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How to Camp in the Rain Without Being Miserable

12.09.20

Since I started camping at the age of 3, I have learned that things don’t always go according to plan. I have been caught in rain storms many times in my camping endeavors, and being unprepared was the worst thing I could do.  

Luckily, I have 15 tips for camping in the rain that I’ve learned over the years to keep myself ready for anything! Since I have learned how to prepare adequately and what equipment I need to bring rain clouds no longer send me running!

1. Keep the Water Out of the Tent

It is vital when camping in the rain to keep the water out of the tent! Escaping to my tent is my go-to dry spot when I don’t want to be in the rain any longer. I always make sure that my tent is sealed correctly.  

Using seam sealer along the seams of the tent will assure that no moisture leaks in. I have camped in tents that claim to be “pre-sealed” and end up waking up to water drips on my forehead. Even if a tent is certified waterproof, it is still helpful to take the extra precaution of sealing the seams!

2. Bring Waterproof Clothing

This one seems like a no-brainer.  I never go camping without my rain jacket, waterproof pants, and waterproof shoes. Even if the weather forecast looks clear, it is good to bring waterproof clothing just in case.  

I always throw a rain poncho in my backpack before I go on any outdoor adventure; you never know when the weather might take a turn.

Gaiters are another simple, waterproof clothing piece that I love to use. You slide them over your shoes and calves, and they keep your feet and lower legs nice and dry.

3. Bring Your Shoes Into the Tent or Make a Canopy

I have learned after years of wet feet that it is essential to keep your shoes dry! When I camp, I usually only bring one pair of waterproof boots or hiking shoes, and as soon as they get wet, the rest of the trip is miserable!

I used to slip my shoes off before climbing into my tent at night and leave them outside while I slept. Waking up to shoes full of water is no fun. Now I always bring them into my tent ant night and leave them at the foot of my bed. 

Another way to avoid this is to make a canopy outside of the tent. Many tents come with a fold-out awning over the door, but mine doesn’t, so I made my own. Using tent poles from an old tent and a small tarp, I fashioned my awning with paracord and some rocks! It wasn’t difficult, and it holds up well.  It can be done even easier by tying a tarp to the tent and staking it into the ground in front of your tent at an angle.  

4. Bring Extra Clothes

I always bring more clothing than I think I will need. In my early solo-camping days, I always tried to pack the least amount of clothing to get me through the trip. After a few cold, wet nights, I realized that more is better when it comes to being exposed in the wilderness. 

Never skimp on your clothes.  Bring extra to keep in your car or tent just in case your other clothes get wet. Pack them in a ziplock bag to keep them dry.

I always make sure to change my clothes before going to bed. Clothing holds onto moisture throughout the day and can lead to freezing nights if not changed out. Wet usually equals cold. Changing also protects your sleeping bag from getting wet. A wet bag can take weeks to dry completely.

Since most of our body heat escapes from our head and feet, I always bring extra dry socks and dry beanies to switch out throughout the night if moisture is building up in my tent, and I wake up cold.

5. Bring Plastic Bags

I always bring bags. Lots of bags. Ziplock bags, garbage bags, and plastic shopping bags. I use them to cover things and protect things from both rain and humidity. Big garbage bags can be thrown over a camp chair or used to cover firewood. I use shopping bags to put my wet clothes in when I change. Anything I want to keep dry, I throw in a bag.

6. Make a Cooking Shelter

A dining room is essential to my camping experience. 

There is an unlimited amount of camping recipes that I can choose when I go camping.  Whatever I decide to make, I make sure that I package my food correctly to keep it dry.  I always pack all of my food in a rubber box or container that is sealed and will keep moisture out of my snacks.

I pack all my lunch ideas in ziplock bags if I head out for a hike or picnic. 

7. Keep Your Sleeping Bag Dry

To keep my sleeping bag dry, I slip it into a bivy sack. A bivy sack is a waterproof bag that you slide over your sleeping bag. They are lightweight and convenient, and can be used on their own as a very thin sleeping bag when camping somewhere hot!

Another item I always include is a sleeping pad. It not only provides comfort, but it is an extra layer of insulation beneath me. It helps keep me warmer at night, and on stormy evenings it keeps me and my sleeping bag off the ground and away from any puddles or mud that make it into my tent. 

8. Keep Your Wood Dry

When it starts to rain, I immediately roll my wood under my car. This way, it stays dry, and I can still have a fire.  Many people also throw a tarp over it or store it in a plastic garbage bag.  This works just as well!

9. Bring a Propane Stove

No matter the weather, we still have to cook! Luckily, with a cooking shelter in place, using a propane stove is no problem. I have a stove with a metal barrier around it to block the wind and make for easy cooking.  My rainy day camping meals don’t have to be any less remarkable than my regular camping menu. As long as my food stays dry and my propane tank is full, I eat good despite the rain!

10. Bring Fun Things to Do

When camping in the rain, things to do might seem limited. I always bring a deck of cards and a few fun board games to play in the tent if the weather turns. Writing or reading are easy solo activities that I love as well.

With kids, packing crayons and coloring books or puzzles can lead to hours of entertainment. I  always download a few movies on my phone or Ipad, and I bring an external phone charger to watch a movie at night if it is too rainy for a fire.

Another option is to snuggle up and watch the rain. My favorite rainy camping activity is to make some hot cocoa and talk with my friends or family while watching the relaxing and beautiful shower!

11. Camp in the Right Spot

I have found that choosing the correct placement of the tent makes a huge difference. I always look for high ground. The rain always flows downward, so camping up high keeps you safer and less wet. I never camp at the base of a cliff or hill where rain can flow down and accumulate around me.

Another trick I use is to build a trench around my tent. I dig a quick moat around my camping castle and watch the rain flow into that rather than pool up under or around my tent.

Camping underneath a tree can also help protect my tent from the rain. However, this can be unsafe if there is a lot of wind because of falling branches. I always check the weather and wind forecast before going camping and use my best judgment when deciding where to stake my tent.  

12. Use Tarps Above, Below, and Inside of Your Tent

Tarps are my biggest secret on how to keep my tent dry in the rain. As I mentioned before, using a seam sealer is a great suggestion, but I never rely on that alone. I place a tent on the ground before I even begin to set my tent up. This helps keep me dry and helps protect the bottom of my tent from getting torn or punctured.

I then line the inside floor of my tent with another tarp before setting down my bedding. It is another layer of protection against any leaks and again keeps my tent from getting muddy. It also makes for much easier clean up at the end of my trip. 

Hanging a tarp over the tent with a tarp and some paracord tied to a tree is also an option. I don’t usually do this unless I know I am going to be in a big storm. It requires that my tent is set up in an ideal area with surrounding trees to tie the tarp to, and that is not always the case. However, when I know I’m in for a soaker, I make it a point!

Tarps are also perfect to use to cover supplies and wood. I like to throw my camp chairs under one when the rain rolls in to have a dry place to sit when it lets up!

13. Bring Towels

I always recommend bringing an armful of towels on a camping trip. They soak up mud, dry things off, and even make the bedding more comfortable. I always set one right inside the door of my tent to dry myself off before entering. I also keep one folded at the foot of my bed to place my muddy boots on.

14. Build a Proper Fire

Fires can burn even in light rain. However, they won’t start if the wood is soaking wet. If I want a fire and it looks like it might rain, I build one and get it going before the precipitation starts. I keep the wood dry under my car and pull from the pile as the rain picks up. 

Building a windbreak around the fire helps keep it dry and keep it from getting blown out. A windbreak can be as simple as where you place your body around the fire. It also could be a rock stack on one side of the fire, or a tarp hung between two trees. 

Another trick I have discovered is using my car as a windbreak. I pull my car across from my fire to block the wind or even next to my tent in the evening to keep the wind from shaking it as hard during the night. 

15. Dry Your Gear When the Rain Lets Up

As soon as the rain stops and the sun comes out, I open my tent and sleeping bag and let them breathe. I want as little moisture in my shelter as possible, so I take my opportunities when I get them.

I also hang a paracord line between two trees and use it as a drying rack for my clothing. Anything wet can be put in the sun or hung somewhere to dry out quicker. Leaving a campsite at the end of a trip with dry gear is much easier than bringing home a car of wet clothes and having to dry everything out at home.

It is vital to dry all of your tent and sleeping gear out entirely before packing it up and storing it so that it doesn’t rot or mildew between trips. 

Is Camping in the Rain Worth It?

Yes! Believe it or not, camping in the rain can be a blast! Proper equipment is vital for comfort and dryness. I always start my adventure by writing out a camping in the rain checklist and checking it twice! Like my father always said, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear!

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