8 Tips for Staying Dry While Camping in the Rain

Chris Wright
·4 min read
Photo credit: Getty/ lncreativemedia
Photo credit: Getty/ lncreativemedia

From Men's Health

Camping in the rain doesn't have to be a miserable experience if you're prepared. I’ll never forget my first winter camping trip. My Boy Scout troop took an excursion out in December every year, and I happily went along, a true tenderfoot. I was not a great scout, and I did not consider the Scout Motto (“Be Prepared!”). It rained. A lot. The first night, the panel of the ancient canvas tent nearest my face was not properly secured, and a 20-degree wind laden with ice and rain ended its flight across the central Pennsylvania countryside by whacking me in the face.

The next night, I secured the tent better, slept in my long johns, and wore my winter hat. That weekend could’ve been a disaster, but instead, I fell in love with ugly-weather camping. When the weather was bad outside, even an old tent felt like a wonderful escape from the elements.

Which is to say, don’t expect any rainy camping trip to be easy. But, if you take the right precautions and come prepared with the right gear and skill set, any dreary weekend can turn into a wonderful time in the woods, free of people and sunshine. Here are 8 basic tips for staying dry while camping in the rain, along with essential outdoor gear you'll need.

Be Prepared By Monitoring Rainy Weather Before Your Camping Trip

Rain is not a joke. Even in above-freezing temperatures, getting and staying wet can lead to deadly hypothermia. (It really can be that inane: In 1964, three participants in a race in England died of hypothermia even though temperatures ranged as high as 45 degrees.)

Monitor the weather leading up to the trip, and check on specific weather-related warnings regarding your campsite, like flash flooding and lightning storms.

Pack Waterproof Clothing for Camping in the Rain

Start with the big three: You’ll want to bring waterproof boots, pants, and a rain shell. A simple poncho and a space blanket are always good to have on hand, as is a good waterproof hat. As the old saying goes, cotton kills (it can absorb 27 times its weight in water and takes forever to dry out), so pack technical fibers and wool socks. Oh, and make sure you pack extra underwear and socks, along with a clothesline to dry out any gear that gets soaked, if the sun decides to make an appearance.

Re-Waterproof Your Camping Tent.

A good tent should keep you warm and dry, considering you store and care for it properly. Every once in a while, you should re-waterproof it, especially if you plan to camp in poor weather. This requires a three-pronged attack: seal the seams, refresh the urethane coating, and spray on new DWR coating.

Put Your Camping Tent in the Right Spot.

A simple trick, but a vital one: put your tent on high ground if you don’t want to sleep in a pond. A good ground cloth helps.

Lean on Car Camping.

You might not get the lonesomest campsite or the greatest view when you camp frontcountry with your vehicle nearby. But damn, when things go bad, it’s good to have a second shelter around—as my dad and I once learned when our tent flooded on a fishing trip. We could have been better prepared for auto-camping: an organizer, a set of lights, a serious pillow, and even just a simple whisk and dustpan can make the laid-down back seats feel more like home.

Invest In a Good Camping Tarp for Rainy Weather.

I always bring at least two all-purpose tarps when car camping. Use them as ground cloths, a car awning, or to create a fire shelter and outdoor space to sit under. You can buy them all the way from cheap and simple to fancy and expensive. Just make sure you store them right and they ought to keep you happy.

Simplify Your Cooks.

A muddy, wet trip is not the ideal time to try out a new recipe. Pre-cooking and preparing is always a good idea for camping, both to save time and effort and to allow you to cook things you wouldn’t normally prepare around the campfire, like curried lentils or marinated strip steak. If the weather looks especially bad, freeze-dried food is the way to go. Just add some of the water, water, that’s everywhere, and you’re feasting in no time.

Bring Games to Avoid Boredom.

If you forget a waterproof deck of cards, you’re a chump. If you bring backpacker’s cribbage, magnetic chess, or trivia, you’re a hero.

You Might Also Like