehand.

In cases where this isn’t possible, pack the tent away and open it up again at the nearest opportunity. Drying the tent out in the sun is the most effective drying technique, but letting it dry in a sheltered area or garage can also work.

Mildew or mould can start to grow in as quickly as 2 days, so this is the longest possible time you should leave a wet tent packed up for.

Closing Thoughts 

Roof top tents are designed to be more durable and waterproof than regular ground tents, so as long as you properly look after your tent and re-waterproof when required you shouldn’t have any problems with getting wet on our journey.

If you are really concerned about heavy rain, consider a hard shell with additional awning for the added water protection a solid surface will provide. Like the Mt. Hood by CVT.

Mt. Hood by CascadiaTents

Depending on how often you use the tent, the frequency that you’ll need to re-waterproof varies, but typically it would be every two years. Bear in mind that seeping water could be caused by holes or faulty seams rather than a degrading sealant.

Applying a durable water-repellent is a fairly simple job, with the lengthy stages mainly being the washing and drying. However, most sealants come in a spray form so the actual application is not troublesome.


Up Next:

Are Rooftop Tents Good For Families?

How Much Does a Tepui Tent Weigh?

What is the Biggest Roof Top Tent?

What is the Lightest Hard Shell Roof Tent?


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