What is a Rainfly? And What Does a Rainfly do?

Let’s discuss the unsung hero of camping in wet conditions—the rainfly!

Picture this: you’re out in the great outdoors, all ready to set up camp and embrace nature’s wonders. But, oh no, the weather decides to unleash a downpour. Cue the rainfly, your trusty sidekick, in the battle against soggy socks and damp sleeping bags. It’s like a magical cape that swoops over your tent.

What Does a Rainfly Do?

Growing up in a very wet climate, I know the importance of a good rainfly. A rainfly is an added layer of protection for your tent. It can keep you warmer and dryer while camping in wet, cold climates. 

A rainfly is an essential component of outdoor gear, particularly tents. It’s a protective covering that goes over the top of a tent to shield it from rain, snow, and other elements. Think of it as a waterproof and weather-resistant layer that protects your tent, preventing water from seeping through the fabric and keeping you dry and comfortable inside.

A rainfly should always have a little space between it and the tent. This allows for airflow to go between the two materials. If the rainfly is lying on the tent, the moisture will just go right from the rainfly to the tent. 

When Is a Rain Fly Necessary?

A rainfly is simple to assemble and attach to your tent. They usually come with ropes, guy lines, and stakes to keep them in place over the tent. Some even come with poles to keep the shape of the rain fly. 

A rainfly is necessary whenever you encounter cold, wet, or windy weather while camping. But it’s not just great for wet conditions. A rain fly can also protect you from windy weather and serve as a windbreak for your tent. 

We like to use our rainfly if there is any chance of getting rain. We also will use it to protect us from morning dew. Nothing like waking up to drops of cold dew on your face. 

A rainfly is relatively easy to remove and can be removed during the day for more ventilation inside your tent. This is also a great way to dry out your rainfly if it’s wet. Then just put it back on before the sun goes down. 

Can You Buy a Rainfly for a Tent?

You can buy a separate rainfly for a tent, but most tents will come with one that is integrated or detachable, depending on the type of tent.

Large tent companies sell rain flies for specific sizes of tents if they get damaged and have to be replaced. Contact the manufacturer to see what options they have.

A tarp is also an option, but not ideal. A tarp is not fitted for your tent but can work well in a pinch. It also will not have any integrated poles to keep a shape.

Tarps can be heavy and difficult to work with but are super waterproof. 

Are Two Rainflys Better Than One?

No, two rain flies are rarely a good idea. If you have a rainfly that doesn’t cover your tent well, use a tarp suspended well above your tent for an added layer of protection. Ideally, you want a large rainfly covering most of your tent.

A second rainfly will encourage mold to grow and affect the ventilation of your tent. I grew up in a wet climate, so mold was a constant problem with tents. In addition, it was challenging to get the tent and rainfly fully dry after our camping trips.

We also used a tarp, but only when it was raining buckets. Use a tarp for an added layer if you have to. If your current rainfly doesn’t seem big enough, purchase a larger one before heading out on your next trip.

On a side note, we always put a trap under our tent. Our tent does have a durable floor, but a tarp that fits just under the tent will help keep moisture out.

It will also help with tent insulation and keep your tent clean. We don’t care if our tarps get dirty but keep our tents clean. 

Why would a tent not have a rainfly? 

Not all tents have or need a rainfly. Canvas tents are designed not to need a rainfly. The canvas material is naturally water-resistant and also provides excellent ventilation.

If you were in extremely wet conditions, a canvas tent might benefit from a tarp suspended well above the tent. 

Dome tents tend to have a full coverage rainfly. A dome tent’s shape allows a rainfly to cover the entire tent. Cabin tents and pop-up tents tend to have smaller rainfly.

These do not provide much coverage. You may need a tarp for better coverage if you have a cabin or pop-up tent.

Are Rainflys Waterproof?

Most rain flys are water-resistant. This is very different from waterproofing. It should be waterproofed for a rain fly to work best for you. The best rainfly is a waterproof rain fly.

It is simple to waterproof your rainfly. You just need some waterproofing spray, be sure to spray both sides of the rain fly. Then, allow it to completely dry and do more coats if you feel it is necessary. 

You can be the judge, but it’s good to spray your tent once a year, especially if you frequently camp in wet conditions. After all, your rainfly is your best protection against a wet tent. 

The waterproofing agent will also wear off and become less effective over the years. Another good reason to give it a fresh coat every couple of years.

How Should I Care for a Rainfly?

Over time, a rainfly can become weak and may need extra care. As discussed above, keep up with waterproofing your tent rainfly every couple of years.

If your rainfly gets a hole, it can be easily repaired with a patch kit. You will need patching tape, seam grip, alcohol for cleaning, and some waterproof spray.

Clean off both sides of the rainfly with alcohol and a cloth. Let it dry before adding patching tape to both sides. Once you have pressed these together firmly, add seam grip to the edges of the tape. Do this to both sides. 

Allow your patched-up rainfly to dry for at least 12 hours. Afterward, you must reapply the waterproof spray to this area and let it dry again. 

If the rainfly becomes dirty, clean it with a tent cleaner and be very gentle. Be sure to allow the rainfly plenty of time to dry.

What Is the Best Way to Store a Rainfly?

The most important thing to remember with storing your rainfly is to dry it before packing it away. Mold is the most significant factor in taking care of your tent rainfly. 

Keep your rainfly as clean as you reasonably can; it will last years. Try to fold it up and keep it separate from the tent bag. 

It is a challenge to get your tent back in the bag, and if you also are stuffing in the rainfly, it could get damaged. For example, we caught the fabric of our rainfly in a zipper when we tried to add it to the tent bag.

It tore the material, and we had to fix it at home. 

It is best to store the rainfly with your tent in a spot where it won’t get too hot. You also want to keep it away from moisture, encouraging mold. 

This depends on where you live too. I grew up in a wet climate, and we constantly tried to keep our tent from getting moldy. So we kept our tent in the attic where it’s dry.

We now live in a hot and dry climate, so we don’t keep our tent in the attic. We aren’t worried about mold but the tent integrity breaking down in our hot attic.

Our attic can easily get over 130 degrees. So we keep our tent and rainfly inside the house in a spare closet. 

Let’s wrap it up

Camping rain flys are essential for keeping you and your tent dry. We hope this post was helpful and answered your questions about rain flys. 

Camping is much more fun when appropriately prepared with the right equipment. So get out there, and as always, camp s’more worry less.  

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Kris