20 Tips for Camping in the Rain

Camper huddles in the rain

Rain is not the ideal weather to have on a camping trip. No one wants to wake up and find water-soaked supplies and clothes. Campers will survive, but with a dimmer spirit on the way back home.

We promise you, it is still possible to have a wonderful adventure in the wilderness, even when caught in the rain. Those who are ready for inclement weather often look forward to it. You can avoid the rainy-day blues if you prepare appropriately.

Here are our top 20 tips for camping in the rain.

1. Wear Waterproof Clothes and Shoes

Waterproof clothes will save you a lot of grief, no matter if it’s a light drizzle or full-blown rainstorm. With the right protection from a waterproof jacket, poncho, pants, boots, and gaiters, your base layers will be safe from outside moisture and you will be able to stay warm.

2. Be Sure to Layer Up

No need to throw on a big parka. Even if it’s waterproof, it will be counterproductive, and make you sweat too much before you can take shelter from the rain. A better layering system includes thin layers that insulate and are quick drying, like polyester or wool, with your light waterproof jacket on top. Be sure to safely pack several replacement base layers and socks. Even with a proper layering system you will still sweat. Sweat makes you cold before long.

3. Wear Bright Colors

If the camping location you chose is in a densely wooded area, the rainclouds will make the area muted and dark. It’s important for your family or neighboring campers to see you and not mistake you for an animal. This is especially true if its hunting season. Don’t be afraid to stand out in yellow or neon green. The brighter the outfit, the better.

4. Pitch Your Tent in the Right Spot

Never pitch your tent downhill. That is where rainwater will collect, and you risk undermining the provisions you’ve taken to keep the inside of your tent dry. Instead, pitch the tent uphill, on top of a slope, or at least on slightly higher ground. Choosing an elevated spot will protect the integrity of your shelter.

5. Create a Separate Cooking and Dining Space

If your tent is big enough and thoroughly prepped for inclement weather, why not build a separate outdoor living space? You and your campmates will be less likely to track water and mud into the main shelter since recreation time will be spent elsewhere. With a pop-up canopy, or with carefully-placed tarps, you can create a strong, rainproof outdoor living space.

6. Add Warm Lighting

Your outdoor recreation space will need an atmosphere that complements the rain. Use LED string lights, glow sticks, and mason jars filled with candles on the picnic table to set the perfect mood.

7. Go for Comfort Food and Snacks

Food is always a mood booster when it’s raining outside. Pull out snacks that you and your family will love. Stick to dinner options that are heavy on the carbs and protein, light on the veggies. More calories are necessary to regulate your body temperature in the rain. Also, hot cocoa and chili were made for rainy days.

8. Always Have Plastic Bags

Your bags will make or break a camping trip. Not only should your tent and clothes be waterproof, your packs and all items (dry clothes and supplies) inside them should be protected with plastic. Zip-loc bags are good. Heavy duty garbage bags are better, as they can be used for waterproofing items and the tent in a pinch.

9. Check for Holes

It is best to do this before you leave for your camping trip, but things do happen. You could set up camp and find punctures in places you didn’t think were possible. Do your best make note of every hole in your tent, your primary tarps, your groundsheet, and your clothes, because water will seep through. Consider bringing some seam-sealer and using it on the punctures, as well as your tent’s seams.

10. Use Tarps Everywhere

A tarp is your best friend. Tarps will save you so much trouble if you bring enough. Rainy weather means you will need to place tarps in several places for maximum waterproofing. Place one on top of your groundsheet, underneath the tent. Line one inside your tent, because the one underneath won’t be enough to keep the water out of the tent’s interior. Place a tarp at a downhill angle above your tent as well.

11. Get the Angles Right

Your tent should be pitched to withstand the worst of the downpour to begin with. It should have a subtle slant to it, but not so bent that it could slide down your chosen slope. The guylines of your tent should be secure with equal tension, but at opposite angles. Combined with a properly angled tarp above your tent, water will move downstream, around your shelter.

12. Keep Your Balance in the Mud

Should you need to walk through rain and muddy ground for any length of time, you will want to take out trekking poles and ensure you have a solid pair of hiking boots. These will help you keep your balance in unsteady, unsafe territory. Even with these, you will have to take care as you walk, because a slip could lead to a serious injury.

13. Take Some Newspapers

Even if you take every precaution, you will still get wet in certain spots. Your shoes are the main culprit for damp discomfort after trudging through a storm. Like plastic bags, another item you should always bring with you, regardless of the weather forecast, is newspaper. Water that seeps into your boots, jacket sleeves, and pant legs, can be absorbed by newspaper. Tear, ball up, and stuff these places to dry them faster.

14. Protect Your Dry Wood

Some still opt to make fires in the rain if it’s feasible. You will want to bring dry wood with you on your trip. If you are already in the forest and know it will rain soon, search for dry wood ahead of time. Keep it dry in your tent wrapped in tarps. Did you travel in your truck or RV? You can place your firewood underneath the vehicle to keep your wood safe and dry.

15. Bring a Welcome Mat

You don’t want water or mud getting into your tent. To keep the area as dry as possible, use an absorbent mat to place just outside the entrance of your shelter. Think of it as your doormat. Use it to take some of the water and muck off your boots. Some folks don’t bring their shoes into the tent at all, placing them on the mat. If you don’t have a mat especially for this purpose, a good towel will do the trick too.

16. Hang Wet Clothes

Most likely, you will have to air out damp clothes once the weather lets up. Hang those water-logged base layers outside on some para-cord. Throwing them into a pile at the back of the tent instead of hanging them will cause longer drying times. You will have to go home with mildew smelling clothes. That won’t be fun at all.

17. Protect Your Sleeping Bag

It’s recommended you bring a bivy bag, no matter the weather. Everything else has been waterproofed, why not do the same for your sleeping bag? Sleeping bags are very difficult to dry once soaked. Not only do bivy bags keep them safe from the moisture, they add another layer of warmth for you as you sleep.

18. More Than A Sleeping Bag

Hanging your clothes is a great way to dry them, but what if it rains multiple times?  Clothesline drying could take time that the weather will not allow. A way to speed up the process is to put damp items in the sleeping bag with you. Your body heat will be the dryer. This is also a good way to keep clean and dry replacement layers warm. What’s better than putting on clean and dry layers after a rainstorm? Putting on clean, dry, and warm layers.

19. Don’t Forget the Hand Warmers

Hand warmers are important to have in wet weather with cold temperatures. To keep your hands warm, place them in the pockets of your jacket or stick them inside your gloves. They also work well under your feet, so place some in those waterproof boots to keep them toasty.

20. Stay Positive

We have no control over the weather, and even the best-laid plans don’t always work out. If you prepare for inclement weather ahead of time, a little rain won’t be enough to ruin your camping trip. You cannot control nature, but you can control only how you react to it. Keep a positive attitude, and know that the rain will stop. Sip some hot cocoa, tell ghost stories, and sleep through the rain in peace.