Camping in the great outdoors is one of the most stress-relieving actions you can take. The problem with a tent is that you are bound to get wet on the ground. That is why rooftop tents are the next significant phase of camping, but you might wonder, are rooftop tents waterproof?
Rooftop tents are designed to be waterproof. Most rooftop tents are made from poly-cotton waterproof material. The waterproof rating of the Rooftop tent’s fabric indicates whether it suits light, mid, or heavy rain conditions. Hard-shell rooftop tents are usually better equipped for more extreme weather.
There’s a big difference in quality brands, hard-shell vs. soft-shell rooftop tents, and material. I’ll explain more about how to find out if your rooftop tent is waterproof, the importance of the waterproof rating, and the material. Also, I’ll share some of my own experiences when it comes to waterproof rooftop tents. So, let’s dig into this a little further.
Are Rooftop Tents Waterproof?
Rooftop tents are designed to be waterproof and withstand different weather conditions. Obviously, you’re going to use a rooftop tent outdoors. Some people even use a rooftop tent during winter camping, so a rooftop tent has to survive the elements. Rain, wind, snow, it doesn’t matter. A rooftop tent must be your safe, dry, and comfortable shelter when you go camping.
However, a waterproof rooftop tent will be produced on an assembly line that has been optimized to create a good product that does what it claims to do. Each company will have its own ideas of what to do, so you will need to do some research before spending the money to purchase one. Just to make sure that the tent you get is actually waterproof.
What Makes a Rooftop Tent Waterproof?
So, there are a few basic things you need to cross off a list to determine if a rooftop tent is waterproof and suited for the camping trip you’ve in mind.
Waterproof Rating (Hydrostatic Head)
Each rooftop tent will have a waterproof rating number. This number will tell you how much water and moisture a tent can withstand before it begins to leak inside. You will be looking for a product with a rating of 1,000 HH or better to ensure that your night is dry and restful.
HH stands for Hydrostatic Head. It is a measurement of how much water pressure certain material can withstand before it leaks. Also, for tent fabrics, this measurement equals certain weather conditions. For example, a hydrostatic head rating of 1000mm means that a column of water was 1 meter high before the material started to leak.
- 1000mm – Use in light rain conditions.
- 2000mm – Use in wind and heavy rain conditions.
- 3000mm – Use in heavy winds and downpours.
- 5000mm++ – This rating is considered a premium material and should withstand heavy conditions.
Rooftop Tent Shape
The shape of the tent will have an impact on how waterproof it is. If a canopy over the tent pushes the water out, you will be better off than if you have a square ceiling. Most rooftop tents are shaped so that the rainwater easily slights the tent.
Canopy or Shield – If the tent you purchased did not have a top covering, it would be a good idea to buy one that will work with it. This gives you a better top layer to help keep you dry.
Tent Zipper & Sealed Seams
It’s essential to check how the tent zippers are stitched on the tent. Let me explain why our first rooftop tent had the tent zippers stitched the other way around. This was obviously a manufacturing problem, with the result that when it rained, the tent directly leaked. Not much, but still enough to get our pillows wet. Which was terrible! And when the rain was heavy, like pouring down, we needed to bring on an extra rain cover to avoid water getting inside the tent. The weirdest part was that this was a hard-top rooftop tent, which many people say is better waterproof. But as you see, hard-top rooftop tents can still leak when there’s a manufacturing issue.
Luckily we could fix the problem with silicon glue, so the leakage was minimum. Still, we always check the tent zippers and the sealed seams.
Hard Shell vs. Soft-Shell Rooftop Tents
Some people will say that the tents designed with a hard-style top are the best ones to have. Since the top is hard, the water will be pushed off quicker and easier, plus there will be much less fabric showing, which will ensure that no water gets into the tent.
But there’s much more to that, and a quality brand rooftop tent will always be waterproof, whether a hard-shell or soft-shell rooftop tent. Remember I just mentioned that our first rooftop tent had a leakage at the tent zippers? Well, that was a hard-shell rooftop tent.
A good rooftop tent will be designed to keep you and the other occupants dry and comfortable. The weather outside may be howling and pouring, but you will be nice and cozy inside the tent if you buy one rated for harsher weather. Even if you didn’t, you would stay drier than a traditional tent designed to sit on the wet ground.
Currently, we travel around with a soft-shell rooftop tent, and it can perfectly withstand rainy conditions and keep us dry. The most important is that you know the waterproof rating of the tent’s fabric. Also, our soft-shell rooftop tent from Sheepie (we use the Yuna 160) has a thick rain cover (see photo above) that you use during transport. This way, the rooftop tent stays dry and clean while driving!
Hard-shell rooftop tents are often better in heavy windy conditions since a part of the rooftop tent is covered by the hard-shell or top. Then again, if you manage to position your car and rooftop tent the right way, you often don’t have much trouble with windy nights when sleeping in a soft-shell rooftop tent.
Do Rooftop Tents Leak?
If you have just purchased your rooftop tent and it is leaking, there was a problem during the manufacturing stage because they should not be doing so. Get ahold of the store you purchased it from, or go to the source and contact the manufacturer to see about getting a replacement.
Other than that, if you have had the tent for any length of time, you may find that the waterproof feature is not as good as it once was. That is not to say that it does not keep the rain out, but some small things may cause slight leakage from the top and sides.
- Age – As with any type of material, if the tent has seen a lot of years, it will become more and more susceptible to leaking or other problems. This is to be expected because old age means plenty of use, which leads to the next issue.
- Wear and Tear – You must maintain your rooftop tents. Because over time, the material can get weaker because of high usage, weather conditions, etcetera.
- Tears – There is always a possibility of tears and rips appearing in your tent. It is easy to catch the corner of the trunk as you pull the tent out. The older the material is, the more prone it will be to rip.
Even though rooftop tents are waterproof and water resistant, there will be some times when it does let some moisture in. When it does, analyze the situation and track the leak to its origin. Fix it if you can, or replace the tent if you can’t repair the problem.
Make sure that you only fold your tent when it’s dry. If you don’t have another option to do so because you’re traveling around, open the tent as quickly as possible to let it dry. If we travel and have to fold our tent when it’s still wet because of the rain, we always unfold it when it’s dry outside. Also, when we have a stopover for lunch, we just unfold the tent so it has extra time to dry. Our experience is that rooftop tents dry relatively quickly compared to regular tents.
Also, when you have a small leakage, you can often easily stop it with a silicon spray for tents and awnings, available on Amazon.
How To Stop Condensation in Your Rooftop Tent
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, condensation will build up inside the rooftop tent.
Make sure you have a clean, dry cloth when traveling. You can use this to wipe all the condensation off the inner walls and ceiling before it drips and soaks your belongings. Always dry the inside and outside of your rooftop tent before you fold it.
Also, we always leave one side of the tent slightly open to make sure there’s some type of ventilation. It’s much more relaxed when sleeping, but also it avoids too much condensation.
Rooftop tents are made to keep you dry on your camping adventure. The quality of the rooftop tent will rely upon the brand and style. If you want one that will treat you right in any weather, one with a 3000mm HH rating is the way to go. It will keep you dry during any type of weather (minus the big dogs like a tornado or hurricane). As long as you take care of it and when it is wet, you allow it to dry before folding and putting away.
As you might know, we travel a lot in our rooftop tent and love to share our tips & tricks about rooftop tent traveling. You might be interested in reading one of our other articles as well;