Softshell tents in constant rain

BC Adventurist

New member
Hey everyone,

I've been deliberating about this ever since I got my cheapie (used) Tepui Kukenam. While this tent has a couple issues, the thing I've worried about the most about it is whether the tent will remain dry inside after days/week of rain with no great way to dry it out. My fiancee and I are doing a 5-8 week trip up north next year and I just don't trust it to keep us dry for the whole trip. I haven't had a chance to camp in it in the rain yet but the broken zipper and a few small tears on the cover rendered the tent completely soaked through after a week or two of unsavoury weather. This is without even opening it up and giving the fabric a good soaking from being open in the rain.

Regardless, I'll be replacing this particular tent before the trip. What I'm stuck on is whether the soft shell tents will actually keep us dry and happy if we get unlucky with the weather for an extended period or is this really is hard shell territory. I love how quick the hard shells set up and I really like how solid the floor feels in them (I am skeptical of the strength of the overhung floor in the Tepui based on how much mine moves and flexes, particularly when the ladder gives way suddenly on one side, and I only weight 175lb). What I don't like is the slightly limited length and the cost premium of them. I've got a line on a nearly new Wild Earth tent which is extremely tempting but the weight(74kg) and cost are stalling me out. Should I see another soft shell RTT to get a fair comparison to what they should be like or cry once, spend the money, and be happy and comfortable for weeks to come in the hard shell. The hard shell option eats approximately $1k out of our trip budget which is 1-1.5weeks of travel for us.

Hopefully this hasn't been covered a million times in other spots but I haven't seen many posts talking specifically about soft shell tents in wet weather.
 

FrenchieXJ

Expedition Leader
This is a thought!

If your that worried about getting wet? You could put a tarp over the whole tent, leaving the sides up for ventilation. The other option would be to get some "Scotch Guard" or seam sealer and seal the fabric.

I personally like my Autohome RTT and have never had a leak or water get inside (exception what I bring in on me).

Frenchie
 

Airmapper

High-Tech Redneck
I have the Smittybilt roof top tent, and after one entire night of steady downpour it did breach the waterproofing and soak the fabric. This was heavy constant rain, hearing water constantly pouring off the rain-fly kind of rain.

The only areas it did soak through in the heavy downpour were the outer corners down low, the logical spots that would get the most water contact. This did seep to the mattress. However as far as sleeping in there, I didn't really have any problems, although I suspect a 2nd night after that would not have been so dry and I was lucky it hit my last night.

I have stayed in it for several days in lighter rain before without issue though, during that trip the rain did lay off at times, so the tent did have some opportunity to dry some in between light steady rains. While I did need to fold it wet, I shook it off best I could, and I've never noticed much transfer from outside to inside from one day to the next.

I've never noticed mine getting wet while folded up and under it's cover, and I leave my tent on the vehicle for weeks/months at a time.

Personally, I was kind of impressed at the amount of rain it did take to breach the tent, it was an all out flood. It was the tents second season of use and I had made no effort to do any preventative treatment. Next spring I'm thinking I may attempt to put on a fresh waterproofing coating and do some seam sealing.


If you have the option, a possible solution I have thought of is some kind of heater you can put in the tent to dry it out once you make camp and before you go up to sleep, just to drive out the residual moisture so you don't accumulate dampness day after day. Obviously going to be tough without AC power or creating a fire hazard.

After that downpour incident, I was worried about folding it up long term and the forecast didn't cal for a warm sunny day until later in the week, so once I was home I popped it up and put a small electric heater in there, a little one like cold natured people use in offices. I was amazed how warm it got inside there and it dried my tent completely despite it being somewhat damp with drizzle outside. So I think it's possible if you have good waterproofing to start with, and periodically make sure it gets a good drying out, you should be able to maintain some comfort. Although if I were you I'd like to be certain of that before a multi-week trip.
 

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carbon60

Explorer
Even with a hard shell, after multiple days of rain with no opportunity to try it out, it slowly gets damp. Use a portable heater to blow out the humidity.
 

MANUCHAO

Aventurero
Back in 2009 we did a trip to AK for about 5 weeks...
The tent was a Eezi-Awn...
It held up great under downpours for days and days of rain..... No leaks anywhere.... It was great...
Where it failed was when it was time to put it away....
Talk about getting soaked..... by the time I would finished putting the damn cover on... parts of the mattress were soaked......
We switched to a hard-shell tent and havent looked back......but then again we havent been under downpours the like of what we experienced back then.....
the ease of putting the hard-shell away.. is plenty reason, it stores in less than a minute, and im sure even less if it is raining hard......
I know its just water, but..........
 

NatersXJ6

Explorer
Tough call

So I freely admit to only ever having owned Tepui as far as RTT go, but I'm not sure I see them the same way you do.

My Tepuis have been spectacular in all sorts of wind driven rain, snow, sleet, slush, and all weathers in between. My greater issue has been condensation versus soak through.

Of course, closing up any tent in rain gets it all wet anyway. I've been on long backpacking and canoe trips where you simply dread moving each day because it means packing your wet gear into wet bags and being wet and shivery for another 6 hours until you unpack the wet gear and set up a wet camp so you can be wet and shivery overnight and then you repeat it all over. The good news is that it is just repeat, not rinse and repeat... because you're STILL WET.

It sounds to me like you have some problems with your tent. Holes in the cover? I've had that with no issues, but they were less than 1/4". Collapsing ladder? Sounds like a setup problem or something in need of repair.

I would run what you already have and put the $$ into something else, but I suspect from your posts perceived tone that you think your gear is crap and you've given up already. In that case, sell it to someone who will love it properly.
 

Kcdude

Adventurer
Run a cam strap from the bottom rung of your ladder and secure to a wheel on your vehicle or trailer....avoids a kickout. Or just a couple of heavy tent stakes on each side of the bottom rung will do.
 

Victorian

Approved Vendor : Total Composites
We owned a ARB RTT and camped in the pacific north west most of the time. The biggest problem I found with damp conditions was the constant wet tent. Mostly coming from the rain and condensation. Even if you manage to keep the condensation out (almost impossible) you still need to pack up the tent soaking wet. This is when you will get water on the inside. Leaving your sleeping bags in there is a no go. We usually set up the tent in our driveway for a day after getting home to let it dry out. Made the car useless and you better plan ahead if you need to go out...
RTT are great in dry warm climates but here on the west coast I would never buy one again.
 

Victorian

Approved Vendor : Total Composites
Here is a picture of us trying to get it dry on a public parking lot in Port Alberny between campsites. IMG_2819.jpg
 

krick3tt

Adventurer
eatsleepWoof,
Where did you get that pole setup. Thinking it might be a workable solution to a tarp arrangement over the rear of my LR to access the back for cooking.
 

MANUCHAO

Aventurero
I'm here in Vancouver and think the exact opposite. To me there's nothing more miserable than crawling around on my knees, butt sticking out of the tent, packing up bedding in the rain, then packing up that same tent in the rain, mud, dirt, leaves and grass, ugh. Never again. In fact, the exact moment I knew I needed a hard-shell RTT was when I was setting up an OZ Tent in the dark, pouring rain, howling wind, in sand in Oregon's dunes.

About a month ago I camped for thee days/two nights in a non-stop downpour. The tent did get a bit of water inside, but that was from us climbing in and out.

I've now come up with a way to ensure that even that will never happen: a Kelty Noah's (diamond-shaped) tarp over the tent.

I setup this OZ Tent telescoping pole on the front of the cab's roof rack:







On the top part of the pole I cut a 6mm thread (did that after the photos were taken). So I just slide the tarp's grommet over the pole, put a large washer and nut on top (which will prevent the tarp from falling off the pole), extend the pole to whatever height I want, loosen the star-shaped knob and raise the pole vertically. Boom, excellent tarp support at just the right height and in just the right spot. The diamond shape will cover the tent's entrance and rear of the truck, and will sit above the tent without sitting ON it, so the tent can still be packed up with the tarp up.

The other end of the tarp will be attached to a tree or another camping pole (need to find a good option here).

And this tarp will only be necessary in bad weather. All other good times will enjoy the super quick setup/teardown of the RTT. Same thing can be accomplished with a soft-shell RTT. Easy cover over the tent is the key.
Genius set up !!!
 

robgendreau

Explorer
Heh. As a Californian, I wondered about why everybody in the PNW and esp up in BC on Vancouver Isl had blue tarps covering their tents. Ha, I thought...I've got a PROPER tent. Month later, I had a Canadian Tire tarp over my tent too. And camper shell. Helps.

But even though I've moved on from tents for the same reasons outlined here, it doesn't end the problem. Moving in and out in rain, even in a trailer, introduces water, which often has nowhere to go for days and days but on the walls and anything that touches them. So it's partly a problem of lots of towels, makeshift mud rooms, gear management, ventilation, etc. Really helps if you don't have to sleep on the floor, but I guess you're stuck with that.

You can go out and spend more on a RTT, etc but still end up damp.

The other thing this CA Dry Boy learned up in BC was that wet doesn't matter...COLD does. Get rid of wind, have insulation that works when wet, and just embrace being part of the rainforest, at least until mushrooms start sprouting. Then head to Kamloops.
 

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BC Adventurist

New member
I'd like to thank everyone for their feedback on this topic so far. NatersXJ6 I do think my gear is crap, but I don't think Tepui is crap. I bought a tired tent (sadly more tired than I thought, should've walked when I saw the bent hinges) at a cheap price to sell my fiancee on the idea of these things. She thought I was insane for wanting one for that kind of money but now she absolutely loves it. We're backpackers and are well versed in compact gear/tents and the space of a fold out "2+ man" rtt is like a palace. And again, as a backpacker and year round camper on the west coast, I've put away my fair share of wet gear and it is a royal pain but Gore Tex should mostly save the day there. However on a hardshell tent, there is significantly less wetted surface being folded into your sleeping quarters and its just plain easier/quicker if the weather is miserable.

I've been doing some work on mine to try and fix a few issues since I've got a bit of extra room at my temporary accommodations. I've managed to mostly straighten the hinges, but the floor is still slightly buckled and as a result doesn't slot together all that well. The base has been absolutely beat to death by the ladder bouncing around which has further reduced the structural integrity of the cantilevered floor. The cover has a few small tears, probably fixable with some good canvas/tarp tape and adhesive and the velcro straps had all completely failed (I'm experimenting with some marine adhesive recommended to me to stick on new velcro, no access to a sewing machine). I'll be picking up a new zipper section next week when I hit the mainland to take care of that issue. The ladder issue I had been having is operator error. I now realise that the grooves in the ladder have nothing to do with adjustability and I'll need to drill some new holes to get the ladder at the right height/angle when set up.

The Hardshell tent I was looking at and should have bought is now sold. So now that the pressure is off there, I'll continue to make some tweaks to the tent and hopefully get it out a few times over the holidays. With some more lousy weather experience I'll have a better idea of the direction I want to go in next. Or who knows, maybe I'll get it fixed up to a point I'm happy with it but I suspect that's unlikely. eatSleepWoof, I believe I've talked to you on the BC Overland Facebook group when I asked about checking out people's hard shell RTT's, you just got back from a cool weekend trip by the looks of it! I really like the idea you had with the tarp setup over the entrance and I think with some tweaks it should work really well. I'd still like to take you up on that offer to check out your tent if we can figure out some timing. My fiancee and I will probably be camping in Squamish this Saturday or I'll be in Vancouver on Wednesday if your around.


robgendreau, the best way to stay warm in the PNW is to stay dry ;) and lets face it, we don't want to go to Kamloops when there are so many other options!
 

dlh62c

Explorer
I've spent many a night camping in tents, i won't leave home with out a ShamWow. It helps speed up the drying of a tent after a heavy dew.

 
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