Tent Waterproof Ratings: What You Need To Know

campers with tent

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When it comes to camping, one of the most important considerations is the quality of your tent.

After all, your tent is your home away from home while you’re out in the wilderness.

One of the key factors in determining the quality of a tent is its waterproof rating. A tent’s waterproof rating refers to its ability to keep you dry in wet conditions.

There are a few different rating systems used to measure a tent’s waterproofness, but the most common is the millimeter rating system. This system measures the amount of water pressure a tent can withstand before it starts to leak. A rating of 1500mm or higher is considered to be fully waterproof.

While a tent’s waterproof rating can be a good indicator of how it will hold up when exposed to elements, like rain or snow, it’s important to keep in mind that a tent’s high waterproof rating doesn’t necessarily mean that tent is the best choice for your needs. A tent with a high waterproof rating may be heavier or more expensive than a tent with a lower rating, for example, and you may not need all the waterproofing.

Ultimately, the right tent for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences.

But, before we get to all of that, let’s start with understanding tent waterproof ratings.

Understanding Tent Waterproof Ratings

Understanding tent waterproof ratings can help you choose the right tent for your needs. So, let’s talk hydrostatic heads and the waterproof rating scale.

Hydrostatic Head Explained

The hydrostatic head is a measure of how much water pressure a fabric can withstand before it starts to leak. It is measured in millimeters (mm) and is determined by placing a column of water on top of the fabric until it begins to seep through. The height of the column at which water starts to leak is the hydrostatic head rating.

Waterproof Rating Scale

The waterproof rating scale is a way to measure how waterproof a tent is. The rating is determined by the hydrostatic head measurement. Here’s a very general guide to how the waterproofness scale translates into actual tents:

0 – 1,000mmWater resistant. 2-season tents fall into this category.
1,000 – 1,500mmWaterproof. Good enough for most conditions, typical for 3-season camping tents. Still, generally, light enough for hiking.
1,500 – 2,000mmVery waterproof. Ideal for harsher weather conditions and heavy rain.
2,000mm+Extremely waterproof. Suitable for extreme weather conditions like heavy rain and snow.

It’s important to note that the waterproof rating only applies to the tent fly, not the floor or walls. The floor and walls may have a different waterproof rating or may not be waterproof at all. It is also important to remember that the waterproof rating is not the only factor to consider when choosing a tent. Other factors like breathability, durability, and weight should be taken into account.

Materials and Waterproofing

When it comes to tent waterproof ratings, the materials used in the tent’s construction play a crucial role. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most common materials and waterproofing methods used in tents.

Polyester and Nylon

Polyester and nylon are two of the most common materials used in tent construction. Both materials are lightweight, durable, and affordable, making them a popular choice among campers.

The downside to polyester and nylon is that they are not naturally waterproof, so they require a waterproof coating to make them suitable for camping in wet conditions.

Silicone and Polyurethane Coating

Silicone and polyurethane coatings are two of the most popular waterproof coatings used on tents. Silicone coatings are known for their durability and ability to withstand extreme temperatures, while polyurethane coatings are more affordable and provide excellent waterproofing capabilities. Both coatings are applied to the tent’s fabric to create a barrier that prevents water from penetrating the tent.

Durable Water Repellent (DWR)

Durable Water Repellent (DWR) is a coating that is applied to the outside of the tent’s fabric. This coating causes water to bead up and roll off the fabric, rather than soaking into it. DWR coatings are commonly used in conjunction with other waterproofing methods, such as silicone or polyurethane coatings, to provide additional protection against water.

No Waterproof Tents

While some tents are more water-resistant than others, and there are several additions you can make to a tent to make it more effectively repel water, it’s important to note that no tent is completely waterproof. Eventually, even the best waterproofing methods will fail, and water will find its way into your tent.

When camping in wet weather, choosing a tent with high-quality materials and using effective waterproofing methods will help minimize the risk of getting wet during your camping trip, but it’s more important how you set up and position your tent. Make sure to pitch your tent on high ground with some natural protections, use a tarp underneath, and erect a tarp over your tent in the heaviest rains.

Using a proper set-up will protect your tent from rain better than the tent’s waterproof rating.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal waterproof rating for a tent?

The ideal waterproof rating for a tent depends on the conditions you plan to camp in. For most 3-season camping, a rating of 1000-1500mm is sufficient. However, if you plan to camp in very wet conditions, you may want to consider a rating of 2000mm or higher.

What is the difference between a 1500mm and 2000mm waterproof tent rating?

The difference between a 1500mm and 2000mm waterproof tent rating is the amount of water pressure the fabric can withstand before it starts to leak. A 1500mm rating means the fabric can withstand 1500mm of water pressure, while a 2000mm rating means it can withstand 2000mm of water pressure.

Can a 3000mm waterproof rating be considered heavy duty?

A 3000mm waterproof rating can be considered heavy-duty, but it’s not always necessary. This rating is suitable for camping in very wet conditions or for extended periods of time.

Is a 5000mm waterproof rating necessary for camping in heavy rain?

A 5000mm waterproof rating is not necessary for camping in heavy rain. A rating of 2000-3000mm is usually sufficient for most camping trips, even in heavy rain.

Does tent waterproof spray really work to improve ratings?

Tent waterproof spray can help improve the waterproof rating of your tent, but it’s not a guaranteed solution. If you do use spray, it’s important to choose a spray that is compatible with your tent’s fabric and to follow the instructions carefully. It’s also important to note that waterproof spray may not be as effective as a higher rated waterproof tent.

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