What to Know About Tent Waterproof Rating

CampingJerry Lee

Whether you're a camping pro or just getting ready for your first outdoor adventure, when it comes to selecting a tent, one of the most important considerations is the waterproof rating on tents. While not all tents need to be 100 percent watertight, understanding what goes into making a tent waterproof and how high of a rating you'll actually need can help ensure that your camping experience remains comfortable and hassle-free. In this blog post, we'll explain everything you need to know about tent waterproof ratings so that you can select the perfect shelter for any weather conditions.


What Is a Waterproof Rating?

A tent waterproof rating refers to the measure of a tent's ability to resist water penetration. It quantifies the amount of water pressure a tent fabric can withstand before it starts to leak. The rating is typically expressed in millimeters (mm) and indicates the height of a column of water that the fabric can resist before water begins to seep through.

How Is Waterproof Rating Measured on a Tent?


To determine the waterproof rating of a tent, manufacturers conduct tests using a method called the hydrostatic head (HH) test. The fabric is monitored for the first signs of water penetration. The height of the water in millimeters at the point of leakage becomes the tent's waterproof rating. Here's how the measurement process generally works:

  1. Fabric Sample: A small sample of the tent fabric is taken for testing purposes. This sample represents the overall waterproofing capabilities of the fabric used in the tent.
  2. Test Apparatus: The fabric sample is clamped or secured onto the bottom of a graded tube or cylinder. This tube is usually transparent to allow for easy observation of water penetration.
  3. Water Application: The tube is slowly filled with water, ensuring that the water pressure gradually increases on the fabric.
  4. Observation: As water is applied, the fabric is observed for the first signs of water penetration. This could be in the form of visible droplets or dampness on the opposite side of the fabric.
  5. Measurement: The height of the water column in millimeters at the point of water penetration is measured. This measurement represents the fabric's waterproof rating.

The measured height, expressed in millimeters, indicates the amount of water pressure the fabric can withstand before it starts to leak. For example, if the water penetrates the fabric when the height of the water column reaches 1,500mm, then it is a 1500mm waterproof rating tent.

By conducting the HH test, tent manufacturers can determine the waterproof rating of their fabrics and provide consumers with a standardized measurement that helps in comparing and selecting tents suitable for specific weather conditions.

It's important to note that the HH test is conducted in controlled laboratory conditions and does not account for real-world factors such as wind-driven rain, the effect of gravity on rain, or the pressure applied by individuals standing or sitting on the fabric. Additionally, the test does not consider factors like seam sealing, fabric quality, or tent design, which can also influence a tent's overall waterproofing capabilities.

Is a Higher Waterproof Rating Better?

While it may seem intuitive to assume that the highest rating is the best waterproof rating for tents , the reality is a bit more nuanced. While a higher waterproof rating generally indicates a fabric's ability to withstand greater water pressure before leaking, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Use and Conditions: The appropriate waterproof rating depends on the intended use and expected weather conditions. For example, two-season tents designed for mild weather may have lower ratings, around 1,000mm, which are sufficient to withstand light rain. On the other hand, all-season tents, designed for more varied weather conditions, often have ratings ranging from 1,500mm to 5,000mm or higher.
  • Weight and Durability: Increasing the waterproof rating often involves applying additional coatings or treatments to the fabric, which can make it heavier and stiffer. This may not be desirable if you prioritize a lightweight and flexible tent. It's important to find a balance between a high enough waterproof rating for your needs and other factors like weight and durability.
  • Other Waterproofing Factors: A tent's overall waterproof performance is not solely determined by its rating. Factors such as proper stitching, sealed seams, and a well-designed structure also play a crucial role in preventing leaks. Even a tent with a high waterproof rating can still experience water penetration if these other aspects are not adequately addressed.
  • Cost: Tents with higher waterproof ratings may be more expensive due to the additional materials and treatments used. It's important to consider your budget and whether the higher rating is necessary for your specific camping needs.

Ultimately, the most suitable waterproof rating for a tent depends on factors such as the expected weather conditions, intended use, weight preferences, and budget. It's essential to assess these factors and strike a balance between a waterproof rating that meets your requirements and other considerations such as weight, durability, and cost.

Which Waterproof Rating Is Suitable for Which Condition?


The highest waterproof rating tent could reach 10,000mm, but the tent waterproof rating common range is between 1,000 to 5,000. Here's of tent waterproof rating (mm) for different conditions:

  • 1,000 mm: This rating represents the minimum threshold for keeping you dry during a rain shower. While it may not provide a robust defense against heavy rainfall, it is adequate for camping in dry weather or encountering light rain.
  • 2,000 mm: The 2000 mm waterproof rating tent has the ability to endure moderately heavy rainfall for a few hours. They provide superior protection compared to tents with a 1,000 mm rating.
  • 3,000 mm: The 3000mm waterproof rating tent can effectively keep you dry even in the face of continuous rainfall.
  • 4,000 mm: Tents with a 4,000 mm rating are highly reliable and can withstand heavy rain without water penetration, even under significant force.
  • 5,000 mm: Tents in this rating range are considered premium and offer exceptional waterproofing. They provide reliable protection even in extremely heavy rain, making them suitable for various weather conditions.

It's important to note that these ratings are general guidelines, and other factors like seam sealing, tent design, and overall construction quality can also influence a tent's ability to keep you dry. Additionally, personal preferences and the specific environmental conditions you expect to encounter should be considered when selecting a camping tent.


When choosing a waterproof tent for camping, it is important to consider factors such as fabric quality, weight, durability, stitching, sealed seams, and tent design. Higher waterproof ratings generally indicate better water resistance, but other factors are also important. By assessing the expected weather conditions and matching them with an appropriate waterproof rating, you can ensure a comfortable and enjoyable camping experience.