It either takes a whole lot of rain or a little bit of condensation to soak the inside of a tent. Neglecting the drying process is a guaranteed way to destroy your camping gear. You’ll end up with mildew, mold, and an unbearable stench that won’t ever go away. How do you dry the inside of a tent?
You need to have proper ventilation and sunlight to dry out a tent . All it takes is a few hours of sunlight and a cool breeze to dry the typical tent. On rainy days, you’ll have to setup your tent in a garage or covered patio and use a fan to improve ventilation.
Don’t worry! Drying your tent isn’t hard. All it takes is time and a little bit of ventilation. Wait for a sunny day and make sure your tent is completely dry before putting it back into storage. Keep reading to learn a few more tips to help prevent mold/mildew and bring your musty old tent back to life.
How To Dry a Tent Fast
Is drying your tent a big deal? Drying both the outside and inside of your tent is extremely important! Packing up a wet tent will quickly cause mold and mildew growth. Preventing mold/mildew growth is much easier than trying to get rid of that nasty mildew smell.
You’ve definitely encountered both mold and mildew before. If you’ve ever left wet clothing in a washing machine, you’ve been greeted by the unpleasant smell of mildew. It’s easy to run your clothes through the wash, but dealing with a mildew/mold covered tent is a much harder challenge.
So how do you dry a tent to prevent mold and mildew? Drying out a tent is fairly easy. All it takes is proper ventilation and a few hours of sunlight. The following tips should point you in the right direction.
- Your tent shouldn’t take long to dry when exposed to direct sunlight. Set the tent up outside to give it enough time to dry. Open up all the windows and give yourself a few hours for your tent to dry in the morning. Make a nice breakfast, drink a cup of coffee and give the sun a few hours to work its magic.
- If you can’t dry your tent out before heading home, you’ll have to set it up once you get home. Set your tent up in the yard and open up all the windows. I like to leave the rainfly off to improve ventilation(spread it out next to the tent). Leave your tent setup in the yard until it’s completely dry(it shouldn’t take longer than a few hours).
- You might have to setup your tent inside on rainy/overcast days. Set your tent up in the garage or living room and aim a fan inside to give it some ventilation. Drying a tent inside will take a while so use this as a last resort.
Drying out your tent isn’t that hard. I’ll go into more detail below, but first I need to explain why drying your tent is so important. Skip down to the bottom for a detailed guide on drying your tent.
Preventing Mold and Mildew Growth
There’s one simple key to preventing mold and mildew growth. Make sure your tent is completely dry before putting it into storage. It doesn’t matter what your tent is made out of. Putting your tent away wet will always result in mold and mildew growth.
Mold might not directly eat at synthetic materials(nylon, polyester, etc), but it will grow on oils and dirt left on the tents surface. On the other hand, canvas tents are especially susceptible to mold growth. Make sure your tent is completely dry before putting it back into storage.
Mold Hates Sunlight!
Mold will not grow in sunlight! It doesn’t matter how wet your tent is. Leaving your tent out in the sun will kill fungal spores that cause mold/mildew.
Set your tent up outside and let the sun and wind dry it out. Open up all the windows and let the sun do all the work. It shouldn’t take longer than 3-4 hours to dry your tent out in the summer sun. It might take a week to dry out a tent in the garage (even with a fan).
How long does it take for mildew to grow?
It can take less than 48 hours for mildew to grow in ideal conditions. Think about what fungi needs to grow. Fungi loves to grow in dark/damp locations with very little ventilation. Your cars trunk or a dimly lit garage is the perfect place for mold and mildew growth.
Deal with drying your tent out fast and make sure it’s completely dry before placing it into storage. I recommend waiting a few hours for your tent to dry in the morning or setting it up in the yard once you get home. You might have to setup your tent inside the garage/house if the weather isn’t cooperating.
Method 1: Setting Your Tent Up Outside (The Best Method)
After a long camping trip the last thing you want to do is deal with wet gear. That’s why I like to take a long morning and try to make sure my tent is completely dry before packing it away. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Sometimes you’ll have to deal with a wet tent once you get home.
Setting your tent up in your front yard is by far the most effective drying method. Give the tent direct sunlight and try to improve ventilation. Sunlight and a slight breeze will dry your tent in no time.
- Once you get home, find a sunny spot to setup your tent. You’re better off setting your tent up in the grass, but a driveway will also work. Just make sure you have a cinderblock or another heavy object to anchor the guylines. You don’t want your tent blowing away while you’re at work.
- Setup your tent just like if you were going camping. The only difference is you’ll want to leave the rainfly off and spread it just like you would do if you were drying a tarp.
- Open up all the windows and doors to improve ventilation. A nice breeze will speed up the drying process.
- This is the perfect time to clean off dirt, check the tent for leaks, and spray it down with a water repellant coating. I like to use NIKWAX Tent and Gear Solarwash to clean/waterproof my tent and then spray Nikwax Solarproof to add UV Protection. This is a crucial step if you plan on keeping the same tent for more than a year or two.
- It shouldn’t take longer than a few hours to dry out the typical synthetic tent. Canvas tents might need to stay up for a few days to completely dry.
A Quick Note
Direct sunlight and UV Rays will kill mold spores and speed up the drying process, but you don’t want to expose a tent to direct sunlight for long. Once the tent is dry, it’s time to take it down. The sun will damage a synthetic tent faster than mold will.
Method 2: Drying Your Tent Inside: Garage or House
Drying your tent inside isn’t optimal, but sometimes you don’t have any other option. The weather might not want to cooperate or you may not have a place to dry the tent outside. Drying a tent in a tiny apartment isn’t optimal, but it can be done.
Since you won’t have direct sunlight, you’ll need to take matters into your own hands. You will need to use fans to speed up the drying process.
- Hopefully you have a garage or empty room big enough to setup your tent. It will take a few days to dry out a tent so find somewhere that’s out of the way. Tile and Hardwood floors will also speed up the drying process. If you have a tent footprint, use it to find an ideal location.
- Once you’ve found a place that’s out of the way it’s time to setup the tent.
- Open up all the doors/windows and leave off the rainfly. This will increase the amount of airflow going through the tent. Hang up the rainfly over your shower rod or drape it over chairs. Hopefully you have a few fans to speed up the drying process.
- Open up your tents door and setup a fan to blow through the tent and speed up the drying process. You want to set it up so it blows in one side and out the other. Ceiling fans, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers will also help speed up the drying process. If you don’t have AC open up some windows to let the outdoor breeze blow through.
- Once the inside of the tent is dry setup the rainfly on top and continue the drying process. Plan on giving your tent 2-3 days to completely dry out. A tent that’s completely soaked might take over a week to dry.
Don’t Use a Space Heater
Using a space heater to dry your gear can be tempting, but it’s extremely dangerous. Synthetic tents aren’t designed to withstand direct heat.
There’s really no advantage to using a space heater. It will take forever to dry such a large surface area and you risk damaging the tent. At best you’ll save a few hours drying the tent. At worst you’ll melt a hole in the tent and potentially set it on fire.
Consider The Price Of Your Tent
Before setting your tent up inside you might want to consider the price of your tent. It might not be worth drying a cheap $20 Walmart tent. There was nowhere for me to dry a tent back when I lived in a studio apartment.
My good tents got draped over a clothesline in the living room, but I eventually switched over to buying a cheap tent whenever I went camping. Find a cheap 2 person tent on Amazon.
I’ve used this cheap Wakeman 2 Person tent at a few music festivals. Try to get as dry as possible before heading home and cut your losses on really wet outings. I would rather lose $25-30 than deal with a tent in a small apartment.
Method 3: Use a Clothesline Or Hang Your Tent In The Shower
You can dry a tent by draping it over a clothesline or hanging it up in the shower, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It works but it will take a very long time. You’re better off taking the time to set the tent up outside or finding a spot to set the tent up in your house. If that’s not an option here are a few tips on building a makeshift clothesline.
- Drape paracord across your living room or garage to hang the tent. Use hooks in the garage ceiling or drape the tent over shelves.
- Use the banister at the top of your stairs or drape the tent over an apartment balcony. Just make sure it’s anchored down so it won’t blow away in the wind.
- Drape the tent over chairs, stools and tables. Setup up a fan under the tent to speed up the drying process.
- Hang the tent over a tree branch or use an actual clothesline
- Smaller tents can be draped over the shower rod. Just turn on the bathroom exhaust vent and aim a fan onto the tent.
Honestly, draping your tent over objects to dry it out barely works. You’ll need to use a fan and towels to dry off the tent as much as possible.
Last Resort: Put Your Tent In The Clothes Dryer
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend drying your tent in the clothes dryer. This method might work if you have no other way to dry the tent, but it will probably destroy the tent.
There’s really no way to protect a tent in the dryer. The plastic blades will quickly damage your tent as it rotates around and the heat can warp your tent.
Tossing your tent in the dryer can be used as a last resort, but you’ll need to take a few basic precautions. Stuff your tent in a delicates clothes bag (find them here) to offer a little bit of protection. Use a Air-Dry or Low heat setting to dry the tent.
Don’t expect your tent to last very long when tossing it in the dryer. It will significantly shorten the lifespan of your tent.
Don’t Use a Hair Dryer
A hair dryer won’t have enough power to dry out a tent. It might help a little, but you’ll likely damage the tent. You’ll cause the tent to warp, stretch and likely damage the seams. You’re better off using a box fan and waiting for the tent to dry over the course of a few days.
Can You Dry The Inside Of a Tent?
Rain isn’t the only cause of moisture buildup in your tent. Most tents are water resistant (basically waterproof) and won’t let in water in your typical rainstorm. It takes a lot of rain to penetrate through the surface of a properly maintained tent. So how does the inside of my tent get wet?
After a long cool night, you’ll also need to deal with condensation forming on the inside of your tent walls. Even a little bit of moisture left on the inside of your tent can cause major problems when putting your tent into storage. So how do you dry the inside of a tent?
Don’t Worry! A little bit of moisture isn’t the end of the world. With proper ventilation and a little bit of sunlight, your tent will be dry in no time. Follow these simple steps to dry out your tent before putting it back into storage.
- Wait a few hours before packing up your tent in the morning. It shouldn’t take more than an hour or two to dry up the morning dew and condensation. If you’re in a rush, you’ll have to setup your tent once you get home to prevent mold/mildew.
- Open up all the doors and windows to maximize ventilation. Keeping your windows open at night will also help reduce condensation buildup throughout the night.
- Keep all liquids and wet gear out of your tent when trying to dry it out. Water evaporates off your wet gear and gets trapped on the inside of your tent walls. Hang your wet shoes/clothes to dry outside and deal with the remaining moisture when you get home. Drying out your tent should be the number 1 priority. You don’t want to leave any moisture in your tent, because you’ll have to set it up to dry at home.
- You might not get rid of all the moisture if you need to leave early in the morning or the weather won’t cooperate. Put your tent away wet and deal with drying it once you get home. Set your tent up in your yard or garage once you get home. It needs to be completely dry before putting it back into storage.
Dealing With Condensation
Most tents come from the factory with a durable waterproof coating and can handle a typical storm without leaking. If your tent leaks when it rains you’ll need to spray a water repellent coating on the outside (Camp Dry works really well) and seal up all the seams using seam sealant(my favorite). Interior tent moisture is usually the result of condensation and inadequate ventilation.
There are a few ways to reduce condensation in your tent. You need to increase ventilation throughout the night. Remove wet items to reduce moisture buildup overnight. Setup your tent under trees so there’s less of a temperature difference between the inside and outside surface of the tent.