How To WaterProof a Cheap or Old Tent


All tents are waterproof, right? No.

Unfortunately, not all tents come waterproof and combine that with a cheaper tent or an older tent and chances are, you need to take some precautions and steps to take on how to waterproof a cheap or old tent.

There is no quicker way to ruin a camping trip than having you and your gear get soaking wet. When in the outdoors, it is crucial to have as much waterproofing as possible. This ensures your safety, happiness, warmth, and overall satisfaction with your camping trip.

This starts with your tent. Waterproofing your tent is the key to a successful camping trip. Thankfully, there are several easy things to do to ensure you stay dry while in the wilderness. Here are some simple, but crucial, steps you should take to waterproof your tent!

Lay a Ground Tarp

First things first, laying a quality ground tarp under your tent is very important. This is your first line of defense against moisture entering the tent. When it rains, the water will want to flow under your tent.

Most tent floors are not entirely waterproof, so the tarp will step up and block any runoff from seeping in. This also adds another layer of insulation between you and the ground. The better the tarp, the warmer, and dryer you will be.

However, improper use of the tarp can hurt more than help. Most likely, the tarp will be slightly bigger than the tent, so there will be access material extending out from the tent.

So, the key is to fold the access tarp under itself. This creates a great barrier.  If you fold the tarp up, it can create a pool for water to get in and stay in. If water, unfortunately, finds the bottom of your tent, you don’t want it to stay there. Improper use of a tarp can make that a reality.

Keep Everything Tight

Once you have your ground tarp set up properly, it is time to construct your tent. This is yet another very important step that can make or break your time camping. When setting up your tent, it is crucial to make sure everything is secured as tight as possible. This includes your rain fly, all corners of the tent, and the doorways.

When everything is tight, the water repels off and rolls down, causing no issues. When there are weak spots in the tent, water is attracted to it and will stay here. With the common nylon tents, the longer water sits on the fabric, the easier it is for the water to seep in and get the inside wet.

Having a taught tent also helps protect you from the wind. Especially in a storm, having a secure setup can be the difference between being safe or being in a very vulnerable situation. Once the structural integrity of the tent is compromised from poor weather conditions, you are in a world of hurt. You can avoid this by securely fastening every aspect of your tent.

Check Your Equipment

There is some maintenance required to reap the best possible results. This tip is something that should be taken care of before and after your adventures and not while actually on them. It is important to plan when possible.

That being said, before you pack your bags and head out, you should do an equipment check to make sure everything is in good shape.

Specifically, your rainfly and tent should be constantly checked and maintained. This is important to make sure you do not have any bad surprises on the trail.  Some basic steps to check your equipment include looking for any rips or tears, replacing worn out or broken pieces, and packing extra stakes in case they bend or break.

This seems pretty simple, but you would be surprised how many people forget to look over their gear and end up suffering because of it. Another good tip would be to bring patches or a sewing kit in case an accident arises while on your trek. All it takes is one little rip and your entire tent can be soaking wet.

How To WaterProof A Tent

Once you determine that your gear is in good shape and can be used effectively, applying a waterproofing treatment can be very beneficial. Generally speaking, most rain flies come waterproofed, but the more you expose it to the elements, the faster it wears off. Buying a waterproofing spray will help your gear last longer and keep you dry as much as possible.

There are tons of brands that make a waterproofing spray, so it is not hard to find a product in your budget.

Along with the rainfly, the tent itself can be sprayed down and waterproofed as much as possible. Spraying the bottom and sides is a good option, but you will burn through a lot of product very quickly.

All of this considered, tent manufacturers typically do a good job of waterproofing the materials, but it doesn’t last forever. It becomes your responsibility to keep your equipment in tip-top shape.

If your tent is older and has some other issues that require repair, before tossing it, check out our DIY Guide to Tent Repair!

Buy Seam Sealer

On the inside of the tent, there are seems that connect pieces of material to make the overall tent. Anytime two separate pieces are fused a weak spot is formed. Weak spots need extra attention as they could create problems down the line. As the name implies, seam sealers can be applied to the seams to reinforce the connection.

As time goes on, those seams are more likely to give out. You can avoid this issue by applying the seam sealers. Make sure to do some research, because different sealers are made for different types of tents.

For example, tents that have a polyurethane coating required a different sealer than silicone treated tents.

Here are some great options to check out:

Be Prepared

Finally, you just need to be prepared. It is always good to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Bring any extras you can afford to and have a plan for if things go south. Prepare everything you can before you are out on an adventure and are vulnerable to the elements. Simply knowing the basic s of how to waterproof a cheap or old tent is half the battle.

Waterproofing your tent is the most important line of defense against the elements. After all, your comfort, safety, and success while in the outdoors rely on it.

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