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The Simple But Mighty Tent Rainfly: Don’t Let Rain Ruin Your Camping Trip

Have you ever woken up to feel like the humidity of Florida has entered your tent? Waking up with the sides, top, and your sleeping bag wet is not ideal. Although some water inside your tent is common, you don’t want to wake up feeling icky or have to dry out your blanket first thing in the morning. A tent rainfly can help keep you and your tent dry. Not only will it protect you from possible rain showers, but it will also shield you from the sun’s UV rays. Let’s examine why a rainfly on your tent is a good idea!

FIX IT for $12 || How to Waterproof a Tent (even cheap tents!)

What Is a Tent Rainfly?

A rainfly is a hood that stretches above a tent. It keeps the tent dry, the windchill to a minimum, and provides shade. Depending on where you’re camping, one of these devices on your tent can also protect your tent from tree sap and bird poop. Some rainflies even add extra room on the outside of a tent or additional shade along the sides.

Do I Need a Tent Rainfly?

This is a tricky question. Is a tent rainfly a requirement for camping? No, it’s not. But neither is much of the camping gear we bring to make our experience more enjoyable and comfortable. It’s an item you’ll want to add to your pack. You might not experience any rain. But if you do and you don’t have a tent rainfly, you’ll wish you packed one.

Also, some rainflies provide insulation. When temperatures dip at night, a rainfly can keep you warm and cozy. Hypothermia can happen even when it’s not below freezing. So don’t consider a rainfly an item you only need when it rains during the weekend camping trip.

Even the best weatherproof and waterproof tents will hold up better with a rainfly. You must still deal with dew, bird poop, UV rays, and tree sap. If they ruin your tent, it’s much more costly to replace it than to add a rainfly to your camping gear.

Woman sitting in tent in the rain
Nobody wants to wake up wet when camping in a tent.

Why Do Tents Get Wet Inside?

Even waterproof tents get wet on the inside. Seams can cause leaks. Dew can set in. But condensation is usually the biggest reason for tents feeling wet. Condensation usually comes from your breath or wet gear and is caused when the temperature inside the tent is warmer than the outside temperature. If the humidity levels are high, condensation can occur. This is because the warm air inside the tent can hold more moisture than the cooler outside air. When the warm, moist air meets the cooler tent fabric or the outside air, it cools down and releases moisture in the form of condensation.

Poor ventilation in the tent can also contribute to condensation. When there is not enough airflow in the tent, the warm, moist air gets trapped inside, and condensation can build up on the inside walls, ceiling, and other surfaces.

What Is a Tent Rainfly Made Of?

A tent rainfly is generally either nylon or polyester. Nylon rainflies tend to sag when they get wet because the material expands. However, they’re lightweight, which is excellent for backpackers.

Polyester keeps its structural integrity when it is wet. This material also dries faster than nylon. But this also means polyester rainflies are more expensive and heavier. If you stick with nylon or polyester, your rainfly will help keep your tent dry.

Do All Tents Come With a Rainfly?

Not all tents come with a rainfly. Many newer products do, but always check the labels to determine what it includes. For example, this CORE 9-person camping tent already comes with a rainfly. But if your tent doesn’t have one, don’t worry. You don’t have to buy a whole new tent. Coleman makes a rainfly accessory you can add to your camping gear.

CORE Instant Cabin Tent | Multi Room Tent for...
  • INSTANT SETUP: The tent body with pre-attached poles that lock...
  • WEATHER PROTECTION: H20 Block Technology combines water-repellent...
  • ADJUSTABLE VENTILATION: Lower air intake vents draw in cool air...

Pro Tip: Not sold on tent camping? These are 7 Ways Tent Camping Is Better Than RV Camping.

Rainy day camping
A rainfly can keep the water out of your tent for good.

What to Look for in a Rainfly for a Tent

When you need to find a rainfly or are looking for a new tent with a rainfly, some crucial factors help you make a good decision. Not all rainflies are equal, so pay attention to the water resistance, density of threads weaving, fire retardant material, and weight.

Water Resistance

You should pay attention to the water-resistance level when choosing a tent rainfly. If it’s above 3000mm, you’re in pretty good shape. This level provides optimal protection. Rainflies with 5000mm or higher are entirely waterproof and ideal for extreme weather conditions. These will probably be your most expensive options as well. Also, remember that the better the water resistance, the heavier the rainfly.

Density of the Threads Weaving

The higher the value of the density of the threads weaving, the heavier the fabric. However, it offers more protection, too. Tents and rainflies with 420 T ratings are suitable for extreme weather conditions because they’re very dense. The lower the rating, the thinner and lighter the material will be.

Fire Retardant Material

Most tent fabrics aren’t naturally fire retardant. The manufacturer has to endow the textile materials with refractory properties through fire retardant impregnation. A tent rainfly with these inhibitors will protect you from fire and slow the speed of the fire.

Weight

Finally, weight is always crucial when tent camping or backpacking. If you must carry your gear to a walk-in site, you don’t want to lug hundreds of pounds. Nylon is more lightweight than polyester but also has its disadvantages.

Kids sitting in tent while it rains
A rainfly can also help trap warmth into your tent.

How to Properly Use a Rainfly for a Tent

Setting up a tent rainfly is relatively straightforward. It’s vital to ensure the rainfly stretches as much as possible. Also, don’t allow the rainfly to touch the tent. You want adequate ventilation. You also want to ensure it forms a surface where rainwater will easily flow down and around the tent.

If you have a tent with a rainfly, there will be instructions for that particular set-up. If you’ve purchased a separate rainfly, find the notches and tie the non-looped side of the guy line to each notch. After you toss it over the tent, secure the guy lines to the ground with stakes. You can loosen or tighten the lines to ensure that it is stretched tightly and raised over the tent to allow ventilation.

Should I Clean a Tent Rainfly?

It’s impossible to keep camping gear completely clean. Even with proper cleaning, you’ll likely have dirt that never seems to disappear. Mold is the issue you want to address. You’ll want to dry clean the tent rainfly as much as possible. Blow it off but don’t rub it down. You could destroy the waterproof coating.

If you end up with a dirty rainfly, get a tent cleaner, mix it with water, and gently wash it. If you see mold growing on your rainfly, you must use a distilled vinegar mix to kill the mold. However, this will also damage the waterproof coating, so reapply it after washing. Don’t ever wash this product in the washing machine.

Pro Tip: Don’t let cold weather keep you from enjoying the great outdoors with these 7 Best Tent Heaters for Cold Weather Camping.

Tent and rainfly in rainy forest
No matter what season you’re tent camping in, a rainfly is a must-have in your camping gear kit.

Should I Use a Rainfly On a Tent When It’s Hot?

Some tenters don’t like to use a rainfly when it’s hot. They’ll remove the rainfly during the day and secure it again at night before sleeping. If your tent has a mesh opening on top of it, this can be a good idea to allow free-moving air throughout the day. Plus, it won’t keep the warm air trapped inside the tent. This of course only works if its dry.

But if your tent doesn’t have a mesh top, you might want to keep the rainfly set up to shield you from the extra heat. Anytime you remove the rainfly, you lose protection from UV rays and other debris like tree sap, bird poop, and dirt.

If you end up camping in the summer heat, the best way to reduce overheating is to tear down the tent during the day. You could leave the rainfly up to provide shade, but the inside of the tent won’t be unbearable when it’s time to return that evening. This requires more effort, but it might be worth it to eliminate the trapped heat in your tent.

Tips for Backpacking in the Rain

Enjoy Your Camping Trip in Any Weather Condition With a Tent Rainfly

No matter what season you’re tent camping, add a rainfly to your gear. Not only will it protect you from rain, but it will also protect your tent from weathering. If you can keep debris off your tent, you’ll have to clean it less often, and it will resist some wear and tear. Buying a new tent rainfly is much cheaper than buying a whole new tent.

Do you tent camp with a rainfly? Tell us why you love it in the comments!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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