When you go up to buying a new tent, it is difficult to know if it serves its purpose, isn’t it? Especially, when you are looking for weatherproof travel gear. You know the weather could go wrong, but what if the tent also fails its duty.
I’m sure that you will have a lot of questions about buying the right tent. But, keep one thing in mind, if you want premium protection during a heavy downpour, you will need an excellent waterproof gear. No doubt.
But how would you know if your tent is waterproof and effective? There are a lot of things you need to know about the quality and water-resistance of a tent before purchasing it. I am going to break them down to you one by one.
Are camping tents really waterproof?
The answer is NO. Not all camping tents are really waterproof. But some tents offer rain protection up to the mark, and they are genuinely waterproofed.
Let’s bust some myths here. Some tents are water-resistant but that does not mean they are waterproof.
Waterproof tents are the best option available because they offer maximum protection against adverse weather. Whereas other tents are less competent compared to these water-haters.
There are many ways that water can get inside your tent. Water can seep inside your tent through the tent fabric, seams, floor panels, toggles, etc.
Therefore, to ensure complete dryness, you should keep an eye on all these points. Also, there could be problems with rain run-off and wind-driven rain hitting the lower portions. But you can easily tackle these weather tantrums with an effective waterproof gear.
Even if your camping tents are waterproofed, it might not be permanent and would require frequent retouches.
Ways to know if your tent is waterproof
When you purchase a tent, there are a lot of things that you will have in your mind. If you are a person who hikes at places with harsh climates and heavy rainfalls, you need to make sure that you are well-equipped.
Make sure that your gear is heavily waterproofed to stay dry and warm inside your tent when it is raining cats and dogs outside.
But how will you ensure that?
Don’t worry, here are some quick tips to know if your tent is waterproof.
1. Check Hydrostatic Head(HH) ratings:
The waterproof rating of a tent fabric determines its level of waterproofing. Tent manufacturers do the HH test to find the value of the water pressure it can hold effortlessly.
These values are measured in millimeters. This rate shows how efficient is the water-blocking ability of your tent. 
The higher the HH rating, the higher is the water resistance. This is because it can easily handle fair quantities of water pressure before moisture starts seeping inside the tent. Another benefit is that it will not get worn out or damaged easily.
A moderate quality tent has HH ratings ranging between 1500 and 2000 mm. Anyway, 5000 to 8000 mm HH rating is mandatory if you hike at rough terrains with harsh weather.
If the rating is lesser than the optimal values, your tent won’t keep you dry inside. That is, lower the rating, lower is its capacity to block water.
A top-notch waterproof tent has a HH rating of 20,000 mm, which is highest in this category. 
2. Examine the seams:
The seam is the part of a tent, where the tent fabric is sewed along the floor and wall of the tent. It needs to be double-stitched, taped, and seam-sealed to ensure that no water enters directly through stitching holes.
Water can gush into your tent quickly if the seams are not knitted properly or if it is worn out due to continuous usage. The seams are visible from the inside of the tent and you can check and repair it if required.
Seams are generally coated with waterproofing materials, but check all the stitches inside your tent and make sure they are waterproofed to prevent leaks.
Most of the tents are coated with poly-urethane inside and you can apply seam sealers if you find any potential damage.
3. Check its material (tent fabric):
Your tent could be made of any material, but to ensure that it offers water resistance, you need to know the properties of different tent fabrics.
Tent fabrics play a huge role in determining the water-blocking capacity of your tent. Polyester, nylon, and Cuban fiber are considered as the ideal fabrics. It should be tightly woven without leaving any spaces between.
Even if they are made up of synthetic fibers, it will be covered with water-resistant coatings – like PU and continuous waterproof films for added protection.
4. Check the design of the tent:
The special design of the waterproofed tent will make it stand out from other tents.
Unlike other tents that look for more ventilation and space, the waterproofed tents would be designed in such a way that – it has less number of entrances.
Also, these entry points would be guarded properly with hoods.
Waterproof rain flies and roof panels are important because it deflects raindrops falling on it. A well-designed tent would have a double skin or an extra flysheet to prevent condensation.
They are also designed with thicker outer fabric and a rain cover for extra protection. 
5. Check the zippers and windows:
Whether it is coil zips or tooth zips, your zippers should be well covered and protected from water leakage.
Not all the zippers are made of waterproof material and therefore, it might give way to permeation of water.
But waterproofed zips are also available in the market with films covering the zip teeth and fabric. This is obviously the better choice.
Zippers could be the main entrance of water droplets if not zipped properly. Also, flaps or zip covers are essential to protect the tent from unwanted water leakage.
Optional windows that offer rain protection with the help of a skirt also serve better in a harsh climate.
Difference between Waterproof VS Water-resistant VS Water repellent Tents:
By now, you know that not all tents are waterproof. But when you go out to buy a good quality weatherproof tent, you will come across a range of waterproof, water-resistant and water repellent tents.
But do you know what these terms exactly mean? Don’t get confused anymore. Let me walk you through their differences.
1. Waterproof tent:
Waterproof tents offer the best protection against the water leakage inside the tent. They are impervious to water and offer good resistance against hydrolysis.
The amount of water they can hold depends on their HH ratings. The higher the better. The ratings will be mentioned in the tent.
They are generally made up of polyester and nylon. In addition, they are coated with Polyurethane (PU) for durability and better water resistance.
If properly maintained, it can last for many years. But over time it will fade away – due to dirt and muck and you will need to reproof it.
A decent waterproofed tent consists of a polyurethane rain fly, polyester or polyamide seamed flooring materials, etc.
It will be able to withstand extreme weather conditions with stable poles and fabrics. It will also manage to offer good ventilation even in a stuffy environment. 
2. Water-resistant tent:
As the name suggests, water-resistant tents offer resistance against penetration of water into the tent but only to a certain degree.
It does not offer premium protection and it is not as efficient as a waterproofed tent.
This is because a water-resistant tent is not waterproofed, in other words, it is not coated or laminated with waterproof films. And as a result, it is less efficient.
Water-resistance is measured using the HH test. According to its value, additional waterproofing is applied to make it more effective.
Also, it is susceptible to quicker degradation and requires frequent reproofs.
3. Water repellent tent:
This is the property of a tent that enables water repulsion. They are called water repellents because their surface is coated with water blocking materials.
When water hits the tent, it will roll down the tent like a bead due to the presence of this repellent coating.
If the design of the tent is apt for the smooth flow of this water away from the tent it is quite effective. If not it will seep inside instead of running off.
The lower portions of the tent are made up of water repellent materials. But still, water might seep in through floor panels if not structured properly.
Always keep in mind that even if not all the tents are waterproof, you can make them waterproof.
If you think that your waterproofing is flaking away, you can waterproof it by coating it with waterproof sprays, Durable water repellent (DWR), etc.
You can re-waterproof your tents once in a year, or according to the frequency of your travels for best protection against weather fluctuations.
Also, always test your gear before using it. Check for the nuances and mend it before hitting the campsites.
- 1 Are camping tents really waterproof?
- 2 Ways to know if your tent is waterproof
- 3 Difference between Waterproof VS Water-resistant VS Water repellent Tents: