Nothing can spoil a beautiful outdoor camping adventure much like rain. After you have made your plans, waited patiently yet anxiously for the weekend to arrive, packed and loaded your car and made the long drive to your camping destination and campsite, you begin to see the low, black, threatening clouds overhead—clouds filled with rain that is bent on ruining your camping trip.
So, what are you to do? Should you turn back in disappointment and wait for another day? Or do you brave the soggy elements and push on?
If you are the adventurous type of person that leans towards the latter of these two strategies, then this article is meant for you. Here we will outline and explain several helpful and crucial tips, tricks and strategies for camping in the rain, some with step-by-step directions that will help you fully enjoy your rain-threatened camping excursion despite the curveball thrown by Mother Nature.
Are You Prepared for Camping in the Rain?
Unless you really enjoy getting soaking wet, chances are you do not really like to camp in the rain. However, if you camp regularly enough the chances are pretty good that you will one day have to face this type of weather condition.
The question is: do you know what to do when the rain hits? While many people might just give up and head home, there are actually a few things you can do to make this situation bearable. These steps include:
Avoid the Rain if Possible
Of course, the best way to prevent rain from ruining your next camping trip is to avoid it altogether. If the forecast is calling for very heavy rain, for thunderstorms with lightning, you might just want to cancel before you make the long journey up to your camping destination.
In very heavy rain, it is almost impossible to tent camp without getting soaking wet. Even the most waterproof tents have their limits, and entrusting your safety to one of these tents during a heavy downpour is not a good idea.
Moreover, during a lightning storm it is not a good idea to be outside, especially among tall trees that are often a target for lightning strikes. So, if the forecast for your entire trip looks really ugly, your best bet is to just stay home and wait for another weekend.
Bring Plenty of Plastic Bags
Plastic bags can be a lifesaver in the rain. These bags come in many different forms. If you are a frequent camper, you may want to invest in “dry bags” made specifically for this purpose.
Camper’s dry bags come in many different sizes, are made from tough plastic and have a waterproof seal at the top. These bags are designed to keep a wide variety of items protected from the rain during a storm, such as matches, personal items and even clothes.
If you are not a regular camper, and you do not want to invest the money in a set of camping dry bags, regular plastic bags will do in a pinch. Large garbage bags, for example, are a great way to keep clothes and other large items protected from the rain, and sealable sandwich and freezer bags are ideal for smaller items like matches, phones, radios, etc.
The great thing about “regular” plastic bags is that they keep water out just as effectively as higher end dry bags. Another bonus is that they hardly take up any room in your pack and are very cost effective in comparison. They can even be reused in a pinch, which will save you even more money in the long run.
You never know exactly when it is going to rain, so experts say you should always carry a plastic garbage bag just in case you need to cover your hiking pack at night. Plastic garbage bags are also a great way to protect your firewood from becoming soggy and worthless.
Sealable sandwich and freezer bags should also be kept on hand to protect your matches and personal items, things like fishing licenses, cameras and money.
There are many waterproof and lightweight tarps on the market designed specifically for camping purposes. And when it rains, you will be awfully glad you remembered to pack them.
Weighing less than three pounds in most cases, big camping tarps can be used to make a large makeshift shelter for protection against the rain. These can be used to cover your tent and sleeping area, as well as the activity area in which you will be doing most of your cooking, eating and activities.
In addition to offering rain protection, tarps like these also offer protection from the heat of the sun on a hot summer day, making them an all-season necessity if you are a frequent camper. Camping tarps are exceedingly well-made and worth every penny they cost. Their seams are watertight and they are thin enough to pack and store easily.
Use Two Layers of Protection for All Your Gear
As we mentioned briefly above, nobody knows for sure when it is going to rain. The weather can be very unpredictable at times, especially in the mountains where brief yet heavy thunderstorms seem to come out of nowhere.
For this reason, we recommend you use two layers of protection for your gear. Just because you might have a waterproof or water-resistant backpack, it doesn’t mean that all of your clothes and gear will remain dry in a heavy downpour.
However, you can ensure a level of dryness for all your stuff by first placing your gear inside plastic bags before placing it into your pack. Nobody wants clothes that are soaking wet, so use a plastic garbage bag or a dry bag to wrap your clothes before placing them into your pack. Do the same thing with all of your sensitive gear and your trip is sure to be a dry success.
Bring Along Some Newspaper
Packing some newspaper in your backpack—after wrapping it in plastic to ensure it remains dry—is always a good idea when going on a rain-threatened camping adventure. Newspaper can serve a variety of purposes, but its most important function is acting as fuel for your fire.
In the rain you cannot rely on the pieces of kindling scattered around your campsite; once the rain hits this kindling becomes worthless to you. However, if you bring newspaper you will always have a proven fire starter at your fingertips.
You should also place rolled up pieces of newspaper in your wet shoes or boots at night. The newspaper will act as a type of sponge, drawing water out of your shoes and allowing them to dry much more rapidly.
Finally, when the rain comes down and spoils all of your activities for the day, a newspaper at the ready will at least give you something to read and a way to pass the time.
Purchase and Bring Rain Gear
As most hikers and frequent campers will tell you, a high-quality rain jacket and rain pants are both essential when exploring the wilderness. While some people prefer to bring a poncho for inclement weather, those items do not offer the same level of protection as a rain jacket and rain pants, which completely cover the body and leave no openings into which the rain can seep.
Important to note is that when we say “high quality” rain gear we mean it. Cheap plastic rain gear is cheap for a reason—it does not offer adequate protection. Therefore, make sure to do your research and select rain gear that has proven results. You may have to spend a bit more but the extra cost will be worth it in the long run.
Avoid Cotton Clothing
We all know what happens to cotton clothing when it gets wet. It becomes water-logged and leaves you feeling cold and clammy.
It also takes hours to dry, and unless you have brought along many changes of clothing you might just end up being miserable the whole trip and you could even subject yourself to hypothermia. So, what should you wear instead of cotton clothing?
During the summer time we recommend clothes that are made from lightweight nylon and other synthetic materials, right down to the underwear you choose. In the wintertime we recommend clothing made from wool or polypropylene materials, both of which will keep you warm and dry.
Plan for the Possibility of Rain
If it comes as a surprise when the thunderheads start to gather overhead you are ill-prepared for your camping adventure. Every camper should have a plan in place when the weather starts to turn ugly.
For example, you should always have tarps ready and on hand to cover your food and picnic table, as well as your firewood. You should also plan for some activities you can do in the rain.
Nobody likes to be hunkered down in the tent during their camping trip, but a deck of cards, a good book or even a guitar can help you pass the time as you wait for the weather to clear. If you plan ahead, the rain will never be allowed to ruin your camping fun.