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How to Seam Seal a Tent

Seam sealing your tent isn't hard and it's extremely practical!
Seam sealing your tent isn’t hard and it’s extremely practical!

Planning a camping trip but your tent is leaking water? No, you don’t need to buy a new one! You just likely need to seam seal your tent and it’s business as usual. Not sure how to do it? We have you covered

The Importance of Seam Sealing

Of all the different parts of a tent, its seams are the most vulnerable points.

The seams are areas where different pieces of fabric are stitched together, creating potential entry points for water. Although many tents come ‘seam sealed’ when you buy them, over time the seal can degrade.

This is why you’ll have to seam seal your tent: to protect it from moisture. Let’s see how.

Preparing Your Tent

As you may imagine, you cannot just grab your tent and start the seam sealing it – you need a process:

  • Start by setting up your tent in a dry & well-ventilated area (this is not something you can do with a wet tent!)

  • Inspect all the seams (on the body and the floor)

  • Look for spots where you can see the existing seam tape peeling or that appear to be damaged

Don’t neglect this initial inspection: this is the first part of the process and it is crucial. If you skip it and start seam sealing right away, you’ll end up damaging your tent.

Choosing Your Seam Sealer

You shouldn’t overthink this step: seam sealers are available in different shapes & forms, and some are better for specific types of tents.

Check the fabrics of your tent and compare them with the seam sealers in the store. Choose the sealer that is compatible with your tent’s material and voila – it’s done.

A lot of people start overthinking the sealer they should buy, are too afraid of damaging the tent and most of the time end up not buying anything. There’s no need for that – just stick to the process. If you want to take an initial look, Gear Aid offers a range of products.

Pro Tips from Rtivities

  • Use Baby Powder: After you’ve let your seams dry, you can drop some baby powder over them. This prevents them from sticking together when the tent is stored

  • Regular Checks: You should regularly check the seams of your tent, especially after a challenging camping trip. Addressing issues early can increase your tent’s durability

  • Avoid Harsh Conditions: Try not to pitch your tent in direct sunlight or in extremely humid conditions, as this can degrade the seam sealer faster

  • Test Your Work: After the sealer has dried, test your work. Set up the tent and gently spray it with water to check for any leaks. If nothing happens, you’re good to go

The Seam Sealing Process

Before you do this, make sure your tent is clean and has no debris or dirt
Before you do this, make sure your tent is clean and has no debris or dirt

Once again, there’s no need to overcomplicate. Follow the process:

  1. Invest in a Good Seam Sealer:

    1. The first step is to buy a high-quality seam sealer

    2. You’re looking for something specifically designed to seal seams that will provide a durable water-repellent (DWR) layer. Look for sealers that are compatible with your tent’s material and are durable

  2. Prepare the Tent:

    1. Before you apply any product, set up your tent in a well-ventilated area & clean the seams of any dirt or debris using a damp cloth

    2. You can also use a bit of rubbing alcohol on the cloth for tougher grime

    3. Always make sure that your tent seams are completely dry before you start the process

  3. Apply the Seam Sealer:

    1. Once you have the product and your tent is clean, apply the seam sealer evenly along each seam using either the applicator provided or a small brush

    2. Be thorough, but don’t apply too much product

    3. The sealer will penetrate the fabric and create a resistant waterproof barrier

  4. Let It Dry:

    1. Once you’ve applied the seam sealer, you need to let it dry completely

    2. While we can’t give you the specific time it takes to dry, a good rule of thumb is around 5-6 hours

      1. You can always check the manufacturer’s instructions for more accurate drying times

  5. Reapply the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Coating:

    1. Over time, the DWR coating on the tent fabric will wear off, so a good idea is to reapply a DWR spray over the entire tent after sealing the seams

    2. This will help the fabric shed water, complementing the work you’ve done on the seams

  6. Maintenance and Storage:

    1. If you don’t properly maintain and store your tent, it won’t be waterproof for too long

    2. As we’ve said in several articles, you need to store it in a dry, cool place, and should not pack it away if it’s still wet

    3. Also, don’t store heavy items on top of your tent, as this will damage the sealed seams and the waterproof coating

Using Seam Tape

In some cases, it will be a good idea to reinforce your tent seal with seam tape.

When you apply seam tape over the seam, you create another barrier against water, which is very useful for areas under high tension (tent floor, I’m looking at you).

What You Can Use Instead of Seam Sealer

The silicone-based DIY seam sealer works great
The silicone-based DIY seam sealer works great

If you can’t get your hands on a seam sealer, don’t panic – we’ve got you covered!

There are alternative methods that also work, especially for tents made of silicone-treated fabrics:

  1. Silicone-Based DIY Seam Sealer: For tents made of silicone-treated fabrics, you can create a DIY seam sealer by mixing clear silicone with a solvent like mineral spirits or odorless turpentine to thin it out. This mixture can then be applied to your tent seams – just make sure that you apply it to the inner side of the seam (where the stitching is exposed)

  2. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel & Use Products Recommended by Tent Manufacturers: Some tent manufacturers recommend specific products for their tents, especially for those with unique fabrics – follow what they say

  3. Seam Tapes: If your tent is not made from silicone-treated fabrics, seam tape can be a good alternative. Make sure you apply them on the inner side of the tent seams

  4. Wax-Based Products: Although less common, wax-based products can also be used for seam sealing. They can be melted and applied to the fabric seams, hardening to form a waterproof layer. However, you should be aware that this method is less durable and better for temporary fixes

  5. Candle Wax Trick: Finally, the last method involves candle wax. Rubbing a candle along the seams of the tent can provide a temporary water-resistant barrier – but again, this is only a quick fix and won’t last when compared to the other methods

Conclusion

Seam sealing your tent is a straightforward process that will save you some headaches. If you become used to carefully applying seam sealer, inspecting your work, and doing some regular maintenance on your tent, it will last.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Seam Seal Any Type of Tent?

Yes you can. However, you’ll need to choose the right seam sealer for your tent’s material. Don’t rush things and always check the compatibility of your seam sealer with the fabric of your tent.

How Often Should I Reapply Seam Sealer to my Tent?

This will depend on how frequently use your tent and its exposure to natural elements. As a rule of thumb, you should try to inspect your tent every year and seam seal it if you notice any peeling or degradation of the seams.

What Is The Difference Between a Seam Tape and a Seam Sealer?

While a seam tape is a waterproof tape that you apply directly over the seams, the seam sealer is a liquid adhesive that you apply along the seams to fill any gaps in the stitching. You can use both to waterproof your tent seams, but seam tape tends to be more robust.