Damp is the number one enemy of camping. It can affect everything from whether you can start a campfire for cooking to how warm your tent is overnight.
Granted, a soft rainstorm can really set the mood when camping, but that mood can quickly change if the weather worsens and any of the water makes its way inside of your tent. Even if there is no rain, moisture and condensation can become a problem for campers, especially in a hot humid temperature—or if the tent’s fabric isn’t even entirely waterproof.
So, what can you do to stop condensation in a tent?
There are several things. Your best bet is to take a multi-pronged approach that includes choosing the right campsite, minimizing the moisture you allow into your tent, and dealing with moisture that is inevitable.
It’s also important to understand how moisture occurs. Condensation forms when warm air comes into contact with a cold surface of any kind, so never assume that moisture won’t be a problem during the warmer months. Condensation can occur at any time during any season and it’s something you need to consider no matter when you are camping.
Once you understand what you’re dealing with in terms of condensation, you can do the following specific things to prevent moisture from affecting your camping trip:
Be Smart about Where you Set Up Camp
Choosing the right campsite is one of the best tools you have for preventing condensation from building up in your tent. The best location for your tent is under trees. The only location for your tent is on dry ground. If you aren’t able to pitch your tent under trees on dry ground because the ground tends to take a little longer to dry in the shade, err on the side of dry ground.
Trees not only block rain from falling onto your tent, but they also tend to allow warm air to accumulate under them. They’ll block too much breeze and offer three-part protection for your tent from water.
The good news is if you can’t get under a tree, you should be able to get dry ground and can hopefully take advantage of the sun’s light that isn’t blocked by the trees. Ideally, you’ll find a dry spot under a tree for tent set-up for added shelter.
Take a Preventative Approach to Moisture Accumulation in Your Tent
Moisture creeps up from three different sources: humidity in the air, your breathing, and wet gear from sweat and rain. The better you’re able to control these things the better the odds your tent will stay dry.
Well-ventilated tents are the best way to keep the relative humidity low inside the tent. Keep a screen exposed or invest in a tent known for its ventilation and has a rain fly. Don’t avoid breathing (obviously!), but do make sure you are counteracting your breathing with good ventilation. You can face the open part of your tent toward the breeze and keep the rain fly doors open whenever possible. In many tents, this will also allow for cross-ventilation, which can be a huge help when it comes to making your tent comfortable and dry.
Finally, make sure you don’t bring any wet items into your tent. Hiking throughout the day and end up with damp socks? Leave them outside of your tent to dry. Swimming or showering in a nearby lake or river and have a damp towel? Hang it outside your tent.
The last thing you want to do when you are trying to get unavoidable moisture out of your tent is to add more into it. Be smart about how you handle your wet items and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches.
Do the Work in the Morning to Make for a Dry Evening
First thing in the morning when you’re camping, your mind might not be on the night to come, but this is one of the most important times for preparing for a dry night. You can keep condensation at bay by drying any wet areas on your tent in the morning. Condensation will build up inside and definitely outside in the early morning, so act as soon as you get up to get rid of it. Then hang the towel you used for drying on a tree or line away from your tent.
If you had to sleep with the windows closed during the night, open them all up first thing in the morning and get the tent ventilated as soon as possible. If the day is sunny and dry, consider placing your sleeping bag, blankets, pillows, and pajamas out in the sun for a few hours to remove any moisture that might have formed overnight due to your body heat.
It’s also a good idea to be smart about packing up your tent when it’s time to leave the campsite. Putting away a damp tent creates problems when you pitch it again, whether that’s later that night once you’ve hiked to a new site or a few weeks later when you go camping again.
Be Your Own Best Fan
Though it’s not exactly roughing it, bringing a battery-operated fan along with you to have inside your tent can help reduce moisture levels. It also keeps the air circulating, which can be a blessing on a hot and humid night when there is no natural breeze. You can run the fan to help you stay comfortable and cool overnight so sleeping is easier, but it also makes the tent itself a better environment by cutting down on moisture accumulation.
Fans are also a good idea on cooler mornings when condensation tends to form on your tent. Though you won’t want a fan blowing on you if it’s a chilly start to the day, once you’ve moved out of the tent and you’re going about your morning duties, you can run the fan for an hour or so inside of the tent to blow off the morning dew. This helps dry the moisture you weren’t able to mop up with a towel and makes the process of drying out your tent fast and efficient.