Soggy Tent Syndrome

March 17, 2017 - Willie Weir blogs for Adventure Cycling every other Friday.

Everyone who has bicycle toured and camped has been through this scenario: Rain soaks your tent. With cold hands, you break camp and stuff that wet, saturated tent and fly into the stuff sack. You then jam the whole mess into a pannier, or bungee cord it to the back rack. Then the sun comes out. Within minutes your brain completely forgets the soggy night and you blissfully pedal down the road. Life is good. 

You stop for lunch — maybe a diner or just simple fare on the side of the road. 

You pedal late into the evening, because the sun is shining, and maybe you have a bit of a tailwind.

The light is fading, so you search for a place to camp. Then you reach into your tent bag ... NOOOOOOO! In all those hours of blissful sun, you forgot to dry your tent. And all of that moisture has now saturated every square inch of your home away from home.

This happens more often with clear nights with heavy dew. The tent is just as wet, but since no foul weather was involved, it’s even easier to forget to dry that sucker out.

My question to you is ... how do YOU avoid Soggy Tent Syndrome? Seriously! I want you to share your wisdom and foolproof tips. Extra credit for tips with photos.

Thank you.

Photo by Willie Weir


SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday.

Willie Weir is a contributor for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can also find him at, Facebook, and Instagram.  


Tom March 28, 2017, 9:26 AM

My approach when I did RAGBRAI a few years ago was simply get to camp and IMMEDIATELY stake out a spot and set up the tent, and leave it with the air blowing through it while I get a bite to eat and other needs. Of course, if it was still raining, that probably wouldn't help.

Something else I'd mention: before heading out, ask yourself when was the last time you waterproofed the tent? My lovely wife came with me on Michigan's DALMAC one year as a non-riding accompanying person, and the night before starting we had a rip-roaring thunderstorm. And instead of the tent keeping us dry, we got misted with filtered water! The next day she drove ahead and spread the tent, the fly and the blankets out on a nice sunny soccer field at a high school, and they dried in minutes.

That's also why, before a tour, I use Google Maps to find laundromats (or motels with a coin laundry) near our overnight stops.

Clay March 22, 2017, 1:12 AM

Well like any bike trip 85% of it is mental so as long as the floor is dry so your bag is dry than I just make the best of it.

Robert Graves March 17, 2017, 2:39 PM

Get some chamois, it absorbs water amazingly, better than a sponge and can be wrung out. Wipe the tent down as much as possible, and yeah, as above, try to use a cargo net and flip it. Hang it on a rail or tree or something as soon as the sun comes out high enough. Shake. Keep some silica gel packs in the pannier if you later stuff it back. I bet tea tree oil would also help nuke pending mildew. Or pine oil.

Karla March 17, 2017, 1:26 PM

Grimaced at the familiarity of this story.

I've been striving to end my days earlier as an exercise in being more present and less movement driven. That is rewarded with pulling out the forgotten wet tent and having time for it to dry before dark (when days are long enough).

I do always pack my wet rainfly in separate waterproof bag from my dryer inside tent and shake the rain off the rainfly as much as possible before repitching to keep my sleeping space driest possible.

Ted March 17, 2017, 10:14 AM

Unfortunately no magic solution here: the only thing I've found that thoroughly dries the tent is to set it up in the sun (and preferably in the wind). However, when I'm feeling lazy (often), I stuff the tent into a cargo net on top of my bag on the rear rack, then flip it around a few times during the day. Doesn't completely dry the tent but it gets rid of the worst of the moisture, and certainly is better than leaving the tent in the stuff sack all day.

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