Last Updated on 26/03/2022
How to Prevent Single-Wall Tent Condensation
Single wall tent condensation can cause uncomfortable nights of sleep and soaking kit in the morning. Condensation forms on the walls of a tent when the warm air you create meets the cool outer wall. There are ways to avoid this by limiting the amount of moisture you bring into the tent, as well as increasing ventilation.
Waking up in the night with your tent dripping on you is always uncomfortable. The condensation that forms on the inside wall can often drip down and end up soaking your kit overnight. This condensation is worse in cold or wet weather when you are doing everything you can to keep your equipment dry.
Deciding between a single wall tent vs a double can depend on many factors. Most people who use single skin tents are trying to save on weight, but still want high levels of comfort. These tents are more susceptible to condensation than twin skin, but can still be avoided. Here, then, is our guide to avoiding single wall tent condensation.
What Causes Condensation Inside Single Wall Tents?
As warm damp air rises overnight and meets the cool, outer wall of your tent, it forms into condensation. This condensation will collect until it drips down the side of the tent, or onto you.
Although rain doesn’t cause this condensation, it does cool down the outer walls. The cooler the outer wall of your tent, the less warm your breath needs to be in order to condense on the walls.
Why is Condensation a Problem with Single Wall Tents?
Even the best single wall tents may not form more condensation than twin skins, but they tend to have less ventilation to take away moisture. On a twin skin tent, too, the condensation on an outer wall won’t come into the inside, unless you push the walls against one another.
Condensation that forms can drip on you in the night, or onto your equipment. It can also form into pools and puddles on the ground of your tent. If you touch the walls with your sleeping bag or any of your equipment, it will collect all the moisture on the tent.
A full soaked tent wall is far less effective at insulating you than a dry tent. Condensation will also keep the inside of the tent damp. Damp air cools down quickly and can give you an uncomfortable night.
11 Ways How to Prevent Single Wall Tent Condensation
Here’s our list, then, to limit your condensation build-up inside your single skin tent.
The key to avoiding condensation is having enough ventilation to whip away damp air. Certain models of single-skin tents are fully enclosed and it can be hard to create more airflow. Others, which act similar to a tarpaulin, can be raised and lowered to increase or decrease the ventilation.
If you have any opportunity to open vents or crack the door slightly, these can be effective ways to increase airflow, too. These all depend, obviously, on not letting any extra moisture in from the rain.
Lift the Edges of Your Tent Up
As we mentioned, usually the easiest way to improve ventilation on your tent is to raise the side walls slightly. The raised edges will allow air to flow into the tent but rely on you having a warm enough sleeping system to stop you from getting too cold.
If you can raise the sides of your tent, you can also sometimes angle them so that any droplets that do form will drip away from your equipment.
Keep Wet Gear Outside
If condensation is formed by damp air, then avoiding bringing wet equipment into the tent is an easy way to limit how much can form. As your damp clothes or boots, dry overnight, the moisture is released into the air. This will warm up and can form into condensation.
Once your tent has moisture inside it is hard to get rid of damp without heat from the sun or wind to blow it off. Though it can be tempting to bring your wet gear into your tent to dry it out, you should avoid it if you want to limit condensation.
Don’t Cook Inside
In poor weather, you can be tempted to bring your stove inside the tent to cook. Boiling water is especially bad, but cooking anything inside will give off a load of condensation.
Getting the moisture out of the tent can be hard work if you don’t have good enough ventilation. Though it can be tempting to cook inside, consider the consequences of a damp night if you do.
Avoid Wet Ground
Single skin tents often take the form of a tarp-like structure, held up with hiking poles. Your body heat will begin to dry out the damp ground underneath you and this moisture, like that from clothing, can condense on the roof of your tent.
Long grass or particularly wet ground should be avoided and you should find the driest spot available to pitch your tent.
Avoid Humid Microclimates
This is easier if you know the location, but can be done anyway. Micro-spots that hold moisture, like dips or gulleys, are wetter than open ground and often have limited ventilation.
Knowing the terrain and understanding weather patterns can help you pick your perfect spot. This might be knowing that one aspect of the hill is better vented, or holds heat better, or that certain spots hold dampness or fog.
Pitch into the Wind
If ventilation is key to avoiding condensation, then pitching into the wind is one of the best things you can do to avoid a wet night. There is, of course, a balance here. Pitching into a wind that is far too strong for your tent will cause more issues than it solves.
Make Sure the Tent is Taut
Condensation forming on a sagging tent is less likely to run off smoothly and drip away. Baggy patches will gather pools of condensation and often drip onto you, or your equipment. A last-minute check around your tent before you sleep is worthwhile to make sure your tent is taut enough.
Leave the Door Open
We mentioned this earlier with ventilation, but leaving the door open can keep you drier overnight. This can vary either from leaving a small crack in the doorway to leaving the door wide open.
You should only open the door overnight if you are certain that it won’t rain. No matter how bad condensation might be, it’s far worse if you’re going to get wet anyway.
Use a Portable Dehumidifier
Dehumidifiers dry out the air around them, either using a fan or moisture collecting chemicals. Small, portable dehumidifiers may not be able to keep you perfectly dry, but they can make a difference.
The most effective are probable battery-powered dehumidifiers that collect water in a tub. Alternatively, you can get moisture collecting tablets that sit in a collector. These are less effective, but can’t run out of battery.
Get a Bigger Tent
The more space inside your tent, the more moisture you will need for the air to condense on the tent wall. A small, one-person tent is more susceptible to collecting moisture on the inside than a larger, two or three-person tent. So for three people you should consider how much a four-person tent costs.
The other benefit to a larger tent is that you’re far less likely to touch against the wall and get condensation on your sleeping bag. It can be more tempting in a larger tent to bring your equipment in with you, though. This, as we said, can lead to increased levels of condensation.
How to Get Rid of Condensation in my Tent?
Sometimes, it’s unavoidable and you will simply end up with condensation inside your tent. One of the best things you can use to keep your tent dry is a microfiber towel. These can be used again and again, wrung out and dried quickly, and carried easily.
When drying your tent, it’s worth moving your equipment out of the way. This avoids you ending up pushing water over your sleeping setup. Start from the top of your tent and dry the walls, before moving onto the floor if necessary.
If you don’t have a microfiber towel, you can instead use a sponge, which is equally lightweight. If you have nothing to hand, you could always use a spare fleece or anything that will soak up moisture and can be dried out.
Why is Single Wall Tent Condensation Worse In Winter?
Tents themselves are more of a protection from the elements than insulation however you can get thermally insulated tents now. This is especially true of single-wall tents, where you don’t get the extra protection of a flysheet.
In winter, the outer wall of the tent is significantly colder than the inner and the warm air is trying to escape through the roof. It takes very little moisture or warmth in these conditions for the temperature difference to be enough for your breath to condense on the tent. Here are some tips to stay warm in your tent when it is cold enough to freeze the condensation on your tent wall.
In winter, you’re also more likely to carry wet gear into your tent, too. You are also going to spend far more time in your tent than you will in summer.
Conclusion: Are Single Wall Tents Worth It?
Single wall tents have major benefits as well as notable drawbacks. They are usually chosen by those who are after a lightweight setup and can forego the extra protection of a double skin.
If you are not concerned with lowering the weight of your pack, then a twin skin is usually a better choice. Single wall tent condensation is the main issue with this style of tent, but they are also less insulating than a twin skin model.
Unless you’re going for the lightest tent available, a single skin is usually low on your list. Most people find that condensation and damp equipment is more unpleasant than carrying an extra few hundred grams.