Are Pop Up Tents Waterproof? (Solved & Explained)

A pop-up tent takes a lot of hassle out of setting up camp. If you’re road-tripping and have the space for a pop-up tent it sure saves time, which means more fun seeing the sites. But, is a pop-up tent waterproof?

A pop-up tent, like all other tents, is not waterproof in the sense that it will always keep water out 100% of the time without fail. What you can be sure of is that most pop-up tents designed for camping are water-resistant. This means that they are designed to shed rain in difficult weather keeping you dry while you are sleeping. 

Caring for and using a water-resistant pop-up tent properly should keep you dry even in the most difficult weather. The keys are properly caring for your tent and properly setting it up. 

Rainy day camping in a pop up tent doesnt have to get you all wet

First, let’s consider what to look for in a pop-up tent that will be quick and easy to set up and will keep you dry on your next camping trip or road trip.

Examine the Manufacturer’s Specifications

Many pop-up tent manufacturers will use terms like weather-resistant, water-resistant, and water repellent, and some will even call their tents waterproof. But even the manufacturers that call their tent material waterproof will describe it as water-resistant.

A tent can never be 100% waterproof because it’s made of cloth. Unless that cloth is encased in rubber there’s no foolproof way to keep water out. 

But you can find tents that are highly water and weather-resistant. So look for a pop-up tent that has a dense fabric that has been treated to resist water. The pop-up tent I own is the Gazelle T4 and is the most well-made tent I’ve owned. I’ve written about whether a Gazelle pop-up hub tent is worth it.

Choose The Best Location For Your Pop-Up Tent

A lot of water problems with your tent can be avoided by choosing the right location for your tent. 

Before pitching your tent find a spot that’s not too high, such as on a hilltop where wind and rain can get rough. 

You also want to avoid the low ground. There’s nothing worse than coming back to your campsite after a rainstorm to discover that you pitch your tent in the worst place. The low ground will be a collection point for runoff. Ask me how I know. 

So find a good middle ground that’s flat for a good sleeping surface, but also not the high ground or the low ground. 

Another thing to look at is how the ground around your tent slopes. If you think that rainwater run off might run to your tent from higher ground you may need to pick a different spot. If you can’t then using a small shovel or tent stakes dig a shallow trench around your tent to divert runoff. 

Just be sure that you fill this trench back in before you break camp. Always try to leave your campsite better than you found it. 

Keeping things dry when camping is easier than you might think

Keep The Floor Dry

Keep moisture from seeping through the floor with a good tent footprint or a ground tarp. Most pop-up tent manufacturers produce a footprint that’s made to fit your tent. 

You can simply use a tarp. Either cut it to size to fit the footprint of your tent, or fold the excess tarp under itself so that none of the tarp extends past the edges of the tent. If you don’t get this step right you’ll be funneling water under your tent that runs off the sides. This is the opposite of what the ground tarp is supposed to do. 

Use A Rain Fly

Another feature you should be sure your pop-up tent has is a rain fly. A rain fly is a separate piece of specially treated fabric that you attach above your tent. 

This extra piece of fabric treated to repel moisture adds a barrier that protects the tent itself from moisture. The rain fly is usually made to protect mainly the roof of the tent where you need the protection from moisture the most. 

Apply Fresh Water Repellent To Your Pop-Up Tent

A brand new pop-up tent should repel water just fine. There’s already been a coating of water repellent applied to the tent by the manufacturer. 

A tent that’s been used for a couple of seasons likely needs to have a fresh coat of water repellant applied. This is pretty easy. 

Pick up a can or two of spray-on water repellent. We like Camp Dry. We’ve used it on our tents over the years and it works great and lasts two or three seasons of camping. In fact, we have a tent that we’ve been using for over 20 years.

I prefer to do this outside on a dry, sunny day that’s not windy. You could do this indoors by spreading the tent out on the floor. But I like having the tent fully set up so that the material is stretched out just like it will be when you’re camping. I think the coverage is better this way. 

Enjoy a dry overnight when camping by giving attention to a few details

Keep Water From Seeping Through The Seems

If your tent has been used for several seasons then your tent seams will likely need to be re-sealed. Something like Gear Aid Seam Grip is what I recommend. For this spreading the tent out on the floor indoors is the better method. Follow the directions with the seam sealer and you’ll be in good shape with no leaky seams the next time your tent sees rain.

Take Your Shoes Off

Use a mat outside the door of your tent to take off your shoes before stepping into the tent. 

And since you won’t want to leave your shoes outside, use a mat inside the tent to put your wet shoes on when you’re inside. 

Keep Your Gear Dry

Another challenge to keeping the inside of your tent dry is the gear that you bring in and out. If at all possible, keep wet gear outside your tent. Some tents come with a vestibule. This is where you should keep your wet gear. You could keep your shoes here too. 

This keeps moisture from entering your sleeping space in the tent and thus helps prevent your floor and sleeping bag and dry clothes from getting wet. 

If you must bring your gear into the tent take a few moments to wipe off any moisture from your bags, backpacks, and other items. 

Keep a handy microfiber towel with your camping gear for this. Microfiber towels can be a handy camping item to have and can be used for many purposes. You can even use one for drying off after a shower. They are thin and light and can be rung out and dry quickly. 

Keeping the inside of your tent dry can go a long way to keeping you warmer when you’re camping in cold weather. If you’re sleeping on the ground in cold weather this is important. 

Though a pop-up tent may be advertised as waterproof, no tent can keep all the moisture out. But you can, with care and planning keep the inside of your tent dry and comfortable for a great camping trip or road trip.

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  • Kevin

    About the Author

    Hi, I'm Kevin and I love getting outside. I want my articles to be as helpful as possible so that you can learn to enjoy getting outside more often yourself. So leave a comment if you have a question, find a typo, or think I missed something. I'd love to hear from you.

    You can learn more about me and find more of my articles here.

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