Every rooftop camper makes a big sensation out of condensation - primarily because RTTs offer a small liveable space and also the abundance of metal materials that they're made of. But it's easy to manage!
Did you know every adult will breathe out approximately 1/3 of a can of drink's worth of moisture every night - all of which contributes to condensation? Warm air (containing moisture) hits colder materials on a tent and forms droplets of water. That water will eventually run off down the side of a tent and pool on the ground or under the mattress of a rooftop tent.
Condensation can lead to a damp and uncomfortable camping experience, but there are several strategies to minimise its impact. Let's explore practical ways to reduce condensation build-up in tents, ensuring a more comfortable outdoor adventure.
1. Ventilation is Key:
Adequate ventilation is crucial in preventing condensation. Ensure your tent has sufficient vents, and when setting up camp, position the tent in a way that maximises airflow. Leave doors and windows partially open, allowing fresh air to circulate through the tent and reducing the likelihood of condensation. Adding a small solar or USB-powered fan ($15-50) does wonders too. Tents that offer a sun/moon roof can help create more airflow directly above our mouths when we're breathing. But see point #7 regarding a good sleep system to allow more open windows.
2. Choose the Right Campsite:
Opt for campsites with good natural ventilation. Avoid low-lying areas (like next to a river in the High Country) where cold air tends to settle, and instead, choose higher ground where air circulation is better. Camping near bodies of water can also contribute to condensation, so maintain a reasonable distance from lakes, rivers, or streams.
3. Use a Rainfly Wisely:
Rainflies are essential for keeping rain out, but they can also trap moisture inside the tent. When conditions allow, roll up or partially unzip the rainfly to promote better airflow. This helps in balancing protection from the elements with the need for ventilation.
4. Select the Right Tent Material:
Choose a tent made from breathable materials. Modern tents often come with advanced materials that balance waterproofing with breathability. Look for tents with adequate mesh panels, as they promote better airflow and help reduce condensation. Some RTTs like iKamper use a more breathable canvas than most other brands that use a Poly Cotton, but in the right (or wrong) conditions, you'll still get condensation - but not pools and pools of water.
5. Pitching Under Trees:
While it might seem counterintuitive, setting up your tent under a tree can provide some protection from condensation. Tree canopies can shield the tent from direct exposure to the night sky, reducing the temperature difference that contributes to condensation. Make sure you're not camping under Gums though and especially not during high winds!
6. Manage Wet Gear:
Keep wet gear and clothing outside the tent. Wet items introduce moisture into the tent, increasing the likelihood of condensation. Use the vestibule or a separate tarp to store wet gear, ensuring the interior of the tent stays dry - use shoe bags for boots/socks or tuck them under the tent, above the car roof - just wrap your socks over the opening of your shoes so you don't get spiders/snakes/scorpions.
7. Invest in a Quality Sleeping Bag and Mat:
Quality sleeping bags and mats not only keep you warm but also provide insulation from the cold ground & cold surface of a aluminium roof tent base. Cold surfaces can contribute to condensation, so invest in gear that helps regulate temperature and moisture. Investing in really good gear and good apparel will allow you to unzip the windows further to maximise airflow. Don't rely on the tent to keep you warm - rely instead on insulated mats, good down sleeping bag, a liner & good base layers (and beanie) comfortable for sleeping. It's a game-changer!!
8. Cooking Outside the Tent:
Not something you'd usually do in a rooftop tent, but inside larger tents and hiking tents, cooking can introduce moisture into the air, contributing to condensation. Whenever possible, cook outside the tent or use a well-ventilated camping stove. This not only helps in reducing condensation but also minimizes the risk of carbon monoxide exposure.
9. Wipe Down Interior Surfaces:
In the morning, wipe down the interior surfaces of your tent to remove any condensation that may have formed overnight. Use a microfiber cloth or a small towel to absorb excess moisture, preventing it from soaking into the tent material or seep down into the base of a RTT under the mattress. Condensation mats don't really help with prevention - they help to circulate some air under the mat (once you're off it)
10. Determine your sunrise and position for it:
We do a lot of rooftop camping and we often will take note of the sun's path during the day to determine if we can position the car/tent where it'll get hit with sunlight first thing in the morning. It helps to dry any condensation forming and also takes care of the dew on the outside too. This makes for a comfortable sleep-in but also ensures the tent is as dry as possible before we move on to the next destination later in the morning. If the tent is packed away wet/damp, we just make sure we arrive at the next stop in time for some afternoon sun - or stop for a beer in a small town and pop the tent in the sun while you're having lunch. Another benefit to rooftop camping!