Dealing with sudden downpours during your hiking trip is unpleasant at best. That is why it is important to invest in camping gear that will protect you from the elements. Tents are among the essentials that you need to survive the outdoors. It is potentially one of the most expensive gears in your backpack.
However, even high-quality tents are susceptible to water. It can find its way through accidental tears, pinholes, or even needle holes through the seam. As such, you should have a fair knowledge of seam sealing to ensure that your tent lasts for many trips to come.
Whether you have a new tent, waterproof ones, or factory-taped models, you will eventually have to treat your tent seams. In this article, we will outline and describe the steps on how to seal a tent and the materials that you will need. But first, let’s examine the reasons why it is time to apply seam sealant to your tent.
Why Seam Seal a Tent?
Before buying a tent, make sure that you do a bit of research. Aside from its specifications and performance, ask whether it comes sealed or unsealed. If it is unsealed, then you will have to seal the seams before using it.
On the other hand, many tents are sealed using seam tape. These factory-sealed tents are usually ready for wet conditions the first time you pitch them. However, the seals will deteriorate over time.
One sign to look out for is flaking seams. While you will not experience it right away in heavier tent fabrics, you can easily notice it on lightweight ones. It degrades at every use as it does not adhere to the light fabric quite well.
Taking care of your tent, such as making sure that you keep them dry after using, can prolong the life of the seal. However, if you tend to store the tent while it is damp, then you might see the seals coming off after a few trips.
As such, examine your tent seams before your next trip. A leaking tent can ruin a camping experience, especially if it is raining all the time.
Seam Sealing vs. Seam Taping
Seam tape was mentioned in the previous section, which basically functions like a seam sealant. But, aren’t these two similar?
A seam tap is a layer of polyurethane film that is placed under the seams. It blocks any water from entering the needed holes. Essentially, it acts as a dam. Most tents come with factory-made seam tapes as it requires a special machine.
On the other hand, the seam sealing is applying a layer of tent seam sealant on the seams. The sealant seeps into the small stitching hold. It fills up these gaps and creates a barrier that prevents water out.
As soon as you notice the leaks, you should consider sealing your tent. It is also a surefire way to maintain the quality of your tent.
How to Seam Seal a Tent?
Before considering seam sealing your tent, you will have to check with the tent manufacturer. They often have recommended tent seam sealer products. For example, silicone-treated tent fabrics will require a different type of sealer than polyurethane-treated ones.
Additionally, they may also have specific directions that you should follow and a couple of warnings to ensure that you do not damage and ruin your tent during the procedure.
Preparing to Seam Seal a Tent
Before starting the process of sealing your tent, here are a few things that you should do:
- Find a dry area outside where you can perform the instructions. Exposure to a seam sealer solution for a long time without proper ventilation can be dangerous to your health.
- Clean your tent and rain fly thoroughly. Use water and mild, non-detergent soap if needed. Avoid using bleach, dishwashing liquid, detergents, or similar products that can be harsh to the fabric of the tent.
- Let the tent dry by hanging or pitching it in a shady spot. Do not use a machine dryer.
Once the tent is dry and pitched, you can proceed with the seam sealing process.
Materials That You Need to Seam Seal a Tent
You will need to prepare the following materials to seal your tent:
- Clean rags
- Dropcloth for the spills
- Seam sealer — some of the most popular ones are:
- Paintbrush (if the seam sealant does not come with an applicator)
- Painter’s masking tape
Steps in Seam Sealing a Tent
In case you are sealing your tent for the first time and not because of a leak, it is best to seal all the seams at once. You need to carefully pay attention to the most exposed parts — the fly, the tent floor, and the bottom parts of the tent body. Mesh parts do not need to be sealed, but it could provide extra strength to the stitching.
Your tent manufacturer may recommend specific tents, but they usually follow these instructions:
- Stick painter’s masking tape about a quarter of an inch from both sides of the seam on the interior walls. This will help the sealant from spreading out, especially if you do not have steady hands.
- Carefully apply the sealant using the paintbrush or the applicator to the interior walls. Start from the top part of the tent and work your way down. Leave a thin layer of sealant around ¼-inch past the tent seams. Make sure that you fill the needle holes well. Do not apply seam sealant in the zippers.
- Similarly, apply the same width and amount to the seams on the tent floor.
- Close the tent’s opening. Then, apply more coating on the outside walls of the tent. Make sure that the seams are taut. If the tent comes with factory-taped seams, the sealant can provide an extra waterproof layer. If the tape is peeling, the sealant can be used as a glue to hold and re-apply the tape.
- Let the tent dry.
- If you have a rain fly, set it on the tent upside down, so you have access to the interior seams. Follow the steps above.
After the Sealing Process
- Make sure that the tent is taut while the sealant is drying. Secure the rain fly as well. It is best to leave these to dry for about 12 to 24 hours. If possible, you can leave it overnight.
- You can also apply sealant on the tent bottom or the other side of the rain fly.
- After 24 hours or so set the seam-sealed tent like you usually do. Turn on your sprinkler for about an hour or so. Check inside if there are any problematic seams.
- If there are any problem areas, let the tent dry thoroughly and re-apply the sealant on these seams.
- After the entire process, store the tent in a loose, dry bag. You do not want to use the stuff sack for long-term storage.
A tent is a great investment whether you are a seasoned hiker or a novice camper. In order to maximize its usage, it is essential that you take care of the tent. An essential step in making sure that your tent has no leaks is to seal its seams.
It is recommended that you examine for leaks after each of your trips. This way, you can seal the seams when you spot any weak areas. A seam-sealed tent will keep you dry, especially during wet seasons.