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How to Go Camping in the Rain + Not Hate It

Learn how to have an enjoyable camping trip, even if it's raining.

Next time there’s rain in the forecast, don’t sulk in your tent or, worse, call off your trip. Embrace it! Don’t let a little water ruin your camping fun — after all, you’re not the Wicked Witch of the West, right? These tips for camping in the rain will keep you happy and dry… for the most part, anyways.

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Tips for Camping in the Rain

The first few times I went camping in the rain, I was miserable. I didn’t plan at all and ended up huddling under the tarp, cold and damp. I don’t think I need to say it, but that wasn’t a lot of fun. There had to be a better way. And unsurprisingly, there was!

After a little research, my next rainy camping trips were much more enjoyable. I’m sharing both my practical and totally frivolous tips so that you can have a more enjoyable experience in the rain, too!

1. Monitor the Weather

First and foremost, check if rain’s in the forecast. Luckily, we live in a world where that info is literally at our fingertips. The Weather Network, WeatherBug®, and AccuWeather are great apps for watching the weather.

If you don’t know when the rain’s supposed to show up, you might end up trying to set up your campsite in a downpour. That’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, but it might not always turn out that way.

2. Pack Smart

Even if rain isn’t in the forecast, pack as if it is — especially in the rainy season. By proactively protecting your clothing and gear, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Instead of throwing your gear into any old bag, use a water-resistant one. There are plenty of water-resistant bags out there, so take your pick! If your bag isn’t entirely waterproof, line it with a large plastic garbage bag. Put your clothing and gear into Ziploc bags or dry sacks inside the water-resistant bag for some extra protection. The more protection you have, the better.

It might seem like overkill, but water has a sneaky way of finding its way into everything you own. So unless you’re into wearing soggy socks, take lots of precautions!

3. Layer Up + Bring Rain Gear

The right gear makes all the difference when you’re camping in the rain. Have you ever tried staying dry in a pullover hoodie or flip flops? I’ll bet that didn’t go well. There’s a reason outdoor companies make special rain gear.

Moisture-Wicking Clothing

Moisture-wicking clothing is made of a special fabric that pulls moisture away from your skin to keep you dry. It’s 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.

Never, ever, ever wear cotton. It absorbs water like a sponge and takes forever to dry. You’ll be shivering and soaking wet in no time.

Waterproof Outer Layer

Unless you’re gonna stay under a tarp all day, you’ll need waterproof outer layers. Lightweight waterproof jackets and ponchos go a long way. Hell, even a cheap poncho is better than nothing!

Remember that you can always layer up underneath, so your outer layer doesn’t need to be super heavy duty. It just needs to keep out the rain.

Waterproof Shoes

Dry feet equal happy feet! And fewer blisters.

Around camp, a solid pair of rubber boots or gaiters will keep your feet dry. When you’re hiking, you’ll want to wear waterproof hiking boots. They won’t keep your feet as dry as full-on rain boots, but at least your feet won’t be as wet as if you wore runners. You’ll also want moisture-wicking socks.

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

5. Toasty Warm Clothes

Do you really want to get out of a warm bed when you’re camping in the rain? Everything’s so cold out there!

To make getting outta bed a little easier, sleep with your clothes in your sleeping bag. You’ll wake up with toasty warm clothes! It’s a tad easier to drag yourself out of bed when you have nice warm clothes to change into. I’m not saying it won’t still suck to venture outside, but it might suck a little less.

6. Artificial Heat

Do your hands and feet get chilly when you’re camping in the rain? Mine sure do. Instead of suffering, it’s time to break out the hand warmers! They’re a literal godsend.

After I learned this trick, it seemed so obvious. They’re absolute lifesavers on rainy days. Tuck them in your clothes and you’re golden! You can thank me later.

7. Tarp, Bungee Cord + Rope

Tarps are a rainy camper’s best friend and are by far the easiest and cheapest way to waterproof your campsite. Seriously, they’re the best. With a proper tarp set up, you can almost forget it’s raining (minus the drop, drop, drop sound). What are you waiting for? Grab your tarp, bungee cords, and rope and learn how to set it all up!

REI has a great article on how to create your tarp haven. When you’re setting up, it’s important to angle your tarp away from where you’re eating, sleeping, and generally hanging out. I’m sure you don’t want to step in a huge puddle or have water drip down your back. Plus, by angling the runoff away, it’s less likely a huge muddy mess will develop on a commonly used route.

If you’re using a tarp under your tent, make sure it’s not sticking out along the edges or else you’ll end up sleeping in a pool of water. No thanks.

8. Create an Outdoor Living Room

One of my favourite things about camping is enjoying the outdoors. But before I learned a few things about camping in the rain, I usually ended up wrapped in blankets under the tarp or in my tent on rainy days. Now, instead of retreating to my tent when it’s raining, we build a cute outdoor living room and keep the fun going! It’s actually pretty awesome.

A little ambiance turns a rainy campsite into a fun getaway. Simply string a few tarps overhead, break out your camp chairs, and set up some cute waterproof fairy lights. Bring out your cooking gear, crack a few beers and coolers, and pull out our games — maybe try one our adult road trip games! A fun outdoor living room makes camping in the rain a lot more bearable.

Now, this set up won’t really work if you’re camping in the back country or on the ocean, but it’s a lot of fun when you can use it.

9. Pick the Right Campsite

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.

Try to choose campsites that are on level, flat ground that aren’t in any sort of dip or depression. If possible, keep your 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 you do find yourself in a campsite with some inclines, try to stay on the highest ground you can. Water follows the path of least resistance, which means high ground is your friend!

How do you keep the fun going when you’re camping in the rain? Share your tips below! Or do you have a crazy rainy camping experience? I wanna hear it!

16 Comments

  • Rob Baldry
    September 19, 2018 at 6:01 am

    I see so many people have there tents blown down in the rain,I hate that. Why not invest in some decent stakes and use all your guide lines just in case…..

    Reply
    • Sam
      March 27, 2019 at 7:28 pm

      That’s a really great point — such a simple thing makes a world of difference.

      Reply
  • Erin
    February 8, 2019 at 5:53 am

    Could you please post a picture of your outdoor living room? It’s sounds beautiful!

    Reply
    • Sam
      February 24, 2019 at 10:18 am

      I’ll definitely take one next time we’re using it and share 🙂

      Reply
  • Terri
    March 19, 2019 at 10:31 am

    I remember camping in a beautiful spot with my husband and our 3 littles, until the rain came and flowed right through our tent! Such a memorable experience! We learned much on that trip ~ especially how to laugh about things!

    Reply
    • Sam
      March 27, 2019 at 7:21 pm

      Oh no! That’s always my worst nightmare! I’m happy to hear you guys can laugh about it now though 🙂

      Reply
  • Martyn Smith
    June 12, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    I hate camping in the rain, worst still packing up in the rain and moving on to the next site, still with a wet tent.
    Great lot of tips. Yes I agree with them all.
    Most of my outdoor adventures are sea kayaking so we expect at least to get wet feet. I have learnt to carry a tarp, very handy, use it while assembling tent in the rain also keeps the tent cool in summer.
    I have to say I enjoy paddling in the rain though. Fun things we do when it’s raining. Get a campfire going with only three matches, more suited if conditions are dry. If you manage to get the fire going try cooking damper ( use a cup of flour and one egg ) without the use of utensils. Of course you will need two or more persons and a flat stone to heat in the fire. Beware some stones explode if they are too wet. Unfortunately many campsites now have a fire ban. There are some fun things to weave from flax leaves or similar plant material found near camp sites. Nice pic of the jetty. Lake Rotoiti. Nelson Lakes N.Z.

    Reply
    • Sam
      July 25, 2019 at 7:47 pm

      You have some great tips, Martyn! I do agree with you, sometimes it’s fun to paddle/hike/play around in the rain 🙂

      Reply
  • rohit aggarwal
    December 12, 2019 at 8:16 am

    thanks for the information

    Reply
    • Sam
      February 15, 2020 at 4:40 pm

      You’re very welcome!

      Reply
  • Paul Watson
    February 15, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    I will have to show this to my wife – her tip for camping in the rain is to stay home… All jokes aside, so basic but they are all the things we forget. And in my experience, enough poles and pegs to keep the tarp tight is the key..

    Great post

    Reply
    • Sam
      February 15, 2020 at 4:36 pm

      Haha! I’ll admit I’ve sometimes thought that too, especially when we forget things. Enough poles and pegs is a great tip, those are very important!

      Reply
  • Sara
    June 16, 2020 at 5:54 am

    Our tarp is the first thing to go up and the last thing to take down. We put up a big tarp and drive the van under it if it looks like rain. We can set up our tent without getting wet. When we get ready to leave we can pack up under the tarp. We take large trash bags to use inside the tent. We put our clothes and anything we don’t want to get wet in the trash bags. When we leave we put the tarp in a trash bag so other things won’t get wet.

    Reply
    • Sam
      September 1, 2020 at 4:46 pm

      Love it! We do basically the same thing, except we often end up tying the tarp to our car.

      Reply
  • Val
    November 15, 2020 at 7:57 am

    Once, my family and I were camping with a group of people ( about 3500), and it was raining off and on most of the week. Two days before the camping trip was over, a major thunderstorm and a tornado decided to make an appearance. The aftermath was a site for sore eyes. You would think that all the tents were destroyed, but no. Majority of the tents that had problems were the nylon (modern) tents. I had two modern tents then and only one was destroyed the other had water in it on one end. We were by a friends tent and ran into theirs. We had many people in the tent, with enough to hang onto a pole so it wouldn’t lift. No one had rain dripping on their heads. They had a canvas tent a big one ant there were at least 25 of us in the tent. Also the tent stakes we used were made out of iron and the ropes were thicker ropes. The next day, only a few canvas tents were in the ground, but majority of the nylon tents were destroyed. These canvas tents may cost more, but with the right equipment they can help in a thunderstorm. Oh, the tornado was a cat 4 and it was about 5 miles away when it hit ground.

    Reply
    • Sam
      November 16, 2020 at 11:04 am

      Oh my goodness, Val! I can’t believe how close the tornado was to you — that must have been scary, especially being outside! It makes sense the lighter tents got destroyed in that, I’m glad you had some canvas ones to shelter you.

      Reply

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