How to stop condensation in a tent and stay dry

by | Nov 2, 2022 | Backcountry camping

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It’s no fun waking up in the morning to a wet tent. When the walls are practically dripping and your sleeping bag is damp, it can leave you (and your gear) feeling pretty icky.

We’ve been there. Tent condensation is one of the most frustrating things about camping, but once you understand how it happens and how to prevent it, you can rest easy and stay dry.

What causes condensation to develop inside most tents?

Condensation water droplets on a green tent.


When warm air hits cold surfaces (like the walls of your tent), it cools down and releases water vapour. This water vapour condenses on the cold surfaces, forming water droplets.

The amount of condensation that forms depends on how much humidity is in the air and how big the temperature difference is between the air and the surfaces. This explains why people who camp in cool weather tend to have more problems with condensation.

The air outside is cool, but as you sleep through the night, the warmth of your breathing and body raises the temperature inside the tent. The warmer the air inside, the more water vapour it can hold. When that warm, moist air hits the cold walls of the tent, condensation happens.

If any of your gear or clothing is touching the walls of the tent, it will likely get wet from the condensation. This is why you might find the end of your sleeping bag feeling damp in the morning.

How to prevent condensation from taking over your tent

Here’s the thing: If you plan on going camping—especially in wet and cooler weather—be prepared to be dealing with at least some condensation.

It’s just one of those things that’s extremely common with tent camping. You can certainly do things to help prevent tent condensation from developing in the first place, but chances are if the temperature cools down at night, you’re going to end up with at least one slightly wet wall by morning.

The good news is that you can learn how to prevent condensation in a tent. Follow these tent camping tips and best practices to do exactly that:

Make sure your tent is properly ventilated

A red and white camping tent with a vent at the top.

Figuring out how to stop tent condensation from building up so much starts with getting a good quality three-season or four-season tent that’s made of breathable fabric and comes with multiple vents. You should have at least one vent at the top and if it’s a four-season tent, potentially one or more at the bottom as well.

Doorways and/or windows should have mesh panels so air can flow freely in and out. If your tent only has one door, keep it open a crack at night to encourage air circulation.

You want air to be able to circulate inside the tent so that the warm, moist air doesn’t have a chance to condense on the walls. Most tents have mesh panels that can be opened for ventilation. Some even have vents built into the rain fly.

In terms of breathable fabric, look for something made of nylon or polyester. These materials are good at promoting airflow while still being waterproof and windproof.

Consider sleeping without the rainfly

A camping tent with no rainfly.

The rainfly is the part of the tent that goes over the main body and protects you from the elements, creating a double-wall structure.

In theory, this should help reduce condensation because there’s an extra layer of fabric between you and the outside air, but what often tends to happen is the opposite. The rainfly actually traps the moist air between the two walls of the tent, which can actually make the condensation problem worse.

If you’re camping in the summer and the forecast calls for no rain overnight, consider sleeping without the rainfly. It can help improve air circulation and prevent condensation from forming on the walls of your tent.

The downside of course is that you may be colder due to being more exposed, and it if does rain, you’ll end up getting wet.

Roll back the vestibules to promote airflow and prevent moisture buildup

A green camping tent with the vestibule rolled back.

Most modern three-season and four-season tents have vestibules, which are essentially extended sections of the rainfly that creates a covered space outside the door of the tent. This is where you can store your gear so it doesn’t get wet from rain or dew.

But when fully zipped closed, vestibules can also trap moisture, which can then seep into your tent. If you have vestibules, make sure to unzip them and roll them back at night to promote airflow.

Depending on your tent, you may be able to set up the vestibules so that they’re zipped and rolled back about halfway to two-thirds of the way so that you still have coverage in case it rains—but with much better airflow.

Avoid camping in humid conditions or rainy weather

A wet tent in the rain.

If possible, try to time your camping trip with a dry stretch of weather. The humidity should be low and there shouldn’t be any rain in the forecast.

The drier the weather, the lower your chances of having to deal with tent condensation. This doesn’t necessarily mean weather of a specific temperature range—it’s the rain and humidity you really need to pay attention.

Keep in mind that the shoulder seasons (spring and fall) tend to see more rainfall with occasional bouts of humidity. Summer can see intense heatwaves with high humidity that breaks with heavy storms. Winter can be cold and dry, or it can be cold and wet.

Of course, you can’t always control the weather, but if you have a choice of when to go camping, try to pick a week with low humidity and little chance of rain.

Choose your campsite wisely

Two tents in the rain and fog.

Did you know that your campsite plays an important role in how much condensation you can expect to see in your tent by morning? It’s true!

Here are some helpful tips on how to choose a campsite that will help reduce condensation in your tent:

Pick a campsite that’s on high ground. Avoid low-lying areas where cold air can settle overnight.

If possible, find a campsite that’s sheltered, but still has a slight breeze. You’ll get the best of both worlds in terms of shelter from high winds without completely restricting airflow.

Stay away from bodies of water. The air around lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, marshy areas, and bogs is often more humid than other areas.

Set up your tent on a dry patch and use a groundsheet. Moisture from the ground can seep into your tent and contribute to condensation.

Get a portable tent roof fan to help circulate the air

A person holding a portable fan.

There are some really cool camping gizmos you can buy these days! This portable camping lantern fan can easily attach to the roof of your tent at night for extra lighting and air circulation.

It’s rechargeable via USB and can last about five to six hours depending on fan speed and lantern brightness. Not bad, and a great option if you want to take a more proactive approach to preventing condensation in your tent.

Bring along a portable dehumidifier

A portable dehumidifier.

Another gizmo worth looking into would be a portable, rechargeable dehumidifier like the Eva-dry E-333, which is said to be “born for camping.” You can hang it up in your tent and use it for 20 to 30 days without having to recharge it.

This is really the thing you need if you’re camping in humid or wet weather and really want to do your best to control condensation from your breathing overnight. You might be surprised how much water this little guy can collect in a day or two.

Rethink bringing along your portable heater

A close-up of a radiant heater.

In cold weather, it’s important to have some good tent heating ideas in mind to stay warm—one of which may be the use of a portable gas-powered heater.

Heaters are a luxury when the temperatures start to drop into the 40s or 30s (or lower), and they can even help melt condensation that turns into frost when the mercury drops below freezing overnight. Unfortunately, they can also contribute to condensation because they add moisture to the air.

So, if you do decide to use a heater in your tent, make sure you open up the door or window a crack to help with ventilation. You might also want to use it in combination with dehumidifier (mentioned above) to help offset the moisture that your heater will be putting into the air.

Avoid cooking under your vestibule if you can

Cooking food in a pot over a canister stove in the mountains during the fall.

Tents that come with large vestibules are idea for cooking under while staying sheltered from the elements, but the trade-off for that convenience is added moisture inside your tent.

So, if you can, try to cook on your camp stove outside your tent or at least away from the door or window. If you do need to cook under your vestibule, be sure to open up the door or window of your tent to help with air circulation.

Mind your damp clothes

Wet socks hanging on a clothesline.

If you’ve brought damp or wet clothes inside your tent, you’re automatically increasing your chances of seeing more condensation on the walls by morning. Instead of leaving them outside, just use dry bags to store them.

They’ll still be wet by morning, but at least you’ll be able to hang them on a clothesline and dry them out properly.

Limit the number of people inside one tent

Two sleeping bags inside a tent.

Speaking of condensation from your breath, did you know that one person exhales about half a pint of water overnight? Just think how much moisture two or three people can add to the air inside a tent! (Don’t forget about dogs too.)

The more people you have in one tent, the higher the chances of condensation forming on the walls and ceiling. So, if you’re camping with a group or your family, try to split up into smaller tents. It’ll make for a more comfortable experience all around, and you’ll have less condensation to deal with in the morning.

Try tarp or hammock camping instead of tent camping

Camping in a hammock.

Our final tip is to consider scrapping the idea of tent camping altogether in favour of camping under a tarp or in a hammock with a tarp cover. Since there are no walls, these camping styles are don’t trap moisture like tents do.

Of course, there are some downsides to these methods. You’re not as protected from heavy rain or high winds, and you’ll need to camp in an area with good, strong trees to hold up your hammock and/or tarp. A good camping hammock can also be a big investment.

But if you do a lot of camping in humid or wet weather conditions, it might be worth considering one of these methods instead of using a tent. You’ll likely see a big reduction in the amount of condensation inside your “shelter” overnight.

What to do if you’re still dealing with condensation inside your tent

Condensation droplets on a red tent.

Let’s face it—even if you follow all of our tips for how to stop condensation in a tent, you might still find yourself dealing with some moisture on the walls and ceiling of your tent from time to time.

That’s just the nature of camping in humid or wet weather conditions. Here’s our advice:

Take all of your sleeping gear out of the tent and hang them up to dry. If the day is going to be dry and clear at camp, hang up your sleeping bag on a clothesline and place your mattress or sleeping bad in a sunny spot to air out.

Use a towel to wipe down the wet walls inside your tent. This will help it dry out faster. If the ground underneath the tent is wet, and you have a freestanding tent, consider loosening the stakes and lifting it up to let the groundsheet and bottom of the tent dry out a bit.

Open up the vents, doors, windows, and vestibules all the way. The more air flow you can get inside your tent throughout the daytime, the better.

If you’re packing up, remember to dry everything out at home. Do your best to wring out or wipe down your tent and gear before you put them in their stuff sacks, but as soon as you get home from your backpacking or camping trip, take them out and put them outside to air out on a dry day.

What if you don’t dry your wet gear out from tent condensation?

If you don’t let your tent and gear properly dry out before packing them away for your next trip, you could experience mould problems, which could damage your gear and potentially make you sick. This is also the case with sleeping bags—especially if they’re made with down.

Down also loses its insulation capability when it’s wet, so you’ll want to make sure your sleeping bag is dry before using it again. Putting it outside in the sun to dry or in the dryer at home on a low temperature (or according to the manufacturer’s washing instructions) should do the trick.

Overall, taking the time to properly dry out your gear is just good camping hygiene. Not only will it help prevent mould, but it’ll also help your gear last longer.

That’s a wrap on our guide for how to stop condensation in a tent! By following our tips, you should be able to enjoy much drier camping trips from here on out.

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Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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