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camping in the rain

The best way to keep your tent dry when it’s raining is to prepare before you leave home.

If you’re like me, you want to throw yourself into new adventures without thinking about too many details. But if you aren’t careful, you’ll wake up in a cold puddle and all of your gear will be soaked. 

This article will tell you how to prepare your tent for a rainy camping trip. It will also give you some useful tips for keeping your tent dry once you are there. I hope you find it helpful!

Preparing Your Tent for the Rain

Choosing Your Tent 

Before anything else, you need to choose a tent that is suitable for rainy conditions

Ideally, you want a minimum 3 season tent with sloped walls. Dome-shaped tents and teepees are great for channeling away water. 

A cabin-style tent with a flat roof is not the best choice for rainy weather. Once the water accumulates on the ceiling, it’ll put pressure on your tent, and water may start dripping through. 

Test Drive 

It’s always a good idea to pitch your tent at home before heading out for a camping trip, even if you’ve done it a hundred times before. 

This way, you can double-check that you have all your equipment (good luck staying dry if you forget to pack your rainfly!).

You might want to spray your tent with a hose to check for leaks. If you find any tears, you can patch them with repair tape or patches. 

Sealing the Seams

While you’re testing out your tent, you can take a look at the seams and make sure they’re still well sealed.

If the protection on your seams is starting to peel or flake, there’s a good chance your tent will leak. 

You can fix broken seams with seam sealer designed for tents. The sealer can be either glue or tape, and it’s easy and cheap to apply.  

Waterproof Coating 

You’ll also want to spray your tent with a waterproof coating. 

Beginner campers frequently overlook this stage. Then they can’t understand why the rain is pouring through their tent ceiling. 

Don’t worry; waterproofing your tent is a straightforward process. Just give the can a quick shake and spray the contents all over the outside of your tent.

Investing this small effort before your trip will keep your inner tent toasty and dry when it counts. 

Oh, and even if your tent is waterproof, it’s always a good idea to give it another coating. Reapply this after each heavy rainfall, as some of the coating will wash away.

Recommended read:

Keeping Your Tent Dry on the Trails

Now that I’ve mentioned some things you can do before your trip, let’s look at how you can keep your tent dry when you’re out on the trails. 

Pitching Correctly  

Pitch your tent nice and taut to prevent the outer skin from flapping and bringing moisture into the sleeping compartment. 

Also, secure the guy lines, even if it isn’t super windy. This will help keep the outer skin safely away from the inner tent. 

The video below will show you have to set up a tent in the rain.

Choose a Protected Area 

If it’s raining, don’t camp too close to a river or lake; also, avoid the bottoms of valleys, where water will accumulate. Find a protected spot so that water doesn’t seep through your tent floor. 

A protected area could be near a natural barrier like a large boulder, so you are sheltered from some of the wind and rain. 

Don’t camp too close to a cliff edge where rocks could fall, or underneath trees where the branches could snap off and land on your tent.

Be especially careful of dead trees or limbs because they could fall at any moment (that’s why they have the nickname widow-makers!).

Using a Tent Footprint?

Some people will tell you that using a footprint will make your tent more waterproof, but that’s not exactly true. 

A footprint is a tarp that goes beneath your tent. It helps protect your tent floor from wear and tear, so it will prevent holes that could make your tent vulnerable to moisture. 

But a footprint doesn’t actually make your tent floor ‘more waterproof’. And it needs to be smaller than your tent.

Otherwise, water will gather beneath the layers and soak into your sleeping compartment. 

Dry Bags 

You shouldn’t have too much of a problem with moisture if you follow the steps I mentioned above. But it’s always best to have a backup plan!

I keep my kit in dry bags designed for kayaking, so my clothes will stay dry no matter what happens.

Don’t worry if you can’t afford these right now, as some binliners will also do the trick. 

If the weather will be extreme, you could also consider bringing a lightweight bivy bag (this is basically a huge waterproof bag that you can put your sleeping bag in). 

This way, you can sleep peacefully, even if water makes its way inside your tent. 

A Note on Tent Condensation 

Many people mistake condensation for rainwater, so it’s worth double-checking whether the moisture in your tent is really a leak. 

Condensation happens when our breath touches the cold tent wall and turns into water droplets. These can run down the walls or drip from the ceiling.

If it’s raining at the same time, it’s only natural to think you have a water-proofing problem. 

To prevent condensation from building up, you need to open a vent. If you have two vents, that’s even better because fresh air can circulate through your sleeping compartment.

You need to do this even in the dead of winter, so make sure to bring enough layers to sleep warmly with the windows cracked. 

Wet clothes will make condensation even worse, so store them outside of your sleeping compartment if possible.

You can also hang a microfiber towel in your tent to absorb excess moisture. 

Final Thoughts 

We might not be able to control the weather, but we can absolutely help our tents withstand the rain. 

I’ve given you quite a lot of information in this article, so I’m going to run through my advice one last time. 

Before you set off for a wet weather camp, you can help yourself out by:

  • Choosing an appropriate tent
  • Testing your tent at home
  • Checking and repairing the seams
  • Spraying with a waterproof coating 

You can keep your tent on the trails by:

  • Pitching it nice and taut
  • Choosing an appropriate (and safe!) place to pitch
  • Protecting your tent floor from tears with a tent footprint 
  • Storing your kit in dry bags, in case all else fails!

Remember to not confuse condensation with leaking.

No matter how waterproof your tent is, you will wake up to moisture inside it if you don’t have some airflow moving through your sleeping compartment. 

I hope you found this article helpful, and I wish you many happy (and dry!) camping adventures. 

To learn more about camping in the rain, read my ultimate guide on how to camp in rainy weather and love it.


Rachel Horne

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.

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