Seam Sealing a Tarp Tent

I’ve owned my Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo tarp tent for about a year. When I bought it, I didn’t bother seam sealing it and it has withstood many torrential rain storms without any internal dripping whatsoever. This season I plan to spend a lot of time hiking in Vermont where it rains a lot, so I decided to seal the seams this weekend, just in case they’ve worked a bit loose.

The Lunar Solo is a one person lightweight tarp tent that weighs around 25 oz. Like most tarp tents, a bathtub floor is connected to noseeum netting that runs around the floor’s perimeter and is then connected to an overhead tarp. This system lets you adjust how much space there is between the bottom sides of the tarp and the ground: if you want more ventilation and less internal condensation, you would keep a large air gap between the ground and the tarp.

In order to seam seal a tarp tent like the Lunar Solo, the seams that you want to protect the most are the ones that connect the noseeum mesh to the tarp. These are the seams that will bleed water onto your sleeping bag in a torrential rain. There’s really no point in sealing the tent floor to the noseeum netting, because rain water can easily jump the seam.

So, before I started seam sealing, I tacked my Lunar solo to the wall of my garage, where you can see it’s distinctive pentagon floor pattern. I smoothed out all of the seams and focused on those that ran around the perimeter about 1/3 of the way up the side of the tent from the ground. This is where the heaviest external stitching is. If you look closely, you can see an inner pentagon of seams on the tarp in the picture below.

Normally, I use SilNet for sealing tents. It is a viscous silicone sealant that you can apply with a big syringe or a brush. However, today, I decided to try some new sealer called Seam Lock that I purchased at REI. Seam Lock has the consistency of water and is nowhere as viscous as Silnet. This makes it faster to apply, but it is easier to mess up your seam sealing job if you’re not prepared or careless. For novices, I would recommend you stick with Silnet until you really understand how to seam seal a tent.

Seam Seal Products

Seam Seal Products

Before you get started seam sealing you want to make sure you have a small brush and some paper towels handy in case the sealant gets away from you. You goal is to get sealant to soak into the stitching of a seam in order to prevent water from seaping in when it rains or snows. If the stitching is not exposed, you want to fill the little canyon where two peices of fabric are joined. The sealant will be pulled into the hidden stiching by capilary action. The following two pictures illustrate this.

 

When applying the REI Seal Lock, you need to touch the tip of the bottle to the stitching or crevasse you want to cover. I normally position the tip or a syringe full of sealer above the seam or stitching so that it gets sucked into the gaps between the tent and the stitches as it descends. This was trickier with the Seal Lock than Silnet because it is less viscous. Seal Locks tends to create droplets if you lay it on a little too thick, but if you have your brush handy you can redirect the extra back to the seam.

When I use Silnet to seam seal a tent, it can take several hours and multiple tubes to finish the job. Not so with REI Seal Lock. I was able to apply three coats (necessary because it is less thick) to the seams in under an hour and I still had plenty of sealer left to do another tent. Time will tell if Seal Lock is as effective a seam sealer as Silnet.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

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