Camping in the Rain — How to Not Hate It

The Pacific Northwest is pretty much known for its rain. How else do we get such lust forests? Even though I live in the Okanagan which is more desert-like than the rest of the PNW, we still get our fair share of rain. I won’t lie that I prefer fair-weather camping, but I’m too stubborn to let a little rain ruin our trips.

So next time there’s rain in the forecast, learn to embrace it instead of sulking in your tent. Or worse, calling off your entire trip. Don’t let a little water ruin your camping fun — after all, you’re not the Wicked Witch of the West, are you? These nine tips for camping in the rain will keep you happy and dry… for the most part, anyways.

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. I figured there had to be a better way.

And unsurprisingly, there was! After coming home and doing a little research, I learned a lot and my next rainy camping trips was 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!

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission on every purchase at no cost to you! If you online shop, I’d appreciate it if you used my links, but I won’t pressure you. Thank you so much!

Rainy camping trip with a hiking boot in focus and a yellow tent in the background.

1. Monitor the Weather

First and foremost, check if rain is in your future. Part of being a prepared outdoors-person is to check the weather. And, luckily, we live in a world where that info is literally at our fingertips. Some of my most miserable experiences came because I didn’t bother to check. Don’t be like me!

If you don’t know when the rain’s supposed to appear, 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.

Some helpful apps to monitor the weather are the Weather Network, WeatherBug®, and AccuWeather.

2. Pack Smart

Even if rain isn’t in the forecast, it’s always a good idea to pack as if it is. Especially if it’s the rainy season. By proactively protecting your clothing and gear, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Instead of throwing your things into any old bag — which is tempting, I know — try to use one made of some sort of water-resistant material. 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!

Person runs through a misty forest wearing a rain jacket.

3. Layer Up + Bring Rain Gear

Unlike some activities, 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 those outdoor companies make special rain gear — and it’s not just to make a bunch of money off you.

Moisture-Wicking Clothing

After some terrible experiences, I pack my clothes very carefully now. I quickly learned about moisture-wicking clothing, which is gear 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. Brands love to advertise their high wicking clothing, so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding it. It’s important to note that 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.

If you want a miserable time, pack cotton. It absorbs water like a sponge and takes forever to dry. I learned the hard way that it’s the worst anti-wicking clothing out there. Learn from my mistakes!

Waterproof Outer Layer

If you’re planning on doing anything other than staying under your tarp all day — which would probably get a little boring — it’s always a good idea to bring 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

If you’re not planning on doing any hiking, a solid pair of rubber boots or gaiters will keep your feet dry around camp. Dry feet equal happy feet!

When you are hiking, though, rubber boots won’t work and 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 to wear moisture-wicking socks.

4. Hang it Out to Dry

Let’s face it, no matter how hard you try, you’re going to get a little wet. It’s just how it goes when you’re camping in the rain.

As tempting as it is to change into dry clothes and throw your wet ones into a forgotten corner, it’s important to hang them up to dry. Not only will this help keep your clothes mildew free, but hopefully let you wear them again. In fact, if you bring quick-dry clothes you should be able to pack less and re-wear more. Of course, 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

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 by the fire and stay warm. But when you’re camping in the rain, you have to get out of your warm bed to start that fire. But who really wants to brave the rainy outdoors while shivering miserably? Yuck, not me. But you know you have to… to eat… to not be a hermit…

Am I painting a nice picture or what?

To help with getting out of your tent, try putting your clothes in your sleeping bag the night before. You’ll wake up with toasty warm clothes! It’s a little 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.

How to Camp in the Rain

6. Artificial Heat

My hands get cold really easily — and quite often. Jacob loves it when I try to steal his heat. If you’re anything like me, your hands and feet probably get pretty chilly when you’re out camping in the rain. Next time, fellow cold person, instead of suffering it’s time to break out the hand warmers!

After I learned this trick, it seemed so obvious. For some reason, though, I used to only think of hands warmers for skiing or snowy days. But 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

Oh, tarps. They’re 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 run off 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 nice lighting. 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!


  • 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…..

    • Sam
      March 27, 2019 at 7:28 pm

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

  • Erin
    February 8, 2019 at 5:53 am

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

    • Sam
      February 24, 2019 at 10:18 am

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

  • 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!

    • 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 🙂

  • 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.

    • 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 🙂

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

    thanks for the information

    • Sam
      February 15, 2020 at 4:40 pm

      You’re very welcome!

  • 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

    • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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.


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