Why Do Tents Get Wet Inside?

Water drops after rain against the house and the sky.

It didn’t rain inside of the tent, so how did it end up all wet? This mystery has a simpler solution than you might think.

Water that evaporates in the heat of the day solidifies back into liquid when the temperature drops and gathers as condensation on any cold surface, which includes the interior of tents. Condensation can be kept to a minimum by ventilating the inside of the tent and keeping the water to a minimum.

Once you know what’s causing the water, you can better figure out how to keep your tent dry. Don’t let a little morning dew ruin your camping trip!

What Causes the Water in Tents

You didn’t pour any water into the tent, and your drinking bottles are empty, so where did the water come from? It wasn’t a spontaneous occurrence, that’s for sure. Something can’t come from nothing, so where did it come from? The answer is that the water was always there, just not in the same state.

The Law of Conservation of Mass states that matter, like water, cannot be created or destroyed. So, the water in your tent was already there. It was just in the air, as a gas. Humidity is caused by the water evaporating in the air due to heat, and when the water cools again, it becomes a liquid. If you set up a tent in a hot, humid environment, the air is full of water.

When the air cools, the water liquefies and clings to a cold surface. This is called dew, and it forms in places besides your tent. It can gather on grass, plastic, or metal. If you’ve ever run around in a grassy area while barefoot in the early morning, you’ve come across dew.

As the day heats up, the water will evaporate again, and the dew will dry up. Your tent’s walls provide a perfect surface for this reaction to happen. The more humid the air, the more water will gather on your tent. If you keep uncovered containers of water, that will also evaporate and end up on the walls of the tent. The fact that the tent is enclosed, and there isn’t anywhere for the water to go, adds to the gathering dew.

Figuring out how the water gets in the tent can be a fun learning experience about nature and how water changes state.

How Condensation Works

Morning dew on a plant’s leaf

How does condensation happen? The water cycle might have a clue. Water, and everything else on Earth, can exist in three forms, solid, liquid, and gas. These forms are called the states of matter. In solid form, water is called ice. As a gas, it is known as steam, and when it’s a liquid, it’s just water.

Condensation is the relationship between steam and water. When water gets hot, it evaporates into steam. Water in the air is called humidity and can increase or decrease depending on the available water. If you’re camping near a lake, the humidity will be higher than if you were in a desert. The water in the air gets trapped inside your tent when you close the doors.

As the night progresses, the temperature will drop, and the air isn’t warm enough to keep water as a gas anymore. So, the water condenses, meaning it turns to liquid, on a cold surface. You are too warm to collect dew, but the walls of your tent aren’t. The water in the air will turn to dew, and when the temperatures go up again, it will evaporate back into steam.

Condensation relies on water, so the more water you have, the more damp your tent gets. There is always water in the air naturally, but more can enter from puddles, rain, ponds, rivers, and more. You may even be sabotaging yourself by bringing in sources of water to cause condensation. There isn’t a foolproof way to keep your tent from not being damp at all, but there are a few methods to help.

How to Prevent Condensation

camping, tourism, hike, family and people concept – happy father and son setting up tent outdoors

We know how the water got there, but how do we get the water out? Waking up in a cold wet tent isn’t an experience anyone likes, so what’s the best way to stay nice and dry while still enjoying nature? To know how to keep your tent dry, pay attention to your surroundings when camping.

If you’re in a damp area with warm evenings but cold mornings, you’re more likely to get up with a wet tent. What you’ll want to do is minimize the amount of water trapped in the tent. You can do this by making sure your tent has good air ventilation. That way, the humid air won’t end up trapped in your tent and turn to dew. Put items that can collect dew outside of the tent at night if you can.

You should also keep anything wet, like bathing suits or muddy boots, outside. Minimizing objects in your tent can keep it dry and clean. You should also try to keep the temperature in the tent as consistent as possible. If your camping trip is old school, you probably don’t have control over the temperature, but if you brought any kind of heating or cooling, keep the tent consistent.

Cooler temperatures will keep the tent drier. This may seem strange, since the cold causes the dew, but cooler air has less water in it to condense, so it’ll stay drier. Once the tent is wet, you can wipe away the water with a cloth, or let it dry in the sun. Depending on where you’re camping, and what time of year it is, you can leave your tent to air dry or dry in the sun.

In colder areas, it might be better to just wipe away the water. You should also make sure you’re tent isn’t leaking. Check to see if the water is coming from a tear in the tent’s exterior, and patch that up right away! Leaks are never fun but can happen, so take good care of your tent!

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