Tips for Camping in the Rain

When planning to camp or spend time outdoors, the idea of rain is usually not appealing. This is true whether camping on your own, with friends or with your children. The concern is more than just staying dry; being in a tent for an indefinite length of time with a couple of bored and energetic children or irritated adults can be a daunting proposition. In the past, when I thought of the possibility of rain on one of our adventures, I would cringe. My concern led me to take action and be as prepared as possible.

Being Prepared Will Keep You Dry

Perhaps the key when camping in the rain is keeping dry. After all, no one can have fun outdoors when they are wet and cold. Proper preparation is imperative if you want to stay dry in even the wettest conditions. The preparation will include what is necessary to keep yourself and your gear from getting wet.

First, you will want to be sure to pack rain jackets or ponchos with hoods for every camper. For those who don’t camp regularly, this may seem like a major expense that you don’t want to incur. Fortunately it is easy to come by very inexpensive versions, either at discount stores or online. The minimal cost is well worth it; everyone will be able to move about the campsite in the rain without their clothes getting wet.

tent footprintAnother important step to take in your effort to stay dry is to place a footprint or tarp underneath your tent when first setting it up. A “footprint” is typically about the size of the bottom of your tent. You will lay the footprint or tarp down first and set your tent up on top of it. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. The footprint or tarp will keep any rainwater that is on the ground from soaking through the floor of your tent. The few times I have forgotten this important step, not only did the tent floor get wet, so did our sleeping bags. The tarp will work just as well as the footprint and will likely be less expensive.

Most tents come with a rainfly. Make sure to use it, especially if there is the slightest chance it will rain. It is very hard to get the rainfly on as it is raining and by then your tent and anything inside will be getting wet. When you are setting up the rainfly, make sure you utilize the guylines to keep the rainfly away from the tent body, as this will keep water from getting into your tent. As an inexperienced camper, I could was confused by the guylines and did not take the time to figure them out. I learned my lesson on a trip to Glacier National Park when my two kids and I woke up wet. A tarp will work just as well and can be placed above your tent and tied to trees.

Other Ways to Prepare

There are other ways to be well-prepared for the rain in regards to keeping you and your belongings dry. One thing you can do is hang a large tarp somewhere at your campsite. This will create a space that will stay dry outside of your tent. This is particularly important for long bouts of rain; rather than go stir crazy in your tent, you will have a place to sit where you can enjoy the fresh air and the sound of the falling rain. Another thing to remember is to pack your clothing in a waterproof bag. On the off chance that water gets into your tent, despite the having taken the precautions mentioned above, your clothes will remain dry.

Getting Warm After Getting Wet

Despite the best preparations, there are times that rain catches you off guard. On a recent trip, when I went out for a short hike there was not a single cloud in the sky. Forty-five minutes later it was raining hard. The rain had led to a decrease in temperature, leaving me a little wet and a lot cold. The first thing to do when finding yourself wet is to change into dry clothes. Should your shoes and socks be wet, change those as well to help you warm up and stay comfortable. This is a great time to get out your fleece and then wear your rain jacket or poncho on top so you may stay dry.

Perhaps my favorite way to warm up is by making myself a hot beverage. This is a great opportunity to use that covered outdoor space I mentioned above. I will boil some water and make a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate to warm myself up. A small backpacking stove is perfect for this type of situation as it is easy to set up and quick to boil. If it is time for a meal, this is a good time to open and heat up a can of soup or enjoy something else that will warm you up.

Having Fun Anyway

One of the big concerns about rain when camping is what to do with your time as the rain will likely require a change in plans. Preparation is key here too; by having some plans in mind for when it rains, you will find these times can add to your experience. Once you are dry and warm you can consider the following:

  • Play a game of cards. A deck of cards is an easy item to pack for a camping trip and can give you something to do when it is raining or the sun goes down. There are all sorts of games you can play and you can set your game up in the tent or under your tarp.
  • When it is raining it is a great time to get out a book, relax and read. I love to snuggle in the tent with my kids and read to them. They are more likely to get into the story when it is raining because their options are limited. It is such a nice time together. When I camp on my own, I love to lay in the tent with my book and listen to the rain fall.
  • If you keep a journal, take this time to catch up on your writing.
  • If you are camping with children, bring out some of those games from when you were a kid, like “dots”. To set up the game, take a plain piece of paper and draw a bunch of dots; perhaps 20 rows of 20 dots. Each person takes a turn and connects two dots. When someone makes a “box” after connecting two dots, they place their initials in the box. The game ends when there are no more dots to connect. Whoever has the most initials in boxes is the winner. My kids have a lot of energy and somehow they can sit still for this for some time!
  • Depending on how hard it is raining, and if there is lightening, you may be able to continue with your plans, albeit with your rain gear on. Your outer layer will get wet but you will stay warm and still be able to explore. When we were visiting Crater Lake National Park, we continued with our plans in spite of it raining for half of the day. We saw a beautiful waterfall and enjoyed a whole different visual perspective of the lake from the day prior when the sky was clear.

Packing List to Be Ready for the Rain

Here are some items to be sure you pack in order to be ready for the rain. The items on this list have been mentioned above and will help you stay dry, warm up and keep busy no matter the weather.

  • Rain gear: There are plenty of options when it comes to rain gear, from inexpensive ponchos to rain jackets with hoods. Water resistant pants are a great idea as well. Staying dry will keep you warm and comfortable.
  • Tarps: If your tent does not have a rainfly, make sure you bring a tarp to hang above it. If your tent does not have a footprint, make sure to bring a tarp to place below it. Keeping your tent dry is key to keeping you and your gear dry too. A large tarp is also great to hang elsewhere to create a sitting area or food preparation area where you can spend time outside of your tent even if it is raining.
  • Books: I love reading at my campsite and a little rain can be a nice opportunity for down time.
  • A deck of cards: There are many options of games to play with just that single deck of cards.
  • Journal or notebook: The rain brings the chance to think and write about your adventures or anything else on your mind.
  • Hot beverages or foods: A hot drink or some soup will taste even better when the rain has cooled things down.
  • A good attitude: The rain does not have to ruin your fun!

With some planning, camping in the rain can be enjoyable, as opposed to something to dread. You may even find yourself looking forward to some downtime brought about by the weather.


My name is William, a family man with two kids and the passion for camping. I started Pandaneo with sharing memorable camping experiences back as a newbie camper, introducing my family to the love for the great outdoors. As time passed, we started traveling across states, trying to hit as many campsites we can!