When you are lying in your tent at night, the soft pitter-patter of your rainfly can be a soothing natural sound. If those drips begin to originate inside your tent, however, it becomes a highly unpleasant place to rest. Condensation can also infiltrate even the most well-engineered shelters under the right circumstances.
It can be a wonderfully cathartic and freeing experience to camp in the great outdoors. As well as being a real struggle, it can be frustrating. Some campers have had the misfortune of going to sleep in their dry, warm tents only to wake up soaking wet. However, condensation is also a major source of moisture under the right circumstances, in addition to leaks.
The good news is that this is something you can prepare. Don't let condensation ruin your home away from home. A tent condensation prevention technique is a valuable camping skill that will keep you comfortable and dry on the trail for years to come.
What are your methods for preventing condensation? There are three main strategies to follow:
- Pick an optimum place to pitch your tent (answer: under trees)
- Minimize sources of excessive moisture in your tent
Heat can cause condensation on a cold surface when it comes in contact with warm air. A mug of cold beer on a hot day has this effect. It can also happen in a tent: Warm air in the tent moves to the rainfly outside, where it is cooler because of the cooler outside air. The result is condensation on your rainfly's underside. The water may then saturate your tent fabric or drip through a mesh window.
Strategy No. 1: Pick an optimum place to pitch your tent (answer: under trees)
Trees are your friend since air under trees tends to be warmer (compared to, say, a field), so your rainfly will also be warm. In addition, the condensation occurs on their foliage, not on your tent.
Strategy No. 2: Minimize sources of excessive moisture in your tent
In a tent, moisture comes from three sources:
- The amount of moisture present in the air itself (humidity)
- The moisture is brought into your inner airspace by each breath at night
- Moisture added by any wet items you may have inside your tent
Once you've picked a place for your tent, the humidity level is already in place. Even though you will breathe out moisture throughout the night, not breathing is not an option. However, you can decide whether wet clothes should be stored or hung inside a tent. If condensation control is your goal, dry things out at night (and never let your dog sleep wet inside your tent).
Strategy No. 3: Ventilate early, often, and fully.
Tent interior air is almost always more humid than the surrounding air, so you want to replace it with drier outside air. The following strategies are used for ventilation:
- If there is a gentle breeze, pitch the tent so the door faces it.
- As the tent is stretched out, tension the fly to maximize the airspace between the fly and tent wall.
- Open all doors and rollup sections; only deploy them when the rain begins to fall.
- Open all of the rainfly vents, especially the opposing ones, to allow cross ventilation.
- Allow all inner tent windows to be opened.
Usually, your rainfly isn't dry in the morning, but these tips should keep the majority of the moisture outside.
What type of tent is best to prevent condensation?
Tents come in many different shapes and sizes. There are two general categories in which most of them fall. There are single-walled, or single-skin, tents and there are double-walled, or double-skin, tents. The single-walled tents are made with a single layer of breathable fabric, which allows for better ventilation.
Tents of this type are usually cheaper, roomier, and lighter, though less robust and more prone to condensation than one of the others. The single layer is also moisture-permeable when worn in the right conditions. One of these tents would not be a good choice if condensation is expected to be an issue.
The double-walled tents provide better protection against rain and condensation. These tents consist of a mesh inner tent and a waterproof outer tent called a flysheet. The space between these two sheets acts as insulation and reduces condensation.
These double-wall tents are indeed heavier and more expensive than their single-wall counterparts, but they pay enormous dividends in extreme weather conditions. Experience the difference between a single-walled tent and a double-walled tent during a bad thunderstorm. Condensation will change the amount of moisture in the air.
What else should I look for in a Tent?
Double-walled tents are your best bet for reducing moisture from condensation, but when it comes to keeping the inside of your tent dry there are other factors to consider. One of the crucial terms to understand is the hydrostatic head (HH). This determines the waterproofness of the tent's material. A basic tent starts at 2000 mm HH and goes up from there. The higher better.
In addition, you should examine how the tent is constructed. Condensation is the least of your concerns if your sleeping area gets flooded after a light rain. Check the seams of the tent first. It is recommended to coat the stitching with a waterproof coating to prevent leaks. While you're at it, check the stitching to make sure it is strong and uniform. Tents with fewer stitches or more overlapped material are better protected.
Make sure that the zippers are covered with fabric or plastic that blocks or redirects rain. They are very important. In general, the tent is constructed in such a way that its inside remains dry and water is kept out. As an example, a tent with a bathtub-shaped groundsheet is an excellent investment. In essence, these tents have a thick layer of waterproof material sewed to the bottom and up the sides. It is very waterproof and provides excellent protection against moisture on the ground.
The inevitability of condensation when you go camping can be mitigated, but the severity of the condensation can still be decreased. You won't even have to think about moisture in your tent if you choose the right tent, in the right place, and with the right camping habits. As with everything in camping, there are elements beyond your control, but you can also take steps to prepare yourself. Knowing what to do and being prepared will help you avoid any condensation issues.