Seam sealing is a great way to waterproof your tent, putting an end to any leaks. But does every tent need to be seam sealed? And how do you seam seal your tent? We’re aiming to answer all of your questions about seam sealing to make the process as easy as possible for you.
To prevent the need for seam sealing, we recommend the blog How To Care For You Tent - Cleaning, Maintenance & Storage.
What is seam sealing and should I seam seal my tent?
Seam Sealing vs. Seam Taping
Seam sealing is the process of applying a layer of tent sealant to the seams of your tent. The purpose of this is to create a waterproof barrier to prevent leaks, as the seams of your tent are the most vulnerable place for water to seep through.
So do you need to seam seal your tent as soon as you buy it? This answer isn’t straightforward, as it will depend on the manufacturer and the specific tent itself. Most manufacturers waterproof the seams through a process called seam taping. This is where a layer of polyurethane film (or tape) is placed under the seams to trap any water from leaking into your tent.
It is not recommended to seam tape at home as it often requires a special machine, and a specific temperature is needed for application onto different fabric types. Attempting to do so can lead to irreparable damage to your tent.
If your tent is seam taped from the manufacturer, you will not need to seam seal your tent. However, over time seam tape can become damaged and flake away. This is especially the case with thinner and more lightweight fabrics, in which the tape degrades faster.
In the case of damaged or flaky seam tape, it is recommended to seam seal your tent to prevent leaks. If your seam tape remains in good condition, and your tent doesn’t have any leaks, seam sealing is not necessary.
How To Seam Seal
Before You Begin
Before you begin seam sealing your tent, you will need to make sure you have a suitable environment. If you plan to seam seal outside, you will need to make sure that there is no chance of rain (or things will get messy quickly!), and the temperature is approximately 15 degrees celsius or higher. With the UK weather being the way it is, I’d recommend doing this during the summer months, unless you are able to do so indoors!
Once you have a suitable environment, you will need to remove any flaky or damaged seam taping. You will need to be as thorough as possible as remaining tape could interfere with the sealant.
Afterwards, you will need to clean your tent of any dirt or grime. If you’d like to learn more about cleaning your tent, check out our blog on How To Care For Your Tent - Cleaning, Maintenance & Storage.
Finally, it’s important to not get any sealant on your tent’s zips and mesh. I’d therefore recommend putting painters tape over your zippers and other sensitive sections.
What You’ll Need:
- Flux/Acid Brush (This is sometimes included with the sealant)
- Syringe (For easier application)
Choosing the Right Sealant
Different sealant is needed depending on the material of your tent.
For silicone-coated material, we recommend the Gear Aid Seam Grip + Sil - Silicone Tent Sealant.
For polyurethane-coated material, we recommend the Gear Aid Seam Grip + WP Waterproof Sealant & Adhesive.
Other Optional Items:
- Acetone (For clean-up)
- Gloves (To protect your hands from the sealant)
Pitch your tent, ensuring it’s completely dry, and apply the sealant to the exterior of your tent’s seams. This will prevent any water from getting into and damaging the stitching of your tent. If you’d like extra assurance you can also apply the sealant to the interior of the seams, however you must always apply to the exterior.
To make it easier and as mess free as possible, add the sealant to your syringe and start at the bottom of your tent corners and work your way up and across. After each application, brush the sealant on with your brush.
Once the sealant is on each part of the seams, leave it pitched to dry. You will need to let it dry for at least 6 hours, however I’d recommend leaving it overnight to ensure it’s completely dried and cured.
Photo featuring the MSR Elixir 2 Backpacking Tent
Test for leaks! Chuck some water over your tent, preferably with the pressure of a standard garden hose, and check for any leaks! If there are no leaks, well done you’ve successfully seam sealed your tent! If you do notice any leaks, you will need to apply more sealant to those areas, once again ensuring your tent is completely dry and following the instructions given.