Keeping Tents Dry

As posted to rec.scouting.usa

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From: (George H. Fleming)
Date:         1998/07/10
Message-ID:   <>
Newsgroups:   rec.scouting.usa 


We've been having trouble with water getting under our tents and
soaking up through the floor.  We use ground cloths and make sure that
they are completely under the tent but somehow the bottom of the tent
still gets wet.  What can I do?

George H. Fleming
Scoutmaster Troop 232
Baltimore, Maryland

Re: Keeping Tents Dry

From: (Terry Ricks) Date: 1998/07/09 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa After six treks at Philmont I can tell you with conviction that putting the ground cloth under the tent DOES NOT WORK! No matter how you place it, rain will get between the cloth and the floor of the tent. Therefore the answer is simple: put the ground cloth inside! Be sure that the cloth is about 4 to 6 inches bigger on each edge so that it rises above the wall and floor seam. When it rains, so what if the tent floor gets wet. As long as ther are no holes in the ground cloth you stay high and dry.
From: Rik Bergethon <> Date: 1998/07/09 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa Have you tried spraying "Camp Dry" on the bottoms or using something like Thompsons Water Seal? When it really rains, there's not much you can do to keep the water out from under the ten, no matter where you put the ground pad.
From: Date: 1998/07/10 Message-ID: <6o4bbm$jtd$> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa Put plastic on the INSIDE. Dan Hicks Hey!! My advice is free -- take it for what it's worth!
From: (Bsa13) Date: 1998/07/10 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa Go camping with one of those many Troops in the BSA who claim it NEVER rains when "they" camp!!! ( & don't camp with "13" - it ALWAYS rains when we camp) Visit BSA13 at E-Mail us at
From: (William Sheehan, Jr.) Date: 1998/07/10 Message-ID: <6o5kpr$> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa On Thursday, 09 Jul 98 21:52:41, (Terry Ricks) wrote: > After six treks at Philmont I can tell you with conviction that putting >the ground cloth under the tent DOES NOT WORK! You are correct, but you left one VERY important detail out. Put a tarp UNDER the tent anyway. This way, if you are stuck out for a few days in the rain (Boy that never happens here by the Great Lakes .....) the bottom of the tent wont be muddy and require time consuming or expensive cleaning after the camp out. You can just dry it out and put it away.
From: "Joe A. Ulrich" <> Date: 1998/07/10 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa What type of tents do you use? Are they set up correctly? Eureka Timberlines will leak like a seive if the sides are not taut. How old are they? When the material get old, it loses its ability to repel water. Given that the tents are in good shape and setup correctly, somehow water is getting between your tents and the ground cloth. Stop this and you stop your problem. I know that's real helpful!!!! Either 1 of 2 things is happening, the water is coming through the seams or through the floor material. Try sealing the seams and/or the floor itself. If that fails, use a sheet of plastic on the inside as well. This will also increase the life of the tent. YIS, Joe
From: Todd E Rogers <> Date: 1998/07/10 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa I used to have this problem too, and I found that putting the ground cloth inside the tent solved the problem. Once and a while during a hard rain or an especially wet night water would still get in, so I solved this by packing a wool blanket as well. Put the ground cloth down then the wool blanked where you're sleeping. If any water does manage to get in, the wool soak it up before your sleeping bag does and the outside of your bag may get damp, but you won't be. It's important to make sure the ground cloth is slightly bigger than the inside so it covers the edges appropriately. I've been dry ever since. Todd
From: JOHN HOLLADAY <> Date: 1998/07/10 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa We don't have that problem (generally). We use the Eureka Timberline and have now moved up to the Outfitter. We keep our floors in good repair. First off, no shoes, boots, or sharp objects on the tent floor. Then proper placement of the tent (not in a water collecting area and not on sharp objects) helps. From recent threads in rec.backcountry, the guys that say put the ground cloth inside have a lot of support. And it makes sense. Remember, if you keep doing something a certain way and keep getting the same unsatisfactory results, maybe you should change the way you do things, can't be worse off. When backpacking I don't even take a ground cloth, just take good care of my tent. Done it in driving storms and stayed dry. Another of my favorite points, watch the condensation. mainly a cold weather problem, but a lot of folks claim they have a leak when in reality it is the condensation (we exhale about a qt or two of water as we sleep and if the tent is tight it collects and runs down the walls to the floor). John "Doc" Holladay ASM T1000, Plano, Tx
From: (Stephen M. Henning) Date: 1998/07/10 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa John "Doc" Holladay, JNH@TI.COM wrote: > We don't have that problem (generally). We use the Eureka Timberline and > have now moved up to the Outfitter. We keep our floors in good repair. > First off, no shoes, boots, or sharp objects on the tent floor. Then > proper placement of the tent (not in a water collecting area and not on > sharp objects) helps. I agree 100%. I have been using the same Sears backpack tent for over 25 years and the floor is still waterproof. I do put a cheap plastic tarp under the tent to help protect from gravel, etc. that I may have missed that could damage the waterproofing of the floor. -- Cheers, Steve Henning, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA Correct email address is (Please forgive my spam deterrent) Visit my home page at
From: Tim Hewitt <> Date: 1998/07/10 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa Back when I was a Scout, we used canvas tents with no floors, and tarps on the ground to keep us clean and dry. We trenched too... When the first floored tents came into the troop, we continue to put tarps down on the ground, inside the tent, to keep us dry. The tent floors were not waterproof, but they kept the dirt out. The only difference then was we switched from canvas or heavy nylon tarps to lighter plastic tarps, as the tent floor now took much of the abuse and the tarp could be much lighter. Over the years, tent manufacturers have tried to make tent bottoms waterproof. They call them "bathtub floors," "factory sealed seams," etc, but they will all leak eventually. Because of this, I have never trusted a tent floor to keep out water, just dirt. We use tarps inside the tent, slightly larger than the footprint of the tent. The tent floors effectively keep out dirt and the bulk of the water. Water that gets in or runs down the walls due to condensation stays under the inside floor and everyone stays dry. It works and has kept us dry in all the worst conditions for many, many years. Cheap plastic works fine, and it can even have small holes in it, as the water will seek it's least restrictive point, generally somewhere on the floor away from small holes in the tarp. -Tim -- Tim Hewitt, Scoutmaster Troop 350, Old Orchard Beach, Maine
From: Date: 1998/07/12 Message-ID: <6o9fg6$k0p$> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa Keep in mind that the main problem is that conventional waterproofing eventually deteriorates. Just folding and unfolding the tent will do this, but the friction of the floor against the ground will accelerate it. This is one reason why a ground cloth beneath the floor is good -- it reduces abrasion. But eventually most tent floors will leak (though some newer ones seem to be much more durable). Dan Hicks Hey!! My advice is free -- take it for what it's worth!
From: (Stephen M. Henning) Date: 1998/07/12 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa In article <6o9fg6$k0p$>, wrote: > Keep in mind that the main problem is that conventional waterproofing > eventually deteriorates. My backpack tents have durable plasticized floors, no waterproofing involved. At least both my 25 year old and 5 year old backpack tents do. If I pitch it on grass or other soft surfaces and take off my boots before entering there is no abrasive involved. I do take a light plastic sheet to keep the bottom free of condensation and to protect against any pebble I missed. That is a good idea. Regarding the inside condensation: That is a real problem. I only recommend a tent with a mesh top that breaths very well and a waterproof rain fly. -- Cheers, Steve Henning, Reading, Pennsylvania, USA Correct email address is (Please forgive my spam deterrent) Visit my home page at
From: (Hobdbcgv) Date: 1998/07/14 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa A few thoughts on keeping the tent and its floor dry - basics from "the old days". Tents get wet because of water. (Ok, obvious) The tent gets wet inside because water gets inside the tent. (Ok, again obvious) The water can come in through the top, walls, door, floor, or scouts. Top leaks. 1. patch the hole, regulalry treat the fabric with fire-resistant Camp-Dry ( try to avoid the white gasoline and melted paraffin myth we were supposed to have used on canvas in the old days... very heavy and teaches scouts respect for fire and fuel very quickly.. at least the survivors) 2, Don't let anything touch the pitched tent - branches, etc. Don't pitch under trees, if possible ( especially under that wonderful old tree up on the hill overlooking the valley, that picture perfect camp site under the lightning-scorched tree on the hill) Walls leak. Same procedure as above. Stake the walls so no seams collect water (rain goes down walls and turns under the tent).... staked bottom edges tend to make a drip edge. 2. Don't pitch the tent in a low spot. The water coming inthrough the walls may actually be a wash from the arriving flood, especially if a cow, log, house, or other large floating object accompanies the water. Bottom leaks - if you seal the tent, the water cannot get in-- and of course, it can't get out, either. 1. We always left a place where the water could get out if we blew it in siting, pitching, and erecting. 2. Trench the tent if you expect rain. 3. Trench the tent if in critter country. 4. Trench the tent unless you have assurance on a higher plane that it will not rain. Go to the uphill side of the tent, about 3 inches back of the already pitched tent, and slide the entrenching tool in the ground, and wiggle the tool to open a little 1/2-1" slot. Repeat along the entire perimeter on the four sides.. Takes about two-three minutes, and the slot closes within a day or two unl4ess it rains. If it really is going to pour, add a big-ditch type trench in an inverted V above the top of the tent trench. 5. And if I havn't mentioned it, trench the tent. Remember, it isn't a hole to bury dead cattle, it is a tiny little drain line to gather water from under the tent and move it away from your body.. a proper trench leaves no mark in a week. (We felt that picture in the scout book was made by a city feller trying to show how to dig a big hole- we never dug a hole to trench, just a quick opening-type line) 6. Pitch the tent on a slight, as in very gentle, slope. And the peak runs up and down the slope, not across. 7. If the tent is floored, a tarp or plastic smaller than the tent floor helps keep holes away, nd makes cleaning easier.. Water from scouts - 1. A quart of sweat per scout per day.... leave openings to move air -- bottom hole and top hole. 2. Another pint or two from wet gear. Note that two scouts on a rainy day can put a half gallon of water in the tent per day. Air on a rainy day has little drying abiltiy..... so it only gets worse unless each tent has a small cooking-type fire for radiant heat to help dry.. (However, often impractical in modern scouting where scouts see fire so little they go power crazy and need ten foot tall flames on the fire. ( Not so much of a problem in the old days - the parafin-white gas survivors were strangely wary of flames around the tent.) We pitch with walking-stick cross-pole in front of the tent - in case of rain, the ponchos over the poles and loosely draped to the tent make a little "entry-way" tent for boots, etc. When we leave the tent, you both put on your boots, and stand up into the poncho. Usually. Just some thoughts from the old days..... And again, the best way to keep water out of a tent is not not let it in, and to have a way to let out whatever might get in. And on an ancillary note-- gear needs to be kept off the floor- wet gear is real ugly, and a nice soggy sleeping bag ereally ruins a night's attempt at sleep. And keeping boots outside seems like such a nice idea-- so who wants to put on boots that are soaked? Putting shoes and boots outside in the rain would be a court-martial offense in my service days... they have to come inside. Not to say you put them on your pillow.... a designated spot by the door on a towel or baggie is fine. (knowing few scouts use towels on campouts anyway...and mom feels it was used for something slightly good)
From: (Omykidsmom) Date: 1998/07/15 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa > 2. Trench the tent if you expect rain. > 3. Trench the tent if in critter country. > 4. Trench the tent unless you have assurance on a higher plane that it >will not rain. DO NOT TRENCH THE TENT! Trenching the tent is a major violation of Low Impact/Leave No Trace method of camping of which Boy Scouts "subscribes" Trenching the tent went out of style years ago, and gives Scouting a bad name whenever a unit does it. Please remember the Outdoor Code which is in the front of every Boy Scout handbook. YIS, Susan O'Connell Boy Scout/Girl Scout Leader
From: (Hobdbcgv) Date: 1998/07/15 Message-ID: <> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa It is a flat-out myth that proper trenching harms the environment and the campsite. If it is a tenet of low impact camping that no trenching be done, then those who "set the rules" need to go back to the campsite three-four days after their camping and see if their book-theory worked, and not just look at the site as they leave that day patting themselves on the back at their "low-impact" camp.. Our troops use the same private-land campsites weekend after weekend, and there is absolutely no evidence of any trench the next weekend. We do, however, know how to properly trench a tent, we don't trench in dry spells, and as one of the landowners, I do not allow some book-learned camper to dig a grave around their tent. Yes, trenching a tent improperly most assuredly looks bad and leaves an ugly hole. Ban bad trenching, not trenching. Or ban bad camping, not camping. Trenching a tent properly ---- 1) is a far less visible mark on the land than the big green tent itself or the bright yellow tent stakes, 2) the surface line from properly tenching a tent is gone well before the matted ground and the life under the tent recovers from being smothered by a sheet of plastic 3) proper trenching opens the soil and allows the suffocated and crushed vegetation and packed ground under the tent time to recover while it is being assaulted by moving surface water-- the proper trench line protects the land we used well after the tent is gone. Especially in fragile environments. 4.) Paths from tent to tent and to the campfire are more harmful than any trench, even a somewhat badly done trench. (No one seems ot care about path recovery or the surface scrapings for fire safety, drowning the life under the tent, or other local damage in a campsite.... all far less damaging than a proper tent trench.) And who is teaching about the environmental impact of wet and damaged material which has to be dried by burning local vegetation or petroleum and sending the pollutants into the air--- or does low impact mean if you do not see it, it does not exist, in a perverse parody of the french philospher's observation? Or, how about the natural gas/fuel to heat to heat the water and run the dryer after you're home because the equipment got wet, and the additional replacement material that needs to be fabricated because of the equipments' shortened life? In "the old days", it was important to protect your "stuff" from water, because "stuff" was hard to come by, and cleaning took time and money, things relatively scarce then. And we were in the middle of the biggest land protection movement in the memory of man... and the government and the people were far, far more environmentally active than today. (Christmas trees were gathered by scouts and put into ditches to stop erosion, catch basins built, farm ponds, windbreaks, dams, and all those soil and flood things built since neglected and poorly working because they are full of captured soil.. pesticides changed, furnaces changed to cleaner gas, stacks built, municipal dumps rather than private, etc) Do not trench??? Trenching was not a "neat thing"---- it was, and still is, an environmentally responsible thing to do. A Scout should protect the environment, not waste it through negligence and myth. And for those who doubt my description of the impact but who have not had the good fortune to grow things in soil, you can contact a farmer or professional gardener and ask the following: Is a 4-5" deep vertical shovel line in the soil that removes no material more harmful than walking on wet soil repeatedly to beat down a path? Is it more harmful to lay a piece of plastic down on the vegetation and press down on the soil under it for three days? Is it more harmful than scraping the soil bare of vegetation under and around a campstove (as in clearing a place under the campstove to limit fire - we won't ask the ranger if it's more harmful than NOT clearing the place around the campstove). Not that the responding poster is one of those persons, but I find it a bit odd that campers who carry food dried using our coal and petroleum reserves to do all things necessary to dry it , package it, and transport it to them, and use extremely energy-intensive materials for light-weight equipment to reconstitute it, those campers are the first to cry "save the environment" when I do politically incorrect but more environmentally sensitive camping. Sorry if I got a little hard--- myths that cause harm to what they are supposed to protect sort of set me off... I'll try to be more mellow.
From: "Big Jim" <> Date: 1998/07/16 Message-ID: <01bdb051$d8b93d60$87a3d9cd@default> Newsgroups: rec.scouting.usa i never thoought the tent trenching topic would get anyone so worled up......uour points are valid as far as areation of the soil and paths worn under heavy use....most of us think of trenching as the "old fashioned" way of digging a moat around the tent...this is what is harmful......i have never trenched a tent and probably never will...i dont see how a trench as you describe it will do much good.....maybe it will.......i prefer to carefuly pick my spot and take care of my 30 years of camping i have never slept wet..of course it never rains on the weekends i pick to camp:) big jim
From (Josh Hesse) Organization CANeM///Cabal Academic Network Monitoring///[tinc] Date 18 Jul 1998 03:52:46 GMT Newsgroups rec.scouting.usa Message-ID <6op66e$> References 1 2 Hobdbcgv ( wrote: : It is a flat-out myth that proper trenching harms the environment and the : campsite. BS! I have seen firsthand a "properly" trenched campsite, bo oth before and after. There is an effect, especially in sensitive areas. God knows why they ever let that crew set foot on Philmont. -Josh -- Do not send mail to this account. Really. "Talk about silly conspiracy theories..." -Wayne Schlitt in unl.general This post (C)1998, Josh Hesse. Quoted material is (C) of the person quoted. |ess|erb|unl|u| (Oo) MYTHOS How's my posting? 1-800-DEV-NULL email: jh|e@h|ie.|.ed| /||\ NEW AEON .Sigfile freshness date: 6/30/98 Free Karate practices for UNL students & staff--- Just ask me. "Ask Bill [Gates] why function code 6 (in QDOS and still in MS-DOS more than ten years later) ends in a dollar sign, no one in the world knows that but me" -Gary Kildall

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