What Is A Rain Fly? An Easy 5-step Rainfly Setup

What is a rain fly? A quick set-up guide

If you are purchasing a brand-new tent for your camping trip and the shop assistant suggests you getting a rain fly, don’t say “no” straight away. This piece of camping gear might be quite useful for camping adventures. If you have no clue what is a rain fly, read our article to get the answer.

Why is it called a rain fly?

So what is a rain fly?

It’s a type of waterproof material that helps you to keep your tent dry in rainy weather.

Rain flies act like barriers, they prevent water from coming inside the tents.

As most tents aren’t made out of water-resistant fabric, having such a thing as a tent rain fly really helps in a camping journey.

Some tents are sold with rain flies included. It is convenient as the cover is with you at all times, and you don’t need to spend extra money buying one.

What is the purpose of a tent fly?

For the type of tent that is made from a thin fabric, that isn’t waterproofed and has a mesh top and mesh windows, the tent rainfly is something you have to have.

Otherwise, you are risking having a ruined car camping experience as the weather can be unpredicted.

A rain fly doesn’t take much space, so it is not difficult to be packed.

Having a tent rainfly also helps with air circulation inside the tent, preventing moist forming inside and keeping the tent cool in hotter temperatures.

There are different types of tent flies that attach differently to the tents.

To summarize the functions of the rain fly:

  • Protection of a tent from rain, snow, and strong winds
  • Insulates the tent and helps to keep you warm inside
  • Protection of direct sunlight
  • Keeping the dirt like tree sap away from the tent
  • Offers extra privacy during camping

Types Of Rain Flies

Now you know what is a rain fly, time to look into different types of the rain flies to help you to decide, which one will suit you best.

1. Full coverage rain flies

Such rain flies are used to protect the tents from all kind of bad weather conditions including rain, wind, storm, and even snow. The rain fly provides the full coverage, wrapping the entire tent around.

2. Half-coverage rain flies

This type of rain flies will keep you dry in your tent, but it won’t protect you from the cold temperatures, wind, or snow. It is suitable for smaller tents and short camping journeys around your area.

If you want to have the best experience during your camping, opt for the first type, as you will be fully protected from any type of bad weather.

Fabric Types of tent rain flies

Another thing to consider after you have found out what is a rain fly, is the type of fabric it is made out of. The rain fly’s features will depend on it as well.

Usually, the tent flies come in two different materials:

  1. Nylon material. The rain flies made out of nylon material do not provide the best waterproofing protection. It soaks water in fast, making the tent heavier, so it will be sagging because of extra weight. While you might not notice it as much with a small tent, if you have a big tent, it will be noticeable.
  2. Polyester material. The optimal choice for any type of tent as it won’t soak water in, and it has a dry-quick characteristic. If it does get wet despite its good waterproofing characteristics, it won’t be as heavy as the nylon rain fly.

Even though the polyester rain fly usually costs more, its characteristics are the best ones. The quality is substantially better and the protection of your tent will be at the top level.

Are rain flies waterproof?

The rain flies are made out of water-resistant materials. It can’t withstand a heavy rain though, so it will eventually get wet.

There is a solution to that, though. You can purchase a waterproofing spray.

Applying a spray on top of your own rainfly and the tent’s body will improve their water resistance.

The technique includes applying two layers of coating: one on the inside and the other one on the outside. Then you leave it to dry out.

Is a rain fly necessary?

Considering all the information above, the necessity of the rain fly depends on a few moments:

  • the type of tent you have
  • the weather conditions in the area, you are going to
  • the level of comfort you are ready to experience during your camping trip

If you have a fancy tent that has all the latest modern characteristics, there might be no need in getting a rain fly.

If the tent is made out of waterproof thick material, it will keep you safe you during your journey with no extra attachments.

Or maybe your tent already comes with a rain fly. Even better, no need to spend money on getting extras.

If your journey is going to be short, and you know for sure it isn’t going to be raining in the area or there are no high winds, getting a rain fly will be unnecessary.

If you are an experienced and not a fussy traveler and all you care about is the surrounding view.

Or you are not going to be bothered by a bit of wind or a bit of rain while camping, then you might also stay away from using a rain fly.

In any other cases, we would recommend getting tent flies for tents.

They aren’t taking much space, aren’t heavy to carry, but it is way more comfortable to be sleeping in a dry tent after all, where no wind can get through.

How to put a rain fly over a tent?

Below are the instructions on how to put a rain fly up. Any rain fly will come with the guy lines and the stakes.

Step 1

Find the spots where you have to attach the guy lines to.

Step 2

Attach the side of the guy lines with no loops to those spots.

Step 3

Position the rain fly over your tent.

Step 4

Every guy line must be secured to the ground using stakes.

Step 5

Tighten the guy lines, so the rain fly is firmly secured.

You might need to pack up some tent poles for attaching the rain fly.

Do I need a tarp if I have a rain fly?

If you do have space for a tarp, we recommend packing it as well.

Even if you have a nice tent and a tent fly that is waterproofed, there is always a chance it can get damaged.

Having a tarp will save your journey as you can throw it on top of the tent temporarily.

There might be other occasions when having a tarp might be quite handy. Organizing a shade next to the tent on a sunny day will be a good idea.

Maintenance of the rainfly

It is important to keep your rainfly in good condition, so it lasts you a long time.

  1. If you see that water-resistant properties aren’t the same as when you purchased the rainfly, it is time to apply a new layer of waterproofing coating.
  2. If you’ve discovered a hole or a cut on your rainfly, fix it straight away using a patching tape.
  3. Keep your rainfly clean. Use some special tent cleaner along with warm water. Avoid rubbing as it can damage the top layer of the rainfly.
  4. If there is mold forming on your rainfly, you have to act fast and clean it using a homemade vinegar mixture or special detergents from the store.


Does rain fly keep tent warmer?

Most modern tents are made from a breathable canvas to provide the circulation of air inside the tents. Placing the tent-fly over the tent will help you to keep more heat inside, making it warmer.

Do I still need a rain fly if there is no rain?

The tent-fly protects the tent from wind, snow, direct sunlight, dirt and adds privacy while you are camping. So you can still use it even if there is no rain is expected.

Can I camp using just a rain fly?

If you are going camping alone and don’t want to bring a lot of stuff with, using a tent-fly only might be an option. Just, it will never replace a proper tent.


When you have just started camping, there is a lot to learn. Knowing what is a rain fly is one of those things. Now you know that it is something you will use a lot to improve your camping experience and making it more comfortable.

A rain fly has a lot of purposes, primarily to withstand all sorts of bad weather conditions. Use the information above to decide which rain fly will be the best addition to your tent.

Share this information with your friends, and do not forget to leave the comments below if you still have questions left.

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