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Condensation vs a Leaking Tent

Droplets of condensation forming on a tent fabric.

Condensation or Leaking? 

Condensation occurs naturally, and there’s very few ways to avoid it, and often it can be mistaken with a leaking tent. It can really ruin a weekend. If you encounter water inside your tent, chances are it is condensation, and the tent is not leaking. Tents are highly waterproof, and often, it is also hard for the moisture to escape the tent. Remember, the second you pitch your tent, you really need to open all the vents, no matter the weather - to allow the tent to breathe.

What is Condensation?

Condensation occurs even when your tent is empty, with the average 6-man tent, having around 1 pint of moisture in the air. Each person omits up to 1 pint of water a night, by breathing in and out, so if there are four of you camping, you can have 5 pints of water inside your tent on any given night.

As the evening gets cooler, the moisture in the air inside turns into condensation when it hits the tent fabric, which is cooler. Heaters, cooking inside the tent, and people sleeping will give off the most condensation inside the tent. 

Polyester Tents and Condensation

Polyester is a non-breathable fabric, which once treated with waterproofing, will not allow moisture to escape the tent, therefore you must use the ventilation points at all time – keeping them open to keep a healthy breeze throughout the tent. Even better if you can have mesh doors open to give more breathability throughout the tent.

Tell tale signs of Condensation 

  1. Damp rising up the Airbeams inside the tent
  2. Water collecting in pools at the bottom of each beam.
  3. Wiping roof panel inside the tent with your hand and feeling a film of liquid.
  4. Waking up to find condensation has formed overnight, but the tent has never leaked water when it is raining.

Tell Tale Signs of a Leaking Tent

  1. Water is consistently pooling in same spots.
  2. Heavy water ingress in one location.

Condensation in Air Tents 

Water can collect at the base of the tent and rise up the beams.

Condensation is also more likely in an air tent, as opposed to a pole tent, as the Airbeams or Structures are internal to the tent. The air inside the beam will be a different temperature, causing condensation to occur of an evening. Also, it is very common to experience pooling at the base of the beams, or damp rising up the beams - again this is most likely condensation - especially if its present on all beams.

Condensation in Tents with a Sewn-in Groundsheet

Sewn-in groundsheets trap moisture and warm air, therefore creating condensation. Sewn-in groundsheets also stop any draughts coming through, which can reduce the effects of condensation.

Polyester Tents and Condensation

Polyester is more susceptible to condensation, when compared to cotton. So if condensation is a real issue to you, and your camping comfort – we suggest looking at the polycotton equivalents, which will breathe naturally, negating a large amount condensation. However polycotton is more expensive, and will be heavier, so there are negatives to buying a cotton tent as well as the positives. 

How to Negate Condensation

It is impossible to stop condensation, but there are things you can do to help reduce it. We have written a full blog on how to reduce condensation here - How to Stop Condensation.

Remember, it’s unlikely your tent is leaking, if you encounter water inside the tent the first time you use it,  its best to wait and see if it re-occurs again, rather than just write it off as a leaking tent. You can also use a hose-pipe to check the tent at home, but allow it to dry off completely before testing. Further to this, should you feel the tent is definitely leaking, it can be sent to the manufacturer for testing, and they can put it through a water test.

Categories: Tent Information