36 proven tips on how to camp in the rain in 2021

You’re packed and ready to head out the door for a weekend camping trip. But the forecast is now for rain! All the things you planned to do will be impossibly wet. 

What do you do? Cancel? 

Or… do you just pack the right attitude and still have a fabulous time. Yeah – let’s do that!

It takes a little more thought to figure out how to camp in the rain and stay dry than it usually does, but it’s worth it. It’s just a different type of trip and adds another layer of knowledge and confidence to your camping experience. 

Camping in the rain doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. Check out our expert tips and hints, rejig your camping strategy, and enjoy camping in the rain.

Remember, sooner or later – it always ends up raining!

1. Use a waterproofing spray in advance

Spray your tent with waterproofing spray long before you leave to camp in the rain. Don’t forget to do the seams pretty thoroughly as well!

2. Watch the weather forecast and watch the environment

Check the forecast for the location of your campsite, not your local area and even call someone in the area and ask them their thoughts. Once you are there, keep an eye on the sky, river levels, and what the locals are doing.

3. Note the difference between cold wet and warm wet weather

Prepare for your kind of wet. Are you expecting to be cold and wet? Bring woolen clothes and a waterproof top layer to stop you from getting wet. Warm and wet? Wear less and embrace the warm rain on your skin.

A tent sitting in the rain, protecting it from torrential rain
A partial rainfly can leave you open to the elements. Pick up a full-length rainfly or bring a spare tarp to protect you from the rain.

4. Use a tent footprint if you’re camping on wet ground

A tent footprint is another layer that keeps your tent from touching the ground and, in the rain, is going to keep you away from the wet ground. It also saves on the wear and tear on the base of your tent, making it last longer. 

5. Bring spare plastic bags to line your backpack

Line the inside of your backpack with large plastic bags to stop water from getting inside and making all your clothes wet. Plastic bags are one of your best friends when you go camping. Bring lots of them.

6. Choose the right tent site 

Pitch your tent on high ground. If it’s raining, the water will collect on the lower places, and you’ll wake up in a pool of water. Look for the lush areas and then stay away from them. Those plants obviously get a lot of water when it rains! 

7. Make sure your tent is actually waterproof

You don’t want to find out when it starts to rain that your tent is a fair-weather camping friend. Check the label. Check the internet. Not all tents are created equal.

Tip: Check out our list of the best waterproof tents for camping.

8. Zip up your tent windows and doors – but watch for condensation

To keep out the driving rain, zip up all the windows and doors but remember, you’ll create condensation in a tent that has warm bodies in it, so find some places to have gaps and make a cross breeze.

9. Use tent ventilation flaps to prevent mold

To stop things from ending up moldy, you will have to have ventilation, so make sure your tent has flaps that you can control the airflow and remember to open up the tent as soon as it stops raining to let all the moisture that’s collected in it dry out.

Two tents with full-length flys and a marquee set up for wet weather camping
Always use a full-length fly when camping in the rain

10. Bring a tent with a full-length rainfly

The best thing to bring is a fly designed to keep the rain off your tent and allow you to open the doors and windows for rain-free airflow. Some tents have a sort of half fly. Make sure you get one with a full-length fly or buy one if you know it rains a lot where you go camping.

11. Put another tarp over your tent

If you don’t have a suitable tent fly or are worried about the waterproofing on your tent, put a tarp over the top of your tent. Get a big enough tarp (and enough poles and cord) to create a shelter that covers the whole tent and even a bit extra if you have the room. 

12. Take extra tarps to set up outdoor living areas

Set up a tarp in front of the tent entrance, so you have a dry place to store things, enjoy a meal and even dry your clothes without being inside the tent the whole time. This is one of the easiest things to do to make camping in the rain so much more enjoyable.

13. Use groundsheets under and inside your tent

Use a tarp if you don’t have a footprint under your tent. Remember, none of the tarp or groundsheet can stick out from under the tent, or it will let the water get under the tend bottom. Its job is to keep the wet ground away from the bottom of your tent.

Put a tarp or groundsheet inside the tent. When you go to pack up, you can take out the groundsheet, and all the stuff you tracked in should be picked up with it, leaving your tent floor clean and dry.

14. Create doormats to reduce the muck inside your tent

Doormats made of a towel, groundsheet, or even a proper doormat will give you something to wipe your feet on before you enter the tent. Doormats should reduce the chance of bringing in mud and water. A second doormat inside will minimize the dirt even more.

15. Take your shoes off when you go inside the tent

If you are camping in the warm wet, you can easily kick-off your slip-on shoes into your vestibule, doormat, or under the tarp you put up. 

Boots will be a bit harder to take off, but it will be much easier to do if you put a seat just outside the door.

A hiker standing in rainy weather on a foresty path while wearing a rain jacket
Wear as few clothes as you can when it’s raining and warm, so you have fewer clothes to dry out.

16. Keep wet things outside and dry things inside

Make a clothesline under a tarp to hang all your wet outer clothes. Don’t bring them into the tent with you. As they dry out and create moisture, it will collect inside your tent and can make things go moldy quite quickly in the right weather.

17. Don’t let anything touch the sides of the tent – inside or outside

When condensation is high, touching the tent walls will allow water to flow from the outside in. If you know you will be camping in the rain, it is essential to bring a bigger tent so you can sleep, eat and get changed and store everything you need without anything touching the sides. 

This applies to the outside of the tent too. Don’t let your gear, tarp, or poles touch the outside of the tent, or you are likely to spring a leak. 

18. Store your gear out of the rain

Keep your cooking gear, extra clothes, backpacks, firewood, and anything else you may have bought under a shelter at all times. This is where a tarp comes in handy. You can put it up like a tent, store things underneath it, or just bundle everything on the floor and wait out the storm.

19. Utilize protective bags and hard plastic boxes

Put everything inside a plastic bag or box, depending on the nature of the item that you need to stay dry. Cameras and expensive gear are best in hard protective boxes. Food is best in zip lock bags and clothes in large rubbish bags.

20. Use Ziplock bags to store everything you can

That’s it. Store everything you can in a zip lock bag to keep it dry. Ziplock bags are the wet campers’ best friend!

21. Bring a few quick-dry towels

These towels soak up large quantities of water, dry quickly, and take up very little room. They are great for drying yourself, your tables, the floor of your tent, mopping up leaks, and drying yourself off as well! Get a few if you are planning on a wet camping trip.

Wet hiking boots on a log by a waterfall
Try to keep your feet as dry as you can so they are comfortable and trouble-free

22. Wear waterproof camping boots

Whether you bring gumboots, slip on’s or waterproof hiking boots, make sure you bring shoes that keep your feet dry or footwear that is easy to slip off and for you to get your feet dry. Remember to check between your toes for hitchhikers like leeches!

23. Layer your clothes

If you are camping in the cold wet, put a woolen layer close to your skin as it stays warm when it’s wet. A waterproof jacket or poncho with a hood is best as a top layer to keep you as dry as possible. 

24. Avoid cotton clothes

Cotton clothes are great for summer as they keep you cool. They do not stay warm when wet, so don’t wear cotton clothes if you know you will be wet and need to be warm.

25. Bring clothing that’s right for the weather on your trip

If you are camping in warm wet weather, it might pay just to wear as little as possible and embrace the rain on your skin. Less clothing is a viable option.

If you know you will be wet and cold, waterproof top layers, wide-brimmed hats, waterproof boots, and woolen underwear are probably the way to go. Don’t forget something warm to wear in your sleeping bag as well. 

26. Make a clothesline to hang wet clothes on

Hang your wet clothes up to dry on a rope under a tarp or shelter. Try not to dry things inside the tent as the resulting moisture needs somewhere to go. The walls of your tent are not where you want to collect it. Your tent is likely to go moldy if you do this for long periods.

Portable camp stove on a log in the forest
Cook under the tarp or in the vestibule of your tent – not inside it

27. Bring a camp stove for cooking instead of needing a campfire

If it’s wet outside, a campfire could be problematic. Bring a small gas-fuelled camp stove and make sure you have the correct gas canisters for it. Camping stoves will allow you to cook hot food in a frying pan or pot. If you can’t have the campfire going, at least you’ll be able to have some hot food.

28. Keep your firewood dry in a trash bag

If there is a chance of lighting a campfire, either bring some dry firewood and keep it in the car, in a plastic bag or put a tarp over a pile of the driest wood you can find to stop it from getting wetter. Wet wood can take a long time to burn hot enough to cook on, AND it smokes a lot.

29. Take some food that doesn’t require cooking

In case everything does go pear-shaped, always have some food that doesn’t need cooking. Bring muesli bars, beef jerky, fruit, cold meats, cheeses, olives, precooked food, salami, chocolate, peanuts, sultanas, dried fruit, and so on. Even if you end up sitting out a storm all night in the car, you’ll have something to eat.

30. Set up lots of lights for when it can get dark

Lighting sources include LED torches and lanterns, and they come in many forms, from handheld to hanging. For reading, table activities and things like card games, lighting that you don’t have to hold will work best. Don’t forget the batteries and charge everything up before you leave.

Woman reading a book in a dry tent
Make the most of your enforced time inside and catch up on that book you’ve always wanted to read

31. Bring games, books, or activities to keep it fun

You don’t have to resort to screens. Bring that book you’ve always meant to read, write in your journal, write a novel, or even draw and paint if you feel like it. Wet days are for indulging other passions that are portable and need time to do.

Board games, card games, and even jigsaws are all excellent at keeping everyone amused and entertained if the rain forces you to sit around till the rain stops.

32. Have the right attitude

For the most part, having a good time while camping in the rain is about bringing the right attitude. If you show up prepared to camp in the rain and ready to have a good time, you probably will!

33. Listen to some music or make your own

Music is a great way to pass the time! Lie back and listen to your favorite album, start to finish without interruption. Listen to others strumming the guitar or hum along to the harmonica. Sing! You don’t need instruments, just belt out your favorite tunes together or tune into the mood of the weather and sing soulful ballads to each other.

34. Pack activities to keep the kids busy

Colouring in, crafts, paper planes, paper dress-up dolls, real dolls, matchbox cars, lego, and many other smaller toys can keep kids of all ages occupied for hours. Try to resist the urge to entertain them all day and teach them the valuable skill of entertaining themselves by leaving them to occupy themselves for a few hours.

Orange tent in a field with the sun shining down
Make the most of sunny patches between the rain to sort out your campsite

36. Unpack everything from your tent after the rain stops

Dry your tent out as soon as you can after the rain stops. If possible, pull everything out of the tent, mop up all the puddles and hang everything up to dry. Keeping a dry tent will prevent mold growing and means you can take things home already dried and packed up properly, instead of having to do all this at home. It’s all just part of the fun of camping in the rain. 

Camping in the rain can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Just prepare yourself for the worst and know that you can still enjoy yourself. Remember, sooner or later, everyone ends up camping in the rain. You just need to make sure you are ready for anything Mother Nature throws at you on your next trip!

Happy Camping ????

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Author at Wilderness Redefined camping website

Kara grew up in New Zealand where camping in the backyard as a child turned into multi-night trips in the National Parks as a teenager and then a full blown backpacking adventure for a year in Asia, by herself in her early 20's. Camping, bush walking, car camping and road trips still feature heavily in her current life style. She lives right next door to a World Heritage National Park on Springbrook Mountain and highly recommends having them as next door neighbours!