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Mind your Head when Camping

hydrostatic head

If you go camping a lot and know about all the different specifications for fabrics then you will have heard about hydrostatic head, if you are not so camping and tent savvy then it sounds like quite a technical term and wonder just what it has to do with a tent or camping. Hydrostatic head is the measure of resistance that a tent fabric has when a measured amount of water is poured onto it until the water penetrates the material. It is important that you know what the hydrostatic head of a tent is before purchasing it.

If you enjoy going on camping holidays then you will know how important it is to purchase the best possible equipment that you can afford. It makes sense to purchase top of the range equipment if you want your tent and accessories to last for more than one holiday. Many people decide to take all of their own camping equipment in a trailer so that they are not tied down to one site or one area of the country for their holiday. It means that they can travel from county to county or even from country to country if they choose to go on a touring camping holiday abroad.

What Do I Need To Buy?

One of the first things that you need to know when purchasing any tent, bivi or shelter, is whether it is waterproof or not. Hopefully your holiday will not be spoiled by heavy prolonged rain, but there are many occasions no matter what the time of year when you experience rain or storms in the summer months. So every camper needs to be prepared for heavy rain. One of the best ways of making sure that your tent and groundsheet are waterproof is the purchase a tent that has a high hydrostatic head rating. A rating of of 1000mm is considered waterproof; anything below this would be shower resistant. For summer camping in the UK you should really aim for a HH rating of at least 1500mm. For all year round camping then a minimum of 2000mm should be considered. If you are looking at anything beyond this then ideally you should be looking at around 3000mm+ rating.

In all tents you will need a groundsheet and a fly sheet and it is important that both of these are very waterproof and have good hydrostatic head, as you are aware the flysheet is exposed to all of the weather including the rain and wind so you need to bear in mind that the waterproofness of the material  will change over time and the more you use the tent and the more it is exposed to rain then the less efficient it becomes so always choose a flysheet that has a hydrostatic head of more than you require if you intent to use it a lot.

The ground sheet is the most important sheet when thinking about how waterproof it is, when you are camping the ground sheet gets the most wear and when you are walking on it and kneeling and lying on it, it will have to be the most waterproof. It is recommended that a ground sheet has a hydrostatic head of 5000mm. This is important especially if the tent is used a lot and there are more than a couple of people in the tent.

Testing the hydrostatic head of a material

The testing of the hydrostatic head is usually done by the manufacturer using a test rig. The test rig uses a column of water which is raised to slowly increasing the pressure on the fabric to the point it penetrates. The height at which the column reaches when the water penetrates the material is known as the hydrostatic head which is in mm.

For a great video on the hydrostatic head testing process check out here.


How Do I Know What To Buy?

Most retailers will be happy to go through product specifications for you and help you to work out what you need – for example the right size tent. If you shop online then most products will have sizes and specifications listed with them so you can easily work out what is the best purchase to suit you and your needs.

For example if you have a large family then you will need a tent that has at least a hydrostatic head rating of 5,000mm or more. This will keep the tent dry in even the worst of a rain storm.

If you are looking at doing a lot of camping then it’s important to try and get the highest HH rating you can. Not only will this keep you dry in an extreme down pour but will also last time and time again.

All in all it is about doing your research and making sure that whatever you buy is suited to what you need. There are plenty of ways to get help and advice, so you don’t have to worry too much about spending your hard earned money on something that isn’t suitable.

Article Name
Mind your Head when Camping
The Hydrostatic Head is the measure of resistance of water on a material. This is especially importantant when looking at purchasing a tent, bivi or shelter.



One Response to Mind your Head when Camping

  1. Owen Mathews -

    October 22, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I have seen HH printed in the description on various tents but was never quite sure what this meant. I knew it was something to do how waterproof it was but this post has really helped me now understand a bit more about it, thank you.