Camping in the Rain: Top Tips for Tent Campers

a family camping tent in the rain

Two things come to mind when we think about staying warm and dry in the rain; clothing, and shelter.

Staying warm means staying dry in most cases. We have all experienced those warm summer showers from time to time when you’re able to frolic around in the rain having a ball.

Sadly, however, 99% of the time, you will find yourself cold and miserable when dealing with rain and camping. Especially if there is any wind involved, and there usually is. We’re going to step you through here some of our top tips for dealing with the rain while tent camping.

This post is part of our Camping and Outdoor adventure series

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Pack the Right Gear

A waterproof tent must always be reinforced by silicone spray or a similar sealant. It’s also good to have two or three tarps, at least 6×10 feet each. These can be thrown over tents for rain that pounds down, which you can count on.

You can also string a large tarp up overhead to cover the camp area, even the fire. Just be sure it’s up high enough to keep it from catching fire or melting.

Another good idea is a large doormat outside the tent entrance, which will keep you from tracking so much camp into the tent.

Let’s Look At Clothing

The single best thing you can have when dealing with rain is some sort of rain suit. We highly recommend a Gore-Tex rain suit if you are serious about spending time in the woods during adverse weather conditions. Gore-Tex allows that moisture to escape while also providing you with rain protection.

You can choose from many options here, but I recommend that you check out the ex-military equipment available on the market today. Already tested it, and if it works for them, it will surely work for any adventure you might be planning.

This is good gear and will cost you some money, but you get what you pay for. So be it if your budget only allows for a plastic rain suit. It will work, and it’s better than nothing. However, you will find that your body will begin to create moisture between the plastic and your clothes due to condensation, and you will eventually end up wet anyway, which is what we are trying to avoid.

man in a goretex suit and plastic rain coat setting a fire in the rain

Good boots are also a must, and there are many types on the market. Many of the best use the Gore-Tex fabric for the same reasons Dry = Warm!

There are plenty of dry clothing items to bring, especially t-shirts and socks. Raingear is best to keep you protected, but any waterproof outerwear should do. However, waterproof shoes or boots are a must–good ones that you can step into puddles without worrying.

Another way to prepare for rain or canoeing with gear is to pack clothes in zip-strip plastic bags. Seal them up and put them inside your bags to keep them dry. And speaking of bags, why not go with a waterproof carry bag instead of your normal rucksack, it’ll give your dry clothing that little extra layer of protection.

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The final word on clothing, keep your unworn clothes dry. Wet clothes are worthless! Zip-lock freezer bags are perfect for this and will also help you vacuum pack your clothes. This is big when every bit of space you have is precious.

As a side note between you and me, always carry extra socks and t-shirts; you’ll thank me later!

Campsite Choice

Here is your bread and butter, people. Where and how you place your tent will make a huge difference in how dry you will be during a rainstorm.

Ideally, you want to look for a slightly elevated area to ensure you will be safe from any rising water, such as creeks, streams, rivers, etc. Then you will also want to have an idea of how the weather moves through the area you will be camping in.

For the most part, weather travels in the same general direction when it moves across the country. Know these patterns for the area you will be in, and place your tent accordingly.

Face the back of your tent directly into or at a slight angle to the oncoming weather. This will prevent the wind and rain from penetrating your tent door and allow you to exit and enter without getting the inside too wet.

tents pitched on a camp site

It should also allow you to keep the air vents in the door open slightly, letting some air in if needed. You will also want to place the tent on the backside of a hill, away from the direction from which the weather should be coming. The best location would be a slight plateau on the backside of a hill.

A good way to keep the tent and base around it dry is to set up on rocks. It helps to have pads to soften the ground, but by setting up on rock—a gravel road in my case—the water drained below the tent’s base. It works great.

Next, you will want to dig a trench around all sides of the tent. Make it about six inches deep and taper it to the front of the tent, which should be pointing downhill. The downhill lie may not be noticeable, but it will still help. This will allow any runoff coming down the hill to pass by your tent and continue down the hill.

Another option to keep high and dry is to try hammock camping. You can still stay high and dry using tarps over your hammocks but avoid waking in a soggy puddle.

Food And Other Supplies

Food and other supplies need to be kept dry, too. Leaving them in the car can help, but if you want to have them in camp or make a portage or hike, keep dry goods, toilet paper, or other necessities in lock-seal plastic bags or containers. It’s not bad to use your old cooler as dry storage.

Some warm liquids in a thermos— coffee, soup or hot chocolate—are always a hit around the soggy campfire. Though, folks have been known to burn the soles of their shoes while sitting in the cold around a campfire. Just watch it.

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It’s also good to be on a slight angle so you won’t be sitting in a pool as the water collects. Head up and away from the entrance is a good way. Check on your tent after getting it set up. You might find you missed a steady stream of water that’s slowly filling your little getaway.

If you’re prepared, it’s no problem dealing with the rain while camping. You can stay a little drier with some of these tricks even if you aren’t. The rest depends on just going with the weather. Just remember, it’s only water.

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