When you set off to go camping you go with the expectations of sunshine and warm nights to sit around the campfire. However, if you have to do any camping you will probably encounter rain at some time, which can put a real dampener on your camping adventure.

When going camping it is best to go expecting sunshine but be ready for rain. Go with this attitude and accept that camping in the rain is all part of the experience.

The objective of how to go camping in the rain is to minimize the effect has on your fun, or even take advantage of it and stop things from getting wet – like the inside of your tent, sleeping bags, clothes and other camping gear. And if you are properly prepared at the beginning you might even enjoy the pit-a-pat of rain on your tent or be playing outside in it.

Before You Leave

Being ready for the rain starts with what you pack and how you pack and store it. When you are car camping you can take a lot more stuff with you than if you’re going backpacking. What I describe here is more for suited for car camping.

Have everyone pack spare clothes, especially socks, so they have dry clothes to change into if they do get wet. You could also consider a spare sleeping bag. Bring along rain gear like rain ponchos, raincoats and waterproof trousers will help to keep your clothes dry. Bring waterproof shoes and boots. You can store all these in the car when you are at the campground while the sun is shining.

Test your tent to check if it is waterproof. Most new tents will be fine as they are designed these days to be waterproof. If the tent is a few seasons old you can check the waterproof by spraying it with a hose and then crawl inside to check for leaks. If you find any dry the area and apply seam sealer. When you find leaks at the campground it is difficult to repair as you have to wait for the material to be dry before applying the seam sealer.

Camping gear to bring is – extra clothes, socks, camping rain gear like rain ponchos, waterproof pants, waterproof shoes and boots, tarps, poles and rope and stakes, maybe umbrellas for walking around the campsite (not much use when putting up your tent).

Setting Up Your Tent

If it is raining when you get to your camp, you can wait and see if the rain will ease off before starting to put your tent up. But, if it doesn’t or if you want to get started anyway your first step is to set up your tarp to provide shelter for getting your tent up. Be sure to slope the tarp so the rain doesn’t accumulate.

Whether it’s dry or raining you need to take some care where you set your camp – you don’t want to be at the bottom of a hill, where if it does start raining the water is going to rush through your site. Look for a flat piece of ground that is slightly raised so that puddles of water don’t form under your tent.

Lay a groundsheet or tarp on the ground and tuck in the edges under the tent so that water won’t accumulate, this will help to stop water getting under the tent. Put your tent up over this sheet. These days most tents are a bathtub design where the groundsheet is stitched into the tent about 4 inches above the ground to help prevent water seeping into the tent. Most tents also come with a rain fly, but to be doubly sure you can put a tarp over the top in an “A” shape to provide you with more protection from the rain.

Don’t have anything touching the sides of the tent because this can cause water to be diverted into the tent. Store any spare clothes in your car and only have what you’ll need for the day or the next morning in the tent and have them in ziplock bags to keep them dry. To help clothes stay dry in packs or bags you can put them into plastic bags and then pack them.

When it is raining have one spot in the tent for wet things as you don’t want the wet and dirt spreading around the tent. The other issue can be damp and the only recommendation I have on this makes sure you keep the tent well ventilated. If you have a heating source that is safe to use in a tent you could try that too.

Tents with a porch can be helpful for getting outside of the tent and sitting outside. Alternatively or even better you can put up a large tarp and set up your cooking and picnic table outside. This will mean you can eat outside and cook even when it’s raining. Otherwise, you may need to look at having sandwiches and other cold food.

If at the end of your trip your tent is wet you need to dry off the tent the best you can before packing it up for the journey home. Once you get home you’ll want to dry the tent out fully before storing away to prevent mildew and mold growing on it.

Activities In The Rain

1.    Get on your rain gear and go for a hike in the rain and enjoy the wildlife that comes out in the wet.
2.    You could drive to the local entertainment and watch a movie or go to a restaurant.
3.    Get out the cards, board games or read a book, write in a journal
4.    Talk with your kids about various things like the animals they could see, teach them how to read a map and use a compass etc
5.     See our camping games posts for further ideas.

Camping in the rain can be even worse than a long car trip where the kids are bored and keep asking are we there yet and want to play I-spy for the hundredth time. But like a long car trip you need the right frame of mind and to be prepared and it won’t seem that bad and you might even end up enjoying it. Having said that, you might need to consider cutting short your trip if the rain doesn’t let up for days, it will be a time you can talk about for years to come when you sit around the campfire.