Are Roof Top-Tents Waterproof?

Thinking about buying a roof top-tent and wanting to know if they are waterproof? 

Or do you have a Roof Top-Tent which is leaking?

Maybe you have purchased a tent some years ago and want to know if your tent will start to leak.

To help answer these questions I have spent time thoroughly reviewing and researching roof top-tents waterproofing. 

In short rooftop tents are waterproof, however, they can leak. There are a number of reasons why they might leak. For instance, tents made with poor quality design and build, using lighter fabric are at risk of leaking.

In contrast, well designed and built rooftop tents made with canvas are a lot less likely to leak. 

“Cheap” tents will often use a poorer, lighter fabric, which not only increases the risk of water ingress, but they’ll fail to dim the interior when the sun rises.

So it’s best to ensure the real canvas is used to avoid such problems.

So you are likely to be reading this article because you’re thinking about buying a roof top-tent and worried they will leak.

Or you currently own a Roof Top-Tent and it leaks.

The article will answer help three questions.

  • What to look for when buying a Roof Top-Tent that won’t leak?
  • Why is my Roof Top-Tent leaking?
  • Best way to waterproof my canvas Roof top-tent?
  • How to prevent my waterproofed canvas Roof top-tent from leaking

What to look for when buying a Roof Top-Tent?

Like buying any time of tent, there are a number of things to look for when buying a rooftop tent that won’t leak.

These include if looking to purchase a non-canvas tent, checking that the tent flys don’t touch the tent roof otherwise they will leak.

There are some “cheaper” rooftop tents on the market that have not been well designed. As a result, it will leak.

This problem applies to normal ground tents.

If you are buying from “online” sellers, always double-check their claims, including what’s on the packaging.

It can sometimes be misleading. Also, check out product reviews to see what “others” are saying.

The quality of the material and design differentiates quality products from low quality, “online specials”.

Cheaper Roof Top-Tents do have short lifespans with limited use and higher than expected water leaks.

Higher quality rooftop tents are generally made from Canvas which has natural waterproofing properties.

Once you do make your purchase, set-up the Roof Top-Tent are home and hose it down with water.

Then check to see if there are any leaks.

If there are leaks, take photos as evidence and call the retailer/manufacturer seeking advice and possible refund/return.

Why is my Roof Top-Tent leaking?

There are a number of reasons why your Roof Top-Tent is leaking.

It could be a result of buying a poorly designed tent using poor quality material (as mentioned above)

Another reason for leaks for newly produced tents is pin-sized holes created unintentionally when the tent pieces were being sewed together.

This may have resulted in plenty of needle holes in your canvas that water can penetrate.

The use of a wax stick may help to provide a waterproof coating.

One common issue that occurs is mildew, which is particularly destructive.

Mildew forms when tents are stored away while wet. In humid conditions will grow quickly. Tents must be stored dry.

If you do find mildew gently wipe/dab it off with a homemade solution of 30 cleaning vinegar and 70 water.

This process might have to be undertaken a few times. Don’t be afraid to leave the tent drying out in the full sun.

You may have owned a canvas tent for a number of years and the tent is just starting to become porous and leak water.

It is probably time to re-waterproof your canvas tent.

Best way to waterproof my canvas Roof top-tent?

Canvas does have natural waterproofing properties. Unfortunately, these properties can diminish over time.

No matter how durable and waterproof your canvas tent is, it will eventually leak.

Waterproofing your tent is fairly easy. It should be done annually, especially after the 3 years when the canvas is beginning to lose its waterproofing properties.

Below are the steps in waterproofing a Canvas Roof Top-Tent;

  • The first step is to set-up your tent at home on a sunny day. Waterproofing the tent is easier when it’s set up, rather than when it’s lying flat on the ground.
  • Clean the canvas by brushing it inside and out, with a soft brush.
  • The next step is to clean off any bird drops, dirt, and grime using a damp cloth with water. Complete wiping down the canvas until all the residue is gone.
  • Always check the manufacturer’s manual on what waterproofing solution is okay.
  • Now standing on the ladder apply the waterproofing solution (sprays are preferable for even coat). Focus on applying to the seams.

    Most camping stores supply canvas waterproofing spray.
  • Now, wait for the waterproofing to dry. If touching it still feels sticky it has not dried.
  • Once the canvas and is dry, hose it down giving it a good drenching. Now go inside the tent lying down closely inspect the ceiling for leaks.
  • If there are leaks the waterproofing failed to prevent the water from seeping into the canvas. Wait for the canvas to dry before applying another coat of waterproofing.
  • Repeat the process above until the canvas is waterproof.

Tip: Always check the manufacturer’s instruction on how to waterproof canvas.

Annual waterproofing will rejuvenate the canvas, keeping you dry inside.

It will also continue to provide UV protection. However, the overuse of “waterproofing” might do more harm than good.

How to prevent my waterproofed canvas Roof Top-Tent from leaking?

So you have recently purchased a canvas Roof Top-Tent or just waterproofed it.

Wanting to know how to best retain its waterproofing properties. Please see tips below on how to prevent the waterproofed canvas from leaking;

  • Never expose canvas to solvents, petrol, kerosine other similar types of liquids.
  • Avoid using hairsprays or deodorants, insect sprays in or around the canvas.
  • Refrain from doing any cleaning up of dishes near the tent. Detergents and soaps can impair the waterproofing properties.
  • Regularly hose down the canvas, cleaning off any dirt or debris.
  • Gently wipe off any bird or animal droppings of the canvas. Don’t use any soaps or cleaners (including bleach).

If you discover mold or mildew, gently dab a solution of 70% water and 30% cleaning vinegar. Let the canvas completely dry before re-inspecting.

If traces are found re-apply the formula. Once complete and no traces can be found vacuum the tent ensuring no spores remain.

Mold and mildew will degrade the canvas and the tent so it needs to be treated with urgency.

If you do find mold and mildew in your tent, stop using it. Breathing in the spores can cause serious illness.

Further Information

If you have enjoyed this article you will enjoy our other reviews. Below are some of our other gear reviews and popular resources;

Best Roof Top-Tents under 150 lbs

Everything you need to know about Roof Top-Tents

Average Weight of Roof Top-Tents

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