Do Tent Trailers leak in the rain?

Tent trailers are a fun way to get out camping in the summer with friends and family. For what they are, you can have a lot of comfort, when the weather changes, that level of comfort can change, and quickly.

Do tent trailers leak in the rain? Tent trailers are not completely waterproof and they will leak in the rain, especially with long term use. Tent trailer leaks can occur through damaged canvas, connection points, a damaged roof, zippers, windows, and pop up seams.

However, there are steps you can take to prevent leaks and waterproof your tent trailer, including spraying waterproof material on canvas, inspecting and sealing roof damage, lubricating seals, cleaning the canvas, covering the camper when not in use, using seam tape, and changing your pitch. Preventing leaks will make your camping experience better and increase the longevity of your camper.

What is a tent trailer?

A tent trailer is a type of RV that’s towed behind another vehicle, with a tent that pops up to provide sleeping and living space. It is made of both soft and hard materials. Depending on the type of tent trailer, it may also offer amenities (such as cooking spaces) and electricity. Here’s an example of a tent trailer from Jayco and another from Rockwood. There are also much smaller and simpler models, such as this one from SylvanSport.

These types of trailers are economical and easy to tow. Tent trailers offer a good camping experience that is more comfortable than tents, but still provide you with an “outdoor” feel. In addition, they provide elevation off the ground, a feature that makes them more comfortable and less prone to leaking than standard tents. Don’t be dissuaded by rainy weather, instead follow our guide to combating leaks.

Tip: Keep in mind that your trailer may experience more leaks on your first trip. This seems counterintuitive, but for some trailers there can be a “breaking in” period when the materials expand after getting wet for the first time. So don’t panic!

Possible leak points in a tent trailer

●     Canvas Material – The canvas that serves as the “tent” part of your camper should be waterproof upon purchasing, but it can degrade over time, causing rips, tears, and leaks. It is usually made of a sunbrella type material, although some models can be cotton, while others are a mix of canvas and vinyl. The canvas material can be re-waterproofed, but this should be done annually to maintain its effectiveness.

●     Connection point from hard side to canvas – Seams are inevitably where you find leaks, and with tent trailers one vulnerable point is where the canvas connects to the hard side. This is usually at the top and bottom of the trailer, but it depends on the model.

●     Damaged roof – The roof of a tent trailer is usually hard, which makes it more durable than the canvas or vinyl portions of the camper. However, you still have to be careful of roof damage and leaks, which can lead to mold, rot, and the most costly and devastating issues for your trailer (including a complete roof replacement).

●     Zippers – Even if your canvas is properly waterproofed, you may experience leaks through your zippers, which are made of a different material. This can be particularly problematic if you are pitched at an angle, because gravity will pull the water inside. Heavy wind will also cause leaks through the zippers (and drafts!).

●     Through windows left open- Most tent trailers have zip up vinyl windows. If these are left open, water can get inside, especially if it’s windy, or you’re on uneven ground! It’s best to zip the windows up during bad weather or when leaving the campsite, to prevent this issue from occurring.

●     Through pop up seams – Similarly to connection points, pop up seams are a weak point where leaks might “seep.” This is especially a problem during downpours or ongoing rain. 

Tip: Condensation, while not actually a “leak” can be an issue for tent trailers. Because it’s harder to climate control the inside of a tent trailer, condensation occurs and causes dampness (and mold). This can be mitigated by trying to air out your trailer, and/or using tarps to put under mattresses and other vulnerable areas.

How to prevent a tent trailer from leaking?

●     Spray waterproof material on canvas– Waterproof your tent trailer at least once a year, using a waterproofing product on the canvas, such as Nikwax or 303. Work from the top down, and use paint brushes or rollers if needed. If part of your trailer is vinyl, avoid these areas. Vinyl is more sensitive, and waterproofing products can cause discoloration and/or damage. Use a separate product for the vinyl, such as Protect All.

●     Inspect and seal all roof damage – After every outing, it’s a good idea to inspect your roof for damage. If there is an issue, have it repaired as soon as possible. Make sure to clean your roof regularly, and use products appropriate for roof type (i.e. rubber, vinyl, fiberglass). Once clean, you can use a sealant such as this one, to repair and prevent leaks. It’s a good idea to use this product on your entire roof to be safe, and to help with waterproofing.

●     Lubricate all seals– Water can get in through your tent trailer’s seals, including door and window seals. Lubricant prevents the seals from cracking or breaking, reducing the chances of leaks. Use a lubricant such as this versatile option. For zippers, you can use wax or a specialty product, both to lubricate and to prevent leaks. To be thorough, you can use the lubricant on both the in and out sides of your seals.

●     Keep canvas clean– Cleaning your canvas can help slow erosion. This is particularly important when it comes to materials that include acid (such as bird poop). Use a mild detergent for general cleaning, and bleach or a specialty cleaner if you have mildew/mold. Soft brushes may also come in handy! Cleaning should be done after every camping trip, and you may need to reapply waterproofing products after a thorough clean. Here is our full guide on how to clean a campers canvas.

●     Cover the camper when not in use– Protecting your camper from the elements is key to its longevity and to prevent leaks. This is especially important when it’s not in use, and during the harsher seasons. Tent trailer covers will not only protect the canvas from weather and animal damage, but it will also help keep the fiberglass base in good shape. Covers are easy to find and should not cost very much. Here are some options from Amazon.

●     Use seam tape on leaking seams– Leaking seams are a major source of tent trailer headaches. Seam sealing tape can be used on seals as well as small tears. You can also use a liquid seam sealer, such as this option. Clean the area before sealing! Similarly to with lubricant, you can use the tape or liquid sealer on both sides of the seams for best results.

●     Change your pitch– While this is not a solution for every scenario, evening out your pitch can help prevent moisture from entering your tent trailer through zippers and seams. You can use a level and block to get the right angle. It’s a small but low-cost fix that can go a long way!

Tip: If you’re canvas is past repair or waterproofing, the good news is that it can be patched and/or replaced. Keep in mind this usually costs $1,000 or more, so maintenance is key!

Staying High and Dry

Taking care of your tent trailer can help combat leaks, as well as mold or mildew, and will make your camping experience significantly better. If you’re worried about leaks or planning to camp in wet areas, you may want to consider a travel trailer instead, or another type of RV.

Considering buying your first tent trailer? Check out our guide to the benefits of purchasing one! We’ve also listed the reasons why a tent trailer may not be the best choice.

Stay dry!

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I have been camping most of my adult life and am passionate about having the best camping equipment as well as writing. Combine these two items and you have our site.

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