Almost all campers will feel confused when they first take their tents out of the warehouse after months. They are tricky to stretch out because folded components adhere to each other.
More annoying, they are not highly water-resistant as they used to be. So why is my tent sticky? And how to fix it? All of your questionings about this topic and some other FAQs will be solved at once in this article.
Keeping your tent in good shape is critical
Why Is My Tent Sticky?
The most common reasons that make your tent sticky after a long time of storage are that it was wet or compacted too tightly when stored.
But why? It is easy to understand. Wet canvas will be covered by mold, and thus become stickier because mold and mildew are naturally adhesive.
Meanwhile, when your tents are compacted too tightly, chemicals used to make the tents (plasticizers in particular) cannot get off-gassing. And this leads to a vacuum effect that makes parts of the canvases attract each other.
In addition to causing you difficulties unfolding the tents, these might also result in the wear and tear of the Polyurethane coating, which reduces the water-resistance of the items.
At the same time, the PU coating works both as a water-resistant and non-stick layer. So when this housing wears out, the tent will also increase its stickiness.
How To Fix Them?
With the three causes of adhesive tents above, we will have three different workarounds corresponding to them as followings
If you stored your tent when it was still wet
Upon unwrapping the tent, if you find bad smells and mod, use non-detergent soap and a soft sponge to clean the tent thoroughly.
You had better fully stretch out your entire tent, or maybe even set it up so that you can hardly miss any spot. Then, the mold is gone, and the tent will not be sticky and give out bad odors any longer.
If you compacted your tent too tightly when storing
Avoid using the compact sack in which the item was when you initially purchased it. Instead, fold it loosely and store it in a meshed bag or a big plastic bag.
This will allow the off-gassing process to take place smoothly and effectively.
If the stickiness results from the deterioration of the PU coating
Although it may be considered an indirect cause, the degradation of the PU coating is a bit more complicated to handle than the two reasons above.
You would have to apply some specific types of powders across the external of the tent. We do not recommend doing this on the internal of the tent because you might inhale some harmful powders if you do so.
You ought to use a moderate quantity of powder since too much will be wasted, and the powder may become clumpy, while too little may be ineffective. And remember to apply the powder on your tent evenly and do not miss any spot.
About the appropriate types of powder, we think baby powder is your best choice owing to its reasonable price and health safety.
Whereas Graphite or Lithium powder may function, they seem to be less friendly to our human body and surely cost more.
Because layers of powder works as a non-sticky ply in the middle, they could prevent surfaces of the tent adhere to each other.
As such, you may know that this method works in all three cases. However, we generally attribute it to be only suitable in this case as the last resort since it wastes more time and money, and is more like a temporary measure.
Preventing Your Tent From Becoming Sticky
As mentioned earlier, the main causes for a tent becoming sticky is either it was stored while it was wet or it was stored too tight.
These are usually the main causes for a sticky tent, and sometimes, it’s unavoidable. But you can prevent that from happening by doing a couple of simple things.
Firstly, you have to make sure your tent is completely dry when you’re storing it. It’s very easy to simply throw a tent in storage when getting home from a camping trip without checking if it’s wet.
Don’t worry, we’ve all done it, especially after a really long or tiring trip.
But before you go about storing your tent, make sure to unpack it first and check if it’s dry. If it isn’t, you can simply pack it again and store it until it’s needed again, however, if it’s damp or wet, you have to dry it before storing.
When packing your tent, you have to make sure it’s packed neatly, but not too tight. A tent that’s packed very compactly will result in the chemicals used in making the tent sticking together.
So make sure that the tent is packed with enough space for it to off-gas, or properly release the chemicals used to make the tent.
Waterproofing a Tent and Rainfly
One of the best ways to make sure your tent doesn’t get wet is to waterproof it. Rain during a camping trip is sometimes unavoidable, so waterproofing your tent will pay off greatly in the long run.
To do this, you first have to seal the seams of your tent with a seam-sealer.
Next, you need to check if the urethane coating is still good. If you notice things flaking off on the rainfly or the tent floor, it might be time to refresh the urethane coating.
You can do this by simply cleaning the surface with rubbing alcohol and a sponge to remove the previous coating that’s flaking off then applying the urethane on the surface, making sure to follow the instructions on the bottle clearly.
Lastly, you can also apply a durable water repellent coating, or DWR on your rainfly. You’ll need to do this if you notice that water isn’t beading up on the fly anymore.
It isn’t that hard to do, as you can buy DWR in your local outdoor store or even online. If you have DWR spray already, all you have to do is set up the tent and spray the rainfly with water and wait for it to dry.
But if you just washed your tent, you don’t have to wait for it to dry anymore.
After that, simply apply an even coating of DWR spray on the surface of the tent. Give it a couple of minutes to settle and dry, then after you can just wipe off the excess coating and store your tent. Make sure that your tent is completely dry before storing it.
How Can I Restore Its Water Resistance?
As we discussed above, the PU coating is what brings about the water-resistance for your tent. Thus, when it downgrades, the tent will be less resistant to water.
Unfortunately, this is only a matter of time. In other words, there is no way for you to avoid this phenomenon.
Once the PU cover does not work anymore, the first and only thing we can do is giving your tent a new water-resistant coating.
Before using the following products to create the new protective housing for your tent, make sure that you have removed the old PU coating completely, cleaned, and dried the tent thoroughly.
Have you done yet? If yes, continue to read.
Tent Sure, also known as Gear Aid Seam Grip + TF Tent Fabric Sealant, is a waterproofing material widely sold at a very affordable price.
While most people use this on their backpack, jacket, and so on, you can also apply it to your tent.
When it dries up, it will form an invisible protective layer that safeguards your tent from water as well as maintains its flexibility.
Nonetheless, if you want to seal the floor of the canvas, you may need to utilize extra Tent Sure to achieve the best result.
Like Tent Sure, another great choice is Nikwax. However, on the contrary to Tent Sure, you should spray the Nikwax on the exterior of your tent.
Most noteworthy, it can guarantee not only the water resistance but also the breathability.
One same thing you should do when using either of the products is applying the substance evenly, leaving no missed area.
Just wait for a couple of minutes to let the new coating dry and stick to the tent. Next, wipe off excessed spots and enjoy the magic that has just happened.
Should I Buy A New One?
The answer to this depends on many factors. Yet, it is easy to understand the principle. If you can save your tent, do not leave it. If you cannot, just give it away.
If your tent is too old and in the worst condition, perhaps you must make a bitter decision of abandoning it. There is no way to restore it to a decent state even though you have tried all of the three methods above.
But, vice versa, if it is not very old and the measures you take on it can have some positive effects, you can still use it and save your tight budget.
Besides, this may depend on your economic capability and the weather of areas where you set up your camp.
If the weather is mild without strong wind blows and hard rain, any tent will do well. And if you have much to spend, there is no need to be economical.
Q: Why my tent fly (rainfly) sticky?
The reason for this may be the combination of dampness, tight packing, and warmth that makes the polyurethane coating of the rain fly to degrade, become semi-liquid, and sticky.
Or else, you must have left something sticky on it the last time you used it.
Q: How do I keep my tent dry in the rain?
- Use your groundsheet
A piece of any waterproof material can function as a protective barrier in the middle of your tent’s floor and the ground.
It will let water flow around or beneath your tent without invading your dry space.
If you have prepared for rain when you set the tent up, just string up paracord to add an extra tarp roof on top of your tent. This roof will be an additional reinforced barrier to fight against rain and wind that may come to you.
Besides, you can buy and use seam sealants to seal holes on your tent or spray water-repellent solutions on your entire tent to amplify the water resistance.
- Consider your campfire
Although a small fire cannot push back rainwater, it can get rid of the humidity inside your tent and give you the feeling of warmth and dryness. But be sure that it will not burn your tent!
- Set up the tent properly
During the setup process of your entire camp, think about different angles of the ground and your tarps to alleviate the impacts of wind and rain.
Of course, do not camp near a waterfall or an area where there might be a flood. Moreover, it is critical to choose a location that is higher up and far from water bodies.
Avoid trees, too. Although trees may act as umbrellas in the rain, water can continue to fall after the rain stops. Furthermore, falling branches and lightning will never be our good friends.
Q: Do tents leak when it rains?
Although most tents are waterproof, they can still leak when it is rainy.
Some low-quality tents are not 100% waterproof. And under other circumstances, when you do not set it up properly in a favorable location, rainwater may come in and visit you.
In conclusion, there are three primary causes for the stickiness of your tent:
- You stored your tent when it was still wet, and it is infected by mold and mildew.
- You packed the tent too tight, and the chemicals on it cannot get off-gassing.
- The PU coating downgrades and your tent loses that non-stick layer.
And in respective with the three causes above, we have shown you three different methods to solve the issue:
- Clean your tent thoroughly to remove.
- Store it loosely to allow air circulation.
- Create a new water-resistant and non-stick coating to substitute the old PU cover.
Hopefully, our article has answered your questions clearly, “Why is my tent sticky? And how to fix it?”. However, if there is still something unclear that you want to ask, please comment that below this post to let us know.
Thanks for reading!