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Posted on January 04, 2017
A Little Bug Out during a snowstorm. In spite of the high-humidity environment, condensation was not a problem here due to the consistent 50 mph winds.
Condensation. It is a fact of life in the backcountry, often a nuisance, and in the wrong conditions can be a safety issue. How to manage condensation is one of the most frequent questions we get from customers and potential customers. This post is as comprehensive a guide as we can provide to managing condensation in our shelters, without veering into encyclopedic length.
Under the right (wrong) conditions condensation will occur in any shelter system. There is no definitive solution. When the air temperature drops to and then below the dew points physics demands that water vapor change to liquid. Because the silnylon wall of your tipi is usually all that stands between the warm sphere of your person and the cold night, your shelter is while camping a perfect condensation trap. You, the camper, cannot change physics, but you can influence the ways in which its laws are applied.
Running your wood stove in the morning can quickly vaporize and evaporate any condensation that formed in the night.
1: Pick a good site
Where you set up your tent can be enormously influential on how much condensation you experience. Using site selection to minimize the amount of moisture in the air near ground level, and to increase the amount of ventilation (aka wind) is a good first step towards having a satisfactory camp. Avoid camping too close to water, when possible, and set up your tent on benches or hilltops a decent ways above the bottom of a valley or canyon. Not only does this reduce the amount of moisture in the air, and thus the net condensation potential, it also generally results in a slightly warmer general air temperature.
2: Tune shelter size
All things being equal, condensation will be worse if more people are occupying a given shelter. If you often camp in still, humid conditions where condensation can be severe, using a Cimarron rather than a Silvertip for two people, and a 8 person tipi rather than a Redcliff for four, is probably a good normal to establish.
3: Vent for the conditions
Air flow kills condensation, so when conditions are tough ventilation is most important. Raising the hem of your tent using our lineloc kit is a good idea, in addition to opening all vents, and doors. If you expect both condensation-prone conditions and bug pressure simultaneously, using a nest or ordering your shelter with screen doors is wise, so your venting options do not conflict with the need to keep bugs out. Intentionally camping in exceptionally windy spots is also a good way to preempt condensation, as it allows the world at large to vent for you. As all Seek Outside shelters are endowed with excellent wind shedding, this option is more available to you than campers using other tents.
4: Use a liner
The liners we make available for all our larger tents not only keep condensation from dripping on to anyone in your tent, they actually reduce the rate at which condensation forms by creating a modestly insulated pocket of dead air between the liner and the wall of your tipi. For difficult conditions, especially with many occupants, liners are almost mandatory.
5: Run a stove
One of our wood stoves is an almost foolproof way to prevent condensation, by vaporizing it as fast as it can form. The limitation here is that with even our largest stove the heat will eventually die out after everyone goes to sleep, and condensation will form. This can subsequently be burned off in the morning, but that is not always a complete solution. This is why we sell our liners as halves; the lined part of the tipi is the double-walled sleeping zone, with the unlined half holding stove, wood pile, and gear.