How to Seam Seal a Tent to Keep Rain Out

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I can count on two hands the number of times I have had a disastrous situation where it stormed so bad that my tent leaked. Most of these times were awhile back when I used tents that were not properly pitched, seam sealed, or it just rained so much I was bound to get wet regardless. But I now know that learning how to seam seal a tent is one of the best ways to keep you dry in stormy situations.

Sealing tent seams is essential for a dry camping experience and doing it yourself is easier than you might think. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll show you the straightforward steps to effectively seam seal your tent, ensuring you stay dry the next time you’re out in your tent.

Steps For How to Seam Seal a Tent

Prior to applying your seam sealer, you should first gather your supplies, determine the sealant you will use, evaluate the seams, clean them, make sure they’re thoroughly dry, and then seam seal the seams.

Understanding Tent Seams and Why They Leak

Tent seams are basically where the fabric of the tent, including the floor, is stitched together. These seams can leak due to wear and tear over time allowing water from rain to start to seep through the stitching dripping into your tent.

When tent manufacturers produce tents, some won’t use a seam sealant at all while others might use a sealant or taping to seal the seams. However, just because your new tent came seam sealed doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way forever. Keep in mind that even factory-sealed seams may require resealing after a few seasons of heavy use, so regular inspections for wear and tear are advisable.

assessing the seams

Assess the Seams

First things first, you’ve got to evaluate the condition of your tent seams and tent floor. Regular checks help you spot any damage or potential leaks. Perhaps you’ve noticed:

  • untaped seams with small holes that let water in
  • visible damage at the seams or seams splitting
  • leaks around the perimeter of the floor
  • flakey pieces of old sealant

These are telltale signs your tent seams need sealing. If the company that you got your tent from does not seam seal the seams of the tent. It will be a good idea to go ahead and seal them. Sometimes companies will use a seam tape. If it’s peeling off on the underside of the fly, gently peel it off and prepare to apply some sealant. Remember, each seam needs special attention.

If your seams are visibly damaged, I recommend re-sewing them using the running stitch as described in our article how to fix tent mesh, them then apply seam sealant on afterwards.

Identify Tent Materials and Sealant

Prior to seam sealing your tent you first need to know what materials your tent is made out of. Reason for this is that some materials will not adhere to other tent materials which means the bond wont stick and then you may be stuck with a leaky seam.

MaterialsTreatment
Silicon Treated or CoatedGear Aid Seam Grip + Sil
All Fabrics (except Silicon coated)Gear Aid Seam Grip + FC, Seam Grip +WP,

Popular tent fabrics are silicon coated, Polyurethane or (PU), and Dyneema Cuben Fabric (DCF). Many outdoor companies will offer silicon treated fabrics to keep clothing and gear lightweight and waterproof. However, unlike true silnylon fabrics that have silicone infused into the fabric, these silicone-treated fabrics typically have a silicone coating on only one side (outside) and a polyurethane (PU) coating on the other (inside).

One popular example of this is with Durston’s X-Mid Tents with the woven tent floor. The X-Mids woven floor is silicone coated on the outside while the inner is PU. If you are unsure which side of your gear has been coated with silicone, always contact the manufacturer. Once you know which side is which, you can treat accordingly.

Gathering Your Supplies

When it comes to how to seam seal a tent the repair is pretty straight forward. What you will need is a seam sealant, a wet rag or sponge with scrub side pad, a dry rag, and gloves.

Item
Seam Sealant (based on your tents materials)
Wet Rag or sponge with scrub pad
Dry Rag
Cleaner (Nikwax Tech Wash, Nikwax Solarwash, or gentle soap like Dr. Bronners)
Repair Gear (pending damage, usually I use needle and thread)

Demo of cleaning a seam

Cleaning the Seams

Having evaluated the seams, next it is time to clean them. Cleaning the seams helps get rid of dirt and other debris on the seams. This makes it more effective when it is time to seal the tent as it won’t flake off from the debris but will be sticking to only the seam.

For a thorough clean, follow these steps:

  1. First set up your tent and stake out the tent body, place the rainfly on the tent inside out
  2. Set, up the rainfly and tension it out like you would when camping
  3. Grab a wet rag and wipe the seams, use a tent cleaner like Nikwax Solar Wash, Nikwax Tech wash or a mild soap like Dr. Bronner’s if really dirty or clean your entire tent on this step.
  4. Gently scrub the seams to get rid of any dirt, taking care not to damage the coated areas.

Keep in mind that the cleaning process isn’t just a quick rub-down. It requires careful attention to ensure all traces of dirt are eliminated and the sealant can adhere properly. Using a damp cloth or a sponge with a soft scrubber side to help rub off old flakey sealant and clean the seams.

Drying the Seams

Once your tent seams are squeaky clean, it’s time to let them dry. Make certain the seams are entirely dry before sealing; any residual moisture or dirt could compromise the sealant’s effectiveness.

Let the tent seams dry for at least 24 hours before you apply the seam sealer. This ensures they’re fully dry and ready for a successful sealing process.

How to Seam seal a tent

Applying the Seam Sealer

After cleaning the tent now, it is time to learn how to seam seal a tent. When applying the seam sealer, the process will require patience, ensuring all the seams are properly sealed. Try to a lot at least 20 minutes for this process and don’t rush through it.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. After picking the appropriate seam sealant
  2. Then setup the tent, I recommend pitching the tent body outside or in a garage
  3. Flip the rain fly over and find the seams of the rain fly
  4. Prior to seam sealing make sure your tent is clean and dry
  5. Follow along the seams and apply seam sealer
  6. Extend the sealer about 1/4 inch past the seams on both sides to ensure complete coverage
  7. Avoid getting any sealer on the zippers or along the zippers.
  8. Reapply a little sealant over high tension areas such as the tent peaks
  9. After, the rainfly is complete check along the inside of the tent body
  10. Follow along the seams of the inside corners and along the floor of the tent
  11. Apply seam sealer to the inside corners and tent floor as needed
  12. Allow the seam sealer to cure for about 24 hours

Tips: Some products have different application instructions be sure to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results. I like to make repairs or seam sealing from the inside mainly for aesthetic reasons, you do not need to seam seal both sides.

Once seam sealed you can sprinkle a little baby powder or gold bond over them if they are still a bit sticky so they don’t stick to each other when packing.

Demo of applying sealant on seam

Checking for Missed Spots

Once you’ve applied the seam sealer, the job’s not done yet. You must check for any missed spots after the sealer has dried. Commonly missed areas include stitching holes and rolled seams. If you find a missed spot after the seam sealer has dried, clean your hands and apply seam sealer to the missed area.

Curing the Seam Sealer

Once you’ve applied the sealer and checked for missed spots, allow the sealer to cure. This step is vital for the sealer to perform optimally and offer enduring protection. The curing time varies, often taking anywhere from 2 to 12 hours, depending on factors like the type of seam sealer, the thickness of the tent fabric, and drying conditions.

Maintaining Your Seam Sealed Tent

Having sealed and waterproofed your tent body, its maintenance becomes vital to ensure its longevity. It is essential to regularly inspect your tent seams for signs of wear and potential leaks.

Watch out for signs of wear and tear like peeling tape, degrading waterproof coatings, and UV damage. By keeping an eye on these factors and addressing them promptly, you can ensure that your tent stays waterproof and durable for many camping trips to come.

How often you will have to seam seal the tent will be dependent on how often you use the tent. Most seam sealants last awhile on the tent at least 2 years or even longer. Which means you will not have to do it often just keep an eye out the tent prior to use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you seam seal a new tent?

Yes, you should seam seal your new tent to create a waterproof barrier and extend its longevity, especially if it leaks. However, if your tent seams came already pre sealed you should be able to wait awhile before having to re seam seal the tent.

Why don’t tents come seam sealed?

Some tents don’t come seam sealed because they just can’t do it at the facility, or some companies will make seam sealing an extra service that you can pay for or just DIY which I recommend as it is cheaper.

How long does seam sealer take to dry tent?

The seam sealer usually takes 2 to 6 hours to dry, but in humid weather, it can take longer. It’s important to test for dryness before packing the tent. Some manufacturers suggest waiting 24 hours before storing the tent.

What’s the difference between seam taping and seam sealing?

Seam taping is done at the factory with waterproof tape, while seam sealing is a process using a waterproof chemical to seal the seams yourself. Seam taping can work well though will be dependent on how long the tape sticks. I always opt for seam sealing as it holds better in most cases and is more flexible.

Summary

Understanding your tent seams, preparing them for sealing, selecting the right seam sealer, and applying it correctly can make a significant difference in keeping you dry out in the outdoors. Knowing how to seam seal a tent is a super helpful care and repair skill that will enhance the waterproofing of your tent and keep you dry in stormy weather.

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