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What Causes Condensation in Tents?

Video by MSR
This video explains the process of condensation and how to reduce its effects on your backpacking or camping tent.

What Causes Condensation in Tents Video

You wake up in the morning and the walls of the tent are wet. What causes this and how can you reduce it?


When water vapor in warm air, meets with a cold surface, water droplets form through the natural process of condensation. This affects all tents to varying degrees. Water molecules in the warm air are in a gaseous state and when they come into contact with a cold surface, they lose energy and slow down until their mutual forces of attraction bring the water molecules together into a liquid state. The higher the humidity and the larger the temperature difference between the air and the surface, the faster this condensation occurs.


While you sleep at night, the heat from your breath and your body warm the air inside the tent. As the temperature drops, the rain fly cools down and warm air passes through the breathable lining of your tent. When it comes into contact with the cold rain fly or the cool floor of the tent, it condenses, forming water droplets. How do you solve this problem? Although you’ll never be able to fully eliminate the process of condensation in your tent, there are a few ways you can reduce and manage its effects.


Creating air flow through the tent is the most effective way to reduce condensation. This allows the warm humid air created by your body to move outside the tent. This can be achieved by rolling up the vestibule slightly or all the way – or by creating a small opening at the top of the zip. If ventilation is impossible and condensation does occur, then you can wipe dry the interior walls of the rain fly with an MSR camp towel or remove the rain fly in the morning and lay it out in the sun for the moisture to evaporate.


Always make sure that your tent is dry before storing it. Dampness leads to mold which can quickly cause irreparable damage to the material of the rain fly and tent lining. Drying your tent will ensure you get the best performance out of it for years to come.