How To Waterproof A Tent Fly (Step-By-Step)

Your tent’s fly is designed to add a layer of protection from the elements, including the sun, rain, and so on.

Because of this, it will inevitably take a beating, and over time will lose its protective properties.

So, let’s learn how to waterproof a tent fly, when you should waterproof it, and how to protect it from the sun’s damaging rays.

What Is A Rainfly?

Let’s first learn what a tent fly, aka rainfly, is and why they are important. If you’re already familiar with what a rainfly is, you can skip this section.

A rainfly is a cover you place over your tent to protect it from the elements such as the sun, rain, and snow.

Rainfly’s are a common component of double-wall tents. This double-wall design, which is made up of the tent body and the rainfly, allows a tent to be:

  • Weatherproof: The rainfly helps to weatherproof a tent by adding a protective waterproof layer over the tent body
  • Breathable: The tent body will feature mesh air vents and windows for improved breathability

In other words, the rainfly is waterproof, but not breathable. And the tent body is breathable, but not completely waterproof. When you combine the two, you get the best of both worlds!

Rainfly’s come in different varieties, with some partially covering the upper half of the tent and others completely covering the entire tent.

A rainfly is also a versatile tool that’s commonly used as:

Do You Need A Rainfly?

This really depends on the type of tent you have and the conditions you plan on camping in.

If there is any chance at all for rain or any inclement weather, it’s best to attach the rainfly for peace of mind.

However, in the warm summer months, if it’s not raining, you likely won’t need a rainfly.

In fact, you’ll probably be a lot more comfortable without a rainfly on your tent as the warm air will be able to escape your tent better. Of course, you’ll be leaving yourself susceptible to a surprise rain shower (and it’s not fun to throw on the rainfly in the middle of a storm).

The only other case you won’t need a rainfly is if you have a single-wall tent that does not require one.

Do You Need To Waterproof Your Rainfly?

Out of the box, you shouldn’t have to waterproof your rainfly. Unless you are planning some extreme weather excursions with your tent where the additional protection will be needed.

With that said, over time, your rainfly, as well as your tent, will need to be re-waterproofed. Tent waterproofing does not last forever.

But, how do you know if it needs to be waterproofed?

It’s actually pretty simple. Set up your tent with your rainfly attached in your backyard and spray it down with a hose. If it leaks at all, it’s time to waterproof it.

See Do I Need To Waterproof My Tent for more information and tips.

Tip: If your rainfly is leaking, visually inspect it to ensure there are no tears or holes in it as that is a common cause for leaking, as well.

How To Waterproof A Tent Fly

The good news is you can re-waterproof a rainfly in a few easy steps, which is essentially the same way you would waterproof a tent.

Step 1: Repair And Clean It

First, inspect your rainfly for any small tears and runs that might not be visible from a distance. If you find damage, you will need to patch it.

Wash it with soap, water, and a sponge. If needed, use a gentle scrubber, like a toothbrush, to take care of any stubborn stains. Check out our guide on how to clean a tent for the entire step-by-step process.

Step 2: Check Seams And Apply An Adhesive Sealant

Check the seams of your rainfly closely. Seams connect each section of your rainfly, and waterproof coatings will fail in that area before anywhere else.

Once you make sure that all the stitches are in order, apply an adhesive sealant using a paintbrush or the applicator that came with your product. Seal the seams on both sides of the tent fly. We recommend you use Gear Aid – Seam Grip WP Sealant Adhesive.

Gear Aid - Seam Grip WP Sealant Adhesive

Gear Aid – Seam Grip WP Sealant Adhesive

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Step 3: Apply A Coat Of Waterproofing Spray

After your sealant is dry, dampen your rainfly and apply your waterproofing spray. Different rainfly materials may require different waterproofing products, so be careful to choose the right one for your fabric.

With that said, most rainfly’s these days are made out of synthetic fabric. So, if that describes your fly, we highly recommend you use Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof! Not only will this add extremely effective waterproofing to your rainfly, but it will also help protect it from UV exposure.

Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof

Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof

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To apply Nikwax, spray down your wet rainfly with their Tent & Solarproof spray, wait a few minutes, then be sure to wipe off any excess product with a cloth or sponge. Allow the rainfly to dry completely.

Test It Before You Camp

Once that’s done and the rainfly is dry, test it before you go camping. Simply spray it down with a hose and ensure it isn’t leaking any water. If it still is, repeat the process above.

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