Thru Hiker
Thru Hiker (courtesy, Mountain Hardwear)
Gear Guy

Is there such a thing as a wet sleeper when it comes to condensation in tents?

Whether it's been backpacking in Norway in March or Canyonlands in July, I always wake up in a condensation-filled tent. I spend three seasons in a Mountain Hardwear Thru Hiker and winter in a Sierra Designs Tiros, and have never heard complaints about condensation problems in these tents. Nonetheless, I inevitably awake with a wet floor and dripping, frosty walls. Is there such a thing as a wet sleeper? (And thank you in advance for forgoing the tent-wetting jokes and speculation.) Beckett Mansfield, Ohio

Thru Hiker

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How interesting. I’ve used both those tents—or tents very much like them—and have experienced minimal condensation problems. So I’m a little at a loss to explain this, except perhaps to say, yes, maybe you do give off more moisture than the average person. It’s entirely possible—most people exude a pint or so of liquid during the night, a combination of moisture expelled while breathing and moisture that evaporates from the skin. No doubt, there is a classic bell-curve chart that could be derived and that would put some people on the low-moisture end, others at the high-moisture terminus.

Thru Hiker Thru Hiker

Still, you do offer another hint—your comment about “frosty walls.” It’s definitely true that certain conditions lend themselves to condensation in tents, and from my own experience that’s often when it’s right around freezing. That’s because when the tent walls are cold, they’re most likely to cause the warm, moist air emitted by its occupants to condense. When it’s very cold—below ten degrees—it’s entirely possible for a layer of frost to form over much of the tent’s interior, especially when conditions are very still.

So ways to minimize condensation in your tent? One is to adjust doors and windows so that cold air can come in from the lower portion of the tent, and warm air can escape from the upper part. Another is to pitch the tent so its doors and windows catch any breeze, venting out moist air. And, it never hurts to pack a small camp towel, so you can do a little swabbing up in the morning if needs be.

Sweet dreams! And please applaud my restraint in not rising to your bait.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: courtesy, Mountain Hardwear

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