How to Seam Seal Your Tent

So, you just got your tent and you’re ready to embark on a wilderness adventure, right?

Ha! If it were only that easy.

Before you head out to the campsite, it’s important to ensure that your tent is completely waterproof. Yes, I know, the product description online notes that the material keep you dry, but what about the seams?

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No matter how tight the stitches are, there is always enough room for moisture to squeeze through, potentially leaving you and your partner in a damp situation.

Instead of praying that your tent holds up to the elements, safeguard your camping experience by waterproofing your shelter by learning how to seam seal a tent.

Seam Sealing FAQ

I know you’re gung-ho about starting the intricate process of waterproofing your tent, but let’s first start off with a few frequently ask questions about seam sealing.

process of seam sealing

Q. Why Do I Need To Seam Seal My Tent?

A. Although the material itself is waterproof, it has to be sewn together to fit the tent’s design. This leaves stitch holes in the fabric, leading to a potential water leak. If you want to stay dry in the outdoors, seam sealing your tent is a must-do.

Q. Why Didn’t The Manufacturer Already Do This?

A. Every company is different. Some tent manufacturers factory-seal the seams, while others choose not to spend the money, since it can be a lengthy, time-consuming process. It’s important to figure out whether or not the a product was seam sealed during production. Most of the time, it’s technically cheaper for the consumer to seal the tent themselves anyways.

Q. What’s The Difference Between Seam Sealing And Seam Taping?

A. Seam sealing is typically an applied adhesive polymer that fills in the needle holes between stitches. On the other hand, seam taping is when a waterproof tape is either adhered to, or double sewn into the seams. If a tent come seam taped from the manufacturer, you typically will not have use seam sealer (at first).

Camper's Tip: Seam tape will not stick to silicone-impregnated nylon.

Q. How Often Do I Need To Seam Seal My Tent?

A. If your tent is unsealed when you rip open the box, you will want to waterproof it immediately before heading out into the woods.

Other than that, I typically seam seal my tent once per year in the spring, before the main camping season starts up. Still, you should inspect your shelter after every use, ensuring that the stitches and seams are not defective. In case you find a few weak spots, make sure to treat them before you venture back into the outdoors.

Q. Can I Use Any Sealant Product?

A. Be very careful about choosing your sealant product! You wouldn't want to ruin an expensive tent with a cheap knock-off sealant.

Many tent manufacturers recommend a specific sealant on their website which is compatible with the fabric. If you are just looking for a general product, two of the more popular silicone sealants are McNett’s Sil-Net and Gear Aid Seam Grip.

The Seam Sealing Process

Now that you have a basic understanding of the importance of seam sealing, it's time to outline the process. We'll go through the preparation measure, the application, and the post-treatment care rather rapidly, so take notes!

1. Preparation

Don’t breakout the sealer just yet. First we need to ensure the tent is clean and dry. For a more in depth cleaning method, follow the steps in “How To Clean A Stinky Tent.”

Once all tidy, tautly pitch the tent in a well-ventilated area and grab some personal protective equipment. The seam sealant itself can give off toxic fumes and irritate your skin if handled improperly so I would suggest wearing disposable rubber gloves and an old long-sleeve shirt just to be safe.

Once all tidy, tautly pitch the tent in a well-ventilated area and grab some personal protective equipment.

Depending on which sealant you intend to use, there a two tips that often go overlooked in the prep process: time and weather.

Some products may take up to a day to dry, so be wary that you will have to leave your tent pitched overnight (hence don’t try and do it in the park).

Also, if the forecast calls for showers, plan to waterproof your tent a different time. Excessive moisture can not only lengthen the drying time, but also completely mess up your sealant's composition.

Seriously, check the forecast. I sealed my tent of three years about a month ago. I used a new sealant that was supposedly quick drying (the directions noted 8-12 hours).

12 hours came and went, but the seams still weren't completely dry, so I decided to leave the tent outside until morning. Of course, it poured that night, and my efforts to waterproof my tent were thwarted.

2. Application

The actual seam sealing application is probably the easiest part of the whole process. I’d like to give you a blanket explanation of how exactly to apply each product, but every sealant is different. Instead, I’ll simply lay out a few ballpark estimates and general guidelines.

First off, always read the manufacturer’s recommendation for both the tent, and the sealant product. Many tents will provide a schematic for which seams you will need to waterproof.

If you can’t find an explanation, carefully seal all the seams on the tent floor, rain fly (which can be hard to reach), and lower part of the tent body. Always begin by asking yourself “Where is the most likely place that water will enter the tent?” and go from there.

Always begin by asking yourself “Where is the most likely place that water will enter the tent?” and go from there.

Instead of brushing on, or squeezing out the sealant all willy-nilly, I like to use painter’s tape on each side of every seam I intent to seal, that way I don’t make a mess. First, I’ll start off with all the interior stitching, then do the outside. Simply apply and let dry.

Camper's Tip: When seam sealing the interior floor, you may want apply three or four stripes of sealant perpendicular to the direction you sleep (not on the seams). Once dry, the strips of sealant will provide a non-skid floor so that your sleeping pad doesn’t slide around at night.

3. Post-Treatment Care

Time to play the waiting game (Cue the Jeopardy-music).

After the recommended curing period has passed, you should wait 24 hours to ensure that all the sealant has set no matter what the instructions say.

To test the quality of your work, turn on a hose or sprinkler (or wait until a rainy day) and sit in your tent for an hour.

To test the quality of your work, turn on a hose or sprinkler (or wait until a rainy day) and sit in your tent for an hour.

During this time, you’ll want to inspect all the stitches and seams are waterproof, constantly looking for leaks. If there is a still a problem area, dry off the tent and patch it with the leftover sealant.

Finally, you’ve done it. For one final precaution in the sealing process, store the tent unfolded and unstuffed to ensure that none of the sealant sticks together.

Final Thoughts

Seam sealing a tent is a must if you want to make certain that your camping trip is dry and cozy. Don’t forget to regularly inspect the stitching to increase the life of your tent and return to this article if you have a question. Or just leave a comment, we're always ready to help!

Follow the provided tips and tricks to waterproof your shelter, and hopefully you’ll be swimming in outdoor adventures, not in a tent full of water.


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