Tips for waterproofing an old tent

Updated on May 26, 2016

So you don't have a waterproof tent...

You might be in the situation where you need a waterproof tent. And you need one quick. Maybe you are not very enthusiastic about backpacking, but you have decided to go on a weekend camping trip with your friends. However you are thinking about cancelling the event. You don't have a waterproof tent, and buying a new one can cost hundreds of dollars - something you can't afford. But fear not! If you have any kind of tent, or if you can borrow one from your mates, you can make it waterproof by following the tips in this hub.

A few tips before you start

First of all, you need to determine which areas of your tent need waterproofing. Did the waterproof coating of the wall come off? Is the floor of the tent leaking? Does your tent need a waterproof fly? There is no golden rule to waterproofing a tent. Different areas of your tent will require different kinds of care.

The way to find out which area you need to work on is to fill the bath full of water and push the tent under the water. If little bubbles of air escape to the surface, you have found the area you have to work on. Then let your tent dry out in the shades. Some tents are not UV resistant, that is why you need to do this in the shades.

Apply all the techniques in this hub at home. You never know what you will encounter outdoors. It is better to be on the safe side and do it at home where you can take care of any problems that might arise. Not to mention that you have a more controlled, cleaner environment to work in at home.

A great waterproof tent

A great waterproof tent will remain dry on the inside even in the heaviest of rains.
A great waterproof tent will remain dry on the inside even in the heaviest of rains. | Source

Clean your tent before waterproofing

Start by cleaning the fabric of your tent. Neither part of the tent can be waterproofed unless it is dry and clean. Otherwise any layer you apply will cover only the dirt and come off in the first rain.

Soak a sponge in warm water. Use a sponge with a soft surface, never use a sponge with a rough surface. It might tear the fabric of your tent. Never use a washing machine for cleaning you tent. The constant rocking of the machine will be detrimental to your tent. It will stretch, and eventually tear the fabric.


A tarp can not only provide shelter, but waterproof the floor of your tent
A tarp can not only provide shelter, but waterproof the floor of your tent | Source

What if your floor leaks?

The floor is the most crucial part of your tent when it comes to waterproofing. Even if it does not rain, a leaky floor will result in a wet tent. The moisture from the vegetation under your tent will appear on the inside of the tent.

Use a tarp under your tent whenever you set it up. In fact you should do this even if your floor is in mint condition. The tarp will prevent the rocks and vegetation trapped under your tent from damaging the floor.

Most tents are factory taped, but not factory sealed. This means that the water can get in where the wall and the floor of the tent connect. Factory taped seams have a little piece of waterproof material between the double stiches. This is better than nothing, but it does not provide perfect waterproofing. You should apply a seam sealer. Buy one from Amazon, then apply it in a thick layer on the seam, and wait for it to dry. The seam sealer will provide excellent waterproofing, and will not allow the water to slip through the cracks.

Then apply a waterproof spray to the whole floor. First apply it to the inside of the tent. Soak the floor in he waterproof spray. Then grab a piece of cloth and distribute the liquid. Wait for it to dry. You should always do this in the open. Most waterproofing sprays are not good for your health, it is crucial to not inhale any of the gas. Open all the doors and windows on your tent.

Once the inside is dry repeat the same process on the outside of the floor. Soak it with the waterproofing spray, distribute the spray (you can use the same piece of cloth), and wait for it to dry.

Apply a seam sealer where the floor and the wall meet

What if the wall leaks?

The wall can be waterproofed in a similar manner as your floor. You can use the same waterproof spray as you did for the floor. Soak the wall with the spray. Distribute it with the cloth. Wait for it to dry. You usually don't have to apply as much to the wall if you are doing this right after you did the floor. Just squeeze the liquid out of the cloth onto the wall, and you are good to go.

You should always use a rainfly with your tent. A rainfly is a layer made of plastic that should cover the whole tent, thus adding an additional waterproof layer. Most waterproof tents come with a rainfly, but if your tent doesn't have one, do not panic. Most manufacturers allow you to buy a rainfly for your tent separately. If yours does not, you can buy a tarp from Amazon. The same kind of tarp that you put under your tent will work here. The rainfly should never touch the inner wall of the tent. If you are using a tarp, you can fix its place by putting rocks on the edges. Easy job.

Overall tips

  • Identify the places where your tent is leaking
  • Clean your tent
  • Use a seam sealer
  • Use a water repellent spray
  • Put a tarp under your tent every time you set it up

Which waterproofing sprays do I recommend?

I find the Nikway TX Direct Spray-on to be the best waterproofing spray. It has several features that make this one my favourite. It not only makes your tent waterproof, but it enhances the breathability of the fabric. Unfortunately waterproofing sprays tend to have a horrible smell. A big positive of the Nikwax TX Direct Spray-on is that it has a very mild odor, nothing compared to some others I have tried. All in all, this is the water repellent I recommend.

The best waterproofing spray

What to avoid

You can read some pretty strange pieces of advice on the internet about waterproofing your tent. These can all work - your tent will certainly be waterproof- but they will destroy it in the long run.

The first of these advice is to apply grease or lard to the rainfly. This will keep out water, but it will remove all waterproof coating from your tent. Not to mention that it is disgusting, and it will be unpleasant to pack a tent soaked in lard. Lard will also attract bugs and critters. You really don't want to wake up in a sea of ants...

Another one is to apply ductape. I will be hard to remove, not to mention that it can tear the wall of the tent made of more sophisticated materials.

The third piece of advice is to use a candle. Light a candle and make sure the drops land on the hole in your tent. Personally I find this very risky. You can set your tent on fire not to mention that if the wall is made of plastic that is not heat resistant, the hot fuzz will ruin your tent once and for all. You are much better off spending ten bucks than setting your tent on fire and having to explain to your loved ones why the weekend's camping trip is off.

Unlucky camper

Don't set up your tent in places where heavy rains could result in streams. Even the best waterproof tents won't be able to withstand the challenge.
Don't set up your tent in places where heavy rains could result in streams. Even the best waterproof tents won't be able to withstand the challenge. | Source


Would you rather buy a new waterproof tent, or upgrade your exisitng one?

See results


Waterproofing an old tent is easy and cheap. If you are not a regular camper, there is no point in buying a brand new, fancy waterproof tent for just a one-off trip. You would be better off by buying a tarp, applying a seam sealer and a waterproofing spray. It will cost you no more than a few bucks, and you will receive the value of great times with your family.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Thomas Martin 

      20 months ago

      HomeDepot carries a product, "Starbrite Waterproofing with PTEF". Supposed to be good for boat covers, umbrellas, acrylic cushions, and tents. Anyone know about this product?

    • PeteTaylor339 profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Taylor 

      6 years ago from Edinburgh

      You can find more information on how to apply a waterproofing spray here :


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)