Rain brings out beautiful views on campgrounds, but it’s not the most pleasant weather to experience while camping. Thankfully, there are ways you can improve your experience when you’re camping in the rain.
Here are a few tips and hacks for camping in the rain:
- Choose a site on high ground and away from lakes
- Choose a cold weather tent with a vestibule and vents
- Waterproof and seal your seams
- Camp in a windbreak
- Bring extra socks
- Wear a wide brim hat
- Never sleep in damp clothes
- Ensure your sleeping bag is waterproof
I’ve done some research to find the best tips for rainy camping out there, and I’ll go in-depth on them below.
There are tons of tips that you can apply to camping in the rain. Some are for your tent, some for your clothes, and some will help you have a good time regardless of the weather. There’s a lot to explore here, so let’s dive in.
#1. Choose A Site On High Ground Away From Lakes
Flooding is one of your worst enemies when camping in the rain, so you should do everything you can to avoid it.
Stay away from lakes and streams, as the water may rise and spill onto your campsite. However, avoiding bodies of water doesn’t mean a body of water won’t form where you are.
If you’re at the bottom of a slope or near a dip in the ground, then you may end up with a rain-made lake on your doorstep.
Because of this, choose a campsite on higher ground, ideally at the top of a slope. Try to position yourself so that water runs away from your tent.
Also avoid camping under trees, as water will drip onto your tent from them.
#2. Choose A Cold Weather Tent With A Vestibule and Vents
All tents are waterproof, but try to find one with a 2,000mm waterproof rating and above. If you can find one with a rating that’s double that, then do it!
You should also ensure your tent can withstand harsh winds. Most 4-season tents can withstand winds without buckling, but consider investing in larger tent stakes and burying them deep.
A vestibule is another must in your tent. You need someplace to change out of your wet gear so you don’t get the rest of your tent damp.
Lastly, ensure your tent has vents. It’s wet enough outside. Let the hot air out of your tent to keep the interior dry.
The AYAMAYA Lightweight Waterproof Camping Tunnel Tent is a good example of a beginner tent that’s ideal for rainy weather.
#3. Waterproof and Seal Your Seams
All good tents are waterproof and have sealed seams, but that doesn’t mean they never need a little extra help. You should always add some extra waterproofing and seam sealing if you intend to camp in the rain.
Waterproofing is usually simple. You spray or paint your tent with a waterproofing substance of choice. I recommend a waterproofing spray, as it’s easy to use.
You then brush seam seal on all of your seams and leave it to dry.
The process is a little different if you have a canvas tent, but don’t worry. I can teach you how to waterproof a canvas tent, too.
#4. Create A Porch
If you can create a porch using a tarp or buy a tent with a porch, then do so. You can dry out wet shoes under the porch, and it’s great for keeping the rain away from you.
You don’t want to be drenched by the rain that’s dripping down your door when you step out of the tent. Plus, opening the door lets water that’s running down it enter your tent.
A simple way to create an awning is by placing an instant canopy against the door of your tent.
#5. Have An Extra Rain-Free Area
Tents can get cramped, especially if you’re camping with a group. Most tents aren’t very tall or wide, unless you’re using a large, 10-12 person cabin tent.
You’re going to want a communal area to hang out while having the room to stretch and breathe. You can create one by adding a tarp setup near your tent, somewhat like the awning in the video above.
Lay down a groundsheet, and set up a tarp over it. Ensure no rain can get under the tarp, and you’ll have a nice area to hang out under. Make sure you suspend it high enough for you to sit under comfortably!
You may need some additional tarps to cover the sides where the rain is coming towards you. You can clip or tie those to your overhead tarp and stake them out.
#6. Use A Tarp Over and Under Your Tent
If you’re asking yourself, do I need a tarp under my tent? The answer is almost always yes.
The same can be said for having a tarp over your tent.
A tarp over your tent keeps as much rain from dripping down your tent walls as possible. A tarp under your tent helps keep water from soaking the bottom of your tent.
Ensure you allow enough room for ventilation with your overhead tarp, and make sure to avoid pooling with your ground tarp. You can learn about pooling in the article linked at the start of this section.
And if you’re wondering how big should your tarp be, then there are several other scenarios to consider.
#7. Camp In A Windbreak
A windbreak is an area naturally surrounded by hedges that stop wind from whipping at your tent. If you can find a naturally closed-in area like this, then you’ll want to camp there—but make sure there are no trees overhead!
If you can’t find a natural windbreak, then you can create one yourself. The video below will tell you how.
#8. Dig A Trench
This is a tip you’ll have to double-check before you go camping. Many sites have a “leave no trace” rule, and that’ll stop you from digging a trench unless you can fill it back in. If you store the soil/dirt in a waterproof bag, then you can put it back before you leave.
Dig a trench around 6 inches deep around your campsite. You can do it on one side or all four. That should trap water that would’ve otherwise run close to your tent.
It’s a good idea to do this if you’re on flat ground or land that’s slightly slanted towards your tent. After all, finding a campsite on high ground isn’t always possible.
#9. Dress Right For Rain
Make sure all of your clothing is ready to tackle the rain. Waterproof pants and jackets are a must, and of course, you’ll need rain boots.
Waterproofing yourself isn’t all you should do, though. It gets chilly when it rains, so follow some of the best cold weather camping practices for clothes.
Ideally, dress in light layers with an inner layer that you can change out of if it gets sweaty as you keep warm. Ensure you have warm clothes for the night as well as the day.
#10. Bring Extra Socks
Socks often get wet even while wearing waterproof boots, so make sure you bring an extra pair, or two, or more. Having enough socks to change into is vital. I recommend grabbing fistfuls of socks, throwing them into a waterproof bag, and taking them with you.
You can also use socks on your hands if you get chilly. It’s great for nighttime if you don’t have comfortable gloves!
#11. Wear A Wide Brim Hat
Keeping your face dry is vital. Rain can run down your face, onto your neck, and under your clothes. There’s no worse feeling (well, besides wet socks).
Wearing a wide brim tent is like having an awning for your tent as well as your head. Grab a hat and wear it under your hood, if your hood is big enough. If the hood won’t go up over the back brim of the hat, then wearing it over your hood is fine.
#12. Bring A Cooking Stove
You most likely won’t be able to eat outside using a campfire (although it’s possible if the rain isn’t too heavy), so bring a camping stove. You can cook in your tent with a camping stove, although it’s safer to use a camping stove under your awning or tarp setup.
There are tons of camping stoves you can choose from, but I recommend an all-in-one camping stove system. It’s easier to transport and store.
You’ll want something that boils water quickly and doesn’t have an open flame that harsh winds can put out. The Jetboil Flash is great for that.
A camping stove windscreen is also a good idea.
#13. Dry Your Clothes Under Your Tarp
Your tent may have a vestibule, but it’s good for temporarily housing wet clothes. It’s not a great place to dry them!
Drying your clothes in your tent may lead to them getting moldy. Knowing how to clean a tent with mold and mildew is important, but it’s better to avoid getting it moldy altogether.
Instead, hang your wet clothes to try under your awning or tarp outside your tent. They’ll dry faster in the open air, as long as no rain can get to them.
#14. Bring a Tent Heater
A tent heater is a must when you’re camping in the cold rain. You can use an outdoor propane heater under your tarp setup, but you’ll need to ensure not even a drop of rain can get to it. It’s great for drying your clothes out there!
Inside your tent, you can size down. Propane heaters are safe in tents as long as you choose one that’s appropriate for that use.
#15. Consider A Campfire
You obviously can’t have a campfire out in the rain, but you can have one under your tarp.
Place a tarp very high up, have closed-in sides to stop rain blowing in, and don’t use a groundsheet. It’ll help keep you and your tent warm, and it’s good for drying clothes if you don’t want to use a heater.
Make sure to follow these 4 ways to make your campfire burn through the night, and consider alternatives to campfire if using real fire isn’t appropriate for your setup.
#16. Store Your Wood Somewhere Safe
If you’re making a campfire, you’ll need to keep your wood safe. Wet wood doesn’t burn well, and it creates too much smoke. Store the wood in your car, your vestibule, or in waterproof sacks under your tarp.
And if the campfire smoke follows you, follow the best practices to stop it from doing so.
#17. Use A Camping Cot
Camping cots often have waterproof surfaces, so they’re great to use as an indoor or outdoor seat. Plus, they’re good to sleep on, too—they’ll keep you higher off the cold, wet, ground.
The air circulating under the cot may give you a chill at night, so stuff some blankets under there when night falls. It works as extra insulation.
#18. Ensure Your Sleeping Bag Is Waterproof
Sometimes rain will still fly into your tent if you open the doors, and if that splashes on your bag, you’re in trouble! Make sure your sleeping bag is waterproof.
If your sleeping bag isn’t waterproof, consider placing a waterproof blanket or sheet over it from the shoulders down.
#19. Use A Sleeping Pad
Sleeping pads are great for adding extra insulation. You can use foam sleeping pads on the floor to help insulate your tent, and inflatable sleeping pads are best to sleep on. They’ll keep you the most comfortable.
However, should sleeping pads go inside or outside of sleeping bags on your camping trip? There are some factors you should consider to make the best decision for you.
#20. Never Sleep In Damp Clothing
You may assume that your camp clothes will warm up and dry during the night, so you go to bed after getting hit by a little rain. Never do this! You could end up developing hypothermia if it’s too cold outside. Your cold clothes could freeze against you in more extreme conditions.
Make sure your hair is dry, too. Going outside or going to bed with wet hair won’t make you sick, despite the popular belief that it will. However, it will make you very uncomfortable and get your sleep gear all wet. It probably won’t dry in the cold of the night!
#21. Bring A Waterproof Backpack
You can shield your gear from the rain and store individual items in waterproof bags, but a waterproof backpack is another great barrier you can put between you and the rain.
Waterproof backpacks are great to store your clean and dry clothes in, and I highly recommend them. I also recommend storing worn and wet clothes in a separate backpack, which should also be waterproof, if possible.
#22. Use Ziplock Bags
Ziplock bags are underappreciated when it’s raining. They can keep phones, wallets, and snack foods safe!
Wrappers and some electronics are often waterproof on their own these days, but that extra barrier will be mightily helpful.
#23. Bring Entertainment and Electricity
Try as you might to make outside habitable, sometimes outdoor hangouts aren’t feasible in the rain. So, you’ll need some entertainment in the tent to keep you occupied.
Make sure to bring books, good lighting, and electronics to entertain you. If you bring a Kindle, tablet, phone, or laptop, make sure you can charge it.
Generators are great for staying charged, and tents with e-ports are also fantastic. You can run an extension cable out to your car or the power inputs on a powered campsite.
#24. Bring Compact Board Games
Don’t just rely on electronics to keep you entertained, though! It might get too rainy to venture out to plug stuff in, you might get bored of Netflix and eBooks, and anyway, camping trips are about bonding with friends.
Board games are a classic way to keep yourself occupied. Card games are excellent, too. There are plenty of compact board games that work wonderfully while camping, as described by the camper below.
#25. Bring A Crank Radio
If you love music and want to avoid electricity, then bring a crank radio. A battery radio works, too, but make sure you have spare batteries.
If you find the right station, a crank radio can inject life into a dull rainy day in your tent.
#26. Bring A Camping Toilet
This isn’t the most glamorous tip, but it’s vital when it’s raining. If you’re in the wilderness or if your campsite is too far from the bathrooms, you’ll need a camping toilet.
Get one with a detachable waste tank, and set up the faux-bathroom near your tent. Consider a single-person tent or a tarp setup with closed-in sides, and put it in there.
You’ll thank me when you don’t have to run through torrential rain to get to the bathroom.
#27. Bring A Trash Can
It may also be too far to run to throw away trash at the appropriate spots on your campsite, so bring a waterproof outdoor trash can that you put by the door of your tent. You can stick out a hand and drop your trash inside it!
A waterproof, odor-proof bag for indoor use is also a good idea so you don’t have to keep opening your tent door.
You’ll need to keep all of your trash in odor-proof bags if there are bears near your campsite. A light shower doesn’t bother bears. Heavier rain may keep them back, but when it ends, they can come out to play.
#28. Bring Towels
Everything and anything can get wet during a rainy camping trip, so bring a few towels with you. You can dry off your hands before eating, dry wet footprints, and dry condensation.
Speaking of condensation, make sure to ventilate your tent! Open the vents. They’ll be angled downwards, so rain won’t get into the tent.
It’s wet enough outside. You don’t want it to get wet inside the tent, too!
#30. Dry Everything When You Get Home
Despite your best efforts, a lot of stuff will get wet when you camp in the rain. Your tent will likely be soaked. Make sure you dry everything when you get home. Open it all out, pin it up outside in dry weather, and don’t store it until it’s perfectly dry.
Store all of your camping gear in a cool, dry place in a sealed container to keep bugs at bay.
It’s vital to stay as dry as you can when camping, as you could end up going home with a chill you can’t shake and mold growing in your tent and clothes.
Following the tips above will give you the best shot at staying as dry as possible. It’s not impossible to camp in the rain, and it can be very enjoyable, but make sure you do it right.