One of the most underrated and oftentimes forgotten about part of your camping setup is the rainfly. A rainfly is a part of some tents that is arguably the most important. Forgetting it or using one that does not best fit your situation can be very detrimental to your trip and make you wake up in a puddle or end up sleeping in your car.
Today, we will talk about the importance of a fully well-built waterproof rainfly. Protecting yourself and your loved ones as much as possible is key, so let’s break it down.
What is a rainfly?
Understanding what a rainfly is is very important. Although it sounds simple and self-explanatory, there are people out there who do not fully understand the concept. A rainfly is the structure of fabric that protects your tent from the outside elements. Without it, there is no way to keep water out and keep the inside contents dry. Some brands still make tents without a rainfly or with a very short one. A waterproof camping tent can only perform perfectly if there is a full rainfly or if the walls of the tent are coated with a 3000mm hydrostatic head or higher.
They are usually polyester and have waterproofing properties to do the job well. This is paired with tent poles and stakes to provide an elevated, waterproof shield over your tent.
When buying a tent, make sure the rainfly is included. However, if it doesn’t you can try to protect the tent by using a tarp over it, that will not look nice and won’t work well if there is the wind going on.
Uses for a rainfly
Rainflies have a multitude of uses besides what you already know of. First and foremost, rainflies are used to protect tents from getting wet. This is the obvious answer, and it is also the most common way to use one. However, there are a couple of others worth mentioning.
The best alternative use of a rainfly is use for a common area. To some, this is known as a dining fly or awning. This is where you can hang out, cook food, and eat while avoiding the rain. Even if it is not raining, it can provide some very valuable shade on a hot day. Generally, dining flies will be separate from the one you use on a tent, but you could switch on and off in a pinch and some tents come with a builtin awning like the NTK ARIZONA GT 9 person camping tent for example.
Although not conventional at all, a rainfly could be used in emergency situations. Obviously, you want to avoid these scenarios if necessary, but it could come in handy. It could be used to build a splint, carry an injured person, or anything else that could pop up. Although this is probably not at the forefront of thought, rainflies can truly come in clutch.
Why is using a rainfly important?
If rainflies were unnecessary, they probably wouldn’t be included with high quality. Using a rainfly is important because you need to be relatively dry in order to successfully camp and be outdoors.
RainFlies are the best line of defense from the elements, so the importance of using them is paramount. No one wants wet gear when in the wilderness. In fact, this can be quite dangerous. Things like hypothermia can set in quickly when you are wet and the conditions are right for it.
What about a full rainfly specifically?
Believe it or not, most rainflies out there are not “full” ones. A full rainfly is one that covers the entire area and not just part of it. Whether this is for a tent, a common area, or anywhere else, having a full rainfly will provide the maximum protection possible.
Partial rainflies can be useful in certain situations, but they will not do as good of a job as the full ones. The biggest perk of having rainflies that are partial or too small for the structure is the weight savings. When there is less fabric, there is less weight to haul around. Polyester is quite light, so it is not a lot of weight, but when backpacking especially, every ounce counts. This is something to keep in mind because you can cater your rainfly to the type of camping you are doing.
However, unless the circumstances are dire, it is best to have a full rainfly like the NTK OMAHA GT 5 person tent for example. This ensures the best protection possible. Full rainflies will cover much more than the partial ones. So, when you can, go with that.
Can there be alterations?
Quality tents will have at least 2500mm water column hydrostatic heading like the GT camping tent series by NTK.
The most simple and common alteration that should be done to rainflies is adding waterproofing to the fly over time. Although it is simple, maintaining and updating your rainfly is super important. There are many products out there like the NIKWAX Tent Gear Solarproof Spray.
Over time, the polyester fly will fade in terms of waterproofing, that is because of rubbing and mostly the impact of sun rays. This can be simply battled with a waterproofing spray. These are sold at major retailers and online, so it is not expensive nor hard to find. As the seasons go on, it is important to spray the chemical and update the waterproofing properties of the fly.
VERY IMPORTANT: polyester fabrics even with extra UV spray protection are not made to be exposed to sun rays for over 30 days at a time, this will make the fabric weaker to a point of ripping apart.
That is the importance of using a full rainfly! Hopefully, you can take this information and use it in the field. Having a full rainfly that will consistently do its job should not be taken for granted. This will ensure that your camping endeavors will be on the right track from the start.