How To Pack A Wet Tent [Do It Correctly]

Picture this, you’re camping in the woods, and a rainstorm starts pouring down out of nowhere, leaving everything drenched. Therefore, you decide to leave as soon as possible before the next one hits.

But what to do with that soaking wet tent? Is simply packing it up a good idea?

Having to deal with such a situation can be overwhelming. After all, packing a wet tent is never a good idea since mold, mildew, fungus, and all sorts of nasty things can grow on the material.

Nonetheless, there aren’t many options when you’re hurrying to escape the woods before another storm sets in.

That’s why you need to learn how to pack a wet tent properly. And in this article, we’ll show you how.

How To Pack A Wet Tent: Step By Step Guide

wet tent

You’ll need two plastic garbage bags to properly pack your wet tent. You should use those that are large enough to cover your tent, but not bigger.

Paper or fabric bags will not work for this step because they won’t hold water as a plastic garbage bag would. Proceed as follows once you have them ready.

Step 1: Clean Up Your Tent Thoroughly

Before you start packing, check your tent for dirt and debris. After all, the last thing you want to do is pack the tent with mud and leaves on the inside.

To clean your tent, remove any dirt or debris from the tent floor first. Then, wash your tent thoroughly, including its seams, where water could seep in during a rainstorm.

Pay special attention to areas that may be hard to reach or difficult to clean by hand, like corners or crevices between poles and sleeves – these are prime spots for mold growth.

Also, make sure there aren’t any tears in any part of your tarpaulin because if water gets trapped there, it could damage other portions of the structure itself (such as folding joints).

Step 2: Unclip The Poles And Remove The Stakes

The next step is to disassemble your tent by unclipping the poles and removing the stakes. Do this carefully to not damage any part of the structure since your tent material is more vulnerable when wet.

If you can, leave the poles and stakes outside in the sun to dry off. Otherwise, lay them out on a towel or tarp in a well-ventilated area. Be sure not to pack them in the same bag as your tent.

Step 3: Shake Off As Much Water As Possible

Once your tent is disassembled, shake off as much water as possible. It’s good to ask a friend to give you a hand since it can be hard to keep your balance while shaking out the tent.

If possible, hang it somewhere where it can drip dry for an hour or so: on a clothesline or tree branch will do fine.

Step 4: Wipe It Down With A Towel

Now that you’ve gotten your tent as water-free as possible, it’s time to ensure as little moisture as possible.

Use a towel to wipe off any remaining water on your rainfly and tent. If possible, use a fan or other source of ventilation to get rid of even more moisture in the air.

Step 5: Prepare The Garbage Bags

Now it’s time to prepare the garbage bags where you’ll pack your wet tent. Take two of them and cut them about a foot down from the top. You should have excess plastic at the bottom of each one; this is where you will place your tent when putting it in its bag.

Your garbage bags must be big enough to allow your wet tent to fit inside without problems. If they aren’t wide enough for that purpose, you can use tape or another method of making them wider (such as folding them over).

The goal here is to ensure that there won’t be any leaks from water seeping out around the edges or where there’s an opening between one bag and another – even if they aren’t sealed perfectly shut by themselves.

Step 6: Roll Up One Bag

With one garbage bag, lay your tent out and roll it up, just like you would if you were packing it in dry conditions.

Make sure the tent is rolled up tightly so that no water gets inside. If water does get inside the tent when you unpack it at your destination, all of the air will get squeezed out, and your tent will be flat.

Ensure there is no water around or in the bagged-up wet tent before sealing any openings with tape or plastic wrap.

Step 7: Roll Up The Second Bag Covering The First One

Roll up the second garbage bag until it covers the tent completely, like a burrito. This will keep water from entering your wet tent and make it heavier.

It’s also a good idea to use duct tape along the end of this second bag so that it seals shut as tightly as possible. The less water that gets into your wet tent, the better.

You may have to adjust the amount of plastic you’ve cut off the top so that both bags are equal in size. That way, when you close them up, they’ll be the same size, making it easier to seal them shut.

Step 8: Tie The Package Securely With A Twine

Once you have wrapped up your wet tent in the tarp, use a piece of twine to tie this “burrito” together, ensuring that no water can seep inside.

Make sure the twine is long enough so that you can tie it around the entire circumference of your wet tent package.

Step 9: Pack The Package In Your Tent’s Storage Bag

The final step is to put your wet tent package in the storage bag that came with your tent, and you’ll be ready to go.

If your storage bag isn’t big enough, you can use another garbage bag or a different type of storage container. Just be sure that whatever you use is large enough so that your wet tent can fit inside without being too cramped.

Step 10: Put An Odor-Neutralizer Pack Inside

This step isn’t mandatory, but it can help to keep your tent smelling fresh. You can buy an odor-neutralizer pack at most sporting goods stores.

Just put one of these inside your storage bag, and it will help keep the smell down. Besides, it’ll also provide added protection against mildew and mold.

Things To Do After Reaching Home

After getting home with your packed wet tent, it is essential to unpack and air out your tent as soon as possible. If you can’t set up your tent right away, take it out of the storage container and let it air out in a dry, shady spot.

Leaving a damp or wet tent packed up for too long can create the perfect environment for mold and mildew to take hold, so it’s important to unpack it as soon as you can.

Once you’ve unpacked your tent, be sure to give it a thorough inspection for any mold or mildew growth. If you see any, be sure to clean it off immediately.

You can use a mixture of water and vinegar or water and baking soda to kill mold and mildew. Once it’s dry, you can pack it away again for future use.

Why Packing A Wet Tent Isn’t Recommended

The main consequence of storing a wet tent is developing mold and mildew, which can be hard to remove. Mold and mildew can also cause your tent fabric to degrade over time, making it more susceptible to tears and holes.

Another problem with storing a wet tent is that the weight of the water inside can make the fabric sag, making it difficult to set up your tent again later on.

If you have to store a wet tent, be sure to unpack it and air it out as soon as possible. And, if you see any mold or mildew developing, be sure to clean it off right away.

How Long Can You Store A Wet Tent?

You shouldn’t keep a wet tent packed away for more than 48 hours, or else it will start to mildew.

If you know you won’t be able to unpack your tent within that time frame, it’s best to pitch it and let it air out as soon as possible.

Can You Pack Away A Waterproof Tent While It’s Wet?

You could—but there are some caveats. Waterproof tents are made from materials that can withstand water infiltration, but they aren’t completely impervious to moisture.

Even if your tent is waterproof, water can get stuck in between the crevices and cause mold growth that may damage the fabric and compromise its ability to keep you dry in the future.


Hopefully, the tips above have brightened your mind on how to pack a wet tent. They’re not too different from packing up a dry one, but as you can see, there are a few crucial differences.

Be sure to keep them in mind in the future just in case you have to pack up a soaking wet tent. But if you do have the time and a place to dry it, you’ll want to completely dry the whole thing out before packing it up again.

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Fred Hoffman

Hey, I'm Fred Hoffman, founder of The True Wilderness. I've been exploring nature since I could walk, and my passion for it never ends. My mission is to show people that there's more to life than just the city. There's a whole world of beauty waiting for them out there, and I hope to inspire as many people as possible to get out and explore. I love to share the experience I've gathered throughout my life to make everyone's outdoor adventure smooth and enjoyable.

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