Can You Use a Dehumidifier In a Tent?


Dealing with condensation in a tent can be a serious pain. I hate when water drips down as I sleep, my sleeping bag gets soaked, and all my gear gets wet. Understanding what causes water condensation is only half the battle. You need to find a way to keep it from happening, but is there a simple way to prevent condensation in a tent? Can you use a dehumidifier in a tent?

Dehumidifiers and desiccants won’t help reduce condensation in a tent. Dehumidifiers only work in a sealed environment, and tents are designed to promote airflow. It would be about as effective as using a dehumidifier outside. It might have some minor effect, but you’ll never be able to tell the difference.

Don’t worry! There are other methods to reduce condensation in your tent. It’s all about improving ventilation and reducing exterior moisture. Keep reading to find out how you can get red of condensation.

Can You Use a Dehumidifier In a Tent?

Don’t listen to anybody that claims dehumidifiers and desiccants will work in a tent. They will definitely help remove moisture when your gears in storage, but they won’t do much in a tent. There’s just too much outside airflow in a tent for a dehumidifier to be effective.

The only way a dehumidifier will help is in a sealed environment. For a dehumidifier to actually work you’d have to completely seal up all the ventilation in the tent. That might be possible if you’re camping in the winter, but you’ll be a sweaty mess in the summer.

There are three main types of dehumidifiers people use in their tents. You have electric/battery operated dehumidifiers, desiccant, and charcoal or silica style dehumidifier bags. None of these products will do much in a properly ventilated tent.

It might help some in a stuffy 4-season tent, but there won’t be much of a difference. Don’t give up on dehumidifier bags completely. They will definitely help reduce moisture and prevent mold/mildew while your tents in storage.

Why Won’t A Dehumidifier Work In a Tent?

There are only 2 surefire ways to combat excessive condensation in a tent. You can improve the tents ventilation and remove water sources out of the tent. Using a dehumidifier in your tent will yield minimal results.

Dehumidifier bags and desiccant packs might help some, but you’ll be fighting a losing battle. A dehumidifier will only work in a sealed environment and tents are designed to promote airflow. As water goes into the dehumidifier, more humid air gets drawn into the tent.

It might look like water is being absorbed into the dehumidifier, but you’re fighting a losing battle. Exterior moisture is just replacing the water that’s drawn into the humidity pack. All you would be doing is ineffectively dehumidifying the outside air.

You’re better off working on improving ventilation and making sure there’s no excess moisture in the tent. Luckily there are a few easy ways to significantly reduce condensation in a tent.

How To Reduce Condensation in a Tent

How else can I reduce condensation in a tent if dehumidifiers don’t work? It’s all about finding ways to improve ventilation/airflow and reduce moisture in the tent. Just remember that there’s no surefire way to completely eliminate condensation in your tent.

There are three main sources of moisture in a tent that causes condensation. You have exterior humidity, moisture released from the human body, and exterior water sources(these can be removed).

  • Exterior Humidity: There are two main ways to deal with exterior humidity. You can plan your trip around the weather and choose a camp site away from water sources. Pitch your tent on dry ground, under trees, and away from water sources.
  • Human Body Moisture: Water gets released into the air with every breath you take. The human body releases over 1/3 of a liter of water in your breath while you sleep. Add in the 2 liters of sweat your body produces on the average night(even more without AC). That’s a lot of moisture going into the air that’s impossible to eliminate.
  • Additional Water Sources: Not breathing isn’t an option, but you can control the wet/soggy items you bring into your tent at night. If reducing condensation is the goal(it should be), leave all your wet and sweaty gear outside.

How to Improve Tent Ventilation

There’s no way to completely eliminate condensation, but you can improve the ventilation in your tent and eliminate outside water sources. Air inside your tent is almost always more humid than the outside air.

So you have 1 basic goal. Try to draw as much outside air into your tent as possible. I’ll start off by going over a few simple ways to improve ventilation in your tent.

Buy a Quality 3 Season Tent

Don’t be tempted to buy a 4-Season tent thinking you can use it year round. A 4-Season tent should only be used in cold weather. I’m talking about camping in freezing temperatures where you need to fight the wind chill. These tents are designed to reduce airflow to prevent a cold draft, which is the worst thing you can do when trying to fight condensation.

Even a cheap $20-30 3-season tent will provide more ventilation than a top of the line 4-Season tent. Spend the extra money on a quality 3-Season tent that provides lots of airflow. I recommend spending $150-250 for a quality 3-4 person tent.

That will give you a durable, comfortable tent that’s light enough if you want to take it backpacking. You can shave some pack weight if you’re willing to increase the budget, but that’s usually not necessary. An Alps Mountaineering 4-Person Tent or Kelty 3-4 Person Tent is a great place to start. They’re light enough to carry backpacking, durable, and offer lots of ventilation.

Spend Your Money On a Small Fan

A small portable fan will do more to prevent condensation than any dehumidifier. Car campers should pickup a small battery operated fan to setup near a window or door. Since there’s less humidity outside, you need to bring the cool outside air in.

Any small battery operated fan will work. I picked up a cheap rechargeable fan (this one) to take whenever I go camping. It’s too heavy for backpacking, but I guess you have to make some sacrifices to cut pack weight. Just clip the fan to your tent door and let it blow in the cool outside air.

Leave Window and Door Flaps Open

You might prefer the privacy of a closed up tent, but that’s just asking for condensation. Wake up early, because water will be dripping off the ceiling once the sun comes out. Your body will be sweaty, sleeping bag will be soaked, and you’ll be a miserable mess.

Do yourself a favor and open up all the door and window flaps before going to bed. You need a lot of airflow to prevent condensation. The only time I shut my windows/doors is when I’m changing clothes or need a few minutes of privacy.

Keep Wet Gear Outside

Nobodies going to walk off with your muddy boots and sweaty shirt. Keep all your wet gear outside the tent hanging on guylines, over a tree branch, or tucked underneath the rainfly or vestibule if you have one. The only time I bring my wet clothes inside is if it’s going to rain.

Morning dew is the only downside to leaving your wet gear outside. There will be a little bit of moisture buildup, but the sun will quickly dry everything off. That’s why it’s always nice to bring extra clothes (especially socks). Leave your wet gear hanging or strap it to the back of your pack if you’re going for a morning hike.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely eliminate moisture. You naturally breathe and sweat out a few liters of water at night. That water evaporates into the air and can either go on your tent walls, or into the outside air if your tent is properly ventilated.’

Store your wet clothes in a dry stuff sack if you’re uncomfortable keeping gear outside. The condensation will form on the inside of the sack instead of on your tent walls.

Keep Pets Dry If They’re Sleeping Inside

Most experts recommend keeping dogs outside the tent at night, but that’s never going to happen with one of my dogs. The slight risk of paws ripping through my tent floor (this can be prevented) isn’t worth the chance of losing my dog. My dog Zoey sleeps in the tent on a waterproof camping mat (Ruffwear Highlands Dog Pad).

The only downside is you might end up with a wet dog in your tent. Try telling an excited pup they can’t hop in a stream/lake or stomp through the mud. Your dog will likely be wet and a little muddy after a long hike. Dry them off before heading inside and make sure all the screens are open.

Setup Camp Under Trees

Setting up camp under trees provides two main advantages. You won’t have the sun beating down on you, so there’s less of a difference between inside/outside temps and the morning dew will settle on the trees instead of your tent.

There might be a little bit of moisture on your tent in the morning, but condensation usually settles at the highest point. If you’re in a field that’s gonna be the top of your tent.

Find the Breeze

Try to figure out where the breeze is coming from before setting up your tent. Pitch your tent so that the door is facing into the breeze to maximize airflow. Prevailing winds generally blow east to west so that’s how you should setup camp if you’re unsure. You’ll also get to wake up to a nice sunrise in the morning.

Roll Back The Rainfly

You can usually roll back the rainfly a bit without negatively effecting the waterproof rating on your tent. Obviously, you won’t want to do this in pouring rain, but you should be good in fair weather. It’s not that hard to pull the rainfly back down if the weather starts to look dreary.

Single Wall vs Double Wall Tents

When most people picture a tent, they’re thinking of a double wall design. This is your average 3-Season tent that uses both a mesh inside wall and exterior rainfly. These tents are designed to retain body heat in colder weather and keep internal moisture away from your body.

Theoretically, any water vapor that’s released into the tent should pass through the mesh inner tent walls and collect on the outside of the rainfly. Higher quality tents will use better designs and provide more ventilation to prevent condensation.

You wouldn’t even want to consider a single wall tent unless you’re backpacking. A single wall tent is great if you only camp in warm weather. They’re cool and breezy offering more airflow (less condensation), but you get less protection from bugs/rodents.

Not Much You Can Do In The Rain

There’s not much you can do to prevent condensation in the rain. You will definitely run into condensation problems with all that humidity in the air. Try to do your best to maximize airflow without letting water into the tent.

Open up windows/doors when it’s not raining and try to pull the rainfly as far away from the tent as possible. I like to use separate guylines to stake my rainfly away from my tent. Pull the sides/corners of the rainfly away from the tent so the top is the only part close to the tent. That’s going to maximize airflow and drain water away from the edge of your tent.

What If My Sleeping Bag Gets Wet?

Most sleeping bags are designed to be water resistant, but that doesn’t help from a comfort standpoint. Hang your sleeping bag out in the sun if your sleeping bag gets wet. It shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes to an hour of sunlight to dry a damp sleeping bag.

Drying out wet gear should be a normal everyday activity. It’s just like cleaning up your camp throughout the day. Get in the habit of drying everything out during the day so you’re ready for bed when the sun goes down.

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