Sleeping under the stars is nothing short of a dream come true, but it can also turn into a nightmare if you’re not prepared and are suddenly drenched by a rainstorm. Enter the rain fly, a clever invention that’s been around for years and is the perfect tool to help you relax or sleep soundly under a stormy sky.
Rain flies are very common in outdoor camping and can be found on everything from tents to hammocks, and other types of shelters. They’re essentially an umbrella for your shelter and can be easily erected to protect you from the rain.
Let’s learn a bit more about the rain fly so that you can make the best choice when purchasing one for your outdoor equipment.
What Is a Rain Fly?
The rain fly is a protective cover that can be installed on top of tents, tarps and other outdoor structures to protect against the elements. Rain flies are typically made from polyurethane-coated nylon or polyester materials with waterproofing properties that allow them to withstand wind, rain and snow.
A rain fly can also be used as a way to add shade for people who may not otherwise have enough protection from the sun. These covers come in different shapes and sizes and some even include extra features such as bug netting or tie-down ropes for added security when high winds or heavy rains impact your outdoor space.
Most rain flies simply attach via strings at different points around the structure so that they stretch over all sides like an umbrella that would cover people seated under it. Some may have poles in them as well which can be used to increase the amount of space you have underneath.
Rain flies are also known as a tent flap, fly sheet, tent fly, tent top, canvas fly, cover, or canopy cover.
How Does a Rain Fly Work?
Rain flies protect your tent, table, or resting area from rain by creating a waterproof layer between you and the outside elements. They catch the rain or snow before it has a chance to reach you and stop the water from pooling at your feet so that you stay dry.
The rain fly works by collecting water from the top and then channelling it down to a lower point where the excess can drip off. They are almost always angled downwards and away from the area underneath so that the water has a path to follow and doesn’t land on you or your shelter.
What Are Some Advantages of Using a Rain Fly?
Protects Your Tent from a Downpour: One of the biggest benefits of using a rain fly is that it can protect your shelter in an unexpected downpour or storm. You can relax and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings without having to worry about a wet sleeping bag if you invest in a decent rain fly.
Protects Against UV Rays: The sun is a powerful thing and can not only burn you while you’re outside but can also damage your shelter. A rain fly can help protect you from harmful UV rays, which helps both you and your tent to last longer.
Provides Shade: They can also be used as an effective sunshade for your camping table so that you have a place to eat or keep your gear out of the sun. This can keep temperatures down, making sure that items on your table and in your tent don’t overheat.
What Are Some Disadvantages to Using a Rain Fly?
Can Cause Condensation: Rain flies are great at protecting you from the initial raindrops, but they can cause a lot of condensation to gather underneath them if you don’t have them angled correctly. This can cause moisture to drip down and affect your sleeping bag or even the inside of your tent if it’s raining all night.
Can Limit Your Tent Ventilation: The sun and rain can be a powerful combination if you’re not properly protected from them, which means you could wake up to find moisture inside your shelter. Some rain flys don’t allow for proper ventilation, which means the heat and humidity can become trapped inside your tent and cause problems.
Does a Tent Need a Rain Fly?
A rain fly is necessary if you are in a tent or uncovered area during periods of rain, wind or snow. Even if you don’t think it will rain where you are camping, it is always better to be safe than sorry!
We often don’t notice how often small weather systems pass through when we are sleeping indoors and the last thing you want to deal with is a soaked sleeping bag because your rain fly wasn’t up.
If you don’t feel that you want or need a rainfly on your tent, it’s still a good idea to have one nearby to place on top if you need it. Most tents come with one, but if you have to purchase a separate rain fly for your tent, make sure that they are compatible before purchase.
How Do You Use a Tarp as a Rain Fly?
If you don’t have a rain fly, water-resistant tarps can also be used to provide some shelter from the elements. While they won’t keep out all of the rain, they can help minimize its effects.
There are two types of tarps that you can use for this purpose:
Poly Tarps: These tarps are made from woven plastic and are great for protecting against wind, sun, rain, or snow. They come in a variety of sizes so that you can purchase one that works with your tent and shelter. They are more affordable but not very long-lasting. It’s possible that even one windy night will tear a poly tarp so keep that in mind when purchasing one.
Canvas Tarps: These tarps are made from a cotton-like material and they are coated in oil and wax which helps to create a breathable yet water-resistant surface. The oil and wax may possibly drip and stain your tent or shelter, so you may not want to use this material if you’re concerned about that.
Both can be used to make an A-frame over your tent so that you have some shelter from the rain. If it’s windy, secure them with pegs or stakes to prevent them from blowing away. The lower you have your A-frame, the less rain will drip inside or onto your tent, so keep that in mind when setting it up.
Another option is to stretch the tarp into one long sheet and secure it with rope to higher surfaces such as posts or trees. This can allow for more room underneath the tarp for activity and breathability. You’ll want to angle your tarp so that the water runs off of it rather than directly underneath, which can increase condensation inside your tent.
What Do You Need to Consider When Buying a Rain Fly?
There are a few things you should pay attention to when you’re purchasing a rain fly:
Size: Make sure that your rainfly is large enough for your tent and shelter. It’s best to have one that’s a little bit larger than needed so you can adjust it over time.
Weight: If your rainfly is too heavy, it can add unnecessary weight to your backpack and cause discomfort on longer trips.
Waterproofness: The higher the waterproof rating of a rainfly, the better it will be at keeping water out. You should also look for a rainfly with taped seams to further protect against moisture seeping in.
Ventilation: If you’re camping in warmer weather, it’s important to look for a rainfly that allows proper ventilation so your tent doesn’t become too hot and stuffy.
Price: Make sure that you’re not paying for features that you don’t need or want, such as a fancy colour or design. The most expensive rainfly isn’t always the best and you’re better off saving money than overpaying for unnecessary features.
Types of Rain Flies
Rain flies come in many different materials, including cuben fiber, PVC, polycotton canvas, cotton canvas, nylon, and polyester. They are most commonly made out of polyester because it’s lightweight and affordable.
Polyester is a great choice for a rain fly because it absorbs less water than other materials and instead lets the moisture run off of its sides. It can also be treated with polyurethane, which makes it even more water-resistant. You can also get a rainfly that is coated with silicone to make it even more waterproof.
Nylon rain flies are usually more affordable and lightweight but they’re not as water-resistant. They can also be a bit noisy when it’s windy outside and they also may sag and stretch when they become saturated with water. Nylon should only be used for smaller surface areas to ensure it doesn’t get too heavy.
Cotton canvas rain flies are very durable and can be used for years with proper care, but they’re also heavy and bulky, which can be a problem for backpackers. This material may also sag when wet, so make sure to mount it properly to keep it from drooping and touching your tent overnight.
Cuben fiber rain flies are lightweight, waterproof, and durable, but they’re also quite expensive and not many manufacturers produce them yet. They also take on a more rigid form, so it may be hard to shape and customize your rain fly to your needs.
PVC rain flies are incredibly durable, so they may work best if you know you’ll be in more severe weather systems. They’re also very affordable and easy to use.
Full Coverage Flies:
Full coverage flies are a type of rain fly that has a hooded top that extends completely over the shelter. They’re great for holding in heat and protecting against rain, snow, and wind. There are a few downsides, however. They can be very heavy and bulky, which can add a lot of weight to your tent. They’re also not as breathable, so they may cause condensation problems.
Partial Coverage Flies:
Partial coverage flies are designed to provide you with some protection against the elements while also allowing for maximum breathability. They usually have a flap that extends over the top of your tent but stops before it reaches to ground. They’re lightweight and easy to set up, but they don’t provide as much protection as full-coverage flies.
Built-in flies are attached to the structure of your tent and cannot be removed. While they provide more protection, this type of fly can be challenging if you want to increase the airflow or the view of your tent. They’re also typically heavier and bulkier than other options, which can make them difficult to pack around on extended trips.
Detachable flies can be removed and stowed away when you don’t need them for easier packing. They’re typically lightweight, easy to set up, and provide adequate protection from the rain. They may not be as durable or protective against the elements, however.
A hammock tarp is a type of rainfly that can be used for both ground-based and suspended camping. They’re usually made out of a single layer of waterproof material and can be hung from trees or posts.
If you’re looking for something lightweight and compact, a backpacking rain fly may be the best option for you. They’re usually made out of nylon or polyester and can either be attached to your tent or clipped onto the loops that are already on it.
Rain Flies For Your Bags:
Rain flies aren’t only for your shelter, they can be a great tool for your camping packs and bags as well. This is particularly helpful for those who are hiking or backpacking and need to carry their gear for long distances. Some bags come with tarps built into them. For other bags, you can purchase a separate fly that can easily cover your pack.
Rain flies are an important part of your camping gear because they can keep you warm, dry, and safe during even the worst weather conditions. Make sure to take the time to research different types of rain flies and choose the one that’s right for you. Ultimately, our goal as outdoor enthusiasts is to keep our materials as light and compact as possible, so make sure you choose a fly that’s lightweight and easy to carry.
This investment in research will pay off when you find yourself warm, dry, and grateful for your shelter on a stormy night.