What is a Rain Fly? What are They Used For?

If you ever been around a camping enthusiast you might have heard this term before, but do you know what is a rain fly?

A rain fly is an extra piece of material that covers the top of your tent. As the name implies, their main purpose is to keep the rain away from your tent.

They are made waterproof to save you from harsh weather conditions like heavy rain, wind, snow, and cold temperature.

Most importantly, they are kept breathable to protect the tent from condensation, especially if your tent is double or triple walled. The fact is that this extra piece of tent equipment can make or break your camping experience.

Sometimes, it is also referred to as a fly tent which is simply a material sheet hanged by the ropes without a body.

But where you can see rainfly in a tent? Actually, it’s the outermost layer of fabric that fully or partially covers the body of a multiple-layer tent. And we strongly recommend all campers to invest in some good rainfly to make their camping life easier.

How rainfly exist in a tent? Well, it can be a non-detachable part of a tent that has few vent areas which can be opened.

Whilst others are there which exist as a completely separate layer that can be attached to tent via ropes, clips, or zippers. This second type of rainfly is found in mesh-top tents.

See Also: Can you Use a Propane Heater in a Tent? 6 Easy Steps

Other Famous Names for Rain Fly

Grounded in fact, Rain Fly is the official name of this equipment, but it’s also famous with many other names such as

  • Cover
  • Canopy
  • Canvas
  • Flysheet
  • Tent top
  • Tent flap
  • Tent fly

Well, it doesn’t matter what term you use as it’s your own preference. But never forget to use the exact name “Rain Fly” while making a purchase, otherwise you might end up with a different product if you’re just a starter!

Benefits of Using a Rain Fly

If you’re still not sure about the functioning of rain flies and are doubtful that you should use them or not. Check out the mentioned benefits of rain fly and see if you want to get any of these benefits to make your camping more charming.

What is a Rain Fly
  • Extra rain coverage.
  • Shield for doors and mesh windows to protect from wind.
  • Insulation from cold.
  • Protects your tent from UV radiations.
  • Prevents condensation build-up.
  • Keeps safe from small debris such as dirt, rocks, sand, and branches.
  • You can make your tent extra stable without using extra tents and guy lines.

If you want to avail any of these advantages, consider having a rain fly for your next trip.

Types of Rainflies

Out in the open, this waterproof piece of the tent can save you and your belongings secure and makes you able to smartly face any kind of harsh weather.

Well, just like many other camping products, rain fly also comes in different types to suit you best in your destined situation.

1- Full Coverage Rain Flies

Just like the name implies, these rain flies are designed in a way to fully wrap your tent to equip you with “Full-Coverage”.

This means you can expect them to protect you not only from rain but also from heavy winds.

Who should buy these rain flies? If you’re planning camping in a colder climate or high windy areas, we recommend you grab full-coverage rain flies to do the trick.

2- Partial Coverage Rain Flies

Rooted in, they are carved in a way to cover you partially, as they don’t cover the ground. They work more like the fabric pavilion to protect you from rain falling on the top but the wind will pass through its sides.

If you are going camping in a warmer area with no wind or you don’t mind the mind, then partial-coverage ran flies will perfectly work for you.  But there can be leaks or temperature drops as the weather becomes harsh.

What are Rain Flies Made of?

As the rain flies are famous for their amazing properties of keeping the campers safe if the weather really gets bad.

That’s why they must be carved using some special material that can bear weather conditions without passing them to the users.

Well, the rain flies are mostly made of two durable materials, each has its goodies and weak points. Let’s discuss each in detail.

1- Nylon:

Nylon is an excellent rain fly material which has been doing trick for long. But it’s no more an ideal choice for campers.

When nylon absorbs water, it expands to 4% of its original size. Although it absorbs water very quickly, this much-size expansion isn’t attractive at all.

On the other hand, if you’re holding a smaller tent, then you won’t find this change much dramatic to feel or observe quickly. Look at your tent, set your preference, and then grab Nylon made rain fly for your next adventure.

2- Polyester:

These days, almost all manufacturers are carving polyester rain flies for larger tents. This is because polyester has excellent built-in properties compared to nylon.

The good thing about polyester is that it absorbs less water and dries quickly. Also, it weighs less when fully wet.

But polyester rain flies are more expensive than nylon ones is simply due to their high-end properties to keep the rain out of your tent without compromising on structural integrity.  

How to Correctly Use a Rainfly?

After setting up your tent, you will have the main parts of your tent as doors, windows, poles and material. If your tent has an added rain fly, it covers more of your main tent.

This extra layer often comes with built-in guy lines or poles to perfectly secure your tent. When attaching it to the top of the tent, make sure that it’s fully stretched with no loose points.

This helps to come up with the even surface of which rainwater quickly flows down. And it will also perfectly shed the wind and snow.  

Mostly rainfly doesn’t directly sit on your tent and hence it’s left with some space between it and the tent main body.

We recommend that the rain fly shouldn’t touch the tent body, as the space between them is highly beneficial. It acts as some kind of insulation to keep your tent cool in hotter weather.

If you got a rain fly in the form of a fully covering sheet that is longer than the walls, you should tuck it underneath the footprint and not between the footprint and floor. No matter what cover you’re using, try to keep it fully ventilated.

Furthermore, if you got a tent in which the inner wall is touching the rainfly, it directly means that either your tent is poorly constructed or there might be something wrong with the pitch.

We recommend you fix these issues to enjoy a better camping experience.

Moreover, if your tent is too narrow enough that you often brush up against the fly inside while standing or moving, this lets the moisture seep from the outside.

In this case, try to grab a wider tent to get good mileage out of your rain fly.

On the other hand, most car-camping tents also come with a rain fly, but it mostly covers the tent top or can extend midways down the sides.

But that’s not enough coverage to protect you in bad weather, so make sure the fly extends across the entire way down to the ground.

Steps to Put a Rain Fly on a Tent

As your rainfly will come with polyester or nylon material, stakes, and guy lines. So, the next phase is to perfectly set up a rainfly.

To assemble your rain fly, try to follow the below-mentioned steps:

  1. Look for the notches where your guy line can tie-up.
  2. Bind the non-looped side of the guy line to a separate notch.
  3. Now it’s time to throw your rain fly over the tent.
  4. Try to secure every guy line to the ground with the help of stakes.
  5. Check your guy line to find the adjuster which helps in tightening and losing. Adjust the lines until they get fully tighten.
  6. You can add colorful pool nodes to be the base of stakes to avoid any accidental tripping. But this step is completely optional!

Is It Better to Have a Built-in or Removable Rainfly?

After knowing the nitty-gritty of rain fly, many people ask the same question “Is it better to have a built-in or removable air fly?”

Well, the answer depends completely on your preferences.

But we are going to tell you the pros and cons of both so that you can better know which one will suit you best on the go.

1- Built-in Rain Fly Tent

The built-in rain fly is excellent as it can instantly protect your tent from the rain, you won’t need to put a rain fly in hassle. Plus, it’s slightly warmer and you will require to set up your tent only rather than both a rainfly and tent.

Moreover, it will lower your burden as you will need to carry one thing less while packing your camping gear.

Furthermore, you won’t be able to remove the rain fly to enjoy a mesh roof in good weather.

2- Removable Rain Fly

Most people love to have removable rain flies as they can give you the freedom to take off the roof of your tent to enjoy the fresh breeze and sun facing the earth.

On the other hand, you might find it tricky to set up a separate rain fly as you need double time and effort to accomplish a complete setup.

But it’s not too hard or impossible to do, only when you know how to do the trick.

Have you ever seen buddies who try to put their removable rain fly in the rainstorm and believe me it never looks funny?

Does a Rain Fly Keep a Tent Warmer?

If you ever wonder that can a rain fly keep your tent warm? The reality is, rain flies are proved excellent in providing a small amount of warmth compared to when your tent has no rain fly at all.

After thorough research, I’m going to discuss some findings with you.

1- Rain Flies cut down Wind Chill

Wind chill can lower the body temperature as the cold air will pass by your body. Actually, wind chill makes the days with a breeze feel colder than the stagnant days with the same down temperature.

We’ve examined that putting the rain fly on the tent greatly reduces the wind chill as it covers the mesh opening of the tent.

Moreover, if your tent has zip windows, try to keep them close to prevent the excess of cold air.

How much truth is there in this statement “Rain Fly Reduces the Wind Chill”? Well, you can judge it by yourself. Bring a thermometer to your camping place, note the temperature before putting the rain fly and after.

You will be amazed by reading the difference same as like us!

2- Rain Fly can Trap some Warmth in your Tent

Although tents aren’t designed to provide insulation, they can trap warmth inside for a short period before letting it go.

As you move inside the tent, your body generates some heat, and the tent holds that heat temporarily, only if your tent has a rain fly and everything is perfectly zipped up. But this heat naturally dissipates due to ventilation.

Keep in mind that rain fly can trap heat and raise the internal temperature perfectly for smaller tents. This is because smaller tents have less space and keep you feel warmer for a bit longer before venting out the heat.

3- Don’t Count the Rainfly as your complete Warming Gear

Till now, you must have known that rain fly isn’t perfect in keeping you warm when the weather really gets cold.

So, we don’t recommend you to completely rely on it, if you’re planning a trip in deadly cold areas. There, you must bring some good cold-weather gear, such as

  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Warm clothes
  • Propane heater (Optional)

Does a Rain Fly lead to Condensation Build-up?

Even though the rain flies are excellent to hold heat for some time to keep your body warmer, but they let the heat out within a short time. Is it a drawback? Not at all!

Actually, proper ventilation is necessary to maintain the comfort level. And the warm air vented out to prevent condensation.

This is important for staying warm because moisture and condensation can make your body cold.

That’s why the good rain flies are designed in a way to keep prevent the dripping of condensation inside your tent, even if there’s poor ventilation.

Some people try to cover the tent top with something thick to prevent more cold airflow, but we never recommend this as it can allow condensation build-up inside the tent.

Breath also produces some moisture in the air, so it must be properly vented to maintain a good inside environment.

Is A Rainfly Must to Have?

On the clear ground, there is no clear answer to this question. We will tell you why it’s necessary to have a rainfly and what possibilities are there to don’t mark it as necessary gear.

1- Why it’s necessary?

In the summer months, you might need a rain fly if you’re expecting it to rain soon. Moreover, they tend to keep you cool in the summer month by maintaining the lower temperature inside the tent.

On the other side, you might have seen campers scrambling around in a rainy storm try to keep themselves dry. And it didn’t look funny at all.

2- Why isn’t Necessary?

Out in the open, there are two reasons for not marking rain flies are a compulsory gear.

The very first reason is that you might encounter any rain or bad weather at all during your whole camping time. In this case, a rain fly wouldn’t be necessary. Rather it will put extra weight on your backpack.

Whilst the second answer is more empirical. And this is that most tents these days are waterproof, so they don’t need any rainfly at all.

If you’ve got such a waterproof tent and don’t need any protection from heavy winds, then why would you need a rainfly?

Overall, look at your conditions and tent you hold, then decide well about carrying a rainfly or just skip it.

Remember, always try to be extra safe when you’re outdoor. Your health and safety are far more important than any adventure!

Wrapping Up

Keeping the long story short, you might like camping and love to sit among camping enthusiasts to learn camping benefits from them. When it comes to tenting and having a rain fly, you must know that what is a rain fly.

Not only this, you must be aware of its functionalities, downsides of having a rain fly, ways to properly set it, what kind of rain fly do you need, and why rain flies aren’t necessary for some situations.

Hopefully, now you know the answers to all these questions and much more after reading our guide.

Stay safe, enjoy more, and make your tour full of adventure!

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