Waterproof Ratings For Camping Tents

Like other factors – size, weight, Seasonality, features, etc., a good waterproof rating is also very important to consider when investing in a tent. Our nature is full of surprises and beautiful sceneries, but at the same time, it is unpredictable.

At a camping site, it is very unpredictable to say accurately when it will be raining. By having the right gears with you, you can easily focus on enjoying the adventure instead of trying to stop that water dripping on your head. That’s why this article is completely dedicated to you, where we will be going to discuss waterproof ratings for camping tents briefly.

Your selected tent must have a good capacity to prevent you from getting wet and withstand any conditions from drizzles to downpours. We have covered every important point and factor in the below guide that you must know about waterproof ratings for camping tents.

From selecting the right fabric to the suitable waterproof ratings, you will avoid any water issues with your tent in future camping trips. You need to invest your next ten valuable minutes in reading this helpful guide completely, and by the end, you will be going to have a very clear concept about waterproof ratings for camping tents.

What is Waterproof Rating for a Tent Fabric?

Waterproof rating for your selected tent fabric is very important to consider. Waterproof ratings are measured in millimeters (mm). Typically, waterproof ratings for tent fabric falls between 600 mm to 10,000 mm.

These numerical figures determine the water holding capacity of a fabric before it begins to leak. Let’s consider an example; a piece of tent fabric with a 3,000 mm rating means it can hold a three-meter column of water before it begins to leak.

Similarly, tent fabric with a 2,000 mm waterproof rating means it can hold a two-meter column of water before it starts to leak.

How to Determine the Waterproof Ratings of the Tent

Methods to Determine the Waterproof Ratings of the Tent

There are mainly three methods widely used to determine the waterproof ratings of a tent. Even when looking for the specifications and waterproof ratings of a tent, you may find described in any of the following three methods:

1. Ratings in PSI

2. Waterproofness in mmH20

3. Hydrostatic Head Rating in mm

What does Waterproof Rating in PSI mean?

Ratings in PSI is a very common method of determining the waterproof ratings of a fabric. In this method, a bottomless cylinder is used for the procedure. A one square inch measurement of fabric is placed at the bottom of this cylinder.

This column is filled with water and noted how much water it can hold before leaking. The amount of water filled in this bottomless cylinder is measured in pounds. That’s how you get the waterproof ratings in PSI for a fabric.

What does Waterproofness in mmH20 mean?

When looking for a tent’s waterproofness ratings, you will find mmH20 written most of the time. So what does it means? In this procedure, good water pressure is applied to the fabric until, at leas6, three drops of water get leaked through the fabric. For this method, water pressure on the fabric is applied through a bottomless cylinder.

In other words, we can say that Waterproofness in mmH20 for a fabric means how much millimeters of water is above the fabric before it started to leak. Hence, a 4,000 mmH20 waterproofness means the fabric can sustain a maximum of 4,000 millimeters of water before it gets leaked through it. Now, let’s have a look at the Hydrostatic Head ratings.

What does Hydrostatic Head Rating in mm Means?

Hydrostatic heat rating is very similar to the Waterproofness in mmH20. Methods for determining the waterproofness ratings for tent fabric are similar in both. How much quantity of water in a tall column a fabric can sustain before it begins to leak.

In this way, a camping tent with a 2,000 mm rating will endure a two-meter or 2,000 mm column of water-bearing down on it before it begins to leak.

What Type of Protective Coatings are Applied to Tent Fabric?

The gaps between the threads of the fabric allow the water to leak through it. A good protective coating perfectly applied can close the gaps between the threads and prevent any water from passing through it.

Apart from that, a protective coating also helps in maintaining the quality of the material. The number of applied protective coatings and thickness of fabric can also enhance the Waterproofness. The fabric with a protective coating will be able to resist a good amount of water than before.

Mostly, Silicone (Si) is applied for nylon fabrics and polyurethane (PU) for polyester fabrics.

Does a Tent with High Waterproofness in mmH20 is Always Better?

As per the above discussion, it is very clear that a tent fabric with higher mmH20 Waterproofness can easily withstand larger amounts of water pressure. This is very true, but you also need to understand another phase of the coin.

Mostly, umbrellas that we carry on rainy days have 400 mm to 500 mm waterproof ratings. When you have hands on it, you become confident to walk outside in the downpour. These umbrellas are capable enough to restrict the rainwater and prevent you from getting wet.

Similarly, higher mmH20 Waterproofness is more rigid and may be unnecessary for the type of conditions you will be facing.
We cannot ignore that tents are exposed to various stressful weather conditions, including rough weather, sunlight, winds, and abrasion from rough ground.

It is also true that a 5,000 mm waterproof rating tent may also leak if seams are not heated tape, or it is not stitched correctly. It is always recommended to read customer reviews. If the tent is not designed practically such that rainwater finds its way through windows or zips, some users may be informed about this.

How Can I Waterproof A Tent?

You can easily make your tent fabric waterproof. You need a protective coating. Products like Nikwax concentrated tent and gear solar proof waterproofing and gear aid seam grip. These will help you to make your tent waterproof.

If your tent has lost its waterproof coating or your tent does not come with good waterproof ratings, then these products will help you do the job. Just make sure to apply these coatings before your actual camping trip.

You don’t want to be stuck with a leaking tent in the middle of nowhere. Make sure to remove any access coating and dry your tent completely before trying to pack it. That’s how you can make your tent waterproof manually.

When camping with family members, it is very important to select a tent with good waterproof ratings. Wait! Have you checked our complete guide here on how to plan a camping trip successfully?

Fabrics Used in the Tents and Their Waterproofness

There are mainly two categories of fabrics used in the tent. These are human-made fabrics and natural fabrics. Human-made fabrics are nylon and polyester. Natural fabrics are cotton and canvas. Let’s have a clear look at these fabrics used in the tents and their Waterproofness.

Nylon and Polyester

Nylon and polyester are both man-made fabrics. You will find that most of the tents available in the market are either nylon or polyester. Both fabric materials resist water, but they are not fully waterproof. You can enhance the water and UV rays resistance of these tents by applying some special protective coatings.

The water-resistant properties of polyester material increases as the thread count increases. If you research focusing on the market, you will find that nylon fabric is widely used in lightweight backpacking tents, whereas polyester is typically used in family tents.

As compared to natural fabrics, these man-made fabrics are also lightweight and less bulky. You can easily carry a polyester or nylon fabric tent to the campground.

Moreover, tents made from these fabrics are quite affordable or available at a very reasonable price. Another good thing here is that these fabrics are more resistant to rips and tears.

However, there is a drawback of these fabrics as well. Both polyester and nylon are not good insulators. In a cold environment, they cannot hold the warmth inside, and during the hot climate, these fabrics get too hot.

Apart from that, nylon and polyester fabric doesn’t breathe. In the absence of proper air circulation, campers face condensation build-up issues on tent walls. It is also seen that sun rays tend to deteriorate the color of the tent over some time. Most of the two-season and three-season tents are made up of polyester and nylon fabric.

Cotton and Canvas

Cotton and canvas both are among the best fabrics used in the tents. The best advantage of cotton fabric is that it is a good insulator. This means the tent will hold warmth when it is cold outside, and it will not overheat when it is too warm outside.

Tents made from cotton or canvas fabrics are regarded as four-season tents or all-season tents. You can use a cotton or canvas fabric tent in any season.

Apart from that, cotton is a breathable fabric. Hence, you will not be going to face any condensation issues build-up on tent walls. The cotton tent fabric is resistant to water and UV rays. This fabric is also completely breathable, so make sure not to apply any waterproof coating on it.

Another good thing is that cotton is a very durable fabric. Tents made from these fabrics last for several decades.

Same as polyester and nylon fabrics, cotton and canvas fabrics also have their drawbacks. Cotton tents are expensive than human-made fabric tents. Tearing and snagging are very common with canvas tents, and cotton is a natural fabric.

Thus, it requires more maintenance. You must also note down that cotton is a very heavy fabric and becomes bulky when packed.

Carrying cotton or canvas tents to the camping site is not easy. Another important thing is that these fabrics need to be weathered. They need to be sprayed with water or leave outside in the rain for the very first time. It is an inevitable step to follow. If not done, then cotton will expand, and your tent will leak in the rain.

Which Waterproof Ratings are Good for Which Conditions?

You already know the best answer to this question. You need to select a tent with suitable waterproof ratings as per the season and local conditions you will be camping in. This way, you will be going to invest in a tent with good waterproof ratings according to the camping environment.

Therefore, we can say that a tent with 1,500 mm fly ratings and 3,000 mm floor ratings is perfect for some areas but may not be suitable in other environments. If it rains a lot in your selected camping destination, then select a tent with at least 3,000 mm fly ratings and 6,000 mm floor waterproof ratings.

But, if your selected destination stays dry most of the time, then you can save money by investing in a low waterproof rating tent. You can check out the best waterproof tents here.


A good waterproof rating is very important to consider when investing in a tent. It is also important to consider the season and local conditions in which you will be camping. This way, you will find a tent with perfect waterproof ratings. An excess protective coating or more than enough Waterproofness is unnecessary.

If your tent is not waterproof or lost its protective coating, then you can apply some different protective coating products available in the market. You can also share your valuable thoughts, queries, and views with us in the comments section given below. Our team is ready to resolve your queries. Keep reading for more information and camping tips.

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