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Why You Should Seam Seal Your Tent Before Your Thru-Hike

Before you head out for your thru-hike or backpacking trip, it's important to ensure your tent seams are adequately sealed. The best seam sealer and method for the job will depend on the fabric of your tent. It's important that you seam seal your tent following the manufacturer's specifications.

Paul Bodnar       Educational       8/10/2021
Paul Bodnar
Educational
8/10/2021

Seam Sealant

Tent seam sealer is like a glue that is designed to fill in the seams where the tiny holes were made when the tent stitching was done. Many lightweight tents don’t come seam sealed unless you pay extra when you purchase the tent.

It’s very important that you select the tent sealant based on your tent fabric. Different tent fabrics will require different seam sealers. If you use the wrong seam sealer, the tent fabric will not bond with the sealer and leaks will likely occur.

Most manufacturers will provide the recommended seam sealer on their website.

It’s best to use seam sealer when it’s warm and dry outside. The tent seams should also be clean and dry before application. Any dirt left along the seam will reduce the effectiveness of the sealant. Setting up the tent also makes seam sealer application easier especially if the manufacturer suggests applying the sealant to both sides of the tent.

silicone tent sealant

Different Types of Seam Sealer

There are many different types of seam sealer. The best seam sealer for your tent is specified by your tent manufacturer.

Most lightweight backpacking tents are constructed from silicone nylon or silnylon. This type of fabric can be sealed with a silicone sealant.

**Always check with the manufacturer for the proper type of seam sealer for your tent.

tent seam

Tent Seams Without Seam Sealer

By examining the seams on your tent, you can tell if seam sealer was applied. This picture shows the seams unsealed.

tent sealant being applied to a tent

Seam Sealer Being Applied

Tent sealer being applied to the seams.

tent sealant being applied and held down

Dry Seam Sealer

The seam sealer will take at least 3 to 6 hours to fully dry.  In some situations it can take even longer. It’s important to test for dryness before packing the tent up. Some manufacturers recommend waiting 24 hours after application before storing the tent. You can test the dryness of the seam sealer by lightly touching it. If there is any stickiness at all it is not dry and shouldn’t be packed up.

If you pack up your tent before the seam sealer completely dries it can stick to other parts of your tent. It’s very important to wait for the seam sealer to dry completely before packing.

Summary

It’s very important to have your tent seams sealed with the appropriate type of sealant. If your tent seams are unsealed or improperly sealed you will likely experience a leak in your tent if it rains.

Seam sealing a tent is a relatively easy process if the conditions are right.

**Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when sealing your tent.


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About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail again in 2010 to do research for his guide book Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the Pacific Crest Trail. Now with the help of a team of great people they have created over 90 guides for trails around the world.