Tent Camping in the Rain: a How to Guide

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It starts with a drip, followed by another. As time goes on, the drops begin to add up, turning into a downpour. If you are unprepared, then it can be a disaster for your trip, but it can also be the opportunity for a wonderful experience. To stay dry, you just need to understand tent camping in the rain. As a camper reading this article, you will get a complete overview of how to handle the rain.

Top Tips

When camping in the rain, these are your top considerations for having a good time. Following these tips will help to keep you dry and have a pleasant experience.

  1. Place your tent in the right place. When it comes to the rain, gravity can be your friend or your worst enemy. If you camp on a hill or a place of high elevation, your tent will stay dry. Avoid the bottom of valleys and stay away from depressions or else you risk floating away like a boat.
  2. Get the right tent. When camping, the gear you get means all the difference on a trip. If you get low quality gear, then it will negatively affect your experience, especially when it comes to tents. A high quality tent is your key to staying dry. Aim to get one that has a good overhang for the water to drip off, rain fly, well sealed, and waterproof.
  3. Bring a tarp. A tarp adds an extra layer of protection away from the rain. If you have a picnic table or kitchen area, then you can place it overhead. If you just want another bottom layer of protection for your tent, then place it underneath. It can create a buffer zone. If you run one through the washing machine, then it is easier to pack.
  4. Use plastic zip lock and garbage bags. In nature, plastic does not decompose, but it also works well as a waterproof protector. If you have gear, clothes, or food, then use a bag. You can line the inside of your shoes with a garbage bag to stay dry or use one on your backpack. Plastic bags are excellent for staying dry.
  5. Avoid cotton clothing. Cotton clothing is good at absorbing water. So if it even gets a bit wet, then it will be next to impossible to dry before your camping trip is over. Stick with nylon and the water will roll right off you.
  6. Keep your gear out of the rain. It goes without saying that, if you want you and your gear to stay dry, then it helps to be out of the rain. It is worth repeating though, because sometimes it is overlooked even if it is fundamental to staying dry.
  7. Keep the inside of your tent dry. Before stepping into your tent, you want to remove wet clothing and gear. It will prevent the inside of your tent from getting any more wet.
  8. Stop mold by drying your gear. After a wet trip outside, your gear can get mold and mildew in storage if it is not dry. That is not good for you or your gear. Take the bit of extra time to dry it out and remove any moisture you find.

Rain Gear

When it is wet outside, there is essential gear you need to keep dry despite the moisture outside. This list will be sure to help you prepare for the weather.

Essentials

  • Poncho, this is a clear plastic body bag you drape over your body. It is perfect for those who have work to do despite the weather. It keeps you dry even in the dampest conditions.
  • Waterproof matches, when it rains outside, you will still want to stay warm, so these will do that. Even if they get rained on, these matches will still work, keeping you warm despite the chill outside.
  • Tarp, this is a versatile tool. With one of these in the rain, you can use it as an extra roof for your tent, a cover for your picnic table, rain and wind walls, or a cover for equipment. If you can think of it, then that is probably a use for a tarp.
  • Garbage and zip lock bags, with one of these in hand, you can keep your feet dry. Once you put your socks on, follow it up with a garbage bag. They work wonders. If you have any important electronics or similar valuable gear that fall apart when wet, then store it in a zip lock bag.
  • Nylon clothing, nylon keeps the rain off, so you will stay moisture free if you use this kind of clothing. It is well worth the investment.

Extras

  • Nikwax direct spray, a spray will be sure to help you a lot. You can enhance the waterproof qualities of your tent, backpack, and boots with this spray in hand, keeping you dry. If you do not want to buy rain gear but stay dry, then this is an inexpensive option to consider.
  • Stuff sack, these work just like garbage and zip lock bags, but they are a lot more durable. They hold up well even in the harshest of weather. You will be sure to keep your gear dry in the rain with one of these.
  • Water gaiters, when it rains outside, the flood waters can rise, turning the nearby stream into a raging river. If you have water gaiters on, then you will be able to transverse through the waters and stay dry.
  • Shammy, if your gear or the inside of your tent gets wet, then you can use a shammy to soak up any moisture and put it elsewhere. It is durable and versatile, a great tool for any camper.

6 Ways to Have Fun in the Rain

When you camp in the rain, it can put a damper on your experience if you are unprepared. It restricts hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities you would do in dryer weather, but your experience does not have to be miserable. Consider these activities when it rains while you are camping.

  1. Pick up a book. With a book in hand, you can be taken to another world. You roam through the imaginary world of the novel to read a tale of wonder and awe. A good book sparks your imagination and lets you envision new possibilities, making it a great friend for a rainy day.
  2. Play a card game. When camping with friends, a card game will keep you sane in the rain. You can play blackjack, poker, speed, rummy, crazy eights, and many more. Use your best friend Google to come up with more if need be.
  3. Look for wet animals. I live in Santa Cruz, so I see a lot of Banana slugs after a good rain. After a rain, there should be plenty of snails, frogs, worms, and the like near you. This presents the opportunity to learn more about them.
    There is more to this world than you realize.
  4. Tell stories. Everyone enjoys the riveting effect of a good story. The rain gives you the chance to brush up on your skills. Before telling your story, whether made up or true, a helpful tip is to know where you start and where you finish. Your mind will fill in the rest.
  5. 20 questions, in this game, you think of a person, place, animal, or object and the other player asks you yes or no questions. The aim is to get the answer in under 20 questions. You win if you use the least amount of questions to get the answer.
  6. Camping trip, this game revolves around the phrase, “I’m going on a camping trip and I’m bringing [fill in the blank].” One player starts with an item. The following player has to come up with another camping item using the last letter of what was previously said. Nothing can be repeated. The last player standing wins.

Tips for Making a Campfire

You can still make a campfire in the rain, but it does require some changes to make it work. In a previous article, I discuss how to make a campfire. Follow the tips below in addition to what was previously written and you will be sure to have a fire in no time.

  • Use cotton balls dipped in Vaseline. Oil is very flammable and so are cotton balls. If you have a first aid kit with you, then you should have both of these. Add Vaseline to the cotton ball and you are good to go. It will serve as your fire starter.
  • Use a candle and chemical fire starters. When camping in the rain, it helps to use non wood based fire starters because they are less likely to get wet. Most wood around you will be damp, so something like a candle and oil will help you.
  • A fire blower will help. One of these will nurse the flame into a fire. Grab a piece of aluminum or copper tubing and attach it to a piece of rubber hose. From there, you can blow into it to help your flame.
  • Cut off the wet part of the wood. If you have a damp piece of wood but you still want to use it, then cut off the damp parts with a sharp knife. Unless it is completely wet, the wood should still be useable. If you see a part of the wood you do not like, cut it off and set it aside. There is no requirement to use it.

Final Thoughts

Camping in the rain is often viewed as something that will lead to a bad trip. It is seen as a detriment to a camping trip, but only if you are unprepared. Nothing can catch you off guard if it were expected. Rain can be quite beautiful in fact. It dampens the noise and generates introspection. You slow down to appreciate the world and what you have. Everything falls silent after a rain, ushering in a new-look on the world.

If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, please do comment below and share this article. Otherwise, I hope you make it a great day!

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28 Comments on “Tent Camping in the Rain: a How to Guide”

  1. I really like your tip on how to start a fire with cotton balls dipped in Vaseline. I never would have thought of that. Thanks for the tip. Starting a fire has sometimes been a futile attempt at times for me.

    Do you have any tips on how to do an emergency repair on your tent if you have a leak while you are camping?

    1. Hey Shaun, it is wonderful to hear you found this article helpful. Starting a fire in the rain takes a bit longer, but it is possible, especially with Vaseline drenched cotton balls.

      In regards to your question, there are emergency tent repair kits out there, like this one from REI. If you have duck tape though, then that is also a good option. It is a versatile tool for your needs. Thank you for your question and I hope you make it a great day!

  2. Super helpful information! I have this bookmarked for next time I go camping. I echo the importance of Ziploc bags for protecting against rain…it seems so simple now but took me forever to realize!

    1. That is great to hear Justin. Ziploc bags are important for dealing with the rain. They are a useful tool. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  3. As someone who also loves camping, I found your article very helpful. Most people think when it starts raining while camping, your whole trip is ruined.

    I liked how you gave solutions and explained how to be prepared Incase it does start to pour down.

    Also I like you shared some fun activities you can do like playing cards or reading book. I think it’s also a great to tell ghost stories too.

    Thanks for the tips.

    1. Hey Michael, it is wonderful to hear you found this article helpful. That is wonderful to know. You are right that the trip is not over once it starts to rain. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  4. Love the tips… Particularly the decision that Camping in the Rain can be awesome.

    The preparation tips that you provided were not only great I envisioned better outcomes from my camping trips as well.

    The how to you have provided is an inspiration to never miss a chance to get out. I am in.

    Oh, the opportunity to observe animals & more that come out in the rain great.

    How long did it take for you to acquire so much knowledge?

    1. Hey Robert, it is nice to hear that you found this list helpful. Camping in the rain is easy once you understand some basics. You can do a lot when it is raining outside.

      Camping is not as difficult as it would seem. You can learn quite a bit in a short amount of time. It just takes some research.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  5. I just love your blog, keep up the good work. I grew up in the NorthWest and have been camping in the rain more than I care to admit. If only I had discovered your blog long ago, it could have saved me some miserable trips. I love the idea of putting plastic bags in your shoes, I never thought of that. Also cotton balls dipped in Vaseline as a fire starter is brilliant. I have to admit, I usually take a blow torch and that works really well. Okay, maybe overkill, but it works :).

    Now that we live in Arizona, we don’t camp in the rain much. Although, we do get monsoons in the summer, so we have to be on the lookout. We always take a bunch of extra black garbage bags. That way we can load everything up in the bags if it’s wet, and dry everything out when we get home. Great post, thanks again!

    1. Hello again Steve and Kris. It is wonderful to see you commenting again on the blog. I am in the Northwest visiting family and you are right that it rains here quite a bit.

      If you are looking to start a fire in the rain, a blow torch will work like you said, but that is quite a lot.

      I am glad to hear that you live in Arizona now. There are plenty of wonderful national parks there. It is quite beautiful there. Monsoons are a bit different than a consistent rain like in the Northwest. It is a different challenge.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  6. Alex,

    I love the post. I don’t hike much but I love to camp. I don’t use a tent but hammock. The tips you provided are good a couple tarps always keep me dry when it rains and block the wind and sun. They are very useful for shelter. I love the candle and Vaseline cotton ball. Use a tea candle as a lighter is probably some of the best advice I got for camping. Have you tried paraffin cotton balls? They have worked for me too on the same principal but more for dry use. You can also use a combination of both.

    My reason for writing is do you use wool clothing ever? It keeps in heat when it gets wet and is more water resistant. Would this be a good option as apposed to more expensive nylon clothes? I have seen frog togs go for pretty inexpensive but they look as if they can tear. Are frog togs a good option?

    Thanks in advance to the help.

    1. Malachi, it is wonderful to hear that you enjoyed this article. A hammock sounds interesting. I am not sure I could use one to sleep in overnight though. It is too much swinging for me.

      I have never tried paraffin cotton balls, only Vaseline covered ones. I will have to try that. Thank you for telling me about them.

      When I camp, I use nylon, not wool. I should discuss wool in the article. It is a good option if people have it. I go over nylon primarily because it is the dominant piece of waterproof clothing people have. Frogg Toggs are a good option as they are inexpensive and work well. If you get a pair, I recommend that you experience them in person, so you can get a feel for them.

      I hope this answers all your questions. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  7. This is my biggest hate about camping as I’m not a fan of rain in the tent and the ongoing cleaning of mud. Your tips are excellent and I feel more confident that I could manage better on the next rain.

    1. Hello again Vince, rain can be quite the downer if you are unprepared for it. I am glad to hear that you found this article helpful. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  8. I actually did not know about water gaiters and it may come in handy for me. Since where I live, it rains all the time and sometimes flood waters rise. I am just a beginner and I am glad I ran into this writing.

    1. Furkan, water gaiters are quite useful. They will keep your legs dry in high waters. It is wonderful to hear that you found this article helpful. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  9. Great tips here! While camping I had never thought about looking for wet animals, although this would be so fun to do, especially because it gets the kids involved. My favorite will hands down have to be 20 questions. We play this ALL the time and it never gets old. Thanks for all of these ideas! I’ll definitely be back for more.

    1. Hey Brandon, it is wonderful to hear that you found this article helpful. There is a lot you can do even though it is wet outside. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  10. As an avid hiker and camper, I loved this page! Your tips for staying dry, especially using tarps, are super important, but also almost always overlooked! Too many times people leave their campsites in a panic because they were not prepared and got soaked, along with all of their gear. You mention things to do in the rain, which is more important for mentally handling the situation, than staying dry itself sometimes. Very good page, I really enjoyed it!

    1. It is wonderful to hear that you enjoyed the article. When camping in the rain, you just need to make some changes to handle it. Otherwise, it is camping as you normally would, but only a little more wet. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  11. Making a fire when it’s raining is not easy at all, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been camping and freezing all night due to the rain! Thank you for these helpful tips, hopefully I’ll keep myself dry next time and beat the rain with fire!

    Thanks a ton Alex!

    1. It is wonderful to hear that you enjoyed this article Jeremy. I am sure that you will stay dry and warm despite the rain now. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  12. Thank you for the wonderful tips. I love camping and our last spring camping trip was a total disaster. We got hit by a huge thunderstorm and on top of that our tent has a leak. We ended up with several inches of water in our tent. Luckily we were sleeping on cots which kept us dry from a lake forming below us.

    We got a new tent and can’t wait to give it another try. Camping on top of the hill is a totally helpful tip. Something that I wouldn’t think of. I also love your tips on how to start a camp fire in the rain. We are totally prepared for our next rainy adventure…

    1. It is excellent to hear that you found these tips helpful Ha. I am sorry to hear that you went through such turmoil camping. It must have been very wet from what you said.

      You are right that camping on a hill is very important. It keeps the water away. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  13. Thanks for the great tips. It is always nice to learn something new, I really did enjoy all of this information. My family and I will be implementing a lot of it on our next camping trip. We will also be using some of your hiking ideas since our family also does some hiking in the woods. Thank you.

    1. It is great to hear that you found this article helpful. It sounds like you have a wonderful family. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  14. Hello, my family and I do a lot of camping here in North Dakota and the main thing we all worry about is the rain. We are always checking the weather channel to make sure that it will be a great weekend for our camping and hiking. But now that I read your article, we will be implementing all of your ideas into our trips. Thanks for making our trips a more pleasant one.
    JesusB

    1. It is wonderful to hear that you camp and hike in North Dakota. I have never been there, but I plan to visit there one day. I have heard that it can be quite beautiful. It is nice to know that you will be implementing a lot of what was recommended in this article. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

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