The Pacific Northwest is pretty much known for its rain. How else do we get such lust forests? Even though Jacob and I live in the Okanagan which is more desert-like than the rest of the PNW, we still get our fair share of rain. Especially in the fall. I won’t lie that I prefer fair-weather camping, but I’m too stubborn to let a little rain ruin our trips. When I decide we’re doing something, nothing is getting in our way. Just ask Jacob.
The first few times we went camping in the rain, we were miserable. We didn’t plan at all. After coming home and doing a little research, though, the next trips went much smoother!
So next time there’s rain in the forecast, instead of calling it quits, learn to embrace it. Don’t let a little water ruin your camping fun. Our 9 tips for camping in the rain will keep you happy and dry… mostly anyways.
1. Monitor the Weather
Some of our most miserable moments came because we didn’t know rain was in our future.
As we’ve now learned, an important part of being a prepared outdoors person is to watch the weather. Trying to set up your campsite in a downpour is terrible! It’s a sure fire way to get everything soaked. If you’re lucky, you’ll just have to wait a few minutes for the rain to pass and then hurriedly set up camp – or at least your tarps!
2. Pack Smart
Even if rain isn’t in the forecast, we always pack smart just in case. By protecting our clothing and gear, we’re setting ourselves up for success.
Instead of throwing our clothes into any old bag we have lying around (which is tempting), we use one made of some sort of water-resistant material. There are plenty of water resistance bags out there, so take your pick!
If your bag isn’t entirely waterproof, line it with a large plastic garbage bag. The more protection you have, the better. Put your clothing and gear into Ziploc bags or dry sacks inside the water-resistant bag for some extra protection.
It might seem like overkill, but water has a sneaky way of finding its way into everything you own. So unless you feel like putting on soggy socks, take lots of precautions!
3. Layer Up & Bring Rain Gear
Unlike some activities, the right gear makes all the difference when we’re camping in the rain. We recommend bringing:
If we’re planning on doing anything other than staying under our tarp all day, we always bring a nice, lightweight waterproof jacket or poncho to keep us dry. After all, we can always layer up underneath if we’re feeling chilly.
After some terrible experiences, we pack our clothing very carefully now. We bring moisture-wicking materials like polyester or merino wool. These materials help pull the moisture away from our skin and keep us dry.
If you want a miserable time, pack cotton. It absorbs water like a sponge and takes forever to dry. We learned this the hard way.
We haven’t done this, but you can also wear gaiters while you’re hiking to help keep your pants dry.
4. Hang It Out To Dry
Let’s face it, no matter how hard we try, we always get a little wet. As tempting as it is to change into dry clothes and throw our wet clothes into a forgotten corner, it’s better to hang them up to dry.
If we absolutely have to, we sometimes put a few lightly damp clothes in our sleeping bag with us when we go to bed. Our body heat helps them dry overnight. I want to stress that we don’t put really wet clothes in our sleeping bag.
5. Toasty Warm Clothes
I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite things to do on a rainy day is curl up with a nice book and stay warm. When we’re camping in the rain, it can be difficult to get out of our warm beds to brave the rainy outdoors.
To help with that, we put our clothes in our sleeping bag at night so that we have nice warm clothes in the morning. It’s a little easier to drag ourselves out of bed when we have nice warm clothes to change into.
6. Create Some Artificial Heat
I get cold very easily. Sometimes my hands are freezing when I’m at work and I have to sit on them to warm them up. Needless to say, my hands and feet can get pretty chilly when we’re camping in the rain. So instead of suffering, I break out the hand warmers!
It seems obvious for when you’re camping in the rain, but I used to only think of hand warmers as items to bring when you’re skiing. But they’re lifesavers in my boots and mitts (and pants, shirt, hat…).
7. Use a Tarp & Bungee Cords
Tarps are our absolute best friends when we’re camping in the rain. They’re by far the easiest and cheapest way to waterproof your campsite. Seriously, they’re the best. Use your bungee cords to keep your tarp in place.
REI has a great article on how to set up your tent. It’s important to angle your tarp away from where you’re eating, sleeping, and generally hanging out. And if you’re using a tarp under your tent, make sure it’s not sticking out or else you’ll be sleeping in a pool of water. Yuck.
8. Create an Outdoor Living Room & Light Up Your Campsite
One of my favourite things about camping is enjoying the outdoors. But when it’s raining, we usually end up hanging out under the tarp or in our tent. After a few boring experiences like this, I looked up some better ways to spend the day. And the internet didn’t disappoint.
Now, instead of retreating to our tent when it’s raining, we build ourselves a beautiful outdoor living room and keep the fun going!
A little ambiance turns our rainy campsite into a fun getaway. We simply string a few tarps overhead, break out our camp chairs, and set up some nice lighting. We string cute LED lights around our campsite and light candles in little mason jars (we like to bring mosquito repellant candles). Then we set up our cooking gear, crack a few beers and coolers, and pull out our games. A cool outdoor living room makes camping in the rain a little more bearable.
9. Pick the Right Campsite
This seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but picking the right campsite when it’s raining is oh-so-important!. You don’t want to suddenly find your tent flooded with water in the middle of the night.
We try to choose campsites that are on level, flat ground that aren’t in any sort of dip or depression. If possible, we keep our campsite at least 200 ft from any sort of flowing water. A small stream can quickly turn into a fast river if there’s enough rainfall.
If we do find ourselves in a campsite with some inclines, we stay on the highest ground we can. Water follows the path of least resistance, which means high ground is our friend!
How do you keep the fun going when you’re camping in the rain? Share your tips below!
Hey there, we're Sam and Jacob! We're based in the Pacific Northwest and we love hiking, road tripping, and everything travel and outdoor related.
We hope to inspire and empower you to explore the great outdoors and experience everything this beautiful world has to offer!