Bushcraft: How to Prevent Tent Condensation in Winter

8 02 2011

Canadian Rangers pitch their tent in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, for Operation Nanook 10 on 14 Aug 2010. - Combat Camera

Re-posted from: SectionHiker.com

Tent condensation manifests itself either as frost on the inside surface of your tent or moisture droplets that are transferred from the inner tent to your clothing and gear. It is undesirable, particularly in winter, because it can make your gear wet and degrade its insulating properties

Here are a few camping tips to limit the amount of condensation buildup in a single or double-walled tent.

Vent Your Tent

The best way to prevent moisture from building up you tent is to help it escape by venting your tent. If your tent has a front door and an inner bug screen, you can unzip the outer door fully and still prevent snow from coming inside by keeping the screen closed.

Alternatively, if you side porches, like on the Tarptent Scarp 1 shown above, it’s best to open both of them up wide to prevent frost build-up inside. In my experience, venting though a smaller hole is far less effective at reducing condensation or frost build-up.

Don’t Cook in your Tent

If you can avoid it, don’t cook or melt water in your tent. This only turns it into a Turkish Steam bath. If the weather is just too crappy to avoid this, try digging a hole under your tent’s front porch, if you have one, and cook inside it with the door to the tent closed behind you.

Don’t bring snow into your tent

If you bring snow into the tent, you are significantly upping the chance that it will melt and increase the internal humidity in your tent. Brush all snow off your boots, back, ropes, and gloves before you get in the tent. If you have a porch outside the main door, leave all gear that doesn’t need to be dried there. If you bring snow into your tent despite these precautions, carefully sweep it out.

Don’t exhale into your sleeping bag

It’s tempting to put your head inside your sleeping bags on those long winter nights. Don’t do it. Keep your face clear of the bag and avoid exhaling moisture into your insulation. You can exhale a liter’s worth of water at night: not only will it degrade your insulation, but you’ll have to carry it all the next day as extra backpacking weight if it remains trapped in your bag.

Dry out your sleeping bag in the morning sun

If it’s sunny in the morning, open up your sleeping bag and dry it out in the sunlight on top of your tent. Many down sleeping bags have darkly colored interiors for just this purpose, to absorb as much of the sun’s radiation as possible and accelerate drying. Bringing a wet or damp sleeping bag back into your tent on a subsequent night is not desirable because it will create condensation and retain less of your body’s warmth. .

Put Wet Gear into a Stuff Sack

Don’t try to dry large items such as pants or a sweater in your sleeping bag at night. Instead, put them into a stuff sack, close it, and stuff it in your sleeping bag to keep the contents from freezing. If necessary, you can dry these garments using your body heat by wearing them the next day.

Those are some basic tips to stay dry in a winter tent. If you can recommend any others, please leave a comment.

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