Everyone, at some point, when backpacking or camping, experiences tent condensation or dew. It’s one of those things that goes hand in hand with camping out in the wilderness. Although it’s nothing you need to worry about, it’s just irritating and makes things a little uncomfortable, to begin with.
Despite the fact it’s a pretty standard side effect of camping, there are some people who think it doesn’t exist and that there are ways around it. However, facts are facts and condensation is very natural and happens in all tents, whether they are double-walled or single-walled or made by any specific material.
How is Tent Condensation Caused?
Condensation in a tent forms the same way it does when you are having a shower and steam makes the mirror in your bathroom wet. Humid air meeting a cool surface. The steam meets the cold surface of the tent roof and interior walls then converts back from a gas into a liquid.
How Can You Reduce Tent Reduction?
Tent condensation results from a combination of moist air from the lungs of the tent users and the humid air. Although you can’t completely stop condensation from happening, you can do some things to reduce it, including:
- Don’t pitch your tent at lower locations in the area where you are camping, as colder air tends to be in the atmosphere. Keep the fly and walls of your tent warm and the condensation will be reduced.
- Also avoid pitching in areas with higher humidity levels like near marshy and wet marshy areas, ponds, lakes or streams. You are just inviting condensation into your tent by camping up near a body of water.
- Keep humidity levels low inside your tent. This means keeping things like coffee and hot drinks outside.
- Take off wet shoes and clothes before you enter the tent at the end of the day and leave them to dry on the outside. Failing that, you should stick them into a sack.
- Make sure moist air exhaled from your own breath and humid air can escape by leaving the door open to the vestibule or keeping the rain fly rolled back. Anything that can help the tent be better ventilated will also help.
Can Condensation Be Avoided by Choosing the Right Tent?
Although many people think there are tents that can be used to avoid condensation, there are really no tents that are best for all locations, seasons and climates across the board. So, you need to make wise decisions about selecting campsite equipment to reduce, and maybe even prevent, condensation in the tent. However, different kinds of tents have different advantages and disadvantages that you need to weigh up.
Tents with double walls generally have less airflow but are ideal for use in various temperatures because they hold and regulate more body heat through the night. They don’t necessarily stop condensation on the inside from occurring, but they can help keep you and your equipment be free from moisture. Any moist air on the interior of a double-walled tent will pass through the included mesh on the inside and build up within the rain fly.
You can easily ventilate tarps, tarp tents, and other ultralight-styles. The issue is that they can be quite draughty, particularly when the weather is cooler. It might be a good idea to bulk up on the insulation you have in these kinds of tents when you sleep at night. It’s especially good if you intend to just camp out at night during warm weather.
What about when it rains?
When it’s raining there is more air humidity around which means there is a greater chance of there being condensation in the tent. Think of it as being like camping close to a body of water like a pond or stream, but harder to deal with and greater.
If you are camping using a single-walled shelter or tent, the best thing you can do is take along a bandana or small-sized camping towel to clear up condensation as and when it occurs to protect you and your equipment.
However, if it’s a double-walled tent you are using, you need to ensure the rain fly is set at the furthest point from the inner mesh part. This is especially important along the tent’s corners and sides. If it’s the bottom of the inner mesh tent the fly attaches, then you should consider setting it up and separately staking it in order to make sure there was a better flow of air between the different layers.
Is it breathing that causes condensation in a tent?
While you are sleeping during the night, you let around 1-liter worth of moisture out of your mouth. This happens without you knowing of it. It’s what causes that need to drink something you have during the night or first thing when you wake up. With two people sharing the same tent, there’s a total of two liters of condensation to deal with. Naturally, this increases the more people are sharing a tent.
Wet Sleeping Bag Caused By Condensation in the Tent
Generally, quilts and sleeping bags made for outdoor use are equipped with either a special durable water repellent coating or a shell fabric on the exterior that has water-resistant properties. If moisture gets on the shell of any amount, the best way to deal with it is to leave it out in the sun in the morning to dry naturally. This is a normal part of the camping experience and when you are backpacking – and a good habit to keep.
If though you have a cheaper sleeping bag then you may notice that it has less water-resistant properties and can cause you problems with condensation. This can be a vicious cycle as the condensation can then soak into the sleeping bag and cause your sleeping bag to become soggy within a night or two.
Is your tent soaking wet in the morning?
If you wake to find your tent is soaking wet and aren’t in any kind of rush to head off, you should take the opportunity to let it dry in the sun, it should only take a couple of hours if it’s a warm day. If you are planning to or need to hit the road again sharp, you should make sure you have a clean camping town to wipe your rain fly with, as this will help to reduce the moisture considerably. I always bring a couple of towel with me on a camping trip for this as well as other reasons.
I suggest you have a dedicated carrying pouch or bag for your tent and fly. This way you will not spread the wet and dampness to other items.
Is it Okay to Use a Wet Tent?
It certainly is, but it’s a good idea to arrange your camp earlier in the evening so you can give it more time to dry before you use it to sleep in. I have been on camping trips all across the world and Scotland is one of those places where it can be sunny all day and then rain just as you decide to set up camp. I have set up my tent when it was almost dripping wet and had it dry within a couple of hours with the help of some towels and warm weather.
Wilderness Junkie’s Thoughts
Condensation can be a small annoyance but in general, there are ways of limiting its impact on your trip. Making good use of towels, warm weather and ensuring you don’t have anything wet in your tent will be enough to make a big enough improvement for most.
I personally like the smell of morning dew and condensation comes with that. The smell of morning dew is what some go camping for, so you may even want to learn to live with a little condensation.
Regardless, try not to let it bother you too much and take precautions with your sleeping bag and camping gear so you don’t end up soaking wet all day.