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Why is my tent rainfly sticky and how do I fix it?

I have an older REI Trail Dome tent purchased somewhere around 1990(?). It's never been used. I set it up today, and the tent is fine, however the rainfly was NOT! It was very sticky. I'd folded it up for storage, and it took quite awhile to get it unfolded, with it being sticky. I'm guessing that the material breaks down over time??? I've got it opened up, and tried washing a small spot with Dawn dishsoap, but it's still sticky. It may have helped a bit. If I could get the "glue" off of it, I think it would be useable - altho likely needs re-waterproofing. Does anyone have any ideas how to get the stickiness off the rainfly? In my searches, it doesn't look like REI has replacement rainflys. Is this correct? 

Since there doesn't seem to be a specific tent model#, the specs on the instruction card are:
3 shock-cord poles, interior is 84" x 93", height is 52", rainfly also has a shorter shock-cord 

2 Replies

@claytone Thanks for reaching out!

Basically, the polyurethane coating on your tent's rainfly has deteriorated over time. It could be off-gassing of the tent materials, moisture, heat, or any combination of those conditions. You'll want to inspect your tent to make sure there aren't any holes or other issues (unlikely, given that it is unused) before you clean off the polyurethane coating and reapply it. 

We've had several users in the community who have come looking for answers to similar issues to yours. I highly recommend the solution in the conversation Replacement Rain Fly: Half Dome 2 Plus. One of our users lines out the step by step way they removed the peeling seam seal and re-applied a new one as well as a new durable water repellant finish. 

You can also follow the steps in this Expert Advice Article, How to Waterproof a Tent, which also has a section about removing the PU treatment with rubbing alcohol and a sponge before reapplying a waterproof treatment.

Hopefully this helps, thanks!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I have this problem too. So an abrasive sponge and rubbing alcohol will remove the old waterproof coating, and then I can reapply a new waterproof coating and it’s good as new?