How to deal with condensation in your tent
‘Condensation’ is simply a longer way of saying ‘damp’ or, even, ‘wet’. You can see an extreme example of what happens inside your tent in most shower blocks on chilly mornings. With all windows closed, steam condenses on the colder surfaces of windows, mirrors and walls that end up streaming with moisture. If all windows were left open, then the through draught would mitigate the fetid atmosphere. And that’s the answer for your tent – ventilation.
It’s an inevitable result of flysheets being made of coated fabrics that are as effective in not allowing moisture vapour from your body heat and breathing to escape as they are in keeping bad weather out. Cotton and polycotton tents breathe and, with more advanced fabric technology, they are making a modest comeback – at a price.
While we normally focus on tent flysheets in connection with condensation, groundsheets, tables, chairs and clothing all offer surfaces for moisture vapour to condense on, leaving the uncomfortable dampness that characterises some camping trips. It’s hardly serious, though, and can be tackled by thoughtful ventilation management or just lived with.
In winter, condensation on the inside of tent flysheets will probably freeze, offering a regular shower of ice crystals as the fabric flexes in the breeze. Think of it as a joy of camping rather than a problem – if you can.
As well as your tent flysheet, you should try to air off bedding, airbeds and clothes every morning. If it’s pouring with rain, do what you can and don’t fret about what you cannot manage to sort. Advice to avoid brushing against your flysheet and soaking up condensed moisture vapour is hopelessly optimistic and next to useless. It’s going to happen so it’s best to get used to living with it.
Tips for cutting moisture vapour
- Avoid cooking in the porch of your tent with the inner doors open; fuel combustion and steam from cooking offer loads of potential condensation.
- Avoid eating hot food inside your tent as the heat and steam will add to the problem.
- Respiration and perspiration will cause plenty of moisture vapour so avoid huge parties in your tent.
- Avoid bringing wet gear and clothing into the tent.
TOP TIP - It’s easy to mistake condensation for fabric and seams leaking in the rain. It’s worth checking carefully before trying to return your tent as being faulty.
- In heavy wind-driven rain, most of us will sit tight with all hatches battened down. - ideal conditions for loads of condensation to form inside the tent.
- A lot of condensation can be avoided by not having a sewn-in groundsheet and allowing air to circulate freely. It’s much colder in a draughty tent, of course but everything’s a trade-off of costs and benefits.
- Ventilation options should allow for a fair flow of air without allowing rain inside. Don’t wait until condensation has formed but head it off from the start by opening up such panels as you pitch.
- Lightweight tent manufacturers have always acknowledged the problem and tried to tackle condensation with simple ventilation options.
- Discreet ventilation panels protected by canopies and awnings can help airflow in the main part of the tent; all such panels will feature insect-proof mesh panels.
- When packing up, try to dry off your tent fly and groundsheet – both will be damp with condensation, especially the latter. If it’s raining, aim to hang them up as soon as you get home.
- Tempting though it is to pack away all your camping gear when you get home, pull out sleeping gear and get it all aired off overnight.