Raindrops Keep Falling On My Bed

Condensation issues

It's midnight on a typical summer night in the mountains. You wake up because a drop of water just hit your head. The bunk end appears to be leaking! You check for holes in the tent but see none--did water seep through?

For ~50 years all pop-up tent campers we've seen have vinyl tops on the bunk ends. Since vinyl is not permeable it's not possible for water to seep through the vinyl (unless there was actual damage like a tear or cut in the vinyl). Rather, you probably experienced condensation in your tent.

How condensation happens

Water condensation is the process where water changes from a gas into a liquid. This occurs when water vapor at a certain temperature hits a surface with a lower temperature.

One example of condensation involves a cold beverage on a warm day. Water vapor in the air touches the side of the cold beverage's glass or can and condenses into water drops that can be seen on the outside of the glass or can.

The same process occurs in a tent camper when water vapor inside a relatively warm tent camper (from boiling water on the stove, from an interior shower, and especially from our breath and perspiration) hits the surface of the tent. The tent is cooler than the rest of the camper's interior (because it's the barrier between a cool evening and a camper's interior with warm-bodied people and possibly a running furnace) so water vapor that hits the tent condenses into a water drop.

When too much water accumulates on the tent it forms a drop and since condensation is most noticeable on the camper's bunk ends it appears as if the tent is leaking.

How to fight condensation

The most basic way to mitigate condensation issues is to let some of the water vapor leave the camper. Opening a window, even just a crack, will help. Opening the roof vent helps as well.

Almost all Flagstaff camping trailers have powered roof vents. The fan pulls out air (and water vapor) and is the most effective way to relive condensation issues.

When condensation wins

Even with a powered roof vent there are times when condensation may still occur. Cool nights where the temperature differential between the interior of the camper and night air may cause condensation. Camping in areas of high humidity may create condensation issues as well. In these situations keeping the camper well-ventilated will help alleviate some condensation but it may not stop condensation completely.

Keep in mind that (despite some tent manufacturers claims to the contrary) no tent is 100% immune to condensation. Being able to mitigate condensation issues and--at a certain point--being able to accept that condensation may occur regardless of your best efforts is helpful to a happy camping trip.

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