How to Waterproof a Tent Floor

Updated August 4, 2021
Kids happily sitting inside of blue tent

One of the most common questions people ask before they go camping is how to waterproof a tent floor. This is certainly a very important issue because a wet tent floor will definitely put a damper on any camping experience. Camping dry for tent protection is absolutely essential. That's why learning how to waterproof a tent is so important.

Is It Necessary to Waterproof a Tent?

Many people assume that just because they have a tent, they will be protected from all the elements of the weather. This is not always the case. Even tents that claim to be waterproof can spring a leak, so it is always best to waterproof the tent before you go camping.

The last place you want to be when you discover your tent is not waterproof is caught in an intense rainstorm miles away from civilization. This is not only a discomfort, for the obvious reason of wet clothes and being cold, but you can actually catch hyperthermia and get very sick from sleeping in a wet tent.

rain running down sides of a small tent

Some people don't think about waterproofing their tent, but doing so is certainly a good idea. Often, people will go to extraordinary lengths to be prepared on their camping trip, including waterproofing hiking boots, but will forget or neglect to make sure the tent has been waterproofed.

How the Factory Waterproofs the Tent

Just because a tent says that it has been waterproofed does not mean that every single inch of the tent is waterproof. The factory applies a waterproof seal in certain areas, usually the seams, tent floor, and the tent rain fly. The factory waterproof coating is not the best. It might work well in the beginning, but eventually, the coating will wear out and the tent will start leaking or getting wet from the flooring. The factory sometimes waterproofs the bottom foot or so of the wall, but not always. When waterproofing a tent floor, it is important to remember to waterproof the first 2 feet of the walls to ensure extra dry protection.

How to Waterproof a Tent Floor

Now that you know how important it is to waterproof the flooring of the tent, how exactly do you go about doing this? Learn the steps for waterproofing a tent floor.

Step 1: Purchase a Tent Sealer

The first thing you must do is purchase a good waterproof sealant specially designed for tents. The best place to find such a product is in a camping outfitter store such as REI or Campmor. Verify that the waterproofing product is specially designed for tents and camping equipment.

Step 2: Read the Instructions

Read the directions thoroughly before you begin applying the product. Many products require you to add water or other mixtures before beginning.

Step 3: Apply the Waterproofing

Once you have the waterproofing product prepared, apply a coating or two on the flooring of the tent. For a small tent, you want to coat the entire section with the first coat. However, for larger tents, you might need to apply coats in sections.

Step 4: Add Additional Coats

Timing is absolutely crucial. Do not wait until the first coat is completely dry before applying the second coat. This will do nothing to add extra protection. Instead, apply the second coating while the first is still drying. If the weather is warm where you are waterproofing, the coating will dry faster. If it's very warm and you are coating a large tent, you might want to coat one half, then apply the second coating before proceeding onto the other half of the tent floor.

Where to Waterproof the Tent

The factory will almost always waterproof the flooring of the tent on the inside. Therefore, waterproof the outside flooring. The factory-coated side might leave a glossy appearance if the tent is still relatively new and has not yet been exposed to many camping trips.

Blue Tent During Rainy Season

Things to Remember When Waterproofing Tents

Make sure that you apply the waterproofing material when the tent is completely dry. Just as paint will only stick to a clean, dry surface, the waterproof coating will only hold fast on a dry tent. That's why it's too late to apply the coating when you're lying in the tent and begin to feel the rain coming down. Make sure you do not dry the tent in a drying machine, as this can weaken the waterproof quality and overall durability of the tent.

Tips to Keep the Tent Dry

Besides waterproofing the tent, there are many things you can do to help make sure you camp dry. Some of these ideas include:

  • Place a ground cloth under your tent. A tarp underneath the tent can help prevent wear and tear on the waterproof coating.
  • Always set your tent on higher ground than the surrounding areas. This will help the groundwater drain away from the tent and not toward it.
  • If the floor is leaking, placing a tarp inside the tent can help keep the flooring more dry.
  • Make sure you have a tent with a rain fly that provides good coverage.
  • Pack rain gear just in case all else fails.
  • Always vent your tent to allow condensation to escape.
  • Always pack your tent dry to avoid mildew.

Waterproofing a Floor Tent

When it comes to your tent, you never want to be stuck in water. That means that you might need to add an extra waterproofing coat to your tent. Now that you know how, it's time to get waterproofing.

How to Waterproof a Tent Floor