The weather is wild and unpredictable, especially in the mountains. If you’re short on time and your camping window looks soggy, you’re going to want a tent that you know will keep you dry. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a wet tent. It can ruin your gear, your clothes, and even your health. Staying dry isn’t only comfortable; it helps prevent sickness.
Most tents with rainflys can handle a bit of moisture, but not all can weather thunderstorms, winds, and torrential downpours. I prefer to stay on the safe side and armor up with the best camping gear available.
In this guide, I’ll round up the best waterproof tents available today and walk you through some key points in evaluating their effectiveness against wet weather.
My Review Process
I’ve been hiking & camping for thirty years and I’ve learned a lot along the way. One of the most important lessons I learned was to check your tent's ability to handle water. On a 7 day hike, I spent four hours trying to sleep in a tent that was pooling water. The end result was no sleep, waterlogged tent fabric that ripped with every touch, and a cold that stuck with me for weeks.
If there’s heavy rain in the forecast, or you’re going to be out on the trail for a few days, you need to prepare. As they say, better to have and not need than need and not have. My tent selections below all combat wet weather, provide a comfortable place to bed down, and have the durability to last multiple seasons. Let’s dive into the list!
My choice for the best overall waterproof tent is the MSR Access 2. This capable four-season tent has great weatherproofing, all while weighing less than four pounds. It’s also easy to set up and has a large vestibule for your gear. If bad weather is threatening, this durably built, double-wall tent will keep you safe and dry.
While it can perform all year long, including in moderate snow, this isn’t a full-on mountaineering tent. In the most extreme conditions, you’ll want to opt for something more capable, like the options in our best mountaineering tents article. For very hot summer camping, there are lighter-weight options with more ventilation out there.
Striking the perfect middle ground between durability, weatherproofing, and ventilation, the MSR Access 2 is a capable shelter for wet and windy weather.
If you want to take your family camping in style, the Kodiak Canvas Flex Bow is what I’d choose. This massive family-friendly tent takes a little bit to set up, and weighs 80 pounds. It should go without saying that this is a frontcountry setup and backcountry travel with it would be prohibitive. However, for frontcountry tents, this one has all the bells and whistles.
With a massive 140 square feet of space and a tall peak height (6.5 feet), you can move around inside it without crooning your neck. The canvas tent fabric is also like a durable full-length rainfly, keeping you dry no matter what nature is doing. Setting this up for a few days gives you peace of mind, protection from adverse weather, and a large communal porch.
Canvas tents are expensive, so If you want some other excellent high-capacity options, check out our best cabin tents article.
The Big Agnes Copper Spur is my choice for the best waterproof backing tent. This popular dome tent is lightweight (3.1 lbs.) and comes with two large vestibules and easy-access doors. You can also create awnings out of the vestibules with some trekking poles for increased space. The tent is also weatherproof with a full-length rainfly and easy to set up.
Like many lightweight tents, this one isn’t designed for cold weather. If the mercury plummets, you’ll want to bring extra layers or opt for a tent with better insulation. However, for spring, summer, and autumn days with pleasant temperatures and the occasional storm, this tent holds up well. It also packs up easily, making it a great waterproof backpacking tent.
If you’re interested in tents with more insulation, check out our 6 best cold weather tents article.
The Sea to Summit Alto TR2 is my choice for the best waterproof backpacking tent. This capable shelter deploys quickly, weighs less than 3 pounds, and provides excellent ventilation via its mesh walls and ceilings. It also features near vertical tent walls to increase the spacious feeling of the interior. Two doors also make getting into and out of the tent easy.
Two items that need to be purchased separately are the footprint and gear loft. Tarps or existing footprints you have could work with the tent floor, but the gear loft is worth getting. The vestibules have plenty of space to set gear up, but the loft alleviates additional spacing issues. This helps keep the ventilation and spacious vibe of the tent up.
Despite the focus on ventilation, the Sea to Summit Alto TR2 doesn’t skimp on waterproofing. It employs a 6-inch bathtub floor, which keeps pooling water out of the bottom of the tent, and has a 1200 mm waterproof rainfly. If you’re looking for the best lightweight waterproof tent for backpacking, I recommend the Sea to Summit Alto TR2.
My choice for the best 8 person waterproof tent is the Big Agnes Bunk House. This behemoth comes in several sizes, although I’ll be reviewing the 8-person capacity version. It’s weatherproof with an effective rainfly and has a huge vestibule while offering 104 square feet of space. You also get a tall peak height of 6 ft. 8 inches, which is perfect to stand up in!
There are some negatives, including less ventilation than other tents options. And while the peak height is amazing, this tent is not as quiet in strong winds. Nevertheless, if you need the space and durability to handle rainy weather while camping, the Bunk House is an impressive tent.
For more large tent options, check out our best 6-8-person tents article.
The North Face Wawona 6 is my choice for the best waterproof 6-person tent. This durable & weatherproof option is ready to handle nature's worst while providing a comfortable space to hunker down in. With 85 square feet of tent floor space and a peak height of over 6 feet, this shelter is great for 2-6 people. It’s also got 45 feet of extra space in the vestibules.
The setup time for this one is a bit longer than most. Take the time to practice the setup at home before taking it to the woods. Because it's a higher-capacity tent, it’s also a bit heavier at 21 lbs. With a squad of fit hikers, you can still carry it into backcountry sites, but it’s much easier to use as a frontcountry shelter.
If you’re heading into adverse weather conditions with heavy rain, wind, or snow predicted, grab the North Face Wawona 6. And if you’re interested, check out our best tall tents article for more comfortable options similar to the Wawona 6.
Marmot knows how to make waterproof products. And while other tents do better in the weight savings, or features category, it’s silly to overlook modern tents like the Limestone 4. This dome tent can handle wet weather, is easy to set up, and weighs less than 12 pounds, which is great for a 4-capacity option.
The biggest downside is that there's only one vestibule, and the entire tent is pretty basic. However, this is also a strength. With an easy setup, full coverage rain fly, and excellent ventilation when the fly is off, there’s not much to dislike here. If you want a capable, no-frills, 4-top waterproof tent, the Marmot Limestone 4 is waiting for you.
For more information, visit our best 4-person tent article.
The Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel is a great option and my choice for the 3-person waterproof tent. It’s treated with a 1,5000 mm waterproof coating and a full-length-rain fly meant to withstand both wind and heavy rain. Plus, with a large vestibule and 44 square feet of usable space, this is a great dog-friendly tent with plenty of options for ventilation.
The Blacktail Hotel weighs more than backpacking tents. And while 6.5 lbs. isn’t ridiculous, if you’re going out farther into the backcountry, it’s worth noting. Also, a footprint isn’t included but is recommended to increase the life of the tent. All in all, if you want more space, a unique design with a cool vestibule, and rain and windproofing, the Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel is for you.
My choice for the best 2-person waterproof tent is the MSR Hubba Hubba. This is a bombproof shelter designed to weather torrential rain, heavy winds, and even some sleet/snow. The full-coverage rainfly is very effective, simple to set up, and has well-positioned vents to increase ventilation between storms. It’s also coated with Durashield to keep its waterproof rating.
Despite being a two-person tent, it is a bit snug on the inside with a partner. If you don’t mind the extra weight (about a pound more than the leading lightweight tents), you could use this one as a single-capacity option as well.
If you’re looking for rugged durability, a secure setup, and an easily packable tent, the MSR Hubba Hubba should be at the top of your list.
A 90-second setup can’t be beat. The Gazelle T3x Hub Tent is my choice for the best pop-up tall waterproof tent. This 3-Person tent has a great peak height (5 ft. 8 in.), is made from durable weatherproof material, and comes with a rain fly. Due to the hub shape, the tent walls also bow outward, giving you a roomy and comfortable shelter.
Similar to other large tents, the overall weight is fairly heavy. 28 pounds is a lot to carry into the backcountry (in addition to other gear), although you could do it. But as far as frontcountry instant tents go, the Gazelle T3x takes the cake. It’s also offered in a 4-person variation.
The Coleman Skydome 4-Person is my choice for the best dome waterproof tent. This option offers a spacious interior, a large vestibule, and a full-length rainfly. When set up, the tent will be ready to keep you dry in wet weather. With vestibules and doors open, this Coleman dome tent vents effectively. For more airflow, take the fly off and let air vent through the mesh roof.
While the price is also very agreeable and budget buys are great for getting into the outdoors quickly, they tend to suffer from long-term durability issues. The skydome unfortunately has this problem. However, if you’re a casual camper, the price, ease of set up, tall peak height (4 ft. 7 in.), and 56 square feet of space are standout highlights.
The TETON Sports Mountain Ultra Backpacking Tent is a bargain and the best 3-person waterproof camping tent out there. The price point for a tent of this quality is unbeatable, and if that doesn’t convince you, maybe the superb mesh ventilation or full-length rainfly will. It also comes with 2 doors and two vestibules. To cap it all off, this thing is a rock in stormy weather.
The only downside to this affordable tent is a couple of small durability issues over time. Namely, the zippers tend to get caught on things easily, so you’ll have to be gentle. Additionally, I wouldn’t count on the tent performing well in freezing temperatures. It’s 3-season capable but not 4.
If you want the quality of a much more expensive model in a 3-person tent package that still stops the rain, the Teton Sports Mountain Ultra Backpacking Tent is for you.
Waterproof Tent Buying Guide
Getting a good camping experience is paramount if you ever want to camp again, so a tent that keeps you dry during storms is a great move. Use the criteria below to zero in on the perfect tent that will keep you dry when the heavens open.
Price & Value
Waterproof tents are usually more expensive than regular tents because of their hardy designs, durability, and water resistance. A great deal for a waterproof tent would be anywhere south of $200. Mid-range waterproof tents will usually cost somewhere between $250-500. The high end of the range, including canvas tents and tents with premium features, goes up to about $1200.
Tents come in a few varieties, but the most common are dome tents and cabin tents. The Gazelle T3X is a hub tent that expands out from a central point via spring-loaded tent poles.
Dome tents are the most popular for backpacking because of their ability to sheet off precipitation and minimize air resistance. Cabin tents, like the Big Agnes Bunk House, have straighter walls, so more vertical space, but are subject to rattling around in strong winds. Make sure those tent stakes and guy lines are secure!
Ultimately, weight is the biggest factor in deciding whether or not a tent is for the backcountry or front country. Lightweight tents, anywhere from 2-5 lbs., are perfect for carrying on your back (along with other backpacking gear). While you can easily carry more weight if it's distributed between a group, the heavier the tent, the less likely you are to carry it into the woods.
Exceptions can be made for burly mountaineering tents, where the increased weight goes to durable tent materials, waterproof materials (rainfly and polyurethane coating), and stronger tent poles. Frontcountry tents can weigh anywhere from 20 to 80 lbs. And while that may seem crazy, if you’re camping right next to your car, the weight matters a bit less.
A rainfly is a tent layer meant to go over the tent body in wet weather. It usually has a waterproof coating and can withstand heavy rains. For many backpacking tents, it’s the space between a tent body and a deployed rainfly that creates your vestibule. Rainfly's don’t always extend the full length of the tent. However, some tent walls also have waterproof ratings.
A full rainfly will bulletproof your setup against harsh conditions. However, this does have an impact on ventilation. The more waterproof the setup is, the likelier that it will get warm inside. This is great for colder climates but may be a detriment in hot weather.
Your tent floor takes a lot of abuse over time. It’s worth investing in a footprint or picking a tent that comes with one to help keep your tent floor happy. Waterproof floors are usually made from nylon or thicker polyester and a polyurethane coating.
Most tents also use a combination of mesh and polyester in the tent body construction. If the tent base, which is thicker and often waterproof, comes up around the sides of the tent for a few inches, it's said to have a bathtub floor. This means that rain splashing or polling outside the tent can’t come in as long as the bathtub floor is higher than the puddles.
However, that doesn't guarantee abrasion resistance. Get into the habit of doing things like taking your shoes off and using footprints, sleeping pads, and gear lofts. Each of these practices and additions will help keep abrasive objects off the floor for longer overall durability.
Waterproof materials usually come from a polyurethane coating over tent fabrics and a full-coverage rainfly. In some cases, you can get a waterproof rating, also known as a hydrostatic head rating. The hydrostatic head rating is represented in millimeters. It measures how much water pressure a tent can handle before water gets in.
Any tent claiming to employ waterproof fabric needs at least a 1200 mm hydrostatic head rating for the rainfly, which can handle most normal storms and rains. 1200 equates to the pressure of being 12 meters underwater. Anything higher, like the Limestone 4, provides better coverage for heavy rain. Tent floor fabrics can also have a rating, usually in the 1,500-3,000 mm range.
The frustrating thing is that some tents don’t use this system. Proprietary waterproofing methods like MSR’s Durashield don’t use the system but can be expected to perform at a 1200 mm level. Canvas tents also don’t use this system, but treated canvas is fully waterproof and capable of dealing with heavy rain and winds while keeping the inside of the tent dry.
Ventilation & Breathability
Ventilation is an important concern, especially in warmer climates. Some waterproof tents do this well, and some don’t. If a tent has a good combination of waterproofing and ventilation, they’ll employ a bathtub floor that connects to large areas of mesh. That way, you can flip off the rainfly and use the mesh to circulate air through the tent.
Some tents also use artfully placed vents. If your tent has ground vents, wall vents, or ceiling vents, make sure to use them to increase airflow. If a storm is forecast, shut them down to prevent moisture from coming through. In options too large to peel a rainfly, like with canvas, utilize the doors, screens, and awnings to create air circulation.
Lightweight & Portability
If you’re interested in camping or backpacking a long way from a trailhead, you want a portable and lightweight setup. These tents have great waterproofing, but their biggest benefit is being lightweight (under 4 pounds, all in). The Sea to Summit Alto TR2, Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2, and MSR Access 2 are examples.
The downside is less space and comfort for longer stays. The waterproof rating is also good at 1200 mm, but won’t be able to handle a wet storm system that sticks around for more than a day or two. However, if you’re hiking a long trail or backpacking, you don’t always need the extra comfort or bombproof weather resistance. In that case, lightweight is the way to go.
Portability refers to the bags the tent came in and how easy it is to get the pieces back in there. You can test portability by looking at the product description and testing the tent in your own yard before taking it out on the trail. Having a tent fit right back into its assigned bags is a space and time saver, two big positives for backpacking.
Ease Of Setup
All the tents in this article have a relatively easy set-up time. They are not instant tents, which use pre-attached poles to expedite the assembly, but they won’t take much longer than a few minutes. Even the Kodiak Canvas Bow can be built in about half an hour for inexperienced campers, provided they have the instructions.
In all scenarios, I advocate for a trial run. Set your new tent up in your yard in the middle of the day so you can go step by step and get everything to fit where it should. This not only helps you practice assembly, but it also translates to less hassle if you ever need to deploy your tent quickly because of weather or a lack of sunlight in the future.
Durability & Quality
Durability usually comes at the expense of weight. And while rainproof tents like the Sea to Summit Alto TR2 aren’t flimsy, they feature more mesh and lightweight materials, which can rip. If you’re a seasoned backpacker, that won’t be a huge issue. But, if you're a little aggressive with your gear or need a tent to handle adverse weather often, something durable will help.
The Marmot LImestone 4, Kodiak Canvas Tent, and MSR Hubba Hubba offer a little more durability than the lightest tents on our list. Again, less durability does not mean less quality; it just means you have to be more careful with the tent components over time. If you know that may be a problem, opt for something a little stronger.
The best option for families is the massive Kodiak Canvas Flex-Bow Tent, which has vertical tent walls and 140 sq. ft. of space. And for bargain hunters, the Teton Sports Mountain Ultra Tent is a high-quality and affordable tent.
Yes. If the hydrostatic head rating is 1200 mm or higher, the tent is waterproof. However, that doesn’t mean all parts of the tent are rated this way. For example, mesh is not waterproof. And, as mentioned above, not all tents use the hydrostatic head ratings. If your tent doesn’t, check for proprietary waterproof technology or canvas.
The short answer is condensation or a misplaced rainfly. The key is to stretch the rainfly over the tent body while making sure the two materials don't touch. If they do, water can transfer through the materials and gather on tent poles.
The other answer has to do with waterproofing. If a tent is waterproof, no rain gets in, but no moisture escapes either. Your body heat or any humidity within the tent will gather as condensation if it can’t find its way out. The solution is to make sure to open vents or peel back the rainfly when the wet weather ends to help that humidity escape.
Treated canvas is fully waterproof but can be prohibitively heavy. For backpacking tents, look for ripstop nylon and polyester blends that have a polyurethane coating, which provides a waterproof rating. Make sure tent seams are sealed as well. Mesh is NOT waterproof.
They can be. My budget pick, the TETON Sports Mountain Ultra Tent, has a waterproof polyurethane coating and holds up well in storms thanks to a full-coverage rainfly. The key is to evaluate whether the rainfly has a waterproof coating or is a full-length rainfly. You can also use tent waterproofing sprays, like Nikwax, to reseal a tent.
Unfortunately, not all tents use the same system. But if your favorite option has a waterproof rating, make sure the full-length rainfly is at least 1200 mm and that the tent floor has around a 1500-3000 mm rating. Bathtub floors also help a lot.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.