“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only different kind of good weather” – John Ruskin
There is no reason why a rainy day should ruin your camping experience. Find out how you can prepare yourself, and there’s a big chance that you’ll look at the rain with a smile on your face.
Remember: Some people camp in the rain, others just get wet.
1. Carefully choose where you’re going to set up camp
You might think that if it’s going to rain, it doesn’t matter where you’re camping. It won’t make a difference. And it’s probably true, it can’t save you from the rain pouring down, but it can protect you from getting flooded. Whenever you are looking for the perfect spot, remember the following facts and use them as a guideline:
- Flat terrain is not an option – always look for knolls or hillocks so that the rainwater can drain effectively.
- Don’t camp near trees – you don’t know how big the storm can get. Strong winds can do some severe damage to trees, especially old ones. Falling branches or even worse, falling trees can hurt you pretty bad.
- Stay away from rivers – especially if you are camping in the mountains. Flash floods are unpredictable, and most of the time, they are deadly.
- Find a spot that will get sunlight – after the rain is gone, a little sunshine will cheer you up. Plus, it will help the terrain to dry out quickly. Nobody likes camping in the mud.
2. Make sure you can start a campfire if it’s raining
The chances are that you and your gear are going to get wet. But the worst thing that can happen is not being able to start a fire. On a rainy day, a fire will be the heart and the soul of a campsite.
Even if you are an expert in survival techniques, starting a fire on a rainy day can quickly become an impossible mission. I suggest you always pack some of these starter accessories:
- A candle and some chemical fire starters that you’ll need to keep dry – a sealed freezer bag will do the trick.
- Dry tinder – you might be able to find some dry firewood, but tinder is hard to find especially after some heavy rain.
- Waterproof matches or a waterproof lighter – they’re inexpensive and will be of great use.
- Firewood – just a couple of logs can make a difference. Once you have a mighty fire, you can use some of the wood that you gathered from around the campsite, even if it’s not that dry.
You need to know how to build a fire. If everything is wet, stacking all the firewood together without leaving space for ventilation will not work. Instead, follow these simple steps:
- Make a solid base – don’t start the fire on a wet surface, by the time you’ll have everything ready, the tinder will get wet.
- Build it up like it was an office tower – the thick logs should be the “walls” of the structure, and the thin branches or sticks should be the “floor”.
- Place the tinder between the sticks and make sure that those are not compressing it. Make sure you have a nice airflow.
- Use your waterproof matches and light up the fire from the bottom.
3. Consider a waterproof tent
You’ll be surprised how many people believe they have a waterproof canvas, later to find out that they misread the product description. Check this important detail before venturing off.
If you’ve never used it in the rain and you don’t have the product labels anymore, a good idea would to pitch it up in the garden and test it. Bring on the water hose and start wetting it. You can also consider this a solution if you own an old tent and you want to check for leaks.
If you decide to buy a new one, the article I wrote about my favorite tent for rain and wind can be a place to start.
Furthermore, you can also use some of these hacks to make your tent rainproof:
- Cover it with a rain fly – this is the floor-less waterproof sheet that you use to cover your tent. You’ll need to work on the groundsheet as well as this doesn’t cover that. A rain fly is useful, but I found it to help a lot with building up condensation inside.
- Spray your tent with a hydrophobic solution – cheap and unique idea. The structure of a tent is ideal for this solution. This “pushes away” the raindrops and because the tent walls are so abrupt, they will run down very quickly. Now keep in mind that you may need to respray your tent after a couple of uses. This substance can wear off, especially if affected by prolonged sunlight.
4. Make sure you wear the right clothes
Getting wet will make lose body heat faster than ever. In fact, in wet conditions, your body temperature will drop 25 times faster than in cold air conditions alone. Hypothermia is not a joke, and it doesn’t need sub-zero temperatures to set in.
A waterproof jacket and waterproof boots will keep you dry, but you need to check their protection ratings before you buy them. The coat must have a hood to prevent the water drops from running down your back.
If you are venturing away from the campsite to explore the surroundings, take an emergency rain poncho with you. They do a much better job to keep you dry and, considering that you might have to make a long trip back, this will be your lifesaver.
I know you are a responsible person, and you’ll carry some trash bags with you when camping. They can be the last resort if you’ve failed to bring that essential rainproof gear.
Avoid wearing cotton or wool clothes as these will soak up quickly.
5. Create a “fun space” that is rainproof
Let’s face it. Everybody enjoys watching the rain. As long as it doesn’t reach you, it’s one of the most relaxing things ever. But there’s no beauty of watching it through your tent’s window. You need to step up and build an outdoor rain shelter. A place where you can relax or have as an activities ground.
There are two ways you can do this:
- String up a tarp overhead. For this, you’ll have to use the trees around you. Now, let me be clear, I don’t advise camping near trees during a rainstorm. If it’s not a powerful storm, you can get away with this.
- Take it to the next level. Use what nature has to offer: build a shelter from tree branches. If you know what you’re doing, you can achieve the perfect waterproof shelter.
I suggest you buy an extra tarp to lay underneath. It may not rain underneath your shelter, but the draining water can turn that place into a mud pool.
6. Make sure you eat enough calories
Rain usually brings low temperatures with it. It’s known for a fact that humans will burn twice as many calories to maintain the body temperature in cold weather. Now it’s not the time to be afraid of those carbs.
Choose fruit and veggies rich, and vitamin C. Oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, peppers, etc. will help maintain your immune system and energy levels. Not a thing to omit if you just returned from a long hiking trip.
Fancy a barbecue? Go for fish. It contains high levels of vitamin B12 that can reduce fatigue and tiredness. Eggs and cheese can help as well.
I can’t think of a better opportunity to use a dutch oven than a rainy day. Find some fancy camping recipes and start cooking. If it’s going to rain all day, at least you have something to keep you busy.
7. Avoid condensation inside your tent
Always make sure you ventilate your tent. Doing this can be tricky if it’s raining, but there are some tents out there with window awnings to prevent rainwater from getting in.
Most of the condensation that’s inside a tent will come from your respiration and perspiration. Last time I checked we all need to breathe; therefore the only thing you can do is to allow some airflow and let the water vapors escape.
Never bring dump clothes inside. That’s just another source that will produce condensation. Try to dry out the wet gear by the campfire. If that’s not possible, bag them up and keep them outside. They’re already wet, what else can happen to them? (I know, the smell….).
Use a portable dehumidifier. This device is useful, but it requires a power source to run.
8. Learn the right way to pitch a tent in the rain
Pitching a tent when it’s already raining can be difficult. You aim to keep the inside dry, and there are two things you can do that will save you from the headaches.
First, you have to pack the inner and the outer separately. You don’t want to untangle them when it’s pouring down. You’ll never keep the inner dry.
Second, some people recommend stringing up a tarp over the future tent location. This way, you can work comfortably on setting up the tent, and the inner parts will stay dry.
Make sure your tent can handle heavy rain and powerful winds. Adding an extra groundsheet can sometimes help to insulate the floor. But make sure you don’t extend out more than the tent’s footprint. You don’t need the rainwater to get trapped near your tent. It’s also a good idea to secure the endings, so if the wind picks up, it won’t lift it.
Keep in mind that pitching the tent on wet ground and a slope can result in your tent sliding down. You will not notice this until you get inside.
9. Always pack some entertainment
Raining days always brought people together and camping in the rain can become joyful with the help of some outdoors activities.
Board games like Monopoly or party games for horrible people like Cards Against Humanity can cheer everybody up.
Bring books, laptops or tablets if you aren’t that sociable. No time is a bad time for a good movie, or maybe turn the music louder, pull those beers out of the chiller and enjoy life.
10. Don’t forget to stay warm
If you can’t handle cold and wet weather very well, consider bringing in a portable heater. There are many options out there, from fans all the way to propane heaters. Just be very careful if you plan to run them inside. If you don’t pay attention to them, accidents can happen. Explore the primitive ways to heat a tent without electricity or fossil fuels.
Add some extra blankets to your camping checklist. Think about others as well. They may not be as responsible as you are and forget to pack some.
Check the idea of a heated tent floor. I know it’s a new invention, but lately, everybody is talking about it. If you have access to power, an electric blanket or a foot warmer can do miracles.
Perhaps upgrading to a 4 season sleeping bag should be on your mind.
11. You need a dry storage area
For most of us, a car will sort this out. But if you camp away from your vehicle, consider getting some dry bags for all your clothes, food, electronic devices and so on. Try not to keep clothes and food inside your tent.
Get all your sensible electronic devices inside a plastic bag and seal it properly. Don’t rely on the fact the manufacturer said they are water resistant.
12. Double down on sleeping pads
Who wants to go to sleep knowing there’s a cold floor waiting for them? Your tent’s groundsheet will keep the moisture away, but it can’t do much to keep you warm.
Sleeping pads are essential when camping in the rain. But you need to know what to look for. Here are a few tips about them:
- Never buy a sleeping pad made from materials that can absorb moisture. If it’s a foam sleeping pad that you want, always choose a closed-cell one.
- Look for reflective camping mats. You need to understand how insulation works. A two inches layer of foam with no reflective surface is good to use as a mattress only.
Want to make it even more comfortable? Do yourself a favor and pack an air mattress. A raised bed will work as well. Find out how you can insulate a tent for cold weather in the article I previously wrote.
13. Take extra care with generators and electrical devices
As a rule of thumb, no generator should be running in wet conditions. If water gets inside the outlets, it can damage the generator permanently, not to say there’s a considerable risk of electrocution.
Modern generators come with circuit breakers installed, but you need to check if your has one. If yours doesn’t have it, there’s an option that you can buy a separate one. Just make sure you know how to connect it.
The circuit breaker does not protect it from getting wet. For this, you need to get a waterproof generator cover. They retail for around $20 and having one will save you from the misery of buying another generator.
If you are camping in the heavy rain, make sure you don’t leave it on wet surfaces. Build a raised platform and keep it off the ground. The last thing you need is for it to get flooded.
14. Look out for lightning strikes when camping in the rain
Although the chances of getting struck by lightning are about 300,000 to 1, that’s still higher than winning the lottery. And the odds drop significantly if you are in an open field with no shelter.
What to do if you get yourself caught by a lightning storm while camping:
- Look for shelter and stay away from windows. Tents don’t provide excellent protection from lightning strikes, so I advise you jump inside your car or RV.
- Descend from higher grounds.
- If no shelter is available, crunch down on the ground and try to make yourself as small as possible. Keep in mind that lightning will always try to find the quickest route to reach the ground.
- Stay away from trees. They are usually the first ones that get struck by lightning.
- Experts advise that you get out of the water. Swimming in the rain it’s nice, but don’t push your luck.
- Avoid using your mobile phone or any electrical devices.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Q: Will I get a cold if I camp in the rain?
A: Rain alone won’t make you sick but the germs and viruses in the air will.
Q: Why is my tent wet inside? I made sure that is waterproof and ready for a camping trip.
A: The condensation is to blame for this. Once you get inside the tent, your body heat will warm up the area resulting in a temperature difference between the outside and inside. A human can produce up to 1.25 liters of water vapors daily. They will condense quickly, and this is how your tent gets wet even though is waterproof.
Q: Can I set up a gazebo in the rain?
A: You can if your gazebo is built to resist rain and wind. It should have a metallic frame, preferably made out of steel and a sturdy polyester cover.