Unfortunately, knowing how to camp in the rain is, for many of us, a necessary skill. Unless you live in one of the drier parts of the US, the likelihood is you're gonna come across liquid sunshine every once in a while. If you live in Britain, rain should come as no surprise, especially in the more mountainous regions.
Most people would probably put rain towards the bottom of their list of desirable conditions for an expedition. It makes campfires nigh on impossible, staying warm tricky and can gradually grinds the excitement of a camping trip to a juddering halt. However, with the right tricks up your waterproof sleeve, you can still have a fun time even when the weather isn't playing nice.
There's no need to leave your best camping tent in the garage when rain is on the cards and a wet forecast needn't be a dealbreaker. Follow our guide on how to camp in the rain and you'll pick up an ocean's worth of practical solutions. The show must go on, as they say!
Better still, many of this tricks are transferable. Grab your best waterproof jacket and your backpack, because if you know how to camp in the wet, you'll also be halfway to knowing how to go hiking in rain too.
How to camp in the rain: check the weather forecast
The first rule of camping in the rain is not to get caught out unprepared. Use one of our recommended weather apps to check the forecast in the area where you’ll be camping before you set out. If there’s rain in the forecast, you don’t have to cancel your plans but it will change what and how you pack for your trip.
How to camp in the rain: weatherproof your gear
If there’s rain in the forecast, you can start by packing lots of your gear in separate plastic bags. This way if something gets wet, everything else in your daypack doesn’t get wet. Make sure perishable items like your lighter, matches and battery-powered devices like GPS trackers and headlamps are safely in sealed plastic bags.
Your backpack is most likely not completely waterproof, so if you’re hiking in, use a dry bag to cover it and keep your gear protected.
How to camp in the rain: dress for success
Needless to say, you’ll want to pick your rainy day camping wardrobe carefully. Avoid cotton, which holds onto moisture and dress in moisture-wicking materials including a base layer, then layer a waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers on top for starters. If you’re bringing a down jacket for warmth in the evening, synthetic down works better in damp conditions than natural down. If you’re hiking in, bring a change of clothes for when you get back to camp so you’re not shivering all night long.
How to camp in the rain: bring the right tent
Before you leave, make sure your tent is built to withstand rain. Ideally, you want a double-walled tent with a rain fly and groundsheet for rainy weather. You may also want to place a tarp under your tent for added protection from water seeping in, and follow our guide on how to waterproof your tent if you’ve owned yours a while. It’s also recommended to use a tent with a vestibule so you have a separate area in which to change and leave wet, muddy items like your best hiking shoes so as not to drag muck into your sleeping quarters.
How to keep your tent dry in the rain
Okay, so you've checked the forecast and you're prepared for the incoming conditions. The gear you've brought is primed for the weather and you're all good to go. Now the key knowing how to keep your tent dry in the rain and keeping yourself out of the worst of it as well. Let's start with your pitching location...
How to keep your tent dry in the rain: find a safe camping site
Find an area of higher ground on which to set up camp. Avoid setting up in a drainage basin, on the banks of a river or the shore of a lake, as these areas are more prone to flooding. Also avoid setting up under a tree. Though it might seem like it would provide some shelter from falling rain, falling limbs could be dangerous or damage your tent, while you’re likely to have to listen to the constant dripping long after a shower has gone off.
How to keep your tent dry in the rain: build a shelter
To keep your tent dry in the rain, it obviously needs to be sheltered itself. If the forecast is truly biblical, this can be a very good idea indeed.
Once you find your campsite, set up a temporary shelter, either using natural materials or with a pop-up tent or tarp if you’re able to carry one in. You can pitch your tent under it without getting soaked then leave the canopy where it is, or once your tent is up, move the shelter so you have a communal area to hang out under. After all, if you’re camping with a group, it’s a shame for everyone to spend the whole time hiding away in their tents so make a dry space in which to socialize, enjoy meals and play games to while away the evening hours.
How to camp in the rain: hang a clothes line
Once you've done everything you can to keep your tent dry in the rain, it's time to consider your own comforts once more, starting with your clothes. Pack a clothes line or rope, and once your shelter is erected, you can hang any wet clothes up to dry so they’re ready for use again in the morning.
How to camp in the rain: light things up
Of course, you want a light source for any camping experience, but a camping lantern or three can add a nice warm ambiance and help make up for the absence of a campfire, at least a little bit.
How to camp in the rain: cook with a camping stove
There’s few things you’ll want more than a hot meal on a rainy night and again, you shouldn’t plan on being able to cook over a campfire or using a wood-burning stove. Bring a gas-powered stove or even a double-burner camping stove and cook up a hearty meal to lift your spirits. Do not be tempted to cook inside your tent, this is the biggest no-no when it comes to knowing how to camp in the rain.
How to camp in the rain: sleep in a synthetic bag
Making sure you get a good night's sleep is half the battle when it comes to a successful camping trip. As we mentioned already, though we love natural down for its warmth, synthetic down is better in wet conditions because it will continue to provide insulation which you definitely want once you lie down to sleep. Pack a synthetic down bag and for extra protection against the damp, you can put your sleeping bag inside a bivy bag which will also add a little extra warmth.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.