10 Hacks for Camping in the Rain

Rain, rain go away, come again another day.

You can chant the nursery rhyme all you want at the campsite, but whether you like it or not, the showers will keep coming. No need to throw in the towel just yet though - there are plenty of techniques to make your wet outdoor experience enjoyable.

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You can start with these 10 camping in the rain hacks, tips, and tricks.

1. Master Tarps and Paracords

Tarp tent

Rather than just remaining cooped up inside your tent and waiting out Mother Nature’s wrath, consider bringing an extra tarp to the campsite. From using it as a tent floorsaver to rigging it up to form an outdoor awning, a durable tarp and a little bit of paracord can go a long way when dealing with wet outdoor conditions.

But don’t stop at just one tarp. You can rig one up to your car to create a dry dining area, one over a potential campfire, and perhaps one as a temporary roof to an outdoor bathroom because nobody want to ‘do their business’ in a downpour.

Think your budget can’t handle the extra weather protection? Well, there are plenty of quality tarps for under $20.

As for how to set up an actual tarp, here are a few tips from our bushcrafty friends over at TA Outdoors. There are hundreds of different techniques, but always remember that you should construct your makeshift shelter so that there is no potential of water pooling.

2. Head To Higher Ground

Gobi flash Flood
June 10, 2010 at Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas. Campers flocked to the many recreational areas to enjoy the summer sun, but soon, all hell broke loose. In the earlying morning hours of June 11, the Little Missouri River rose approximately 20 feet in 3 hours due to heavy, localized rain. 20 campers were killed in the flash floods due to its close proximity to the river.

Now, I’m really not trying to scare you, but simply warn you to always be aware of your surroundings, and always camp at a higher elevation.

When selecting a campsite, look out for patches of high vegetation as compared to the rest of the area. Not only are these typically the lowest point on the ground (you’ll probably wake up in a puddle if you sleep here), but they are also a breeding ground for insects.

On a larger scale, you shouldn’t sleep too deep in a river canyon which is prone to flash floods. Opt for a flat surface near, but far enough away, a water source.

3. Avoid “Widowmakers”

widowmaker tree

After choosing a safe elevation for your campsite, you should place your tent away from the tree canopy to avoid any potential deadly branches, also known as widowmakers. These limbs are typically already broken off the tree and hang entangled in larger branches.

But, on windy, rainy days, these widowmakers become unstuck and fall to the ground, taking down whatever is in their path. If your only choice is to sleep among the trees, search thoroughly above you to ensure that there are no loose branches that could be fatal.

4. Try a Hammock

Hammock with fly

If you are traveling solo, consider sleeping in a hammock rather than a tent.

You’ll be suspended over the pooling water and mud, cozily nestled between two trees. Sure, the setup may be difficult at first, and it will probably take your body an adjustment period to sleep comfortably, but in the end you may be happy you made the switch.

Wanna give it a go? Check out the Hennessy Hammock.

5. Waterproof Everything

Tent. Boots. Backpack. Clothing. Electronics. Food. You should - no - you need to waterproof everything at your campsite.

The easiest way to remain dry at the campsite is to purchase quality, weatherproof products like Gore-TexⓇ or Polyurethane coated fabrics. For the more frugal crowd, you can typically waterproof your clothing, shoes, and any gear at home with applicators such as NikWax or Sof Sole. For your tent, you’ll want to seam seal your tent for better protection against wet conditions.

6. Layers, Layers, Layers

keep warm with layers

Being wet at the campsite is annoying, but being both wet and cold poses serious health risks. While it is unlikely, it is possible that your body could go into hypothermic shock in these type of conditions.

If you, or someone you know is vigorously shivering, slurring speech, or breathing shallowly, seek medical attention immediately.

On a less-radical scale, being chilly and damp is just an overall bummer. Make sure to layer your clothing properly while out at the campsite. A good rule of thumb is to always pack at least one more extra layer of clothes than you think you’ll need.

Personally, I always bring a silk base layer, Merino wool t-shirt, lightweight fleece, packable down jacket, and Frogg Togg rain gear, no matter the conditions. Everybody’s preferred gear list is different, yet just be prepared for any eventualities. 

Oh yeah, and always bring a dry pair of socks!

7. Utilize Household Items

There’s no need to buy expensive waterproof products when a few common household items can do the same trick.

  • Trash Bags: The Swiss-Army knife of cheap camping accessories. You can use a trash bag as backpack cover, waterproof storage, poncho, or simply just a trash bag.
  • Duct Tape: An engineer’s favorite tool, you can always use duct tape to quickly patch leaks in your tent seams or fix holes in your gear.
  • Plastic Sandwich Bags (ZipLoc): A simple, waterproof storage solution for kindling, food, and electronics (and you should still be able to use the touch screen and camera options on your Smartphone).
  • Rubber Gloves: In cold weather conditions, wear rubber gloves (made for cleaning) underneath a warmer pair of knit gloves to keep your fingers dry and warm.
  • Cotton Balls and Vaseline: Not only does Vaseline (petroleum jelly) prevent chapped lips, but in combination with cotton balls, can be a great waterproof firestarter.

8. Fire It Up

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain, but I’ve also seen a fire built in the rain. Sure, it may be difficult to spark a flame in wet conditions, but it’s not impossible.

  • 1
    If available, pitch a tarp over the firepit, high enough that it won’t catch on fire (typically I like to rig it high enough so I’m able to stand underneath).
  • 2
    Next, you’ll need to collect firewood and tinder. For the former, opt for smaller branches since they tend to dry out faster than large ones, and once you think you have collected enough, collect more.
  • 3
    For the tinder, some people will bring a firestarter to the campsite ahead of time like cotton balls and Vaseline, Doritos (yes these work great), or dry kindling in a plastic bag. If you didn’t prepare ahead of time, peel back some bark on a tree and scrape the fibrous material with a knife from underneath as it’s typically dry.
  • 4
    Finally, it’s time to build your fire and catch a spark. Construct a standard teepee, and use your ignition source to spark a flame (I use UCO Titan Stormproof Matches). Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t catch on the first attempt, just start small and keep building. Soon enough, you’ll have a steady fire to keep you warm and help to dry out any gear that’s soaked.

9. Change the Mood

chess-game

So, you’ve exhausted all of your options and are now confined to your tent for the night. Instead of sulking in the wet conditions, utilize this time to have a little family fun.

You can play board games, read a book, write in a journal, watch a movie, or simply lay back and relax while listening to the soft pitter patter of raindrops on your shelter. If you are car camping, perhaps you want to pack up and head to a nearby town to hang with the locals.

Whatever the case, don’t let a little water ruin your camping trip.

10. Deal With It

Finally, it's important to realize that camping conditions are always unpredictable. Obvious, right? But still, how many people do you know that constantly complain about the weather?

The best thing you can do for the rain is simply deal with it. If you aren't ready to deal with a little drizzle, there's no shame in packing up the car and heading home. Next time though, you should follow these ten camping in the rain hacks to conquer the wet outdoors!

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