It’s happened to all of us, you wake up from a night under the stars, or a torrential downpour and your gear inside your tent is damp. It’s easy to diagnose the issue if it was a dry night. If it’s a rainy night, and your tent’s not leaking or you have a waterproof tent, then everything leads to condensation. Condensation is the bane of every camper; it’s nigh on impossible to stop, but with a few tips and tricks we can reduce it considerably.
What is Condensation?
Condensation is the conversion of a vapor or gas to a liquid. When the air temperature drops to the dew point and below, physics demands that water vapor change to liquid.
Water collects as droplets on a cold surface, in this case the wall of your tent, when humid air comes into contact with it. This is the moisture you see beading up and eventually dropping into your tent.
Each of us exhales about 1 liter of water as we sleep at night. The water vapor we exhale is then trapped by the outermost layer of our tents resulting in the single greatest source of condensation – our breath.
You can’t stop breathing so let’s look at ways to minimize condensation.
1) Ventilation is the number one way to help reduce condensation.
Having a tent window or door open allows the air you exhale to escape. It also increases airflow and allows wind to enter which helps kill condensation.
Mesh panels, like those in the doors of the Atacama and Solo tents are ideal for ventilation and provide protection from bugs. Do not allow gear to block any vents that you may have. If you are worried about getting too cold invest in cold weather camping clothes and sleep gear.
Vast temperature changes, hot days and cold nights, also promote condensation. Before you go to bed for the night open up your tent fully and release any heat and humidity that has built throughout the day. If it is raining find the balance between rain cover and ventilation.
If the elementsrequire that you shut the entire tent down be sure that permanent condensation vents are facing into the wind.
2) Pick the best camp location.
If you are free camping, choose a site location that helps minimize the conditions that contribute to condensation. When possible, avoid camping too close to water where humidity is higher.
Everyone loves camping on lush, green grass. Pitching a tent here, however, encourages a high humidity level on par with a sauna by the days end. Use a tent footprint or groundsheet to stop moisture coming up from the ground.
Low-lying valleys tend to collect cool air and have more ground moisture because airflow is diminished. Choose higher points with warmer temperatures and a bit more wind or better airflow. Obviously consider the severity of wind in the location and just how much you and your tent can handle.
3) Don’t cook in your tent.
It’s tempting to cook inside your tent, especially tents like the Atacama and Solo Expedition tents with large utility bays and peak heights tall enough to stand. Don’t do it. It’s unsafe in every way, and boiling water creates large vapor volumes.
4) Avoid bringing wet clothes and gear into the tent.
Oxymoron really, who doesn’t get wet while camping? Leaving wet gear outside the tent is best, if it must come inside consider storing it in a dry bag to prevent evaporation.
5) Stake your tent out fully.
Flysheets are designed to allow condensation to run down the inside of the tent to the ground. Be sure to stake out the tent properly and taut with the flysheet far enough away from the inner tent to ensure adequate airflow. Do not allow the two layers to touch as this will transfer moisture from the flysheet to the inner which is not waterproof in most cases.
6) Wipe the inside tent down.
Condensation is never entirely avoidable. Carry a microfiber or pack towel to wipe away excess moisture.
Whenever possible store your tent dry and loosely gathered to prevent any moisture from causing damage.
Campers often mistake condensation for a leak.
Here’s a quick test to perform to determine whether you have a leak.
Identify the source. Set the tent up in your back yard. Run the garden hose over the exact spot and see if water comes through. 999 times out of 1000 condensation will be the culprit. If not, a bit of maintenance and a dab of seam sealant on the affected area will do the trick.
Your outer tent or flysheets are designed in a way so your condensation runs down the inside of the tent to the ground. Ensure that you have staked out the tent properly makes sure the tent is taut and the flysheet far enough away from the inner tent to ensure airflow and that the two are not touching.
Have some other ways to reduce condensation? Let us know below in the comment section