Being woken up by the drip, drip, drip of water on your face is every camper's biggest fear (except for bears...) and it's not just a nightmare! Tent condensation can be an issue at any time of year, but is more common in the summer months when you're trying to pack light and move fast.
What causes condensation to occur? Condensation is a natural process that happens when the air outside your tent cools and moisture in the air condenses on any cooler surfaces.
The heat from our bodies mixed with cooler temperatures outside leads to water droplets forming on the ceiling and walls of our tents. This may also happen in colder temps because we lose moisture as we breathe out humidified air which cools quickly once outside before entering your tent (and so does some of that humidified breath!). Closed spaces make this problem worse - that's why it often occurs on the inside of a tent.
Warm air holds more water vapor than cold air, so condensation is most likely to occur when a tent has been closed up for hours, or overnight in humid conditions.
We've all had this problem, it's not just you! Condensation is a common cause for concern amongst anyone who camps or lives in an RV and looking at how to prevent it can be frustrating. The good news is that there are tons of ways to help prevent condensation in your tent if you're willing to put a little planning into it.
How Do I Prevent Tent Condensation?
Read on to see our 9 top tips to prevent tent condensation:
1. Maintain good ventilation
Make sure there is enough ventilation so moisture can escape through the mesh or vents in your walls and roof. Always keep the door open when possible but closed at night
2. Choose your camping spot carefully
You may also have condensation if you're camping in a place with high humidity like an old growth forest with lots of moss on trees; near waterfalls or other wet areas; or next to vernal pools that fill up during periods of heavy precipitation. Pitching your tent on saturated ground could also lead to moisture seeping into the inner tent and creating cold surfaces.
3. Cook outside where possible
Try not to cook inside, as cooking generates humidity which will condense on any surface within Condensation can be caused by humid air from campfires or cooking. If using a propane heater, place it outside and use a heat reflective guard to direct heat away from the tent. The same goes for boiling water - if you need a refreshing cup of tea, don't add more moisture to the living area and steam up the entire tent!
4. Consider the general air temperature
In winter, condensation will form on the inside of your tent if there are vents or windows open for circulation with cold air coming through them. In summer, condensation is more likely to form on the inside of your tent if you're camping in a hot and humid environment.
5. Avoid single wall tents
These tents are more prone to condensation issues because they have no barrier between the outside and inside. Double wall tents will help to keep the inside of your tent dry.
6. Use a tarp or poncho on top of your tent for extra ventilation
This will create an air gap where moisture can evaporate instead of building up within the fabric of your tent canopy.
7. Consider your geographical location
If you're camping down in Florida, or a similarly humid environment where condensation is likely to form on your tent, you should spend extra time to find a tent with an appropriate ventilation system, and set it up correctly to keep the air inside moving.
8. Check your tent for leaks before you set it up
Consider bringing a tarp to place under your tent which will help to keep any moisture from seeping through the bottom. A leaking tent may need to be waterproofed in order to prevent water from getting in, but it's important to only apply waterproofing agents when the tent is completely dry.
9. Try To Keep Wet Items Of Clothing Outside The Tent
It's inevitable that at some point in your camping trip career you'll come back to base with dripping wet clothes. Hanging these up to dry will be your first priority but if you're aiming for less condensation, try to find a dry area outside to do so. Bringing a separate gazebo or shelter on your trip can be handy for this.
And, don't forget about your boots- they'll nearly always be damp from the day's adventures
Good Tent Design
A properly designed tent will help to prevent condensation, especially on those cold nights when the warm air inside the tent creates a big temperature differential compared with the environment outside.
- Make sure your tent has slanted ceilings and walls to allow for air flow.
- Check the material used for your tent, and make sure it's breathable.
- Another way to improve air flow inside the tent is through proper ventilation; a mesh roof works great for this purpose.
- Adding items like carpeting or mats will help keep condensation away from tents that lack slanted ceilings and walls. Condensation can form on everything if they're not properly configured, so don't forget about other parts of the campsite such as picnic tables and chairs!
- A tarp under your tent also helps with moisture management by minimizing contact between water outside (rain) and dry ground underneath where you have set up camp (reducing moist conditions).
- Placing a more solid floor beneath the tent, made of a waterproof material, will also help to minimize contact with the ground and keep your tent more dry.
- Occasionally turning on a fan inside or outside of the tent is another useful way to deal with excess humidity; it won't get rid of all condensation but will take care of some by circulating air.
How Do I Stop Condensation In My Tent In Winter?
Condensation is less of an issue during the colder months of the year because it's difficult to get enough moisture inside from the outside air, although cold tent fabric will of course be more likely.
To manage condensation during the winter months specifically, try to insulate the tent as best you can. Keep in mind that thermal tents are particularly good at this, but any insulation will help a little.
You should also keep your windows closed when not using them and make sure they're properly sealed before zipping them up for the night.
Ways to do this include using an insulated ground cover, sleeping on a heated blanket instead of the cold floor and using a tarpaulin on the ground inside the tent as well.
Products That Can Help Manage Condensation Inside Your Tent
Tent Condensation Pads or Glue Dots
These products are designed for tents but may not work as well with other types of structures like trailers and RVs. They work by absorbing the moisture from the tent, this means they may need to be replaced once a week, or more often in damper conditions.
These are a thin sheet of plastic that can be placed on the inside of your tent when it starts to get wet. They reduce condensation by blocking the cold air from coming in contact with the inner wall of the tent.
Tarps like these are designed to be placed over the top of the tent and are made to be water resistant.
Placing one of these on the floor of your tent can reduce condensation by absorbing moisture as it seeps up from the ground.
Use one of these when you are going to be in one place for a long time. They work by sucking moisture out of the air, but they can also make breathing more uncomfortable for people who are sensitive to the smell of ozone.
Similar to condensation barriers, these sheets can be used on the inside walls and ceiling of your tent, they are made from a silicone fabric that is moisture resistant and will not leave any sticky or slimy residue.
Hang these inside your tent to cut down on condensation from the ceiling. It can also help to keep your belongings inside dry during a rain storm.
A vacuum sealer can help remove the moisture from your sleeping bag and clothing before you pack them up.
These will absorb excess moisture from clothing, bedding, carpets, pet areas - even wet shoes! Make sure any damp items are completely dry before returning them to their storage area so they don't start growing mold again.
Wick Away Cotton Sheets and Bedding
Cotton has natural wicking properties which helps it draw up water vapor without clumping into beads
If the situation really demands it, you can bring a dehumidifier. Naturally these will use a lot of energy, but that's less of a problem if you have an electrical hookup at your campsite. Otherwise it's worth investing in a decent set of portable solar panels and/or a battery - in the modern world these will make your camping life much more comfortable anyway!
We hope that gives you the overview and specific advice you need to keep your tent dry this summer. Remember - the general temperature, humidity level, and atmosphere inside your tent are the most important factors to consider.
Keep these in mind and make sure your ventilation is on point, and you'll avoid camping misery in the mornings! Feel free to drop us a line if you have more questions, or even some handy tips that we can add to this article.
Good luck on all your camping trips this season!