Camping in the rain can be a miserable experience! There is nothing worse than huddling in a damp sleeping bag with water puddling on the floor and leaking through the roof.
Luckily, there is a lot that you can do to prevent this scenario from happening. Armed with proper preparation and a few tips about setting up your camp in the rain, you will be able to have a comfortable camping trip in the wettest of weather.
I’ve spent many years camping in some of the worst weather you can imagine, and I’ve written this guide to help you have the best trip possible!
The Ultimate Guide to Camping in the Rain
This wet weather camping guide will give you advice about planning your trip, setting up your tent, staying comfortable whilst you are camping, and even packing everything away.
Afterward, you will find 15 ultimate tips for camping in the rain and some helpful activity and cooking ideas.
Planning the Trip
Choosing your tent
You will want to choose a suitable tent for the weather. Bathtub-style floors are great for preventing water from seeping in from the ground; try to find something with taped seams and protected zips.
For the flysheet, you want a minimum waterproofing of 3000mm, but closer to 5000mm would be ideal.
We recommend that you get a tent with a porch or vestibule area, to help prevent rain from blowing in when you open the door.
You would also be more comfortable with some angled vents or windows, so you can let some air into your tent even when it’s raining.
If you are driving to your camping spot, you will want to bring the most spacious tent possible, ideally with room to set up your camping chairs as well as stand up and move around. If you are backpacking, this won’t be possible.
We recommend that you get a conventional tent rather than a trekking pole tent for lightweight camping, as they tend to deal better with the wind and the rain.
Preparing your tent
Now that you have chosen the perfect tent, you have some work to do.
Firstly, practice setting it up at home. The first time always takes a bit longer, and you don’t want to be working it all out in the rain.
You can also use this opportunity to spray the tent with a hosepipe, to make sure there aren’t any small rips or tears that would let in rainwater.
If you find that your new tent is damaged, return it for a replacement. If the tent is already used, you can consider fixing it with some patches.
Next, give the entire tent a waterproof coating. A lot of people don’t realize that they need to do this and come to seriously regret it later. Simply buy some tent waterproofing spray and cover the outside, then leave it to dry. You should redo this after every trip when the tent has taken a lot of rain.
Packing the right gear is important for a wet weather camping trip. You want good-quality waterproofs, and plenty of layers to keep yourself cozy and warm. It’s also a good idea to bring a tent footprint, which goes underneath your tent to protect the floor.
However, the footprint must be smaller than the tent; otherwise, water will gather between the layers and seep into your sleeping area!
A full packing list appears later in this article, so check it out if you need extra help.
Setting Up Camp
Choosing your pitch
If you’re going to be staying at a campsite during the wet months, pick one with a communal kitchen or living area so that you have somewhere warm and dry to retreat to. It’s also a good idea to camp close to the restrooms, so you don’t have to walk too far in the rain!
Whether you’re at a campsite or well off the beaten track, don’t camp too close to rivers or lakes which could overflow in heavy rain. Ideally, stick to higher ground away from valleys where water could gather.
If you are wild camping, make sure you are not camping in a place that is vulnerable to flash floods.
It’s tempting to camp underneath trees in heavy rain, but I wouldn’t recommend it. After the rain has stopped, the water from the wet trees will keep dripping onto your tent, which will keep you awake.
Once you’ve found your perfect pitch, it’s time to set up camp.
If it’s raining when you arrive, you can check the weather on your phone and see if it’s going to get any better. There is no shame in leaving to grab a coffee until the rain stops. This will help prevent your luggage and sleeping bags from getting wet.
If you have to pitch up in the rain, work as a team and get it done quickly. If you’re prone to bickering with your family, allocate one person to lead the operation and the others to listen to instructions!
Set up the rainfly nice and taut by pegging it as far from the inner tent as possible. Use the guide ropes for extra support. This will stop the tent walls from flapping in the wind and passing moisture into the inner tent.
Don’t take any of your things out of the car until the tent is fully set up and ready to go.
During the Camping Trip
In general, never wear shoes inside your tent because it will cause the tent floor to wear thin more quickly. This is even more important in wet weather, as you will soon find that your sleeping compartment is dirty and wet.
Bring some easy slide-on, slide-off shoes for when you want to head out to the restroom. When you take off your outdoor shoes, bring them inside your tent, as they could get wet if you leave them in the less protected vestibule.
Have a plastic bag or some sheets of newspaper ready to place your shoes on. This will keep your tent much cleaner.
Also, don’t keep any wet clothes in your sleeping compartment, as this will contribute to condensation. Keep them in a plastic bag, the vestibule, or your car.
Camping with your dogs is a lot of fun. The smell of wet dog in your tent? Not so much.
It’s a good idea to bring a waterproof rain jacket for your dog. Even if your dog loves running around in the rain, this will prevent them from getting soaked through and making everything else dirty in your tent.
You should also have some old towels ready at the door to give their paws a good dry before they come into the tent. You might need to practice doing this at home so they aren’t too freaked out about it.
You will have already waterproofed your tent at home, but it’s a good idea to bring plenty of dry bags or plastic bin bags in which to store your clothes and shoes.
I also recommend that you get a thin, lightweight Bivy bag to slide your sleeping bag into. This will keep your sleeping bag dry, even if water does make its way into your tent.
Avoid keeping anything in your vestibule, as it could easily get wet. Even if the porch is waterproof, water can seep in from the ground. If you have to keep some belongings out there, bring a thick tarp to cover anything outside the sleeping compartment.
No matter how much it’s raining, it’s never safe to cook inside your tent. Tents are highly flammable, and it is absolutely not worth the risk.
What’s more, the disposable barbeques that a lot of people use when camping omit a lot of carbon monoxide, so you could easily poison yourself when cooking in a confined area.
If it is likely to rain, the best thing you can do is book a campsite with some kitchen facilities.
Alternatively, you can bring an open-sided gazebo to cook under, or you will just have to layer up in your waterproofs and be as quick as you can!
Be careful if you are cooking on an open flame with bulky gloves. During my last camping trip, I managed to set my gloves on fire, and I didn’t even notice until my husband had poured a bucket of water over them!
Bring food that is quick and easy to prepare so that you aren’t stuck out in the rain for too long.
I’ll give you some suggestions later in the article.
When it’s time to take down your tent, plan it for a break in the rain. Put all your stuff in your car before taking down the tent.
It’s a good idea to keep a waterproof tarp in your trunk for the whole trip so that all your wet and dirty stuff can go straight onto that without any worries.
Drying out your tent
Don’t worry about packing your tent into its little compression sack; just put it in a larger hold-all bag. It will take much less time, and you need to dry the tent out anyway or it will go moldy in the bag.
When you get home, you should hang your tent out to dry, give it another coating of waterproof spray for your next trip, and then pack it away neatly in your own time.
15 Tips & Hacks for Camping While Raining
Here are 15 tips and hacks that make camping more comfortable in the rain. Please leave some more in the comments if you have additional ideas!
1. Plastic bag socks - If your shoes get wet on the inside and you can’t dry them out, don’t despair. You can change into dry socks, and then place your feet in thin plastic bags before putting on your shoes.
It gets a bit hot and sweaty because plastic isn’t breathable but it is so much better than getting cold and wet feet!
2. Supermarket hikes - If you are feeling claustrophobic in your tent and need to stretch your legs, you can always pop over to the supermarket for a hike up and down the aisles.
It’s good to stretch your legs, and a lot of stores let you bring your dog in, too. Just call ahead if you have any doubts!
3. Dog Blankets - You can get microfiber toweling blankets especially for your dog. When they come in from the rain, you can clip them into their blankets, and they will dry off much more quickly.
This will prevent them from making the tent too smelly!
4. Spares - Bring more spares than you could possibly need. Spare shoes, coats, hats, and gloves are all a good idea. It’s better to bring something and not need it rather than the other way around!
5. Clothes hangers - It can be hard to dry off your things when you are camping, so bring some clothes hangers with you. You can use them for wet clothes or towels, and hang them up in your car to dry.
6. Shoes - Don’t wear outdoor shoes inside your tent, but do bring them in to prevent them from getting wet in the vestibule
7. Dry bags - Bring plenty of dry bags or plastic bags. They will help to keep your stuff dry, particularly electronics. You can also bring a plastic Bivy bag to protect your sleeping bag.
8. Tent walls - Even if your tent doesn’t leak, you can expect some condensation. To prevent your things from getting damp, don’t let your sleeping bag or any of your stuff touch the tent walls.
9. Ventilation - You can also prevent condensation by opening a window or a vent. Just make sure it’s an angled window, so rainwater can’t make its way in.
10. Porch - You want a tent with a porch because that means you can get in and out without letting in any rain. If you don’t have a porch, at least make sure your zippers are protected, or they will let water seep into the tent.
11. Games - Bring some fun activities that you can do if the weather keeps you inside. I’ll give you some suggestions in the next section!
12. Waterproof overalls - Children enjoy playing in the rain more than we give them credit for. I recommend that you look into some waterproof overalls, so you can let your children splash in the puddles without worrying that they will get cold or wet.
13. Treats - You need to keep morale high when you are camping in the rain, so don’t forget lots of yummy food and hot drinks. Bring a flask so you can make a big pot of hot chocolate in advance.
That way, you don’t have to keep going out in the rain to make more.
14. Weather app - Download a weather app and keep a close eye on it. It can be much better to wait for an hour to set up or pack down, rather than let everyone and everything get damp!
15. Stay flexible - Having a good time is more important than anything else. Try not to worry about what anyone else would think, and ask yourself if you are really having a good time. If the answer is no, there is no shame in heading back a bit early.
You are far better off laughing about the experience at home than being miserable in your tent—and you can always prepare better for the next camping trip!
Fun Camping Activities for Rainy Days at the Campsite
It’s a good idea to bring along some fun activities that you can do inside your tent. Ideally, they shouldn’t take up too much space.
Board Games - e.g., Monopoly, chess, checkers, Sequence, Cluedo, etc. You can often get travel versions of popular board games
Card Games - e.g., poker, cheat, president, speed, and rummy, as well as games like Love Letter or Top Trumps, which can be easier for children to pick up.
Knitting - Knitting is a great activity for long evenings, as it is mindful and rewarding. You can also take this as an opportunity to teach your children a new skill.
Singing - Even if you aren’t much of a singer, it’s great fun to sing some campfire songs with your family. Try to learn a couple before you go. You’d be surprised at how much you enjoy it.
Reading - Bring plenty of books with you. Long, rainy days in your tent are a perfect opportunity to catch up with your reading
Movies - It’s lovely to wrap up in your sleeping bag and watch a movie on your laptop. Just be careful not to let electronics get wet, and be sure to store them in a dry bag.
Walking - There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing! Don’t be afraid to go out for a wet weather walk. Simply make sure you have plenty of waterproof layers.
Rainy Days Camping Meals Ideas
For any cooking that you do in the rain, you want to keep things straightforward.
Remember that cooking inside your tent is not safe, so bring a gazebo to cook underneath or just bring food that is quick and easy to prepare outside.
Here are a few ideas for quick camping meals that you can prepare on a rainy day.
Expedition-style food is getting better every year. All you have to do is add hot water to the pouch to rehydrate the meal, and it will be ready in minutes.
You can also have a go at making your own dehydrated food. Check out this article for some ideas.
Tinned meals are normally cheaper than dehydrated camping meals, and they can be found in most supermarkets. Here are some examples of things to look for:
- Cans of ravioli/spaghetti
- Cans of sausages and beans (including vegetarian versions)
- Cans of stew
- Cans of soup
Simply pour them into a pan and heat them up; it couldn’t be easier!
Oatmeal is a brilliant breakfast food for camping. It is filling and nutritious, and it doesn’t take long to cook on the hob. You can also bring nuts, seeds, dried fruits, jam, honey, or chocolate sauce to make it more exciting!
Omelettes are another quick and easy camping meal. You can spice them up by frying some onions, chillis, and vegetables in the pan before adding the beaten eggs.
Go for vegetables that are safe to keep outside the fridge if you don’t have one, like peppers or zucchini.
Both are really filling, and you can always bring some boil-in-the-bag rice for an extra load of carbs!
Camping Rain Gear Checklist
It’s so important to bring the right gear with you for wet weather camping. If you are camping with a car, I recommend that you bring more than you think you need. It’s better to have it and not need it than the other way around!
Here is a packing checklist for camping in the rain:
- Waterproof tent - (which you have also treated with a waterproof solution!)
- Tent footprint - (which must be smaller than your tent)
- Shoes - waterproof walking boots/gumboots plus sliders for popping to the restrooms or showers; also, an extra pair of boots if you have them.
- Clothes - you will want lots of warm layers, as well as spare socks, gloves, and hats.
- Waterproofs - bring a good waterproof coat with a hood as well as waterproof trousers. Children enjoy waterproof coveralls too; again, bring as many spares as you can.
- Old towels - to wipe up any leaks and dry off dogs paws.
- Plastic tarps - one for your car to protect it from wet gear, and another to protect your kit in the vestibule.
- Warm sleeping bag - (synthetic is better than down if it gets wet) and a waterproof Bivy bag to protect it.
- Sleeping pad - plus an optional extra underpad to insulate you.
- Waterproof bags or dry bags to protect your kit. Extras for wet towels or clothes.
- Clothes hangers - to help dry out your kit.
- Cooking equipment
- Food - quick to prepare and lots of treats for morale.
- Toiletries and personal items
- Camping lantern
- Waterproof head torch
- Games and books
- First aid kit
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you keep the tent and tent floor dry in a rainstorm?
Waterproof your tent in advance, keep the rainfly pegged out taut, open a vent to prevent a build-up of condensation, and use a tent footprint. You can’t always avoid leaks in heavy rain, so you should keep your clothes and electronics in dry bags.
Should I put a tarp under my tent?
It’s a good idea to bring a tarp or tent footprint, but it must be smaller than your tent. Otherwise, water will gather between the layers and seep in through the floor.
Is 3000mm waterproof enough for a tent?
It might be, but 5000mm would be better. We recommend that you go for the highest waterproof covering that you can find, but remember it’s not the only thing to consider. Seams and overall tent quality are just as important.
What's the best family tent for heavy rain?
The best tent for your family will depend on a range of factors. Check out this article for loads of specialized wet weather tent recommendations.
Camping in the rain is not for everyone, so don’t hesitate to reschedule your trip if you don’t feel like pitching up in wet weather!
However, despite what you might think, rainy-day camping can actually be a lot of fun. So long as you follow our guide and check out our 15 helpful tips and hacks, you can’t go wrong!
We hope that you enjoyed this article, and we wish you many happy camping adventures.
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About the author
Rachel is a freelance adventure writer and founder of Highly Sensitive Nomad. When she isn’t writing, she can be found wild camping in the mountains and swimming in the lakes of Europe.