If you have been camping before I’m sure you have been camping in the rain. If you’ve been lucky or you are a newbie camper, take my word for it, you will end up camping in the rain before it is over! The skies may be sunny and blue when you leave for your camping trip, but the weather can quickly change. Or maybe you’ve planned a camping trip and it is too late to cancel (or you just don’t want to) and the forecast predicts rain. With these easy tips for camping in the rain, you’ll survive and hopefully have fun anyway.
Prepare for Camping in the Rain
Some of the most important things you can do to keep dry and ensure a better camping experience are actually done before it rains. Some things should be done before you leave home. Think ahead and be prepared.
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1.Take a good tent with a proper rainfly. (I know people that have forgot the rainfly – I guess it didn’t get put back in the tent bag??) You may want a tent with a rainfly that completely covers any mesh vents and windows. Some cabin tents are designed in such a way that the rainfly just covers the top of the tent (more like a roof on a house) and some people complain about rain blowing in the windows. See tip #13!
2. Consider buying a tent that has a vestibule. Even some small backpacking tents have little vestibules. This helps keep you dry while opening the tent door. Some vestibules provide enough coverage to store gear under them.
4. Check the forecast before you pack and leave for your camping trip to best prepare. Be sure to check the forecast for your camping destination, not your home location. Also check for severe weather. Camping in the rain is one thing, but camping in severe storms is not advisable if it can be avoided. I know forecasts aren’t always accurate and some storms are short lived, so use common sense.
5. Pitch your tent on higher ground. If you are camping where you can actually choose where to pitch your tent (no designated tent pad), choose an area on higher ground. Don’t pick the lowest area on a site or the bottom of a hill. All the rain will run down and stand in the lowest area.
If you do have to pitch your tent on a designated tent pad area, try to choose a campsite that won’t stand in water. If you already have reservations for a specific site and you arrive to discover it is low and rain is in the forecast, ask if you are allowed to change campsites.
Once we were camping at a large Scout camp with several families. There were no designated tent sites so families just pitched their tents in one large area. Despite a beautiful sunny day, a heavy rain storm blew in during the middle of the night. We stayed high and and dry on a small rise, but the families that were at the bottom weren’t so fortunate. One family woke to several inches of water in their tent. Luckily they were all sleeping on cots off the ground, so they stayed dry.
6. Watch for rising water if you are camped next to a creek or river.
7. Bring extra tarps!
8. Put a tarp or ground cloth under your tent. You can purchase “footprints” specifically made for some tents. Not only will this help protect your tent, it adds another layer between you and the wet ground. Just be sure the tarp is not bigger than the tent bottom. Any edge of the tarp sticking out can allow water to puddle around and under your tent.
Some people recommend putting a tarp on the floor inside of your tent too, but we have never done this.
9. Put a tarp over your tent if you are worried about keeping your tent dry and have doubts about how waterproof it really is. This also can give you a covered area to enter and exit the tent if the tarp is big enough. Just be sure to pack extra rope or para cord for the tarp.
10. Bring waterproof containers and/or bags to store your gear. Even though you hope the interior of your tent will remain dry, storing clothes or gear in waterproof containers can help ensure they won’t get wet. It you don’t have some totes or handy dry sacks, at least bring some trash bags and large ziploc bags.
11. Place a mat outside your tent or RV door to catch any mud and debris. Putting a small mat or rug inside the tent or RV door is a good idea too.
12. Put up a pop-up canopy over the picnic area or even near your tent. This will give you somewhere to hang out and prepare food out of the rain. If you don’t have a canopy, use an extra tarp to create this covered space.
13. Zip any tent windows closed to help keep the interior of your tent dry if it is raining hard. I find it surprising the number of people that say rain blows in their windows of their cabin tents due to a smaller rainfly. I know ventilation is important, but some condensation is not as bad as actual rain blowing in! I know it can get hot and muggy in the summertime though.
14. Open the door and unzip any windows once the rain stops. This will allow your tent to air out a little.
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15. Bring some food that doesn’t have to be cooked. If the weather is really nasty, it may be difficult to cook.
17. Gather kindling and firewood (or purchase it) when you first arrive, especially if it is not raining then. Bring your firewood if you can – some areas have strict rules about bringing firewood due to pests and disease.
18. Cover your dry firewood and kindling with a tarp. Lay the tarp on the ground, place the wood on it, then cover the wood with the remaining section of tarp, essentially wrapping it up, to keep it dry. You can also store kindling or a few pieces of firewood in a heavy duty garbage bag.
You may not plan on trying to start a fire in the rain, but you’ll want dry wood for a fire after the rain (hopefully) stops. The fire will warm you up and help dry any clothes that got wet.
19. Be sure you have some sort of tinder or fire starter. Wood shavings, dryer lint, cotton covered with petroleum jelly balls etc. Some people swear by InstaFire, but we have never used it. You can gather pine needles from under trees. Dig a little deep – the needles may be dry under the top layer.
20. Don’t forget the waterproof matches or lighter! Some people use and love a ferro rod.
21. Make a clothesline from para cord or rope to hang wet clothes on. (Check out this handy clothesline that is ready to go.) If it keeps raining, go ahead and hang your clothesline under the tarp or canopy. You may need dry clothes to change into, plus you don’t want to pack up heavy, wet clothes if you don’t have to.
22. Don’t forget the rain gear. Be sure to pack a rain coat or poncho. A wide brim hat is helpful or at least bring a ball cap. Some people bring boots and an extra pair of shoes. I always bring my grandsons’ rubber boots – they love wearing them even if it isn’t rainy and muddy!
23. Bring towels. You’ll be glad you have extras if you get drenched. Most people that are campground camping usually bring a towel for their shower. These ultra light, quick dry towels don’t take up much room so it is easy to pack several.
24. Bring adequate lighting. Overcast, cloudy skies and rainy weather can make it darker. Be sure you have enough flashlights, lanterns, and batteries.
25. Bring something to entertain you in case you are stuck in the tent, under the tarp or canopy, or in the RV. Don’t miss the bonus rainy day camping activities below!
26. If it is warm enough, just play in the rain! If you are camping with kids, they will have a blast too.
27. Stay positive and find things to appreciate if you end up camping in the rain. Take the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the company of your friends and family during your tent or RV confinement, let the sound of the rain hitting your tent lull you to sleep at night, and enjoy the post rain landscape – moody forests, foggy mountains, and rushing waterfalls.
Rainy Day Camping Activities
Your camping trip can still be fun if it rains. Keep a container stocked with supplies and games that is reserved for rainy weather.
- Play board games
- Play cards: Go Fish, Old Maid, UNO Wilderness, Dutch Bllitz, Monopoly DEAL etc.
- Read a book or magazine
- Play conversational games like 20 Questions, I Spy, Would You Rather?, Just a Minute
- Sing ‘Rain, rain go away’ . Seriously though, have fun singing some camp songs or any of your favorites.
- Tell fun and/or sentimental stories about your life, especially past adventures.
- Write in a journal. Decorate it with drawings and stickers.
- Pray and write in a prayer journal. Use the down time to spend time with God.
- Create crafts: Leather work, hiking sticks, make jewelry, paracord creations, color etc. This can be fun for kids and adults.
- Practice knot tying skills (which I stink at!)
- Take a nap. Rest; you don’t have to be constantly entertained.
- Plan your next camping trip.
- Study hiking maps for nearby adventures after it stops raining.
- Hang out in the campground clubhouse, if one is available. (It may be crowded!)
- Check out the visitor center if you are staying at a national park.
- Go for a drive to some nearby landmarks.
Bonus Tips: What You Should Do AFTER Camping in the Rain
More work awaits you when you get home after a rainy camping trip. Please don’t ignore these final tips. It is super important to take care of your gear.
- If you are having to pack up in the rain, pack your tarp and canopy up last so you can work under them if possible.
- There is a good chance your tent and gear will still be wet when you pack it up, even if it has quit raining.
- Garbage bags come in handy for stowing wet tarps, tents, and gear for the trip home.
- Never leave wet gear packed up.
- When you get home, hang your tent up or pitch it in your yard so it can dry completely.
- Sleeping bags may be damp and need to be dried also. You usually can just hang them outside.
- Be sure to dry off any camp stoves and cooking gear.
- Reorganize your camping supplies if everything was packed in a hurry at the rainy campsite.
Share Your Camping in the Rain Hacks and Stories
Do you have any helpful camping in the rain hacks? What about a tent you love that proved water and leak proof? Share your fun (or miserable) camping memories in the comments below!