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Rain, rain go away, come again another day. You can chant the nursery rhyme all you want at the campsite, but whether you like it or not, the showers will keep coming.
No need to throw in the towel, though – there are plenty of techniques to make your wet outdoor experience enjoyable. You can start with these 10 camping in the rain hacks to keep the weather at bay…
Tips for Camping in the Rain
1. Construct a Shelter with Tarps and Paracord
Rather than remaining cooped up inside your tent and waiting out Mother Nature’s wrath, consider bringing an extra tarp to the campsite.
A durable tarp and a little bit of paracord can go a long way when dealing with wet weather. You can use it as a tent floor saver or rig it up to form an outdoor awning to protect from the rain and wind.
But don’t stop at one tarp. You can attach one to your car to create a dry dining area for your cooking gear and perhaps one as a temporary roof to an outdoor bathroom. Nobody wants to do their business in a downpour!
Think your budget can’t handle the extra coverage from rain? Well, there are plenty of inexpensive camping tarps. As for how to set up a tarp, here are a few tips from our bushcraft friends over at TA Outdoors in the video below…
There are hundreds of techniques, but remember that you should construct your shelter to have no potential for water pooling.
2. Head to Higher Ground
I’m not trying to scare you, but warn you to always be aware of your surroundings and always camp at a higher elevation. When selecting a campsite, look out for patches of high vegetation compared to the rest of the area.
Not only are these typically the lowest point on the ground, but they are also a breeding ground for insects. On a larger scale, you shouldn’t sleep too deep in a river canyon that is prone to flash floods during a heavy rain storm. Opt for a flat surface near (but far enough away) a water source.
June 10, 2010, at Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas. Campers flocked to the many recreational areas to enjoy the summer sun. In the early morning hours of June 11, the Little Missouri River rose approximately 20 feet in 3 hours due to heavy, localized rain. 20 campers died in the flash floods due to its proximity to the river.
3. Avoid “Widowmakers” in the Woods
After choosing a safe elevation to camp at, you should place your tent away from the tree canopy. This helps avoid potential deadly branches, also known as widowmakers. These limbs are already broken off the tree and hang entangled in larger branches.
But, on windy, rainy days, widowmakers become unstuck and fall to the ground, taking down whatever is in their path. If your only choice is camping under trees, search above you to ensure there are no loose branches that could cause serious damage.
4. Try Hammock Camping
If you are traveling solo, consider sleeping in a hammock rather than a tent. You’ll be suspended over the pooling water and mud, nestled between two trees and with your hammock tarp shelter above you can enjoy a dry night of rest.
Sure, the setup may be complicated at first. It will take your body an adjustment period to sleep comfortably, but in the end, you’ll be happy you made the switch. Do you want to give it a go? Check out the Hennessy Hammock.
5. Waterproof EVERYTHING!
Tent. Boots. Backpack. Clothing. Electronics. Food. You should – no – you need to waterproof as many of your camping supplies as possible. The easiest way to stay dry at the campsite is to buy quality, weatherproof products like Gore-TexⓇ or Polyurethane coated fabrics.
For the more frugal crowd, you can waterproof clothes, shoes, and any gear at home with applicators such as NikWax or Star Brite Waterproofing Spray. To keep your tent dry, you’ll want ensure your seams are sealed for better protection against wet conditions.
6. Bring Layers and Extra Clothes
Having wet clothes at the campsite is annoying, but being both wet and cold poses serious health risks. While it is unlikely, your body could go into hypothermic shock in these types of conditions.
If you or someone you know is vigorously shivering, slurring speech, or breathing shallowly, seek medical attention immediately.
On a less-radical scale, being chilly and damp is an overall bummer. Make sure to have an extra layer of protection. Whether that is your cold weather clothing or just some dry clothes to have in case there is lots of rain.
I always bring a silk base layer, Merino wool t-shirt, lightweight fleece, packable down jacket, and rain gear, no matter the conditions.
Everybody’s preferred gear list is different, yet be prepared for all outcomes. Oh yeah, and always bring a dry pair of socks!
7. Utilize Household Items
There’s no need to buy expensive waterproof products when a few common household items can do the trick.
- Trash Bags: The Swiss-Army knife of cheap camping accessories. You can use a trash bag as a backpack cover, waterproof storage, poncho, or simply a trash bag.
- Duct Tape: An engineer’s favorite tool. You can always use duct tape to patch leaks in your tent seams or fix holes in your camping gear.
- Plastic Sandwich Bags (Ziploc): A simple, waterproof storage solution. They can be used for kindling, food, and electronics (and you should still be able to use the touch screen and camera options on your Smartphone).
- Rubber Gloves: In cold weather conditions, wear rubber gloves underneath a warmer pair of knit gloves to keep your fingers dry and warm.
- Cotton Balls and Vaseline (petroleum jelly): Vaseline and cotton balls are fantastic waterproof firestarters when used in combination.
8. Fire It Up
I’ve seen fire, and I’ve seen rain, but I’ve also seen a fire built in the rain. Sure, it may be difficult to spark a flame in wet weather, but it’s not impossible.
- Collect firewood and the driest kindling you can find. Opt for smaller branches since they dry out faster than large ones, and once you think you have collected enough, collect more. If you planned ahead and brought dry wood then now is the time to give yourself a high five!
- For the tinder, some people bring firestarters to the campsite like cotton balls and Vaseline, Doritos (yes, these work great), or kindling in a plastic bag. If you didn’t prepare ahead of time, peel back bark on a tree and scrape the material with a knife from underneath to get some wood shavings to use.
- Finally, it’s time to build your fire and catch a spark. Construct a standard teepee and use your ignition source to spark a flame (I use UCO Titan Stormproof Matches). Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t catch on the first attempt. Start small and keep building. Soon enough, you’ll have a steady fire to keep you warm and help to dry out any wet gear.
9. Change the Mood
Instead of sulking in the rain, use this time to have a little family fun with these rainy day camping activities…
- Take along your favorite board games
- Card games like Uno Wilderness, Dutch Blitz and Old Maid can provide hours of entertainment
- Read a book
- Journal your thoughts
- Watch a movie – sure, being in nature is about getting away from technology but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do
- If all else fails just lay back and relax to the sounds of rain
If you are car camping, perhaps you want to pack up and head to a nearby town to hang with the locals. Whatever the case, don’t let a little water ruin your entire camping trip.
10. Deal With It
Finally, it’s important to realize that camping conditions are always unpredictable.
Obvious, right? The best thing you can do about the rainy weather is deal with it.
If you aren’t ready to deal with a bit of drizzle, there’s no shame in packing up the car and heading home.
Next time though, follow these camping in the rain hacks and your time in nature will be one you’ll never forget!