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Tent, Caravan or Motorhome/Campervan Awning letting in rain? Sure it’s not CONDENSATION?

About this time of year, when the evening air gets a little cooler, we get even more phone calls and emails from campers, caravanners, motorhomers and campervanners who are enjoying the late-season use of their tents, caravan and motorhome/campervan awnings. 'Enjoying', except for their tented structures having suddenly sprung leaks and "letting in the rain".

We question, we listen, we advise – we even invite some customers to let us have their tents and awnings back in to us for intense leak-testing under our special 'weathering frame' structure that provides monsoon-like conditions - just to try and find that pesky little leak!

BUT, more often than not – actually, FAR more often than not – the culprit isn't rainwater at all, it’s just CONDENSATION. Here’s why... 

OK, it’s a long, long time since most of us at NCL learned this at school too...but, with a little help from that know-all, Google, these are the scientific basics:

| Air naturally contains a tiny amount of water vapour suspended in it – about 0.0017% of it to be precise, depending on the surrounding humidity.

| When warmer air meets a cooler surface, its water vapour content turns into liquid water, forming tiny droplets on the surface.

| The tiny droplets merge to form larger droplets and then, if the surface isn’t completely flat, into trickles (our technical term!). You know what 'trickles' can turn into? PUDDLES!

Apart from the usual air that’s normally inside an erected tent or awning, various other things can add to the amount of relatively warm, moist air that’s destined to add to those puddles of water...people and pets exhaling air (each of us will normally exhale around 400ml / 0.7 of a pint of water vapour per day!), the cooking process, eating hot food, making and drinking hot drinks, using a heater either in the awning/tent or in the adjoining caravan/motorhome/campervan, the fridge outlet pumping out warm air etc.

Typically, because the outside air tends to cool at night, condensation is waiting to greet us in the morning, making the inside walls of the tent or awning wet and sitting there on the groundsheet in the form of those tell-tale puddles.

This might explain why there’s water on the floor of the tent or awning, despite us not having heard any rain falling overnight (and we all know how loud a rain shower can sound when inside a tent, awning, or on the roof of a caravan or motorhome). All too often, the conclusion seems to be: “It must have rained in the night” and “The tent/awning must be leaking” and “This tent/awning is rubbish!”

No. It’s not just us making it up as an excuse – condensation is a scientific fact. Honestly!

So, in the face of this cosmic plot to dampen your best camping bed-socks first thing in the morning, what can you do to minimise condensation inside your tent or awning?

Preventative measures...

Maintain good ventilation throughout the structure to minimise the ‘warm air meets cold surface’ scenario – use the air vents built into most tents and awnings and try leaving external doors partly open to allow a decent – and healthy – flow of air (integrated mesh panels allow you to do this without the downside of letting all the bugs in, especially in the evening when they’re attracted by your lighting).

'Technical Cotton’ (TC) material – some tents and awnings are available with walls and roof sections made from 'Technical' Polycotton (like Kampa Dometic’s ‘Airflow’ and Vango’s ‘TC Polycotton’), a more natural-fibre Polycotton material than the typical man-made acrylic polyester material used for the majority of tents and awnings nowadays. TC material gives your structure extra ‘breathability’, helping to keep condensation to a minimum and generally making them more comfortable in use. (It’s also more durable and will stand up to prolonged use in adverse weather conditions, so expect to pay a little more for TC models.)   

Buy a roof-liner accessory – as manufacturers’ roof-liners maintain an air gap from the structure’s ceiling, they remain at a warmer temperature than the ceiling material that’s directly cooled by outside air, so can significantly reduce or even prevent moisture from forming – on the ceiling at least. See this example of a typical roof liner.

‘Outside Living’ – wherever you can – and weather-permitting – cook outside the tent or awning, then eat and drink in the great outdoors, lessening the amount of water vapour generated inside the structure. Alternatively, do this inside the caravan or motorhome – but don’t keep opening the door to the awning until the steam has cleared through your windows and roof-lights, otherwise you’re back to square one.

Invest in a dehumidifier – if condensation is an issue that’s spoiling the enjoyment of your leisure time, take a look at these simple and inexpensive dehumidifiers.

Invest in an absorbent sponge or cloth – and simply wipe up when necessary. (Failing this, reconsider whether ‘the outdoor life’ really is too much trouble for you to cope with - though you can get condensation on your windows at home too!)

Camping, caravanning, motorhoming and campervanning are partly about getting away from stressy day-to-day things and being in touch with nature. Condensation is as natural as it gets. Apart from taking any of the above countermeasures, you’d maybe better learn to live with it!

Well, if you’re still awake at the back, albeit dripping with condensation – but still not convinced – take a look at our condensation videos that apply the science to actual awnings on display at our store near Norwich. Here, our seasoned reviewer – Jordi – highlights the condensation problem, something we see every morning on our outdoor display tents and awnings, especially when the temperature starts to creep lower at night!

Happy camping, caravanning, motorhoming and campervanning!


Norwich Camping & Leisure Village, in Blofield, east of Norwich, Norfolk, has one of the UK’s largest seasonal outdoor displays of tents and awnings, plus indoor showroom displays of camping & caravanning equipment, outdoor clothing, garden furniture & buildings, fully-stocked garden centre and barbecues. Tent and awning brands include: Vango; Kampa; Dometic; Telta; Outdoor Revolution; Coleman; Outwell; Oztent; Quest; Royal; Wild Country; Zempire; Camptech; Dorema; Isabella; Sunncamp; Streetwize.       

The Leisure Village also has a farm shop, coffee shop, new & used campervan sales & hire and a professional-standard car, camper & caravan hand-wash station.

With over 50 years of experience and practical, friendly advice – plus FAST, FREE DELIVERY on orders over £100 (Terms & Conditions apply), our Best Price / Price Match Policy and low-rate finance terms why not find us online or come along and see us!    Tel: 01603 717600    [email protected]    Follow us on Twitter!