October 22 2019
Nobody books a trip to go tent camping in the rain. But if you’re planning and taking off work weeks or months in advance, it’s impossible to forecast the weather.
While it seems like rain can ruin an otherwise great trip, it doesn’t have to. Being prepared and bringing the right gear can help you set up a memorable outing. Try some of our camping in the rain hacks to save your trip.
- Basic Rain Gear for Camping
- Rain Pants
- Waterproof Backpack Cover
- Embrace the Plastic
- Wet Bag
- Sealants, Wax, Sprays, Creams
- Bright Colors
- Pick the Right Site
- Tent Etiquette
- Bring That Extra Tarp: The Waterproof Camping Canopy
- Fire Starters
- Dry Set
- Water Bottle Heater
- Entertain Yourself!
- Final Word
Basic Rain Gear for Camping
- Raincoat: Make sure your coat’s seams are still waterproof. Lined rain jackets can get really warm and I find myself hiking in a tank top and my rain coat when the weather isn’t great.
- Waterproof Tent: The most important part of the waterproof tent is the floor, as water will rise and soak your gear, your clothes, and your sleeping bag. Be sure to stake your tent in the rain so that it diverts the flow of water away from your tent. Here are some great options at various prices.
- Wool Socks: Said and said again, cotton kills. Use wool (or other water-wicking socks) to stay warm as you are wet.
- Waterproof Shoes: These can be pricey, but hiking with soaked feet is the worst.
This can seem excessive, but hiking with soggy bottoms is no joke. Rain pants that go over your boots prevent water from going in your shoes. But more importantly, they protect against mud on your legs and shoes that will ultimately end up in your tent.
The next best thing is gaiters (the ones that wrap around your shins), keeping your rain pants tight and ensuring that the rain falls off your rain gear and onto the earth.
Waterproof Backpack Cover
Most packs are water resistant. But in heavier rains, the items packed on the outside have gotten wet and have kept my pack damp through the trip.
The waterproof backpack cover sits over your pack like a turtle shell and comes in a variety of sizes. Choose a brighter color to be seen better in the rain.
Embrace the Plastic
Unfortunately, plastic is a smart way to go in the wet wilderness. While I place my phone and wallet in a Ziploc bag during the entirety of a trip, placing socks and underwear in them is smart as well.
Go for trash bags for larger items, like your sleeping bag or sleeping pad so you can sleep dry at night.
If you need something with a little stronger seal, say for a camera and lenses, a wet bag rolls up, seals, and can even hang on the outside of your bag. Check your local outdoors store or an army surplus store for one. They come in a variety of sizes to match your needs.
Sealants, Wax, Sprays, Creams
After a lot of use, seams on tents and boots naturally lose their waterproof advantages. For tents, there are two methods to reapply the durable water repellant (DWR), based on the kind of tent you have. If you have a tent with silicone fabrics versus one with polyurethane fabrics, you’ll need to get different products to replenish the seal.
For your boots, there are several waterproofing options, regarding the material again. Waxes and creams work best on leathers, while sprays work great on a variety of materials. Be sure you clean your boots thoroughly and let them dry before applying anything. Then, after you’ve reapplied the seal, let the dry naturally, away from the sun.
People always bring up hunters when talking brighter colors and camping. However, bright colors in rain are useful should anything happen to you. If you or someone in your party falls in wet conditions, they can be spotted easily. Don’t wear brighter hues of natural colors; going for a classic bright orange is one of the best safety tips for camping in the rain.
Pick the Right Site
The rules for the ideal site are slightly different for tent camping in the rain. Try to find higher ground. This will help you avoid main points of runoff and washes, which can lead to mud, rocks, and other debris in addition to getting soaked.
Be sure to camp away from trees with large branches. While it seems like a good place to stay dry, many campers have been injured or even died due to widowmakers, large branches that fall off during storms.
Don’t want that tent to blow away? Keep your gear inside your tent as a weight. Even the largest gusts of wind have a hard time blowing 30-50 pounds off the ground. Also, this will better keep your clothes dry overnight.
When in your tent, avoid touching the sides. Tent material tends to be porous for breathability and quick drying, and the opposite can occur as well. If you touch the sides with your gear, sleeping bag, or hand, the moisture can bleed through and onto whatever you’re trying to keep dry.
Bring That Extra Tarp: The Waterproof Camping Canopy
While you should have one to keep that tent bottom dry, it’s a great idea to set up an impromptu “living room” to have a dry space apart from the one under your tent. Use ropes and stakes to attach this waterproof camping canopy to trees. (Remember to study your knots!)
In your camping living room, you can cook and congregate, but it’s also a smart idea to run a clothesline for your wet articles of clothing that you need next day. Taking the additional time each day to hang your clothes and manage your wetness will help make the rest of your trip more pleasant.
Don’t want to DIY your living room? There are many great options to find the best camping shelter for rain, but usually function for car camping. Most backpacking trips require a little ruggedness in lieu of extra pounds, but a good canopy can also protect against bugs and a very sunny camping trip.
Your dreams of a fire in the woods aren’t dashed by the rain. All it takes is a little ingenuity to get that classic warmth and experience in the woods. If you’re on the go and caught in the rain, you can burn hand sanitizer and duct tape, both which burn slow. Even corn chips burn well and make decent tinder.
If you have a little prep time before your trip, knowing the forecast on the adventure is a little less than ideal, soak cotton balls in petroleum jelly. This well-known fire hack is compact, burns slow, and can save your evening campfire.
While I always bring nighttime clothes, I recommend storing a complete, designated dry set in a plastic bag. Make sure you have your basics and a pair of warm socks to keep you warm. Beyond just staying dry, a designated dry set of clothes keeps mud outside of your sleeping bag.
Water Bottle Heater
One of my favorite hacks is a cozy one. To stay warm in wet weather, heat up water to a boil and put it in your Nalgene bottle. Then wrap it up in a t-shirt or sweatshirt (to not burn yourself) and put it in the base of your sleeping bag. Then settle in with a little sleeping bag heater. This little hack is something I’ve used to keep warm even when it’s not raining.
Sometimes a little hard rain keeps us off the trails and in our tents. Be sure to bring a book, a deck of cards, or, if you have the space, a game to keep you and your friends from getting that antsy fever of waiting out the rain.
I’ve been rained on many times while camping. When I wasn’t prepared, it made my gear soggy and killed the good vibes. But when I was ready, it didn’t bother me. As a matter of fact, the trips I remember most have had rainy days, from brief episodes to full-day showers.
I’ve been caught in a storm waist-deep fording a glacial river in the Andes, stuck in sideways rain and mud in Patagonia, and recently stuck in a half-day rainy slog in Three Sisters Wilderness. Maybe a little grit goes a long way.
Whether it’s a surprise or you are trying to go camping in the Pacific Northwest, don’t let the rain kill your trip. Most people chicken out under a little moisture, but the most memorable trips have had a little rain.
Join the discussion in our Facebook Group here. Share your camping tips and get help from other experienced campers and backpackers.