Camping in the rain can put a real dampener on your camping trip. The one thing that will affect your trip is if all your gear gets wet. Soaking sleeping bags make for long cold nights with terrible sleep and your lovely weekend away turns into a chilly nightmare.
But, it doesn’t have to. With all our tips and tricks for camping in the rain you can stay dry and comfortable to a point, sleep in a warm dry tent, and still enjoy the beautiful wilderness you have decided to call home for a few nights.
The first part of enjoying camping in the rain is being prepared. Check the weather forecast so you know what you’re up against and then prepare your camping gear accordingly.
If it’s cold make sure to bring extra layers, if it’s warm you can pack light. Check that your tent is waterproof enough and maybe give it a respray with a waterproofing spray before you go.
If you are buying a tent for the trip or have a few to choose from at home, make sure to pick one with a porch as they come in very useful when it’s raining as you have a dry storage area and a place to keep things like your wet shoes.
Make sure to pack your waterproofs – trousers and jacket – so that you can be dry and warm whilst still enjoying activities in the rain.
If the forecast states a lot of rain over your camping trip then bringing one of two groundsheets is an excellent way to ensure the inside of your tent stays warm and dry. If you only have one then place it under your tent, if you have two, place one under the and tent and one on the floor inside so you are fully protected from any moisture that tries to seep in.
If the weather forecast shows gaps without rain, try to plan your activities in the weather gaps. It’s much better to stay warm and dry in your tent and then go for a hike whilst it’s not raining rather than the opposite way around where you’ll arrive at your tent soaking wet and only add moisture to the inside.
If you can, you should use any respite from the rain to pitch your tent. The last thing you want is for all your belongings to get wet along with the inside of the tent as this will make for some very miserable and soggy camping.
Check the local forecast for your camping area and plan your arrival and tent pitching around it. If there is no break from the rain, be very careful to keep things covered from the rain and pitch your tent quickly so that the inside stays dry.
If you have any loose pockets around your tent water will collect in them and often end up dripping inside or finding its way in somehow. When pitching, make sure you use all the peg points and guy ropes to ensure your rainfly is under maximum tension everywhere so the rain slides off and doesn’t collect in pools around the tent.
When camping in the rain, picking the right campsite can be the difference between being flooded in the night or having a dry tent for the whole trip.
Use your common sense and think about how the water is going to flow off the ground in your camping area. Pools, puddles, and even small streams can form on flat ground or on steep slopes, so try to avoid areas like this at all costs. The bottom of hills, steep valleys, and nearby rivers and streams are also a place to avoid as all the run-off from the slopes will collect there.
The ideal campsite, while it’s raining, is on high ground with a gentle upwards slope. Make sure you pitch your tent with the entrance facing down the slope to avoid any water running into the tent. If you have two doors on your tent, then pitch it with the doors facing side to side of the slope.
If you’re staying at a campsite that is managed and has bathrooms and showers then make sure you pitch your tent close to them. The only things that will force you to leave your tent in the rain are needing to use the bathroom and having to cook some food, and if the bathroom is close by you’ll avoid getting soaked when you have to visit.
Whatever you do, don’t let anything wet inside your tent. Make sure all wet things have a place to live outside of it or you’ll end up with little damp patches on your sleeping bags and sleeping mats that probably won’t dry until you have aired them out at home.
A good idea is to have a large plastic bag next to your tent or a big old dry bag that you can put wet things in and then close to stop everything from getting even wetter.
When it’s raining outside your tent tends to become a hub for condensation and this can make it quite damp inside. It might go against your common sense to keep all the vents open whilst it’s raining but it’s key to stop any internal condensation from making your sleeping bags wet.
If your tent has a porch area or vestibule, keeping part of this open during the day while it’s raining will also help with ventilation and ensuring the inside of your tent remains dry for the rest of your camping trip.
When the inner wall of your tent touches the wet rainfly on the outside it creates a direct line for water to start dripping inside your tent.
Make sure you don’t place anything against the walls of your tents including your bags and sleeping bags, plus anything in vestibules or you’ll be creating a gutter that channels water into your tent which you have worked so hard to keep dry.
One of the hardest times not to touch the inner walls of your tent is when you’re sitting up and changing inside your tent. Take it slow and be careful.
One way of guaranteeing your tent gets wet is by bringing in a load of moisture with your shoes. Make sure that everyone has a pair of shoes that can be taken off quickly and easily so that minimal moisture is pulled through into the tent.
While down is an amazing insulator, as soon as it gets wet it loses all its insulating properties and it takes ages to dry. If you’re camping in the rain make sure you leave your down sleeping bag at home and bring one with synthetic insulation with you instead.
Synthetically insulated sleeping bags dry a lot faster and they still keep you warm even if they do end up getting a little wet. This means you can still have a warm night’s sleep even if water does get into your tent somehow.
Using dry bags and a load of plastic bags is key to ensuring all your gear stays dry, especially all the important bits that will break if they get wet. Things like your food, fire starters, clothes, clothes, blankets, and books should all be wrapped in plastic bags so that they don’t get wet.
We know we all shouldn’t be using plastic bags but they are the most affordable, available, and effective waterproof storage options around and they really come into their own when you’re out camping and need your gear to stay dry.
If you’re planning on hiking into your campsite and changing campsites each night while you follow a trail then packing your backpack so the contents stay dry is key to being comfortable.
My advice is to take a large 80-liter garbage bag and pack everything inside it. Then tie up the garbage bag and slide it into your backpack. No matter how water-resistant your backpack and rain cover is, it’s not going to withstand hours of constant rain and by using a large plastic bag as an internal layer, everything inside your backpack is going to stay dry.
When I go camping in the rain, especially if I’m doing a multiple-day hike, I pack 3 different sets of clothes. One set of clothes should be designated as your wet clothes which you’ll also hike in. This does mean putting on wet gear each morning when you set out for your hike, but if you’re keeping moving, you should stay warm enough.
The second set of clothes are your dry clothes. These are for when you’re not hiking and are hanging out at camp, and changing out of your wet clothes into your dry set every day is some kind of luxury that you will only experience when you have been camping in the rain.
The third set of clothes is your backup dry-set in case something goes wrong and everything gets wet. Make sure this set is double wrapped in a plastic bag so that no matter what happens, you have some dry clothes to wear that will keep you warm and safe.
Make sure to pack a lot of extra socks and have them safely wrapped up in a waterproof bag. The one area of your body which usually has the least waterproof protection is your feet and living with cold wet feet is very depressing.
If you have a bunch of spares then you can quickly change for a fresh dry pair when you’re in your tent so that your feet are always warm and toasty inside.
Before changing from your wet clothes into your dry clothes, it’s important to dry yourself off so your dry clothes stay dry. Make sure everyone on the trip brings a quick-drying towel with them. These towels are light, packable, and dry super fast which will allow you to dry yourself off every day and stay warm in your dry set of clothes.
When you’re out in the rain, the one-way water can get through your waterproofs and soak into your internal layers is through the face opening. By wearing a cap under your waterproof hood you can eliminate the drips that would usually come down your face and inside your jacket.
The cap takes all the drips away from your body and they end up falling on the outside of your jacket instead of dripping inside it. Also, if you wear glasses, this is an excellent way of ensuring you can see and stopping raindrops from covering your glasses.
While camping in the rain isn’t ideal, you should still be able to enjoy your camping trip. If you have followed all of our tips and tricks for camping in the rain, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to go out and do all the activities you planned on doing, so long as they are safe to do when it’s wet.
If you planned on fishing, for example, go out and fish in the rain as you know you’ll have a dry pair of clothes and a warm dry tent waiting for you at the end of it.
A great way to keep motivation high when camping in the rain is by having a treat to look forward to at the end of it. Planning a final night in a cabin with a log fire is a great one or just imaging having a warm bath when you get home can keep you going.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!