How to Camp in the Rain: Tips, Tricks + Gear

Camping in the rain: an enjoyable outdoor experience or the last straw that’ll have you swearing off camping for all eternity?

I’ll be the first to admit that if you’re not prepared, camping in the rain can be a total nightmare. Between soggy clothes, wet tents, hungry bellies, and gloomy moods, there are lots of reasons to hate the rain when you’re camping.

But it doesn’t have to be like that!

When you’re prepared, camping in the rain can actually be fun! You can relax because there aren’t a million things to do and savour a warm meal like it’s the best damn thing you’ve ever eaten.

You might even come away with a fun story: you survived camping in the rain and it wasn’t the absolute worst thing in the world!

So next time there’s rain in the forecast, don’t sulk in your tent or call off your camping trip. Embrace the rain! A little water doesn’t have to ruin your camping fun — after all, you’re not the Wicked Witch of the West, are you?

These tips for camping in the rain will help you make the most of your rainy adventure so you can have an awesome camping trip.

PS: This article contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission (at no cost to you) if you click them and/or buy a product; I only recommend products that I think will help you. Read my full disclosure statement here.


Gear Checklist for Camping in the Rain

Camping in the rain is a lot different than regular camping and the right gear makes all the difference.

You don’t have to buy the fanciest things, but you do need some form of the following gear so that you won’t be miserable when the downpour starts.

At an absolute minimum, you should always pack the following when you’re camping in the rain:

Tip: If you’re days away from your camping trip but still need specific gear, hop on over to Amazon. You can often get your gear delivered within two days using Amazon Prime (try it for free if you’re not already signed up).

Now that you know the barest essentials, let’s dive into everything else you need to know about camping in the rain.


Prepare for Camping in the Rain

Being prepared for a rainy camping trip starts long before ever setting foot in your campsite. 

If the first time you’re thinking about the rain is as you’re setting up your tent, heavily side-eyeing the grey clouds and frantically checking your weather app, then you’re probably in for a miserable camping experience.

Luckily, since you’re here learning about all the tips for a rainy camping trip, that’s not going to happen to you!


Check the Forecast

First and foremost, always check the weather forecast in the days leading up to your camping trip. Check back often and use different apps because the forecast can change quickly, especially in mountainous areas where the weather is unpredictable. 

Luckily, we live in a world where the forecast is literally at our fingertips. The Weather Network, WeatherBug®, and AccuWeather are great apps for watching the weather.

Even if the weather forecast is sunny with no rain, it’s still a good idea to bring rain gear. The forecast isn’t always accurate and being totally unprepared for camping in the rain is a sure-fire way to have a terrible experience — especially if it could have been avoided by bringing a few tarps!

If you notice the forecast taking a turn for the worse with severe thunderstorms or other weather warnings, consider rescheduling your camping trip.

There’s a big difference between camping in minor rain and dangerous conditions.

While you’re camping, keep an eye out for telltale signs of an incoming storm: eerie stillness, increasing winds, or pets/wildlife acting weird. Prepare accordingly by securing all of your gear and bringing it under shelter.


Pack Plenty of Tarps

Tarps are your best friend when you’re camping in the rain. You’ll use them all over your campsite to keep everything dry. Ensure your tarp is waterproof; not all are.

Camping tarps, as opposed to regular tarps, are a great investment. You don’t need camping-specific tarps, but lightweight camping tarps take up very little room and perform exceptionally well — both for keeping you dry on rainy days and providing shade on hot days. 

With a lightweight camping tarp, use paracord and some trees to easily create a covered, dry area. You can also use a regular tarp to do this, it’ll just be a little harder. 

How to Use Tarps Around Camp

With enough tarps, you can make a pretty awesome shelter when it’s raining. There’s no need to stay holed up in your tent for days.

Outdoor Living Room

Create an outdoor living room where there’s enough room to hang out, eat, play games, or read a book.

If it’s an exceptionally drizzly day, you’ll be happy to have a place where you can chill without being crammed in your tent or under a tiny tarp.

Camp Kitchen

With enough tarps, you can also set up a dedicated camping kitchen where your firepit or cooking stove lives.

This makes it a lot easier to enjoy a warm meal that you’ll be eternally grateful for on a rainy day — and you won’t even have to get wet making it!

You can also store your firewood and kindling here to keep it dry.

Tent Protection

Another great use of tarps is to cover your tent and sleeping area and even inside your tent. This way, you don’t have to worry if your tent’s actually waterproof like it claims to be.

Plus, you can get in and out of your tent without getting wet or having a muddy mess in front of it.

Tarp Alternative — Popup Canopies

Some people prefer to use a popup canopy tent instead of tarps, especially over their outdoor kitchen or picnic table. Popup canopies are a great option if you’re camping somewhere without a lot of trees to hang your tarp from.

Canopies perform well in the rain and it’s easy to add extra sidewalls for extra protection against horizontal rain or for privacy. However, popup canopies are bulkier and more expensive than a tarp and often need two people to set up. 

You also need to properly secure your canopy so it doesn’t fly away in the wind.

Paracord / Rope

Always bring a paracord or rope when you’re camping — and plenty of it. You’ll need a paracord to hang your tarps and if there aren’t a lot of trees, you’ll need even more. 

Also, use paracord to make a clothesline to hang up wet or damp gear that needs to dry (ideally beneath your shelter).

Paracord options:

*So you don’t trip


Waterproof Your Tent

It might seem obvious, but your tent needs to be waterproof if you’re going to camp in the rain!

There are things you can do if your tent isn’t waterproof, but it’s never going to be as good as a waterproof tent that actually protects you against the elements

The following tips won’t magically turn an inexpensive non-waterproof tent into a completely waterproof one, but they can dramatically increase your tent’s water resistance for a regular camping season (if done correctly).

Always test your tent after waterproofing it and before heading out so you know if it worked.

Even with a waterproof tent, it’s a good idea to give your tent some extra protection by waterproofing it more. You don’t have to do this every time, but it’s part of maintaining your gear and keeping it in good condition. Do this at home before you head out.

How To Waterproof a Tent

Without going into a ton of detail, you’ll spray your tent with waterproofing spray and seal the seams with a seam sealer.

You’ll also need to wash your tent beforehand and follow the product’s instructions to ensure it’s applied correctly. 

Even if you have a brand new tent that says it’s waterproof, it’s still a good idea to waterproof it yourself to be 100% sure.


Pack the Right Clothing + Layer for the Rain

Choosing the right clothing and layering properly will make all of the difference when you’re camping in the rain.

If you’re shivering and can’t get dry or warm, you’re in for an absolutely terrible camping experience. You also won’t be able to keep your body temperature in check which can lead to hypothermia (which can be life-threatening in the outdoors). 

With that in mind, what exactly is the “right clothing” for a rainy camping trip? And how should you layer it?

Best Fabrics for Camping in the Rain

Before we get into specifics about layering and clothing recommendations, it’s important to understand why you’re packing specific clothes for your rainy adventure. 

Unlike your regular wardrobe, the type of material your camping clothing is made of makes a world of difference — it can make or break your trip and even save your life.

Moisture-Wicking Clothing

Pick fabrics that are moisture-wicking because they’ll pull moisture and sweat away from your body which keeps you dry and warm. 

This type of clothing is usually made of polyester, nylon, or merino wool.

Wicking clothing isn’t water-resistant — you’ll still get wet if you only wear it out in the rain — but it helps keep sweat and dampness off your skin. Most base layers are moisture-wicking.

Cotton Clothing

As much as I love a soft, comfy cotton shirt in my day-to-day wardrobe, cotton needs to stay at home when you’re camping in the rain. Don’t even think about packing it. 

Cotton is the absolute worst choice for outdoor clothing if there’s even a slight possibility of getting wet. Cotton has zero wicking capabilities and once wet, it stays wet, cold, and heavy. 

This means that you’ll also be wet and cold which can be extremely dangerous in the outdoors especially if it continues to be rainy and cold. If you don’t manage to warm up, you’ll be at risk for disorientation, hypothermia, or death.

Seriously, don’t go near cotton with a hundred-foot pole when you’re camping in the rain.

Down

Down is a fantastic insulator and does wonders for keeping you warm — when it’s dry. Unfortunately, when down gets wet, it’s useless.

You can certainly bring a down jacket if you think it’s going to rain, but be very careful it doesn’t get wet. Otherwise you’ll have a useless piece of gear.

Luckily, many new down jackets have a water-resistant coating, but unless the jacket is pretty heavy-duty and actually waterproof, it can likely only withstand light rain. Wear down under a waterproof outer layer and you’ll be happy as a clam.

Fleece Clothing

Fleece is a good option when you’re camping in the rain. It’s a lightweight material and, when used as a mid-layer under a jacket, does a pretty good job of wicking moisture and keeping you warm and dry.

It’s also a very affordable material, especially compared with wool.

Even when it’s wet, fleece retains heat and can keep you warm-ish. However, it does lose a lot of insulating power when it’s wet so it’s important to wear it under a waterproof jacket or shell to keep it as dry as possible.

Fleece also dries quickly, but it doesn’t stand up well to heat — be careful around a campfire because it might melt!

One of the biggest problems with fleece is that wind, even a gentle breeze, cuts right through it and blows away any heat that was trapped in the fabric. This happens even if the fleece is bone-dry.

Long story short, fleece should be used as a mid-layer under a waterproof or windproof jacket when you’re camping or hiking in the rain.

Polyester + Nylon Clothing

Polyester and nylon clothing are lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying — all the things you want when you’re out in the rain.

Clothes made with polyester and nylon hold very little moisture and are an excellent base layer. They also last forever. 

Both polyester and nylon are considered water-repellent. The synthetic fibres are made from plastics which is why they don’t absorb water, but neither fabric is waterproof because moisture can enter between the weaves and stitches.

Polyester and nylon are also often blended with other materials which can reduce the clothing’s water-repellent abilities.

When you’re shopping for polyester and nylon clothing, always check what it’s blended with. If it’s blended with wool (preferably Merino wool), that’s a great option.

If it’s blended with cotton, check the percentage of the blend — generally, 50/50 will still perform well outdoors, especially if you’re camping casually and not using it for major rainy excursions. 

Merino Wool Clothing

Merino wool is an excellent fabric choice when you’re camping in the rain.

Merino wool is great at wicking moisture from your body and has outstanding anti-odour properties so you won’t smell terrible even if you’ve been sweating up a storm.

Unlike regular wool, which is itchy, rough, and heavy to wear, Merino wool is super comfortable. It feels very similar to cotton.

Perhaps its most impressive feature is that Merino wool can hold up to 30% of its weight in water without feeling wet — other fibres feel wet around 7%. That means that even when you’re wet, you’ll still feel dry and warm. That’s pretty impressive!

However, Merino wool does take a while to completely dry once it’s been saturated. 

Regular Wool

Of course, you can also wear regular wool when you’re camping in the rain.

Merino wool is usually quite expensive, but you can also find wood blends that perform very well. Even when blended with other materials, regular wool can be itchy — especially if you have sensitive skin. 

Both types of wool are good for camping in the rain because they have great insulation and keep you warm even when wet.

How to Layer Clothing for Rainy Camping Days

Now that you know the materials to bring when you’re packing for your rainy camping trip, let’s dive into how to use the gear properly. After all, the best way to have an enjoyable experience camping in the rain is to stay warm and dry in the first place. 

Just like you’d layer up for a snowy adventure, it’s equally important to layer properly when it’s raining. At the very least, you’ll need water-resistant boots, a waterproof jacket, and water-resistant pants. But there’s more to it than that, so let’s dive in.

Why Is It Important to Layer Clothes When Camping in the Rain?

Layering allows your technical clothing to work together in the best way possible.

For example, you’ll get soaked if you’re standing in the rain wearing nothing but a base layer, but layered with warm fleece and a waterproof jacket, you’ll stay warm and dry.

By layering properly, your body’s temperature remains stable and won’t have to worry about hypothermia.

Weather

The weather itself also plays an important role in why you should layer.

When you’re camping in the rain, the weather can change a lot throughout the day. A downpour can turn into a light sprinkle or the sun might even pop out for a few hours!

With so many different kinds of weather to deal with, layering allows you to stay comfortable and enjoy your trip by easily adding or removing layers as the temperature and conditions change.

Other Tips

When you’re packing, always bring extras of each layer so that you have plenty of dry options.

It’s important to keep your clothes as dry as possible so you don’t get skin irritations, catch hypothermia, or introduce unnecessary moisture to your tent.

And even if the rain itself doesn’t get you, you’ll probably end up sweating which is more than enough reason to change into dry clothes.

Base Layers

A base layer is the layer of clothing closest to your skin; think of it like a “second skin”.

Base layers help keep you warm by trapping your body heat and wicking away moisture or sweat. They’re designed to be lightweight and worn under other clothes, but they’re not waterproof.

Base layers come in all sorts of fabrics and styles for both tops and bottoms. Wool, synthetics (such as polyester and nylon), and even silk can act as a base layer given the right conditions. Other names for base layers include thermals or compressions.

As a rule of thumb, base layers should fit snug against your skin, but not so tight that you can’t move comfortably. They’re designed to be tight-fitting, but base layers usually have lots of give and are stretchy.

Mid-Layers

Mid-layers are worn between your base layer and waterproof outer layer.

Just like a base layer, they provide an important layer of warmth and are the insulating layer.

Mid-layers are often fleece, lightweight down jackets, long-sleeve outdoor shirts, or shells. Just like base layers, mid-layers usually aren’t water-resistant. 

Mid-layers should be breathable and lightweight, but looser than base layers. Remember, you’ll usually be wearing it over a layer of clothing, so don’t be afraid to size up.

Plus, it’s common to wear multiple layers of mid-layers, so the looser the fabric, the easier it will be to move freely.

Outer Layer

And finally, the outer layer goes on top of all of your other clothing and keeps everything dry.

When you’re camping in the rain, having the proper outer layer makes a huge difference. 

An outer layer is a waterproof or windproof jacket, but you could also use a poncho or a garbage bag in an emergency. 

When you’re looking for an outer layer, remember that “water-resistant” and “waterproof” aren’t the same thing. A water-resistant jacket will probably keep you dry in a light drizzle, but nothing more. Most mid-price hiking jackets are only water-resistant.

Waterproof Jackets

If you’re want to invest in a quality outer layer, a jacket made with GoreTex or a similar breathable, waterproof material is your best bet.

Luckily, outdoor stores like MEC, REI, and Backcountry have plenty of comfortable, durable, and waterproof jackets to choose from.

Quality waterproof jackets:

Ponchos

If you need something for an emergency to keep in your car or backpack, a cheap poncho works as an outer layer.

Ponchos usually aren’t high quality and shouldn’t be used as your main line of defence against the rain, but they work in an emergency.

Don’t forget about pants! Rain jackets get a lot of attention, but rain pants are equally important. Having waterproof pants means you can go outside in the rain, sit or hike wherever you want, and not get drenched.

Additional Clothing for Rainy Days

Once you have your layers figured out, you’re not done packing. There’s plenty of other gear to pack to make your rainy camping experience more enjoyable.

Waterproof Boots, Gaitors + Great Socks

Don’t forget about your feet! No matter how warm your body is, if your feet are cold and wet, you won’t have a great time on your rainy camping trip. 

Rain Boots + Gaiters

Around camp, rain boots, rubber boots, or gaiters are an excellent choice for keeping your feet and pants dry.

Morning dew and wet grass/leaves can quickly soak your socks and pants without them.

Waterproof Hiking Boots

If you venture out to explore, invest in waterproof hiking boots because they’re more comfortable and have more traction than rain boots.

Your feet will probably still get a little damp in hiking boots, no matter how waterproof your boots are — but nothing like if you’d worn sneakers!

Where to buy quality waterproof boots:

Hiking Socks

Bring socks and lots of ‘em. Wool socks are best because they’ll keep your feet dry and warm even when they’re wet.

Moisture and friction cause blisters, so when your socks get too wet, you want to change right away to prevent blisters. 

Quality wool socks:

Hat, Toque, or Balaclava

A toque or balaclava is easy to overlook, but when you’re camping in the rain and the temperature inevitably takes a dip, you’ll be happy to have it to keep your ears warm. 

If a toque or balaclava’s a bit much, consider a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap instead. That’ll keep your hair and face from getting wet when you venture away from your rain shelter. 

Recommended hats, toques, and balaclavas:

Mitts, Gloves + Hand Warmers

Unfortunately, camping in the rain usually means you’ll have cold hands. This makes it hard to do everyday tasks like cooking, playing games, or doing essential camp tasks. 

Mitts + Gloves

You can easily stuff mitts or gloves into your jacket pockets; they don’t need to be anything special, just a small lightweight pair to keep the cold air off your skin.

Hand Warmers

To keep your hands extra warm on a rainy day, bring hand warmers to quickly heat up your fingers (or toes/sleeping bag).

In the morning, use your hand warmers to warm up your clothes or stuff them in your jacket or boots to feel toasty and cozy.

You’ll be sooooo happy you brought them!

Quick-Dry Towels

When you’re out in the rain on a camping trip, things are bound to get wet.

Whether it’s yourself, a picnic table, or your trusty cooler, you can easily dry off your gear with a quick-dry towel. But why a quick-dry towel, specifically? 

Quick-dry towels are lightweight and small, so it’s easy to bring a few without taking up a lot of space.

Plus, they’re more likely to dry on a damp day than a cotton towel. They’re not as luxuriously soft as thick cotton towels, but those aren’t practical when you’re camping in the rain.


Pack Your Gear Properly

You can have the best technical gear in the world and layer like a pro, but it won’t do any good if your gear’s soaking wet in the first place.

So how do you keep your gear dry when you’re camping in the rain? By packing properly before you ever lay eyes on your campsite.

It’s best to pack everything in a waterproof bag or container when you’re camping in the rain, but it’s especially important for key gear like your sleeping bag, extra clothes, electronics, and emergency/medical supplies.

Even inside a “waterproof” tent, keep your gear packed properly.

When you’re camping and it looks like it’s going to rain, repack your gear (even the waterproof things) and bring everything into a dry spot ASAP.

Waterproof Bags + Containers 

Instead of throwing your gear into any old bag, pack everything in waterproof bags and containers.

The exact type of bag or container you use will vary depending on your type of camping trip, but the basic premise is the same.

Waterproof Containers + Bins

For RV or car camping where you have extra room, Rubbermaid’s or similar large plastic bins are a great low-cost option for keeping your gear dry.

When choosing a bin, ensure the lid covers the entire container so the rain can’t get in.

Waterproof Stuff Sacks

If you don’t want so much bulk, waterproof stuff sacks are great for storing clothing, sleeping bags, and non-waterproof items when you’re camping in the rain.

You can also double up by putting your stuff sacks inside other bags for extra protection — this is an excellent way to make sure your gear stays dry. 

Waterproof Stuff Sacks:

Backpacks + Rain Covers

When you’re backpacking or hiking, it’s important to invest in a backpack that’s waterproof and watertight. Or, if you already have a backpack, buy a rain cover to provide an extra layer of protection from the rain.

Ziploc + Garbage Bags

For both RV/car camping and backpacking, you can use Ziploc and thick garbage bags to line your bags for extra protection against the rain. They’re great, low-cost options and perform surprisingly well.

Pack important things like phones, cameras, and medicine in Ziplocs to make sure the rain doesn’t cause any problems. If your Ziploc is big enough, store extra clothes in it. 

Use large, thick garbage bags for protecting your sleeping bag, pillow and extra blankets, clothing, and even firewood. And don’t forget to bring extra bags to put wet and dirty clothes in so they don’t contaminate your dry things.


How to Set Up Your Campsite for the Rain

This next part is mainly for tenters setting up their campsite for the rain because it’s easy for RVers to escape the rain.

When you’re tenting, choosing the right campsite and tent location is a vital step in making sure you’ll have a good experience camping in the rain. 

Choose a Rain-Safe Campsite

When choosing your campsite, look around and imagine it’s raining.

Where will the water run, where will it pool? Is there a lake, pond, or river that could become a problem? Are there dead trees that could fall?

If you’re looking for these things, it’s much less likely you’ll be taken by surprise.  

Elevation + High Ground

When you expect rain, look carefully for a site that either has little elevation change or high ground that’s somewhat level where you could pitch your tent.

Your site doesn’t have to be at the absolute highest ground, but it’s important to avoid low spots where water will pool — aka, don’t set up camp at the bottom of a hill. 

Avoid Lakes + Rivers

And as tempting as it may be when it’s raining, it’s best to pick a campsite away from a lake or river in case the water rises.

If it can’t be avoided, always camp above the high-water line.

I doubt you want to wake up to a flooded tent in the middle of the night! In the worst-case scenario, a flash flood could sweep you away.


Tree Cover

Finally, consider the pros and cons of tree cover when picking a campsite. You may not be able to do much about tree cover, but it’s good to be aware of your options.

Pros

Tree cover makes it a lot easier to set up tarps because you can run plenty of paracords and set up an awesome rain shelter. Trees also block the brunt of a downpour and reduce wind.

Cons

On the other hand, water tends to get trapped in tree cover and continues falling long after the rain has stopped.

If it’s windy, branches or dead trees may fall which is quite dangerous. And if there’s too much tree cover, the sun may not be able to pierce the dense branches.

Choose a Tent Location

Once you’ve chosen a suitable campsite, decide where to place your tent.

The best place to pitch your tent when it’s raining is on high ground that has a slight slope. Of course, it’s more comfortable to sleep on completely level ground, but you do run the risk of water pooling even if it isn’t a low point.

If you have to use a designated tent pad, do your best to choose a campsite that’s high enough so there won’t be standing water.

If you’ve already reserved a specific campsite but realize it’s a poor choice when you arrive, it doesn’t hurt to ask the hosts if you can change.

How to Pitch Your Tent in the Rain

With a suitable spot in mind, it’s time to actually pitch your tent.

Setting up a tent is usually a simple process, but when you’re prepping for rain, it becomes pretty involved. And if it’s actually raining while you’re setting up? Well, that’s much more difficult.

Be very careful to not get the inside of your tent or gear wet as you set up. Keep your gear covered and position the tent door against the wind so rain doesn’t blow in every time you open the door. If you have a vehicle, use it to block the wind.

Set Up an Overhead Tarp

If it’s raining while you’re setting up camp, the first thing you should do is string a tarp. This will give you a covered place to pitch your tent without getting wet. 

There are lots of ways to set up a tarp for your tent, some easier than others. My favourite is to string a ridgeline over the tent, drape the tarp over it, and secure all corners a distance away with paracord.

Make sure the tarp isn’t touching your tent, extends well beyond it, and is angled away from your main camping area.

Even if your tent’s waterproof, I recommend keeping your tent under the tarp. The entrance to your tent will stay dry and you’ll have a space where you can easily take off wet clothes or muddy shoes.

This helps keep the inside of your tent as dry as possible which makes camping in the rain a lot more enjoyable.

Consider a Tent with a Vestibule

You could also get a tent with a vestibule. A vestibule is basically a built-in covered entrance and, depending on the size of your tent, it may work just as well as an overhead tarp.

Just like a tarp, a vestibule helps keep you dry when you’re going in and out of your tent and is a good place to store shoes or a bag of wet clothes.

Some vestibules are even big enough to store gear or change in. Some lightweight tents have vestibules, but they’re usually pretty small.

You can also place a door mat or extra tarp at the entrance to keep the worst of the mud and water under control. This also makes it nicer for you when you’re getting in and out of the tent so you don’t have to walk in a muddy mess.

Tarp Under Your Tent

Place a tarp or custom “footprint” under your tent. This is a good idea even if it’s not raining.

The bottom tarp adds an extra layer of protection from moisture that seeps through the tent floor and prevents rocks and debris from damaging your tent.

Make sure your tent completely covers the tarp. If any tarp is poking out, it becomes a water funnel and before you know it, you’ll have a pool beneath your tent that can’t soak back into the ground. The situation will be worse than if you haven’t bothered!

Use Your Rain Fly

Always use your tent’s rainfly, even if you’re covered by a tarp. The fly creates a double-walled tent — the outer wall is the rainfly, the inner is the tent itself — that provides lots of protection from the elements. 

Some rain flys only cover the top of the tent rather than all sides. While this is nice in theory because it allows for more ventilation, it also means rain can literally blow in through the mesh! You might as well not have a rain fly at the point, for all the good it’s doing. 

It’s important to have a rain fly that completely covers your tent’s windows and doors when you’re camping in the rain.

When putting up your rain fly, always tightly stake down every corner and guyline. This ensures that the rain fly and tent don’t touch, which you absolutely don’t want. 

If the rain fly isn’t set up properly, water can pool and cause the outer wall to droop and touch the inner wall. When that happens, condensation quickly gathers on the inside of the tent walls and suddenly anything touching the tent walls is wet!

Before you leave home, check that you have:

Tarp Inside Your Tent for Extra Protection

Finally, line the inside of your tent with a thick tarp or plastic drop-cloth for triple-threat protection against the rain.

This tarp should be a little bigger than your tent’s floor and go about six inches up the walls.

Moisture that seeps through the tent floor or drips down the walls will end up under this inner tarp, keeping your sleeping bag, extra blankets, clothes, and all your camping gear dry.

If you’re not expecting a lot of rain, this is optional. Still, it never hurts to be overprepared!


Arrange the Inside of Your Tent

Once your tent’s pitched, it’s time to set up the inside of your tent properly. Most importantly, don’t let gear touch the tent walls.

Condensation often accumulates on tent walls and water seeps through easier if something’s touching the walls. This is why it’s helpful to have an inner tarp to keep your sleeping bag and things from touching the walls.

Keep wet gear, including shoes and clothes, outside. Don’t bring anything wet into your tent.

Sleeping Gear

When you’re camping in the rain, it’s important to bring the right sleeping gear so you stay warm throughout the night. Shivering all night is miserable.

Sleeping Bag

A synthetic sleeping bag is best when you’re camping in the rain.

Down sleeping bags are useless when they’re wet, so it’s better to pick a sleeping bag that will still insulate you if it gets wet.

Bring a few extra camping blankets as backup or if you need more warmth. If you have hand warmers, place them in your sleeping bag.

Bivy Sack

Slip your sleeping bag inside a bivy sack for extra protection.

The bivy sack will protect your sleeping bag from any moisture that finds its way into the tent, as well as add an extra layer of insulation.

If it’s not too cold, you can sleep in the bivy bag with only a few blankets — no sleeping bag necessary.

Warm Clothes

You can also put tomorrow’s (dry) clothes in your sleeping bag overnight so you can change into nice warm clothes in the morning. It makes getting up to a rainy day a little easier.

Sleeping Pad + Cot

Ensure your sleeping pad is insulated so the cold from the ground doesn’t affect you. You could even double up on your sleeping pads.

Alternatively, you could use a cot to keep yourself off the ground — just make sure it’s insulated or you have some sort of insulation to sleep on because cots can be cold.

Do your best to keep your face exposed at night. Breathing into your sleeping bag or bivy sack adds moisture which will make you cold and wet while also affecting the sleeping bag’s insulation. 

Change Clothes Before Bed

Every night before bed, change into dry clothes so your sleeping bag doesn’t get wet and trap moisture (which will make you cold). 

When you’re camping in the rain, sleeping bags are extremely difficult to get dry once wet — if not impossible. Do everything you can to keep your sleeping bag dry, otherwise, you’re in for a terrible camping trip.

Air Out Your Tent

When there’s a break in the rain, air out your tent. To prevent condensation, your tent needs good ventilation of fresh, circulating air. Even when it’s raining, it doesn’t hurt to crack your vents to let in the fresh air. Use a small portable fan to get the air moving.

If there’s a sunny break, take off your rain fly, open all your windows and vents, and let the tent air out and dry. This is a good time to air out all your gear, too.


Camping in the Rain Activities 

When it’s raining during a camping trip, it’s easy to get down in the dumps because you can’t (or won’t) go swimming or hiking — or whatever your regular camping activities are. 

Instead of getting annoyed because you’re bored, come prepared with plenty of fun rainy day activities!

Whether you’re camping with young kids, adult family or friends, these are fun camping activities. It’s all about being ready and kicking boredom to the curb!

Some fun activities when you’re camping in the rain:

  • Play a game
  • Read a book (or two)
  • Solve a puzzle
  • Crafts
  • Cooking competition
  • Explore town
  • Go hiking
  • Tell stories
  • Enjoy a campfire

Play a Game

When you’re camping in the rain, pulling out a game — either cards or a board game — is a wonderful way to forget about the rain! Once everyone’s laughing and pretending they’re not competitive, you won’t even know what the weather’s up to.

Cards are always a safe bet for camping — there are even waterproof cards. Unlike board games, cards take up no space and there are a zillion different games you can play with just a couple of decks. 

If you don’t know many card games off the top of your head, bring a book of cards games and you’re good to go! There are also unique decks of cards, such as Basecamp, that can be used to spark conversation.

Read a Book

Who doesn’t love curling up with a good book and warm cuppa something on a rainy day?

It’s even better when you’re camping in the rain! You don’t have anything else to do, so you can wholeheartedly sink your teeth into a good book.

If you’re an avid reader but don’t have room to pack a bunch of books (or can’t decide what to read), an eReader like a Kindle or Kobo is a great tool when you’re camping.

Load up on all the books you want to read and bring ‘em all along. Use a portable power bank or solar charger (if the sun appears) to quickly recharge.

Plus, most eReaders have some level of water resistance, which is more than I can say about regular books!

If you want to live vicariously by reading about outdoor adventures, check out my round-up of awesome books about the wild places we all love. 

SAS Survival Guide is also a good way to learn a ton of survival skills. You could even practice some of them when you’re camping — like your knot-tying (good thing you have extra paracord!) or water collection skills.

Solve a Puzzle

If you’re gonna be hanging out under a rain shelter, you might as well break out the puzzles — you have the time, after all! 

There are lots of outdoor-themed puzzles to keep you entertained on a rainy day. Recruit some of your camping buddies to help!

Other options are crossword puzzles or Sudoko. Curl up with a pen and paper, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, and listen to the rain pitter-patter as you put your brain to work. 

Crafts

There are a ton of crafts you can do to pass the time on a rainy day. When you’re camping, you probably don’t want to lug along a huge crafts kit, but luckily there are plenty of crafts that don’t take a ton of room. 

You could knit a toque (helpful if you forget to bring one!), crochet a beer cozy, macrame coasters or wall hanging, tie friendship bracelets, paint or sketch the view from your campsite — and the list goes on! 

As long as you have a dry space set up under tarps or an awning, you could literally craft your day away.

Camping Cooking Competition

If you have a half-decent kitchen set-up while you’re camping, you could host a full-blown camping cooking competition — or if your set-up is terrible, it might be even more fun!

Making a decent meal when you’re camping is a feat in itself, so why not raise the stakes and challenge all your camping buddies to a cook-off.

By the time you’re done, you’ll have some awesome (or not) meals for everyone to try — and I bet you’ll have forgotten about the rain.

Explore Town

Staying cooped up at your campsite can be a little cabin fevery, especially when it’s raining and you don’t have a lot of options to escape. A great way to add a little adventure to your rainy camping trip is to head out and explore the nearest town. 

The town might feel more magical than usual as you pop in and out of all the little stores and cafes, desperately trying to avoid the rain. Maybe you’ll spend more time appreciating the local artists or used book stores than you usually would. 

You could even grab an umbrella and embrace the rain! Check out the parks and viewpoints — they’ll have a unique vibe and they’re probably empty. 

Hiking in the Rain

The rain doesn’t have to stop you from hiking! As long as you’re prepared, hiking in the rain can be fun — even, dare I say it, enjoyable. 

Just like camping in the rain, your gear makes all the difference when you’re hiking in the rain. 

Besides the ten hiking essentials you should always pack, you also need:

Pick gear that’s bright (orange, pink, or red). In an emergency, it’s a lot easier to find you if you don’t blend in.

If there are severe weather warnings, don’t go hiking. In that event, it’s better to stay at camp or head home. 

Tell Stories 

Telling stories is a great way to pass the time when you’re camping in the rain. 

Around the campfire, weave a fanciful or scary story. Use your flashlight to make shadow puppets dance. Tell the life story of the wildlife you see. Tell your own story or use Mad Libs to create ridiculous stories. Need some help? Use a campfire story book!

Enjoy a Campfire in the Rain

Campfires and camping go hand-in-hand, but it might not seem like the most obvious activity when it’s raining.

Luckily, you don’t have to sit in the rain to have a campfire, you can actually have a fire underneath your tarps as long as you keep it under control — if you don’t, your shelter could melt or catch fire.

Starting a campfire and keeping in going in the rain can be difficult, especially if you’ve never done it before. Below, you can dive into tips for starting a campfire in the rain so you’re prepared for your next trip.

Once your campfire’s going, it’s a great place to hang out and keep warm on a rainy day. Make some smores, roast a smokie, throw in some rainbow fire packets… or really anything you want to! 

Solving puzzles, playing board games, reading a book, doing crafts, and telling stories are all even better around a campfire!


How to Build a Campfire in the Rain

Starting a campfire and keeping it going can be difficult on the best of days, but doing that in the rain? Not a lot of fun. 

Even though starting a campfire in the rain with potentially wet wood might seem like a nightmare, it’s not an impossible task. You just need to be prepared, bring the right tools, and know what to do. Once the fire’s going, it’s actually pretty easy to keep going.

(Or bring a portable propane fire. They’re easy to start and are usually allowed during fire bans.)

Prep the Area

Before starting, prep the area where you’ll build your campfire.

Clear the area and either rake away the wet ground to expose the dry soil or build a dense log mat that the fire will sit on. (Or bring a popup fire pit base)

If it’s windy, create a windbreaker so your fire isn’t snuffed out in its infancy — you can shield the fire with your body, coolers, containers, a vertical tarp, or whatever you have.

Have a dry place to store your tinder, kindling, and firewood — wrap it in a tarp or heavy-duty garbage bag and place it under shelter. Your wood needs to be as dry as possible.

Fire Starter / Ignition 

To start a campfire, you need a spark to ignite the tinder. When it’s raining this can be harder than you’d think, even with the right tools.

Don’t bother trying to be a survivalist and rub two sticks together — that’s hard on the best of days and next to impossible when it’s raining.

Instead, use flint, waterproof matches, or lighters to start the fire.

When you’re buying a fire starter for your rainy camping trip, make sure it’s waterproof. This is especially important for matches because regular matches are useless when they’re wet.

Tinder 

Next, you need tinder. Tinder is used to ignite kindling to start a fire — it catches fire easily and burns fast and hot. It’s lightweight and is made of tiny shavings.

Tinder is one of the first steps for building a fire and is very important to get right, especially when it’s raining. There are lots of options for tinder that you can either bring with you or gather at your campsite.

Tinder From Home

Use dryer lint, crumbled newspaper, toilet paper, or even tampons to start a fire. These work great — if you can keep them dry.

To be 100% sure your tinder will ignite (or as backup), buy waterproof tinder.

Waterproof tinder is a great option because it burn hot even when it’s wet, which makes starting a fire a whole lot easier in the rain (it’s also good to have in your emergency kit).

Natural Tinder

On the other hand, you can use natural tinder even it’s been raining — you just need to know where to look.

Pine trees (or similar trees) and thick grass often have a dense layer of needles/grass at their base with dry tinder below the first layer.

You can also harvest tinder from fallen wood; find the driest log you can, peel away the bark, and shave off thin pieces of wood with your knife.

Before foraging for natural tinder, check your campsite’s rules about gathering brush. It’s often not allowed to protect the underbrush, so you may need to venture outside your campsite.

Kindling 

Once you have tinder and a spark, you need kindling to get your campfire going.

Kindling is very flammable and burns longer than tinder. Its main job is to keep the fire going by burning the bigger logs.

Use small twigs, branches, and pinecones for kindling. If you have large pieces of firewood, split them into smaller pieces using a hatchet and a kindling splitter

Where to Find Kindling When It’s Raining

When it’s raining, you can usually find dry kindling under thick bushes, dense grass, and trees. Peel away wet bark to use the dry wood underneath. As a backup, buy bone-dry kindling online.

As you add kindling to the fire, gently blow on it to make the flame stronger. If you don’t want to put your face near the fire, use a stainless steel blow tube from afar.

Always store extra kindling under your tarp or awning so it can dry out. Once your campfire’s going, place kindling near the fire to dry it out faster.

Firewood

Last but not least, you need fuel for your campfire. Firewood are large pieces of wood that keep your fire burning for a long time.

Once you have a small fire with tinder and kindling, your firewood should easily catch fire. Slowly add larger pieces of firewood so that you don’t smother the campfire.

Before you start your campfire, make sure you have lots of firewood stockpiled. Always keep it undercover and away from the rain. To make it easier to transport, use a firewood carrier

Tip: Use a firewood carrier and metal poker to make campfire life easier.

If you didn’t bring wood with you (some areas have strict rules about bringing wood because of pests), you can usually buy wood at the campground.

Forage for Firewood

If you forage for firewood, make sure to only gather wood from dead or fallen trees.

It’s in bad taste to chop down a live tree and besides, green wood is extremely difficult to ignite and hisses and smokes excessively when it finally lights.

Once you’ve gathered firewood, peel back the bark on any damp pieces (save for kindling).

Next, split the firewood into wrist-thick, knee-high pieces. This helps the wood burn easier, especially in the beginning. As your fire establishes itself, use larger pieces of wood. 

Always check your area’s rules about foraging for wood — front-country campgrounds rarely allow it, but the backcountry is different.

How to Split Firewood

To split the firewood, use a quality camping hatchet, wood splitter, or pocket chainsaw. In an emergency, you can use a survival knife but it’s more difficult.

Now that you’re fire’s going, enjoy it and keep it stoked!


Create an Outdoor Living Room

Once you’ve set up your tent, it’s time to make a covered shelter where you can stay out of the rain — essentially, an outdoor living room.

Use extra tarps and paracord or a popup canopy to create a dry sanctuary. This goes a long way in actually enjoying camping in the rain.

If possible, it’s best to connect the tarp above your tent with your outdoor living room so you can easily move between the two without getting wet.

Create Some Ambience 

What do you love most about your living room at home? I’ll bet it’s cozy. Why shouldn’t you bring this coziness to your outdoor living room, especially when it’s raining? 

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to deck out your rain shelter. Here are some tips to make the most of your outdoor shelter when you’re camping in the rain:

Brings Lots of Lighting

Dark rain clouds and overcast skies make days dark and dreary. Lights are one of the easiest ways to boost ambiance under your camp’s rain shelter. 

Ensure you have plenty of flashlights, headlamps, lanterns, and extra batteries or power banks. Drape string lights around camp and light citronella candles to keep the bugs away.

You’ll have a cozy space to hang out in!

Set Up Warm, Comfortable Chairs

Since you’ll likely be spending a lot of time sitting in your chair when you’re camping in the rain, it’s worth investing in a quality camp chair. 

Depending on your needs (and space), you may prefer a large, lounging chair or perhaps you’d rather a small, lightweight chair that’s easy to carry around. 

Buy insulating covers or heated padding to make these chairs even more comfortable. Some chairs are even heated — how wild is that!

When it’s raining, slip-on chair “ball feet” or use a ground sheet to prevent your chair from sinking into the muddy ground. For even more fun, turn your chair into a rocking chair (or simply buy a rocking camping chair)!

Extra Amenities

If you have the room, these extra amenities can create a super relaxing outdoor living space when it’s raining.

Clothesline + Drying Wet Gear

No matter how hard you try, you’re gonna get a little wet when you’re camping in the rain.

As tempting as it is to change into dry clothes and forget about the wet ones, it’s important to hang them up. This helps keep your clothes mildew-free and hopefully, you’ll be able to wear them again.

In fact, if you bring quick-dry clothes you should be able to pack less and re-wear more. Having said that, it depends on the level of rain, moisture, and how royally wet your clothes are.

Bring a clothesline or paracord and string it up under your tarp, then hang up all of your wet clothes.

If you can, place it near-ish your fire to help speed up drying time — sure, you’ll end up smelling like the campfire, but let’s be honest, you were going to smell like it anyways.

Stuff crumpled-up newspaper in your clothes to speed up drying time.

You’ll have a much better camping trip if you’re not forced to wear damp clothes the next day.


Set Up a Camping Kitchen

Cooking on a campfire is fun, but campfires can be unreliable when you’re camping in the rain.

Maybe you can’t find enough dry firewood, can’t keep it going, or the fire just won’t light. Whatever the reason, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan so you don’t go hungry.

Instead of relying on a campfire to cook at, use a propane stove when it’s raining — and bring extra propane. There are lots of different camping stoves ranging from tiny, lightweight backpacking stoves all the way to semi-barbeques.

If you have the room, set up a dedicated shelter for cooking. This makes cooking in the rain a hell of a lot more enjoyable. You can lay out all of your gear and cook up a gourmet meal.

Whatever you do, never cook inside your tent! You could burn it down or get carbon monoxide poisoning. You can sit at the entrance of your tent and cook as long as the stove is outside.

Bring Meals that Don’t Have to Be Cooked

When you’re camping in the rain, it never hurts to bring food you don’t have to cook. This way, you’ll have lots of food options even if you don’t feel like cooking.

You can find all kinds of dehydrated backpacking meals at Amazon, REI, and MEC; or dehydrate your own delicious meals with a dehydrator.

Dehydrated food is super quick to prepare and many don’t need to be cooked. Simply add water and wait — sure, it’ll go faster if you use hot water, but you don’t have to.

Trail mix, fruit leathers (which you can also make with a dehydrator), fruit chips, canned tuna, energy balls, and more are also good no-cook options for camping food.

Hot Meals

As great as no-cook camping meals can be, there’s nothing like a hot meal when you’re camping in the rain. It takes away the chill in your bones and reinvigorates you!

A cup of hot chocolate, tea, or coffee is amazing on a rainy day.

And don’t forget to eat lots! You need more fuel than usual to keep warm, so indulge in your favourite comfort foods like a campfire pizza, Dutch-oven nachos, or tasty skewers.


What To Do If You Get Wet

If you get wet while camping in the rain, don’t panic. Just get out of your wet clothes ASAP and dry off. If you can’t get warm, strip down and get into your dry sleeping bag to warm up. Use handwarmers to quickly warm up the bag.

Once you’ve warmed up, layer in dry clothes and keep using the hand warmers. Build a fire and sit close to it, bundled up in warm blankets.

Hang your wet clothes up on a clotheslines. If it’s been raining a lot, it’ll take a while for your clothes to dry. If you have access to electricity, use a shoe dryer to dry your clothes faster.


What To Do After Camping in the Rain

You’ve survived camping in the rain, realized it wasn’t as bad as you imagined, and are heading home — what now? There’s still more work ahead.

It’s very important to properly care for your gear after camping in the rain so it’s still in tip-top shape for your next outdoor adventure. 

Clean Your Gear

To prevent mould and other issues, make sure your tent and other camping gear have fully dried out before storing. If it’s still raining when you leave the campground, lay out all your gear to dry as soon as you get home. 

Never machine dry your tent, tarps, or rainfly. Most gear just needs to be unzipped and hung to air dry.

Dry off and clean pine needles, dirt, or other brush from your camp stoves, lights, chairs, and such.

Organize Gear

Once everything’s dry, take some time to reorganize your camping gear.

Packing up in the rain usually means things get thrown wherever, which makes packing for your next trip more difficult than it needs to be.


And Remember… Rain Isn’t the End of the World!

Camping in the rain might seem daunting or like a terrible idea, but if you go in with a good attitude and plenty of knowledge, you can enjoy the unique experience.

It’s an adventure and an impressive skill that your old, inexperienced self would be proud of. 

You’ll come out with stories and knowledge you can share with fellow campers. You’ll know how to stay dry during a downpour, how to start a fire in the rain, and even what gear’s the most important. You might even learn a thing or two about yourself.

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