Have you ever woken up to the inside of your tent being wet? Maybe you’ve had a few puddles on the floor in the morning and thought your tent has leaks, or some of your belongings are a little damp. Some people immediately think their tent is leaking when in most cases the aforementioned wetness is being caused by condensation.
Condensation can be a common problem for campers and it is not the best thing to wake up to on your holidays. There are many steps you can take to greatly reduce this though, read on to learn what causes condensation and for some handy hints and tips in reducing if not stopping it forming on the inside of your tent and putting a dampener on your camping holiday.
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What is Condensation?
Condensation is when water vapour changes, normally when it reaches a surface or a barrier and changes to a physical matter i.e. water or liquid. Or as Wikipedia states “Condensation is the change of the “physical state of matter from gas phase into liquid phase”
So basically, any moisture that is in the air in a vapour form will turn to liquid form when it reaches a surface where it cannot escape from. This is exasperated further if the vapour is trying to escape from a warm area to a cooler area. So from the warm comfort of your tent into the cooler air outside the tent. This is why condensation can be worse in tents during cooler months than they are in the summer months.
You will often see this vapour turn to liquid around the home where condensation will build up on windows or surfaces when you cook or run a bath. The steam that comes off cooking certain items or running the hot water for your bath or shower creates condensation when the warm, moist vapour returns to liquid form when reaching cooler surfaces.
What Causes Condensation in Tents
Condensation in tents is caused by many things and you will never be able to fully stop condensation within your tent but can take steps to reduce it. Condensation build-up is created in the tent the same as it is anywhere else, although you notice it more being a smaller more confined space.
These days with tents being more waterproof than ever, using lightweight polyester flysheets and having sewn-in groundsheets, both to help with our comfort and keeping bugs out means tents are more watertight than ever. However, the downside to this is it works both ways. If water cannot get in, water cannot escape either.
To fully understand condensation build-up in a tent it is important to understand the things that can cause water vapour to be in the air in the first place. There are several things that cause water vapour in the air of your tent and below we have listed a few.
Breathing – this is one thing we cannot stop! but even us simply breathing while inside the tent causes water vapour that will condense. On average 1 person will produce around 560ml – 1 litre of water through breathing in a night. Multiply that by how many people are sleeping in the tent and that can easily add up to a few litres each night.
Sweating – if you are a warm sleeper and sweat during the night any vapour that comes of any exposed areas of skin can also condense the same way as your breathing does. This is why your sleeping bag can sometimes feel a little damp in the mornings and why we always recommend airing it during the day so it is dry for you again in the evening.
Cooking/Boiling Water – both activities will produce moisture in the air. We never recommend cooking with gas in the tent! Although we know that many people now cook with electrics in the tent these days. And with electrics being used there are normally more cups of tea or coffee on the go later in the evening. At least I know that’s the case for us. Warm drinks before bed are pretty standard for many campers. But this can cause a lot of condensation.
Wet Gear – now this may be down to the activities you like to participate in while away on your trips, time spent walking on the mountains or through the valleys or simply because you have been caught in the rain, wet gear or clothes are going to cause water vapour as they dry.
Temperature – the temperature outside the tent is also a contributing factor to condensation. The colder it is outside the more easily condensation will build up. When it is cold, we have tent doors closed more often and often want more warm food and drink. As much as you may cook outside normally, we retreat to the comfort of our tent to eat when cold. The heat from our food and drink will also cause a fair amount of water vapour.
How You Can Reduce Condensation in Your Tent
There are several ways that you can help to reduce the build-up of condensation in your tent. None of us can control the weather or stop breathing so what steps should we be taking. Below we have listed some of the ways to help you reduce such condensation and keep it at a minimum throughout your camping trip.
Position of Tent – where possible pitch your tent so that any winds or even light breezes will be entering your tent through air vents.
Air Vents – always keep your air vents open where possible. Some people will close these at night to help keep in the heat. When in fact all you are doing is stopping any moisture from being able to escape. The only time I would suggest closing vents is if the weather is so bad that the rain is managing to get in the tent through these. That is why many family tents come with both low and high ventilation panels. These are better for allowing air to circulate and reducing condensation and as family tents will be sleeping more people the vapour in the air will always be greater than if only 1 or 2 were in the tent.
Mesh Doors – where your tent is fitted with mesh screen doors try to use these as long as possible before shutting over the main waterproof fabric door. If you can unzip the top of your fabric door when the weather is more favourable this will also help during the night.
Cooking/Boiling water – where possible try to do this out with your tent or close to a well-ventilated space, such as near a doorway that has mesh closure to allow moisture to escape.
Wet Gear – try to keep wet gear out of the main tent. If you have a porch area store it there. If you are hiking it would be best in a dry bag and placed outside your tent.
If you get the chance to dry your gear before you settle in for the evening take it. Always try to have your gear as dry as possible before taking it into the tent with you.
Eating and Drinking – Where possible as stated earlier try to cook and make hot beverages outside the tent but t is also worth trying to eat and drink hot foods and beverages either outside the tent or while keeping the tent well ventilated.
Disposable Dehumidifiers – these are great and can be placed in your tent to help draw moisture from the air and store it in its container. They can be picked up for under a pound from most household goods shops. We’ve discovered the hanging style ones which are great in the bigger tents and can be hung from the lantern hanging points to try and draw the moisture before it hits the tent fabric. These come in all shapes and sizes and are great for emergencies such as wet, rainy days where you may be stuck inside a lot and are unable to have your doors open.
The Dangers of Condensation
As well as condensation being a royal pain making things damp and wet it can also be dangerous if it is excessive. Condensation dripping onto the floor of your tent can cause slips if you do not use a tent carpet.
It is also worth noting the dangers if you use electrics in your tent. If condensation is a problem you have when camping you should always ensure your mains kit is placed somewhere where it is not going to get dripped on and not sitting against the tent. We learned that lesson the hard way when water from condensation got into our electrics and electrocuted us during the night. You can read about that here. An Electrifying Camping Experience
It is also important that any other electrical items are kept safe from condensation too. Make sure tables or units that your electrics are placed on or in are not touching the side of your tent as condensation, as well as dripping, can often run down the side of the tent and gather on any surfaces touching the tent.
Here’s to a Dryer Camping Experience
Now that you understand what can cause condensation in your tent and the steps you can take to reduce this from happening.
We know there is nothing worse than getting up in the morning to everything being wet or damp, especially if it’s your sleeping bag.
It is always better to try and keep everything dry from the start than to try and dry things out later on.
Top Tips – if any small items do get damp those little silicone gel sachets are great for popping in with stuff when you pack them away.
Remember when packing up that the inside, as well as the outside of the tent, is completely dry so your tent doesn’t end up with mould.
Thanks for reading, remember to give us a little like or share if you think this has been useful and could help others.