If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best waterproof tent is, we suggest going with NTKs Cherokee Waterproof Tent.
A weekend camping trip can quickly turn south if the weather decides to work against you. Very few people actually enjoy getting caught in the rain in the first place, and even fewer like falling asleep with drops of water falling on them. Given the unpredictability of nature, it’s safe to say that you’ll need a shelter that can keep the rain out, but how do you know even know what to look for? Labels can be deceiving, and the best waterproof tent should be good at more than just keeping you dry. So why don’t we dive in to see what really makes a tent waterproof, and find out what some of the better options are on the market.
In this article we’ll be reviewing the following tents:
- NTK Cherokee Waterproof Tent – Best Bang for Your Buck
- Coleman Weather Master 10 Person Tent
- ALPS Mountaineering Helix 1 Person Tent – Best Waterproof Single Person Tent
- Kodiak Flex Bow Canvas Tent – Best Waterproof Canvas Tent
- Kelty Discovery 2 Person Tent
- NTK Laredo Waterproof Tent
- MSR Hubba Hubba Xtream Waterproof Tent
- Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2 Person Tent – Best Ultralight Tent
Waterproof vs Water Resistant
If you’re like most people, you probably scan the tent information, find the “water resistant” tag, and assume it’s going to keep you dry. And while you wouldn’t be wrong in many situations, there’s a lot more to consider than a misleading tag when it comes to staying dry in a rain shower. The first of these being the difference between a waterproof versus water resistant tent.
If a tent is water resistant, it means that the nature of the material and the tightness of the weave naturally sheds water. It’s a single layer defense system that is dependent on how well the product was made, and is not guaranteed to keep the elements out on every occasion. In a light drizzle, it’ll keep you dry, but if that’s all you have to work with during a longer rain shower…good luck.
A waterproof tent builds off the shelter’s natural water resistance, usually by adding a coating of polyurethane (PU). When you go to purchase a tent, the PU rating is generally written somewhere that’s easy to find, and it’s worth paying attention to it. As a rule of thumb, I only like to use tents that have a PU rating of 2,000 or higher – the bigger the number, the more water pressure it takes for your tent to start to leak. If you want to find the best tent for heavy rain, look for a product with a higher PU rating.
There are many good tents out there that will keep you dry in bad weather, even if they only claim to be water resistant. On the other hand, there are also plenty of tents that claim to be waterproof that will leak in a light rain shower (okay, maybe not that bad, but you get my point). At the end of the day, there are a variety of factors that contribute to how well your tent keeps your dry, so let’s take a look at a few of these.
While the groundsheet (floor) of your tent should prevent most water from seeping in, it never hurts to back yourself up with an additional layer of protection. The footprint is like a tarp that you lay down under your tent to protect it from water and abrasions. Using one of these in conjunction with setting up camp on the highest, driest ground you can find should ensure that nothing will seep in from the seams at the bottom of your tent.
On the topic of groundsheets, the ideal design would be a tent with a bathtub groundsheet. While the name might be a little deceiving (your tent won’t be filled with water like a bathtub, if you use it), the floor is like a tub because it curves up into the walls of your tent. Since there are no seams until part way up the tent walls, there’s no place for water to leak through.
As the name implies, this piece of equipment is vital for making sure you keep the rain out. The rainfly is a tarp that goes over your tent, and is tied down to stay taut, acting as a sort of umbrella for your shelter. The water will hit your rainfly and roll off, never even touching your “actual” tent. However, it’s very important that you keep the material as taut as possible, otherwise you’ll allow the water to pool in certain areas. If this happens, there’s a chance that the rain will soak through eventually, defeating the purpose of having a rainfly in the first place.
A rainfly can also be used as a makeshift shelter when you’re trying to set your tent up in the rain. Secure it to a couple of nearby trees, or have some friends hold it off the ground to give you a dry space to pitch your tent.
The material of your tent will contribute to how well it holds up under water. Most synthetics like polyester and nylon will naturally keep water out (for the most part), even if you don’t treat it with a water repellant. However, there are some waterproof tent sprays out there that can create an extra layer of protection if you want to cover all your bases.
Canvas, on the other hand, is made out of cotton and requires quite a bit of needlework to put it together. These needle holes are obviously going to be a problem when it comes to keeping water out, even if they aren’t very big, which is why you’ll need to “season” your tent before using it.
You can season your tent in a number of different ways, but the method that I prefer involves using your garden hose. Bring your tent out into your backyard and douse it with water until it’s completely soaked. And I mean completely. The material should feel saturated and heavy with fluid. This will probably take you a few minutes to accomplish, and when you’re done, leave it outside to dry in the sun.
Once again, you want it to be completely dry, and the best way to test this is by touching the seams where the material is thickest. If your tent is back to its original color and isn’t wet to the touch anymore, you’re safe to move onto the next step, which is to repeat this process 2 or 3 more times. As the sun dries your tent, the fabric constricts, tightening the tiny holes that were created when the tent was manufactured. If you repeat this process enough times, the holes will shrink to a point that will keep the rain out even in the heaviest downpours.
Best Waterproof Tent Reviews
The Cherokee tent encompasses everything that you’d want in a waterproof shelter. The bathtub floor ensures that water won’t seep in, even if the area around your tent gets flooded. It’s even coated in silver to prevent leaks, and the material itself is antifungal. The waterproof rainfly offers full coverage, so none of your inner tent is left to fend for itself in the elements.
While all of that is impressive in its own way, this tent has even more to offer. As a 6 person tent, it is on the heavy side at 15 pounds, but it sets up very easily and is incredibly tall and roomy. Because of the larger size, you might think that it acts as a wind catcher in strong storms, breaking down or blowing away. However, even in wind gusts above 70 mph, this shelter barely budged, and never once let a drop of rain inside.
– Large and sturdy
– Full coverage rainfly
– Easy to set up
– Bathtub floor
– Too heavy to bring on longer treks
For those of you looking to have more of a glamping experience without compromising on durability, Coleman’s Weather Master tent might be the option for you. As a massive 10 person tent, this product is able to offer many of the comforts of home. Fit a couple of queen size mattresses no problem, put up a room divider for added privacy, and bring a stove for warmth and cooking. And while you’re enjoying all of these luxuries, you can feel confident that you’ll stay dry no matter what’s going on outside.
With a bathtub floor and welded seams, water will stay where it belongs, as long as you set the tent up properly. Because of the size, it does take awhile to put together, but once you’ve put all the pieces together, you’ll be set for as long as you decide to stay.
– Bathtub floor
– Can comfortably house a lot of people
– Room divider
– Welded seams
– Heavy and difficult to set up
From a 10 person tent to a 1 person tent, we’re switching gears with the ALPS Mountaineering Helix. My initial assumption with all single person tents is that you’ll be using them while backpacking – I mean, why else would you go with something so small when you could get a 2 person tent that can comfortably house you and your gear. The reduction in weight is where these tents shine the most, and that’s true for this 2.5 pound shelter as well.
Of course, the million-dollar question is “Does it keep the rain out?” And the answer to that one is an overwhelming yes. From well taped seams, to heavy duty stitching, to a rainfly that performs, getting wet will be the least of your concerns when you’re hanging out in the Helix. For a single person tent, there’s also a surprising amount of headroom, which is really nice for taller folks like me. All things considered, I’m pretty impressed with what you get for the price, and would be totally fine taking this with me for a long trek through the mountains.
– Sheds water really well
– Not too many issues with condensation
– Pretty cost effective
– Good amount of headroom
– Zippers can be a little sticky
The only canvas tent on our list, Kodiak did a great job with their Flex Bow shelter. Though it’s more expensive than any other product in this review, I wouldn’t say that it’s overpriced given the overall size and quality. Made from 100% cotton canvas, the tight weave and silicon finish make sure that air is the only thing that can pass through these walls. Even if you put your hand on the material in a rain shower, water won’t wick through to the other side, like many old canvas tents used to do.
The frame is made out of galvanized steel that keeps the material taut and waterproof. But just because it doesn’t let water in, don’t think that it won’t let condensation out. Because it’s made out of canvas, it’s highly breathable, getting rid of the need for added ventilation. Condensation and mugginess will be reduced without having to open a window, which would potentially let rain in.
The tent does weigh 80 pounds, though, so keep this in mind before buying it. However, given the fact that it can sleep 8 people, and is incredibly durable, the added weight is a fair trade off.
– Breathable canvas
– Steel frame for added strength
– Silicon finish and tight weave
– Plenty of windows and vents
– Very heavy
Looking to get away by yourself or with your significant other? The Kelty Discovery is a great, lightweight tent that you can bring to the trails while you hike away your stress. Personally, I think it’s about the perfect size for one person to sleep comfortably with their gear; however, if you want to bring a partner, it can still work well if you don’t mind snuggling up close to them. Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of vestibules, so if you decide to go with the 2 person option, your gear won’t have much protection outside.
Still, it boasts an impressive amount of ventilation, and the material itself is quite waterproof. There are enough storage options on the inside for you to keep your phone and other knickknacks out of your hair, and it’s pretty lightweight for a 2 person tent.
Overall, it’s a pretty bare bones sort of shelter, but that’s about what you’d expect from a tent this cheap. Costing less than $100, you do get a surprising amount of bang for your buck with the Kelty Discovery.
– Very waterproof
– Well ventilated
– Great for weekend warriors or solo campers
– Few good places to store all of your gear
Another tanky tent by NTK, the Laredo is a good option for larger groups of campers who place high value on staying dry. Big enough for 8 adults (or 9 kids), this tent can accommodate a good number of people, considering it’s only 23 pounds. The bathtub floor and full coverage rainfly are similar to the NTK Cherokee, as is the overall durability, which is strong enough to stay secure in most severe weather conditions.
We all know that it won’t be raining the whole time you’re camping, though (at least, hopefully it won’t be). It’s nice to have a tent that isn’t just good for keeping the water out, but also performs the way you hope it would, even in nice weather. I like this shelter because of its ultrathin mesh walls that allow you to feel like you’re outside without exposing yourself to bugs. Between this and the added gear storage and lantern loop, it’s easy to see why this tent is so well loved among most who have used it.
– Gear storage
– Bathtub floor
– Full coverage rainfly
– Mesh interior
– Relatively light for its size
– Fly pole is a little weak
– Difficult to get back into its carry bag
As the only tent in this lineup that I would actually consider backpacking with, the Hubba Hubba Extreme might sound a little cheesy, but the specs all indicate a high quality shelter. There is one version that has their extreme waterproof coating and one that doesn’t, so I’ll be talking about the one that does have it. The manufacturer claims that their waterproof coating will last 3 times as long as their competitors, which means that you shouldn’t need another weather resistant tent for awhile. The PU rating is also 3,000, so the overall strength and water resistance of the material is better than many other tents. Add in the unique silicon poles that resist breaking in the wind, and you’ve got yourself a shelter that will see you through any storm.
– Good waterproof coating
– Nice sized vestibules
– Very lightweight
– Spacious for its size
– Stuff sack could use an upgrade
– Some parts of the tent sometimes arrive broken
The Big Agnes Tiger Wall is a lot more than just a waterproof, 2 person tent. It certainly is that, though, with its welded construction and fiber-based fabric, boasting an impressive resistance to rain despite the thin material. However, what really sets this tent apart from the crowd is its weight.
Normally, when you’re looking at an average 2 person tent, you’d expect to see it fall between 4-6 pounds. This shelter? Try one pound. I know that sounds a little hard to believe, but the Tiger Wall only weighs a single pound, despite being able to accommodate 2 people. This is partly because of how thin the tent fabric is, but mostly, it’s due to the carbon fiber poles.
As impressive as it all is, Big Agnes is very upfront in saying that this type of shelter isn’t for everyone. The special materials used in its construction require more attention and care, to increase longevity and overall durability. For that reason, a footprint is strongly recommended, and keeping it away from sharp objects is even more crucial.
– Multiple gear loops and an oversized ceiling pocket
– Hubbed, single pole setup
– Good sized vestibules
– Very delicate
– Ventilation needs improvement
Setting a Tent Up in the Rain
If you’re looking for a waterproof tent, you’re probably going to be camping in a location where it rains frequently. While a tent like this is essential for keeping you dry, you’ll find yourself in a pickle if it’s already raining by time you get to your campsite! As you’re unrolling your gear and setting it up, all of that water is going to slide inside your tent and give you a big mess to clean up.
The video above provides several helpful tips that you can use to keep the inside of your tent dry while pitching it in the rain. For even more tricks that you can utilize, you can also check out our guide to setting up a tent in the rain:
Encountering bad weather is a risk that we all take when we decide to get out in nature. Sometimes dealing with it is as easy as getting back in your car and calling it a day, or hanging out under a manmade shelter until the rain passes. But for some of us, our main line of defense is our tents, and if those fail, there’s very little we can do to stay dry.
NTKs Cherokee waterproof tent was a no-brainer option for us. It has all of the features you would expect a truly waterproof tent to have and then some, including a bathtub floor and a full coverage rainfly. But in addition to that, it’s sturdy and large while maintaining a relatively lightweight frame. While not ideal for backpacking trips, this tent checked all of the boxes we were looking for in a good waterproof shelter.
Interested in other tents that can handle extreme weather conditions? Check out our review on the best cold weather tents!