How to Camp in the Rain and Not Be Miserable

raining nature camping lake

Camping in the rain doesn’t have to be miserable if you come prepared with the proper rain gear and a few handy tips. Even if the forecast calls for nothing but sunny skies for days, it’s important to always be prepared for a little wet weather.

Rather than packing up and heading back to town, embrace the rain and enjoy the downtime at camp with friends and family. You may even begin to enjoy the rain and learn that it can actually be a lot of fun. 

Here are some tips to help you stay dry, comfy, and calm while still having a great time when camping in the rain. 

Pitch Your Tent on High Ground to Avoid the Wet Weather

If heavy rain is in the forecast, choose a campsite with a little elevation. Pitch your tent on the highest point in the campsite and in a spot that is slightly sloped to avoid water pooling under your tent. You’ll want to avoid low-lying areas, spots next to rivers or lakes, and any other area where water tends to gather. 

If it’s already raining when you get to camp, set up a lightweight tarp overhead first if you’re camping in an area with trees. This will keep you and your tent somewhat dry while you set up your tent. You can also wait for a break in the rain to set up your tent.

Even the heaviest downpours tend to have a few moments when the rain lessens or stops briefly. If you’d rather skip the tent for the night, you can always get creative and camp inside your car

Don’t Forget Your Ground Cloth

camping tarp rain proof

If a tent is going to flood, it’s typically from the ground up rather than from the sky. A ground cloth, also called a ground fly or footprint, is a piece of waterproof material that protects the bottom of your tent and is critical for keeping your tent dry.

The ground cloth acts as a sort of barrier between the ground and your tent and keeps water from making its way into your tent and creating puddles.

If you don’t have a ground cloth, an old tarp will do as long as it is larger than the floor of your tent. Just set your tent up on top of the tarp and be sure to fold the excess tarp underneath the tent or else the tarp will end up collecting water and funneling it right underneath your sleeping pad. 

Create a Dry Outdoor Living Space

It’s always a good idea to have a few extra tarps in your camping kit. Not only can a tarp serve as an emergency ground cloth for your tent or as a waterproof equipment cover for items like bikes, backpacks or firewood, but they can also be rigged up to create a waterproof shelter for cooking, eating, and hanging out.

Even if it’s not raining, tarp shelters can block the wind, provide some shelter from the sun, as well as cozy up your campsite a bit. 

Tarp shelters can be challenging to set up for the first time, so it’s not a bad idea to practice in your yard before heading out on your camping trip. All you need is a tarp, a few trees and some paracord or bungees.

If there aren’t any trees where you’ll be camping, you’ll need tarp poles or you can position two vehicles and secure the tarp between them. You can set up a tarp shelter anywhere with the right gear and a bit of practice.  

Use Garbage Bags and Ziplocs to Your Advantage 

Large garbage bags and Ziploc-style bags are life-savers when it comes to camping in the rain. Large garbage bags make great makeshift ponchos and they can be used to store wet gear such as drenched shoes and clothing. They can also be used to keep camp chairs, firewood and other camping gear dry. 

Ziplocs are great for keeping smaller items dry such as cell phones, matches, food and other items that shouldn’t get wet. If you’re traveling to a particularly rainy location, you may want to invest in a few river-trip style dry bags.

Dry bags have a secure roll-top closure and are totally waterproof (no condensation) and extremely durable. They’re a great option for keeping camera equipment and other valuables dry in rainy conditions. 

Read More: 8 Tips and Tricks on Camping for Beginner

Wear the Right Clothing for Wet Weather

There’s no quicker way to turn a pleasant camping trip into a total disaster than by getting your clothing soaked all the way through. Always have a rain jacket and rain pants handy and opt for clothing made from wool, nylon, or other synthetic materials.

Avoid cotton clothes when it’s raining. Cotton absorbs water and is slow to dry. Plus, cotton also loses its insulation ability when wet and can make you cold very quickly.

Resist the urge to throw all your wet clothes in a pile in your tent. Set up a clothesline under your tarp shelter to dry them overnight and provide ventilation even if it is still raining.

Whatever you do, don’t go to bed with wet clothing. Always put on dry base layers and socks before bed to avoid moisture accumulating in your sleeping bag, which makes it difficult to stay warm. 

Read More: What To Wear When Going Hiking

Pack Foods That Don’t Require a Ton of Cooking 

camping food thermos

While cooking a meal over a campfire can be fun, it can definitely be a challenge in the rain. You don’t want to end up at the campsite with food that can only be cooked over a fire. Especially when it’s raining and you can’t get a fire started. 

Opt for meals that don’t need cooking, like for example pre-made pasta salads, sandwiches or meals that can be cooked on a propane camp stove. A portion of your camp food should always be ready to eat in case you can’t build a fire or you can’t get your camp stove to work.     

Learn to Enjoy the Rain

Storms can be beautiful and the pitter-patter of rain hitting the tent can be incredibly relaxing. Once your shelter is up, take the time to just relax and enjoy a book or board game. If anyone in your group plays an instrument, this is the perfect time for a sing-along.

If it’s not raining too hard, you can still make a campfire, head out to fish and even canoe or kayak. Just make sure you have dry clothes waiting for you back at camp. 

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how to camp in the rain and not be miserable