Being prepared for camping in the rain

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Being prepared for camping in the rain

Camping in the rain
Tent in the fog
Photo by Marty Garcia on Unsplash

When I think of my ideal camping trip it usually doesn’t involve rain. I think of sunny skies and warm (but not hot) weather during the day and cool crisp nights. When the weather cooperates it makes my camping experience so much more enjoyable.

But when it rains it makes me just not want to camp at all. Sometimes you plan your camping trip weeks in advance and you have no control over the weather during the time you are going to camp. How do you deal with the rain?

Recently we camped out with the scouts and it rained on us for about 12 hours straight. The day felt like it was never going to end (at the least the rain didn’t feel like it would end). A lot of people that were camping with us ended up with water in their tents. Some had no dry clothes to change into and others just gave up and went home early.

I had just bought a new tent and was concerned that I was going to get waterlogged. But luckily I had prepared for this and ended up being pretty dry. There were a few things that got wet, socks mostly. But besides that, we stayed pretty dry all things considered.

How do you prepare for this? How do you stay dry through the storms so your entire camping trip isn’t ruined? Here is what I have learned over the years to help stay dry when camping in the rain.

Bring extra clothes 

For most people bringing extra clothes is a given. But when camping some people have the thought that the lighter you pack the better. If you know you are expecting rain and have kids then having extra clothes is a must. You know they are going to get wet so plan for the extra change of clothes.

Also if you are camping in the rain you may want to consider packing some sweatshirts and long pants in the event someone gets cold. I have camped in the rain and the temperature wasn’t really cold but with the wind and the rain, the extra layers just made me feel warm.

Put a dry pack in the car

If you are able to park your car close enough that you can get to it I would suggest packing a dry pack for the car. This is your emergency backup set of clothes and shoes that in the event all of your other gear gets wet you can trust you will have one full day of dry clothes to put on. 

If you have to use this and your trip is not over yet. This dry pack might give you enough time to dry out some of your existing wet gear. Or if it is the last day of your trip you can at least have dry clothes to wear on your way home.

Bring towels

If you are camping for a short time you may not bring towels because maybe you won’t be near a shower house or place to get cleaned up. But if it is going to rain bring some towels. And I would suggest bringing towels that you won’t get upset if they get really dirty. You can use the towels to help dry off or to dry out your tent if it gets some water on the inside.

Buy plastic totes to store your clothes and bedding in

Those big plastic totes are great for camping. They can get a bit bulky but I have found these to be a lifesaver for keeping things dry when it rains. You can take all of your clothes and bedding and anything else you need to keep dry and show them in a few totes. These containers are fairly waterproof, you just have to make sure it doesn’t have any cracks or holes in them.

Choose the right location to set up your tent

Camping in the rain
Tents by the lake
Camping in the rain
Tents by the lake

Location, location, location. When setting up your tent make sure you are not setting up at the bottom of a hill or near a runoff location. Try to find a spot that is higher elevation. The last campout we went on I picked the highest spot I could find. It seems most of the campers in the lower areas had the most water in their tent. And if they didn’t have water in their tent it was a mud pit under their tent.

If there is a good amount of tree cover you can try and set it up under some good tree canopy. This will help divert some of the rain away from you and also help protect you from the wind that typically comes with rain. Just be aware of any widowmakers (dead branches). Do not set up under a tree that is dead or dying as you don’t want to end up with a huge limb through your tent.

If you are camping near a stream or lake make sure you don’t put your tent up close to the water. In some areas, it doesn’t take long for a stream to turn into a river and flood. And you may end up stranded or worst yet in the water.

Bring a popup canopy

Most campsites don’t have a covered area and if you have a canopy to put up over your table you can at least do some cooking and maybe let the kids play some games while it is raining. I recently invested in one of these popup canopies and they are great. The front of my new tent has a screened-in area. But the rain fly doesn’t cover all of this area. To keep it dry I put the popup canopy over the front of my tent and for the most part, it stayed dry.

Pack some tarps and cordage

Camping in the rain
Hammock tent
Camping in the rain
Hammock tent

Tarps can be used in many ways to help shield you from the rain. If it is going to rain put down a tarp under your tent to help prevent water from coming up from the bottom. Make sure if you put the tarp under your tent that none of the tarp is sticking out or you may actually make things worse. You can also tie the tarps up high in trees using some good cordage to shield some of the rain away from your tent.

During one camping trip, we set up some big tarps as high up as we could in the trees and made a campfire area. They were high enough the campfire wouldn’t burn or melt the tarp and it provided us a space to have a dry area to sit around the campfire. Just be careful and offset the tarp from where the fire’s heat and smoke will go to prevent burning or melting the tarp. 

Another thing to keep in mind if you do this is water pooling on the tarps. You may have to find some extra poles or sticks to help knock water that has pooled off the tarp.

You may also need the cordage or rope to hang up some clotheslines. If your gear does get wet you will want to hang it out to dry as soon as it dries out.

Bring dry firewood

Check the restrictions in the area you will be camping in before doing this. Because of certain invasive bugs, they don’t allow firewood to be brought in from other locations.  But if possible bring some backup firewood that you can keep dry. Either by wrapping it under a tarp or keeping it in a car until you need it.

You can also assemble a good waterproof fire-making kit with dry kindling and other tools to help start and stoke a fire while it is raining. Going camping without a fire is possible, but it is not very fun. And trying to start a fire with wet wood is never an easy task.

Pack rain suits or ponchos

On my most recent camping trip, I brought not only a full rain suit but also some backup ponchos. My rain suit had seen better days and I had fears it was going to start falling apart. It made it until the rain stopped but at the end of the day, I noticed my rain suit pants had started to rip.  

Having wet clothes is no fun. Make sure to bring some rain suits if you know it is going to rain hard and if there is just a slight chance of rain you may just grab some lightweight ponchos. In the worst-case scenario, you can bring extra trash bags and create some make-shift ponchos out of the trash bags.

Pack some waterproof boots or rain boots

Keeping your feet dry is a must when camping. Especially if you are going to do any hiking or light walking. I bought some weatherproof boots on clearance and they have been great. I use them in the snow and the rain. The only issue I have is I don’t wear them enough to really get used to them. 

My biggest advice here is to make sure you wear the boots before you go camping. Find out how well your feet respond and if you need to wear extra socks to help. I made the mistake of buying some for my son without him trying them on. They were awful and rubbed his legs almost raw. So make sure if you buy some for your kids they try them on for a little bit and see how they fit.

Bring rainy day games (cards or board games)

Camping in the rain
Playing cards
Camping in the rain
Playing cards

If it rains for a long period of time then make sure you have something to keep your kids busy. Card games are great for campouts because they don’t take up a lot of space and you can play multiple card games with a standard deck of cards.

Board games can also be a good thing to keep the kids busy if camping in the rain. I wouldn’t pack too many but maybe if you have a few travel editions of your kid’s favorite board games they can stay busy while it rains.
Rainy days can also be a good time for some charades or conversational-type games. Think “I Spy” or “20 Question” type games. Not only are these fun games but provide an excellent bonding opportunity.

Plan your meals accordingly

When camping I always try to plan a meal that won’t involve fire. This way if it does rain and you can’t start a fire you still have some food for a meal until you can get a fire going.

Also, consider bringing some “warm” food and drink after the rain. Some hot soup or hot chocolate can help make the rain more bearable.

Consider an air mattress or cot to sleep on

As I get older I prefer comfort when trying to sleep while camping. A few years ago we camped and I knew it was going to rain hard. I thought I had everything prepared and had my tent tarped up well enough to keep the rain out. But I was wrong. The only thing that saved me that night was I use a nice air mattress that keeps me off the ground.

Now it wasn’t fun waking up and putting my feet in a few inches of water. But at least my sleeping bag and pillow were nice and dry. I will say we gave up early that weekend. Almost everything else I had was wet so we packed up the tent and headed home early that camping trip.

Camping in the rain
Camping in the rain

Packing up and going home

If it is raining while you are trying to pack up or if it rained just before you packed up just toss everything wet into waterproof bags or trash bags. As soon as you get home unpack all of your wet gear and air it all out. You can lay it out in a garage or shed if it is still wet when you get home. But if the sun is shining then set up your tent and your canopies again and let them dry out in the sun.

If any of your bags get wet make sure to unpack them completely and hang them up so they can dry out properly. Set your boots or wet shoes in front of a fan to help them dry out quickly. Hang wet sleeping bags anywhere you have room and let them air dry completely. Then once it is all dried out, put it back up in its proper place to make for easy packing before your next camping trip.

Camping is always a great family activity. But camping in the rain can ruin a trip real quick. If you prepare ahead and bring the proper equipment you can salvage a trip and not let the rain ruin it. You do always have the option of rescheduling your camping trip if it looks like the rain will be nonstop during the time you had scheduled. But that may all depend on your personal schedule and if you have reservations.

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Got any more tips on how to go camping in the rain? Let us know in the comments or drop us a note on our Facebook page.


  1. I remember camping in the rain as a kid. It was fun yet not. And now as an adult Im not quite sure I feel reliving that experience with my kids. I’m much happier in a cottage in the rain. But air mattresses are key for camping! Rain or shine! Great post and tips!

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