Wet night under the Tarp-Kelty Noah's 12

-- Last Updated: Dec-16-13 9:27 AM EST --

I've had this tarp for at least 5 years, and I rely on it to keep me dry in storms. Last night it didn't.

We encountered about 9 hours of rain including some periods of heavy rain. I set up my Noah's Tarp 12 to camp under. Not only was a fine mist coming through when rain drops hit, but it constantly dripped. Rain was draining off the tarp, so I can't say all the rain was coming through, but the constant dripping definately reduces the functionality of the tarp. Everything under the tarp got wet (very little wind, so no rain blowing in). Fortunately my ground cloth was big enough that I could fold half of it over me, or it might have been an uncomfortable night.

So, what happened to my tarp? I know it has kept me dry in the past, but now it isn't doing the job. Is this common as tarps age or is it user error, i.e., I didn't take care of it properly. I've always just stuffed the bag in a sack, not folding or rolling it. I've always made sure it was dry before storing it.

I even put the tarp out to dry when I came home today. Force of habit, I guess. As I put it away I was thinking, "I should just put it straight in the trash, why am I doing this.?"

Dew point?
I have had it rain inside of a tent when the dew point is close to, or just under the air temperature. Condensation from a persons breath and damp clothing drying?

I bet the coating has deteriorated.
Might be from storage. Hard to say. I had a tent fly fail because I was not storing it well. My habit now is to dry my tarp completely after a trip and then I store it in a cotton storage sack in a heated walk in closet in my house. I think this is working. Its been about 10 years with no troubles yet. Consider replacing your tarp with a silicone nylon tarp from Cooke Custom Sewing. These are absolutely wonderful tarps. You can find the web site with google.

A 12 isn’t very big. We have a Moss 19
thatis pitched in a negatively curved saddle conformation, and in conditions like you describe, a lot of mist, rain, etc., are going to blow in from the margins.

I don’t know how yours was pitched, probably pretty low, but I doubt that your misery was due only to deteriorated coating. A tarp rigged to promote runoff won’t let much through coating defects.

Because of getting wind spray even under elaborate tarp arrangements, I cook under them but I don’t try to sleep underneath. I use tents with rainflys.

Some folks that travel light
just roll their canoe and climb in underneath - and if its threatening to rain maybe stake a small tarp down over the hull of the rolled canoe.

I agree - might be more about the shape and size of the tarp and how it was pitched than deteriorating coating. In that regard, I must say I prefer rectangular tarps over the new shapes. I find them to be more versatile as far as pitching options.

ask us second
Suggest you contact the folks who make/sell the product and explain what happened. They may better advise you and may even replace the tarp if it is in fact defective. I had a peculiar issue with a NRS product and they were very knowledgeable and responsive. Will be interesting to hear what you find out.

Not wind driven

– Last Updated: Dec-16-13 9:49 AM EST –

I watched the drops form all over the underside of the tarp, and watched them fall. I am aware of wind-driven rain, but this water was coming through the tarp.

The storm was kind of rare for December storms because the wind hardly blew at all. If there was wind driven rain, that was just an addition to what the tarp was dropping on me.

I spent a stormy night under a canoe once. Given thwarts and all, there's not much room under there, and I ended up having to prop up one end of the canoe and then drape a tarp over it, because there was wind and I was lying right along the drip line.

I like the cantenary cut of the Noah's Tarp and think it somehow helps the tarp shed wind better than rectangular tarps. But, the shape limits the usable dry space under the tarp. It essential provides an oval shape protected area under the center of the tarp. I think you may get more usable dry space out of a rectangular tarp.

Here is a link to a photo of how the tarp was set up.

We also had a "control tarp," a classic, Lowes-bought, 11x17 blue plastic tarp pitched over a table. The blue plastic did not leak, drip, or suffer from wind-driven, blown in rain, and it was pitched a lot higher off the ground.


Tarps do wear out
and have you seam sealed it this year? The coating on a tarp starts to degrade and you may notice drips coming through in areas where there is a little puddle on the outside.

Storing it in a hot area or confined space…ie leaving it in the pack all summer seems to speed up the process.

seams or coating
The coating definitely degrades over time, even if the tarp is not being used, maybe faster if it is not being used.

If you are lucky it might just be a seam leaking. If so, using some McNett Seam Grip might fix it.

If it is the coating, you might try recoating it. If the areas are small you can use Seam Grip. But my experience is that once the coating starts to go in one or several small areas, the rest is not far behind.

Kind of agree. Best place for our Moss
is an open field where there are no trees at all. But in woodsy surroundings, it can be hard to choose the four tie points.

I could do more speculation about cause, but many “possible” causes have already been mentioned.

I agree with several of them; specifically age of tarp, and tarp size.

I previously owned a Noahs Tarp 12.

My major issue with it was size; too small when weather got nasty. Great for a sun screen.

I invested in a Cooke Custom Covers tarp, and have never regretted that decision; I even bought a second one.


Kelty Rep Sez…
How refreshing is it that Kelty has a phone number and you can talk to a Kelty rep, and mine spoke English with a North American accent? That’s not something you get from every company.

The coating on the tarps (and tents) does break down. The rep said expect the coating to give out after 7 to 10 years. Maybe I’ve had mine that long.

The rep recommended an application of McNett’s Tent Sure, a water based urethane coating that the rep says will restore the tarp to waterproof.

It would take two bottles (around $10 each) to cover the tarp, and it seems like a PIA to paint it on. I guess I’d have to set up the tarp in various configurations to do the painting. I read comments that the Tent Sure needs to dry really well, like for days. So, is it worth it to save $50 on just replacing this tarp? If I expected to work and last another five years, the answer is probably yes. But I’m not overly confident it would work, and continue to work.

Have had numerous recommendations for the Cooke tarps. I need to check those out.


tarp use
Usually it is the way you set up the tarp that allows for success or some failure. For stormy conditions I look for wind breaks like rock outcrops or downed logs. Then it helps to bring the sides of the tarp near the ground. Was your site pretty level? Sometimes a slight depression wrecks everything in the rain.

I’ve had tent flies and bodies do that
Drip, drip, drip all night along selected seams.

The waterproof coating looked leprous. Duh!

In addition, seams can get stressed enough over time that the stitch holes get bigger.

In my case, the tent had been used so much that I considered it worn out. The aluminum poles no longer were straight when disassembled. Its time had come. It was 12 or 13 years old, I think.

I bought a new tent.

I’ve seen that too

– Last Updated: Dec-16-13 4:31 PM EST –

A friend of mine has a very old Kelty tarp. In light or occasional rain it's fine, but when it rains hard, besides the obvious dripping from here and there, some of the rain drops, on impact, send a tiny spray of mist right through the fabric. So in spite of all the posts by people assuming rain must have been blowing in from the sides somehow, I know exactly what you are talking about. Still, for what we use it for, that bit of leakage is tolerable (it might not be so good for sleeping under). This tarp is a lot older than yours, but in any case, the coating does have a finite lifespan. I won't try to decide whether it's worth it in your case to apply a new coating because I have no clue how effective or long-lasting that will be.

Get a new tarp

– Last Updated: Dec-16-13 4:44 PM EST –

At least that would be my inclination, Chip.

I bought Bob's old Kelty Noah's Tarp and it has served well as a fairly wind resistant water barrier to set up over a small tent. Definitely a belt and suspenders approach, but having the tarp allows me to keep the tent rain fly unzipped and open in anything but a driving rain which greatly reduces condensation, provides a small, dry vestibule space which my tent otherwise lacks, and has kept my small tent essentially dry even after several days of steady rain.

But the parabolic tarps, though fairly wind resistant, are not very versatile for general use. They don't rig that well using a taut ridge line as the parabolic shape built into the tarp design results in pleats and folds that collect water or flap in the wind. The Noah's 12 doesn't provide a huge amount of dry, usable area underneath. When rigged on poles or a drooping ridge line high enough to be able to walk beneath it, the area protected from rain in anything but a dead calm is not that great compared to a rectangular design. Rigged closer to the ground, they are much better.

I have had good luck in general with McNett products but I haven't used the urethane coating mentioned. If you really like the tarp I guess I would invest the time and money, but my concern is that the original coating will continue to delaminate and take the new urethane with it.

recoat waterproof it and …
… get a new one (larger) at the same time . Now you’ll have two , and use the older one for less demanding work .

Fold them things up Chip , gotta be better for them than just stuffing them in a bag (crunch crunch crunch) … probably take up less spaces well .

Cold is OK , rain is OK … it’s when it’s cold and rainy at the same time that the word ‘sucks’ seems to fit best !!

Can you tell me truthfully you were enjoying getting wet that night ?? At least you were out there , that’s more than I’ve been lately .

Kelty is worn out ?
I had the same experiance as the original poster said. At Raystown this year we sat out about 30 hours of steady rain. My Kelty 16 and the 12 both leaked just like His. They are both at least 6 to 7 years old. I left there saying that the cheap poly tarps are the way to go.


Obviously the coating; go blue
From everything described by an experienced user, the rain was obviously penetrating the coating.

I’d toss it and get a $5 blue tarp on sale from Walmart or Home Depot. They’re physically tough, very waterproof and essentially disposable.

I bought a used silnylon tarp a few years ago but have never seriously used it. Its only virtue over a blue tarp, in my opinion, is light weight and compressibility. But since those features aren’t usually an issue for the kind of car and open canoe camping I do, they haven’t really turned out to be advantages for me over the blue tarps I formerly used for 50 years.

I can attest to this.
“Storing it in a hot area or confined space…ie leaving it in the pack all summer seems to speed up the process.”

I destroyed a really nice tent fly by doing all these bad things.