Keeping Your Tent Dry in Winter

Winter camping outings create a few challenges of their own, one of which is controlling moisture in your tent, typically brought into play from the amount of moisture in the air. Upon hitting a cooler surface that warmer moisture vapor cools and turns from vapor to liquid in the form of condensation on that surface. It doesn’t take long for that humidity to dampened everything inside your winter tent shelter.

Typically moisture builds up inside your tent from several sources: cooking in your vestibule, tracking in snow, tucking your head inside your sleeping bag and closing up your vents to retain heat all contribute to excess moisture in your tent. That  moisture that can condense on the walls and ceiling to flake or rain down upon you as you move around inside.

Here are some main sources of moisture in a tent and ways to lessen its dampening affects on your environment.

  1. Tent site location– cold air settles in low areas, cooling surfaces within tent. Your warmer breath and body heat warms the water vapor so when it comes in contact with the cold sides/walls of tent, it condenses…and drips/dampens the inside of the tent. Better to camp under/nearer trees where air is warmer and consequently the tent and contents are warmer, too.
  2. Make sure you pitch your tent properly, tightening all panels to optimize the spaces between tent’s outer walls and the tent fly for better air flow.
  3. Cooking food in your tent’s vestibule generates steam that can circulate into your tent creating significant water vapor in that confined space;
  4. Tracking snow on your boots or stashing wet clothing in the tent is a sure way to increase the moisture in the air. Best to leave boots outside, or dry all clothing off before bringing it into the tent;
  5. Breathing inside sleeping bag. We exhale a lot of moisture when we breath. Pumping that moist air inside our sleeping bag when our face is tucked under the collar means excess moisture in our bags. A sleeping bag liner can be dried each morning and dedicating one pair of under-layering specifically for sleepwear enables you to dry them out after each night’s sleep. (TIP: dark colors – sleeping bag interior, liner, bed clothing – dry faster than light colors when hung outside).
  6. Utilizing tent/fly air vents – wall/ceiling/fly vents create a ventilated air flow around and through the tent. It’s a balancing act to create air flow without losing too much valuable tent-warming air in the exchange. Well balanced cross-ventilation can minimize moist air build-up and create a comfortable exchange of air within the tent.
  7. Moisture from ground/snow belowcan be minimized by using a ground cloth between snow and tent. It’s even more effective if the ground cloth is inside the tent, forming a second and more reliable waterproof floor against melting snow underneath.

Cold weather camping includes seasonal challenges of its own. Adjusting to the elements can let you enjoy camping throughout all the seasons.

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