How To: Tips & Tricks for Alleviating Condensation in Your Tent
It’s never nice to have it seem like it’s raining inside your tent. But various factors like airflow, temperature, and weather can leave your tent walls damp even on a clear day. Condensation on the interior of any shelter, whether single-wall or double-wall, is an unavoidable fact of tent camping. However, while tent condensation is impossible to eliminate completely, there are steps you can take to mitigate it.
In this article, we’ll answer what tent condensation is and explore the two main factors that contribute to it. Knowing how tent condensation happens can help you better understand how to avoid it. We’ll also share how Gossamer Gear shelters are designed to limit tent condensation and offer a list of recommendations for alleviating tent condensation issues.
What Is Tent Condensation?
Tent condensation is a layer of moisture on the interior of your shelter. In a double-wall shelter, this moisture covers the inside of your rainfly, and can drip onto your tent fabric or mesh windows if it becomes too saturated. In a single-wall shelter, this humidity forms on the interior walls of your tent.
If you find water in your tent that consistently pools in the same place, you might have a leak in your tent where rain is able to get in. But if the moisture is more widespread and doesn’t concentrate into puddles, then the water in your tent is most likely condensation. We’ll cover more on how and why this condensation occurs in your tent below.
Two Main Factors That Affect Tent Condensation
Ever wake up thirsty? This is because we breathe out a bunch of water when we sleep. Various sources estimate that we exhale anywhere from a cup to a liter worth of water during our slumber.
Think about how you can see your breath when you exhale on a cold day, or how you might breathe onto the lenses of your sunglasses to fog them up when you need a little moisture to clean them. Or, you might remember how around 2020 we all became way more aware of respiratory droplets and how they can facilitate a global pandemic than any of us ever wanted to be.
Humans are condensation-making machines, even while asleep. But, we don’t always wake up covered in dew, so what’s going on? At the end of the day, the moisture we produce turns into tent condensation for two reasons.
Dew point is the uncontrollable factor when it comes to tent condensation. Dew point is the temperature air must reach on any given night to become completely saturated (or reach 100 percent relative humidity). When temperatures cool at night and approach the dew point, water vapor in the air will condense on every surface available—grass, moss, leaves, your tent, other gear. Relative humidity increases at night when the air temperature approaches the dew point. It decreases as the air temperature warms further from the dew point during the day.
If the interior of your shelter becomes warmer or more humid than the exterior, condensation will occur. This tent condensation factor is the one we like to think of as controllable. There are steps you can take to be mindful of temperature and humidity conditions inside your tent to reduce condensation throughout the night. We’ll detail these in the next section.
13 Tips for Preventing Tent Condensation
Since we can’t control anything about the dew point process, we are going to focus on what we can control. Below are several recommendations to improve the interior temperature and humidity of your shelter to prevent tent condensation, as well as some tips to manage it when it does happen.
1. Pitch Your Tent Well
When you set up your tent, make sure to pitch it tight and tall. For Gossamer Gear shelters, we recommend setting your poles to 125 cm. Pitching your tent high like this increases air movement near the bottom of the tent. Taut tent walls are also less prone to sag with the weather or condensation and touch your gear. Check out our instructional video with Gossamer Gear’s founder Glen Van Peski to learn how to optimally set up The One or The Two shelters.
2. Avoid Setting Up Near Water
Humidity is higher near streams, lakes, ponds, and other wet areas in the wilderness. Steer clear of campsites near these water features to reduce the potential for tent condensation.
3. Camp on Higher Ground
Cold air pools in lower areas at night. And, as we covered above, if the inside of your tent is warmer than the outside, you’re likely to get tent condensation. Avoid low points on the landscape, opting instead to camp on higher ground. Since heat rises, this will help you keep the temperature outside of your tent closer to the temperature inside your tent.
4. Set Up Under Tree Shade
The air is typically warmer under trees than in wide open spaces. This helps keep the temperature difference between the inside and outside of your tent as close as possible to limit tent condensation. Additionally, when dew forms, trees’ leaves often gather it before it reaches your tent. Just make sure to look up before pitching your tent to check for any branches or trees that look unstable or have the potential to fall on your campsite.
5. Position Your Doors Toward the Breeze
Unless you’re trying to stay warmer, position your tent doors toward a gentle breeze. This will help move air through your tent. That increased ventilation can help prevent tent condensation.
6. Set Up Wet Tents to Dry
Tents that are already wet are just itching to keep you wet overnight. Pitch wet tents as early as you can when you get into camp to allow time for them to fully dry out.
7. Ventilate Early and Often
After setting up your tent, roll up one or both of the vestibule doors to keep your tent space well ventilated and maintain a similar temperature between the inside and the outside. If you’re able to leave the vestibule door open overnight, that will also help your tent’s humid air from moist exhalations escape the small space rather than building up on your tent walls.
8. Remove Wet Items
The more moisture you bring into your tent with you, the more likely it is to build up as condensation on your tent walls overnight. Remove wet clothes, shoes, or other gear from your tent at night, or place them into a stuff sack to dry out the next day.
9. Cook Away From Your Tent
To avoid increasing the interior humidity level of your tent, cook and boil water away from your tent, including outside of the vestibule.
10. Unzip Your Door
If you’re in an area with low bug activity, consider slightly unzipping your tent door to increase ventilation overnight. Greater ventilation leads to less tent condensation buildup.
11. Don’t Touch Your Tent Walls
Pressure on your tent walls can encourage water to seep through. Try not to touch the sides of your tent, including with your gear. This obviously isn’t always possible, but be mindful of where you’re placing interior pressure on your tent walls as you set up your home for the night.
12. Protect Your Toebox
It’s common for sleeping bags to touch the bottom wall of your tent, especially if you tend to move around more when you sleep. Protect your sleeping bag’s toebox from moisture by placing a dry raincoat around it or a pack liner.
13. Keep a Small Towel Handy
As we mentioned up top, it’s impossible to completely avoid tent condensation. It just happens sometimes despite our best efforts. Ultimately, plan to keep a small pack towel to wipe down the walls when needed. Make sure to dry out your shelter and sleeping bag during a lunch break, when possible, or as soon as you can once you get to your next camp.
How The One and The Two Are Lightweight Single-Wall Shelters Designed to Limit Tent Condensation
However, tent condensation can be especially apparent in single-wall shelters, where there is no separate rainfly keeping you from those cold dew droplets. As a result, some campers feel hesitant to make the switch. Well, we’re here to help calm those fears so you can take advantage of the great features single-wall shelters have to offer!
In addition to following the tips above, campers can rest easy knowing that we’ve designed Gossamer Gear’s shelters with tent condensation in mind. Here are just a few features that will help prevent excess tent condensation when you’re using The One or The Two.
The One has a full mesh door on one side with a vestibule that can fully roll up on both sides. It has a triangle of mesh at the peak on the opposite side of the door with a shortened vestibule to allow for greater airflow. It also has mesh panels at the head and foot of the tent.
The Two has full mesh doors on both sides with additional mesh panels at the head and foot of the tent. The vestibule fully opens and easily ties up on both sides for maximum ventilation and easy side entry.
Highly Adjustable Pitch
As mentioned above, proper setup of your tent can greatly impact how much of a problem tent condensation becomes. The One and The Two both allow for a highly adjustable pitch so you can create greater space for airflow and adapt to the terrain and conditions of your camp.
Being able to get a taut pitch also keeps your tent roomier. This allows you to sleep without touching the tent walls, which can transfer tent condensation to your sleeping gear.
Take Steps to Lower Tent Condensation for More Peaceful Backcountry Sleeping
Single-wall shelters like The One and The Two are excellent options for lightweight backpacking. Their ease of use, packability, and reduced weight are great friends for trail life. If you’ve been worried about making the switch because of what you’ve heard about tent condensation, we hope you’ve been able to quell those fears while reading this blog.
Know some other tips and tricks for preventing or managing tent condensation? Share your knowledge with our community by tagging Gossamer Gear on social media (@gossamergear) and using the hashtag #takelessdomore.
Looking for more outdoor adventure inspiration? Check out some of our other articles on the Light Feet blog:
- 8 Ways to Manage Spring and Summer Rain When Hiking
- Hydration 101: Your Guide to Water While Hiking
- 8 Tips & Tricks for Solo Hiking Trips
- Cook Your Backpacking Dinner in Your Pants With Help From the “Crotch Pot”
- Learn the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace
- Cold Weather Layering for Hikers: The Ultimate How-To Guide