In this post, you’ll learn all about tent condensation; what causes it, and what solutions you have to stop it from happening.
Even more, I will include a quick guide on how to choose a tent with the right fabric, that can cope well with moisture.
Plus, you can check out what camping dehumidifiers to use if your problem is very serious.
Worried that your shelter is leaking? Read more about the problem to properly find out what is going wrong.
So, let’s start with the main reason why a tent might get wet.
Condensation inside a tent and how to stop it
When talking about why a tent might get wet, condensation is to blame for 90 percent of the cases. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon for which we’re still not able to find a decent solution (not in the camping world at least).
The science behind it is very simple: the water vapors change their form, from gaseous to liquid. In nature, the result of this is well known to all of us: rain. Lovely to watch, not so lovely to stand in it (except for hot summer days).
In the case of a camping tent, the same principle applies, it will still “rain”, but it will do that on the tent’s walls, usually on the top layers. This happens when warm water vapors hit the relatively cold tent fabric, and they’re not able to escape. At this moment, they lose their capacity to hold water and change their state into a liquid, leaving you with a wet tent.
So what causes tent condensation? Nature and physics do. But, I bet you’re camping techniques are helping them two a lot (more on this further down).
I know, you know basic physics, you just want to find out how to stop it. So, without making this even longer, here are the steps you need to take to stop tent condensation:
1. Ventilate your tent
Even if you do everything by the book, if you’re tent is not breathable, you’re going to get wet; the warm and sticky kind of wet – greenhouse wet.
So the solution is very simple: let the air flow in and out your tent to take those water vapors with it.
Having a tent with a porch (find some good ones here) area could help a lot; I know that sometimes keeping windows and entrances opened could let some nasty creatures inside.
2. Use a tent dehumidifier
This is for those who are really keen to keep fresh air outside their tent. Having a tent dehumidifier (check out some great ones) can help in some situations, especially if the tent is not that big and the device can cope with the water vapors.
Personally, I can’t be bothered to carry one with me, but I can understand o person that would want to use it.
3. Buy a tent with a breathable fabric
Remember, water vapors turn to liquid when they can’t escape; and surely they can’t get through the widely used Nylon 190T material.
The Arctic Oven tent with breathable fabric.
Around $1500, but it can go all the way up to $3500. Now, that’s the price you need to pay for a condensation-free tent, where you can keep the entrances and windows closed, cook, drink, wash your clothes, take a bath, boil water and other things that people do to end up with wet tents.
And with this, we kinda wrap up the ways to stop this “nasty” phenomenon.
But keep reading, let’s see if any of your camping habits can make the situation even worse.
What helps condensation build up and how to prevent it
Now that we know how to stop it, let’s see some of the reasons why some of us are really having serious problems with it, and what solutions there are to prevent it:
Humans and pets
That’s right: every time you breathe, you produce water vapors. In fact, an adult can produce nearly 1 pint of them every night.
Guess what happens inside a tent if a big family with 2 dogs (that sleep inside) go camping?
Cooking inside your tent
Unless you’ve never been inside a kitchen before, you should know that cooking cause a lot of vapors. And without proper ventilation, they will quickly turn to moisture.
So unless you’re camping in the Himalayas, set up the camping kitchen outside. Grab some campfire cooking tools and enjoy nature.
Poor campsite selection
- Pitch on dry ground: If the ground beneath you is wet, all that moisture will evaporate during the day when temperatures rise. In this case, ventilation can work against you, as you’re bringing moisture in.
- Stay away from sitting waters: Although camping near a lake gives you some great views and experiences, it can build up condensation, especially it’s a very hot day. Swamp areas are even worse.
- Choose a place with a breeze: Airflow will move water vapors away, giving them little time to condense.
Drying clothes inside
Some do this without realizing that clothes dry by releasing water vapors, and we all know now what’s going to happen with them. You want to do everything to reduce moisture levels inside your tent, so take all the wet clothes outside and hang them somewhere so the wind can quickly dry them.
Having a heater inside
Some tent heaters, especially gas ones, do release moisture when burning. If turning them off during cold nights it’s not an option, at least try to vent the room from time to time.
Alternatively, you can switch to electric versions that cause no moisture to build up. Or, try out some of our tent heating ideas that require no such devices.
Unnecessary use of the rainfly
If it’s a clear sky and there’s no forecast for rain, why keep the rainfly on? All you do is add another wall to keep the water vapors in.
Winter camping condensation
During cold seasons, especially in the winter, this event is quite hard, if not impossible to stop. The temperature difference between the inside and outside is huge, and condensation will occur minutes after you step inside your tent.
So what can we do to stop it?
- Don’t bring snow inside: Clean your boots and clothes before you get in. Room temperature will melt the snow, which will quickly evaporate and freeze on the top of the tent.
- Leave a small opening for airflow: Ventilation in the winter can be a bit tricky, but you balance the heat loss perfectly, you’ll have a quite dry interior.
- Dry your sleeping bag: During the night, your sleeping bag will get wet and all that moisture will soon evaporate. Having no way to escape, it will quickly condense on the tent’s walls.
- Use dry bags to store clothes: This is a very useful technique to store wet clothes and reduce the sources of moisture.
Take a look at the video below and see what else you can do about this issue.
In some situations, making the right tent choice can help a lot. If you’re not sure how to choose one, see our tent season ratings guide.
Spot a leaking tent
Sometimes, condensation can be mistaken with a leaking tent. Although is quite rare for this to happen, it’s also very easy to spot. Here’s how you can tell the difference:
- The fabric color will become a darker variant of the original color, in spots where moisture is present. This is a sign that the protective waterproofing coat is fading, letting the water soak through.
- There’s moisture building up in the corners. A tale-tale sign of damaged sewings, or even worse, fabric damage due to friction with the tent’s poles.
- There’s water building up on the floor. This might mean that your groundsheet is not that waterproof, or your tent footprint is not properly installed (see how to properly fit one).
Spotting the difference can be harder when both condensation and leaking is present. Unfortunately, the only way to tell the difference then is to get home, dry out your tent, and do a water spray test. But don’t get inside, so your breathing cannot build up condensation.
If you spot a leak, don’t worry. There are many ways you can deal with them. You can find some tent waterproofing solutions if you read our comprehensive guide about this.
Now that you know how to prevent condensation, go out there and enjoy the camping experience no matter what nature has to throw at you. Remember, you can never beat the laws of physics, all we can do is just trick them and hope for great results.
If you have a better solution for this problem, don’t hesitate to share it with us in the comment section below.
Until next time, I wish you a dry camping experience.