Living in the UK for most of the year, we have done our fair share of camping in the rain and bad weather camping. Although not ideal, camping in bad weather may happen when you need to book vacation days and campsites so far in advance. Also, as we are involved in the Scouts, we need to ensure that our kids get in a certain number of camping days – rain or shine. Of course we prefer good weather, but we have learned that tent camping in the rain can be a lot of fun! Here are some of the best camping in the rain hacks we have learned through the years.
- 1 Camping in the Rain Tips
- 1.1 Setup Tips for Tent Camping in the Rain
- 1.1.1 1. Set up camp on high ground
- 1.1.2 2. Look for windbreakers
- 1.1.3 3. Camp as close to the facilities as possible
- 1.1.4 4. Don’t forget the tarps
- 1.1.5 5. Close Your Rain Fly Properly
- 1.1.6 6. Apply a tent proofing spray
- 1.1.7 7. Keep the air vents on your tent open
- 1.1.8 8. Sleeping pads are essential
- 1.2 Camping in the Rain Checklist of Supplies
- 1.3 Activities for Camping in Bad Weather
- 1.1 Setup Tips for Tent Camping in the Rain
Camping in the Rain Tips
If you’ve booked a family camping trip but the forecast isn’t looking great, don’t panic because we have 15 top tips for camping in the rain and bad weather camping generally.
Setup Tips for Tent Camping in the Rain
Camping in the rain hacks for tent camping in the rain begins and ends with setting up your tent right. If you get that wrong, you will wind up snuggling up in a friend’s tent during bad weather camping or checking into a hotel (both of which we have done!).
1. Set up camp on high ground
The last thing you want when camping is a river of water running through your tent.
Technically you don’t really need to be on high ground but you do need to be away from the bottom of a hill. Trust me I’ve been there and found this out the hard way.
You should aim to set up your tent when the water will run downhill away from your tent. Whilst you might be tempted to opt for that perfect flat piece of ground, this could end up with puddles around, or even under, your tent.
2. Look for windbreakers
When setting up camp, try to look for natural windbreakers such as trees, bushes, or mounds. This reduces the wind chill effect on the tent and stops your tent from flapping around at night.
You should also aim the door away from the wind to prevent any unwanted gushes of wind in your face.
This tip doesn’t just apply to camping in the rain but is good practice in all weather conditions.
If the weather forecast calls for windy weather, remember to bring all the stakes needed to tie down all guylines for the tent and to allocate enough time for this task. We have found that if you don’t have enough guylines in a windy night, you might wake up to the surprise of having your tent blow away.
3. Camp as close to the facilities as possible
If you’ll be using a campsite, try to camp as close to the bathroom facilities as possible. You don’t want to be donning full waterproof gear just to head to the toilet.
In the UK, it is always good practice to bring waterproof hiking boots or wellington boots that you can just slip on for a quick trip outside in the rain.
4. Don’t forget the tarps
Tarps are very versatile and can be used for all sorts of things. You can place them underneath your tent for extra protection or use them to create a communal area for socializing outside of your tent.
If it’s raining heavily then I advise that the tarp is placed inside the tent. If the ground is already wet, however, then it makes more sense to place it underneath the tent to ensure water from the ground doesn’t seep up.
If you’re very concerned about your tent’s ability to withstand heavy rain, you can try placing a tarp over your tent too.
For extra protection of your tent, tie the tarp to the trees above your tent to keep even more rain away.
5. Close Your Rain Fly Properly
If there is a chance of rain, before you depart for the day on a hike or other activity, make sure that the rain fly on your tent is properly closed.
My son on a campout in Austria went on a hike with his troop while it was raining. Upon his return, he realised he hadn’t closed his rain fly. The front of tent by the porch where his other shoes were kept was completely flooded.
6. Apply a tent proofing spray
Over time, the waterproof treatment applied to camping gear by manufacturers will deteriorate due to UV exposure. To maintain your tent, it’s best to regularly apply a fresh layer of protection.
You can use any DWR protectant, however, a popular choice is Nikwax Tent and Gear SolarProof which claims to double the life of any camping gear with just one application.
Especially with tents, whenever you get home, you want to spread out your tent so that any remaining moisture evaporates. Make sure the tent is properly dry before you pack it away for your next camping adventure!
We know someone who has had their tent for 30+ years and it is still going great guns!
7. Keep the air vents on your tent open
So, you’ve waterproofed your tent to its maximum and placed a tarp underneath and over the top. But, you can’t work out why you’re still waking up wet? It’s likely because you don’t have enough ventilation in your tent.
Whilst condensation is a natural part of any outdoor camping trip, you can minimize its impact by ensuring your tent is well ventilated. Most will have mesh panels that are designed to allow air circulation without letting the rain in, it’s key to ensure these are open, even in the freezing cold.
If you don’t have vents built-in, you should regularly keep the doors open to circulate air in the tent.
8. Sleeping pads are essential
If you’ve not yet discovered the benefits of sleeping pads then you’re about to be converted. Many people mistake them as simply a cushioning device, but they play a second, more important role too.
They provide a layer of air between you in your sleeping bag and the ground which stops the chill caused by the cold ground. The sleeping pad will be kept warm by your body and provides a perfect layer of insulation.
Camping in the Rain Checklist of Supplies
Another essential for camping in bad weather is having adequate supplies. Our camping in the rain checklist includes waterproof clothes especially socks, and waterproof bags to store all the dirty muddy gear you’ve worn.
1. Don’t pack light (remember the socks!)
If it’s looking like the weather is going to be wet during your trip, then you shouldn’t try to pack lightly. Having more clothes to change into whilst others dry is essential and layering up will protect you against the cold.
This includes plenty of socks to change into and an adequate supply of towels to dry off. Microfibre towels are a camper’s best friend. Not only are they lightweight and compact, but they dry extremely quickly so you can keep reusing them.
Waterproof coats can be very bulky to carry, especially if you’ll be lugging your gear around. So a poncho is a popular alternative, although not as warm as a proper jacket.
2. Avoid packing cotton clothing
Cotton is one of the worst materials to use in the rain. Once cotton is wet, it will be very uncomfortable to wear and will remain wet for some time. Remaining in wet clothing can make you sick and can also lead to hypothermia.
Instead, aim for quick drying and lightweight alternatives. Yes, this may seem counter-productive when it’s cold out, but by layering your clothes you can still maintain body warmth whilst ensuring keeping comfortable when wet.
3. Bring a camping stove
If you suspect you will be camping in bad weather and had been planning on using a campfire to cook food, it might be worthwhile investing in a camping stove as a backup option.
These can be used in all weather under the cover of a tarp. We DO NOT recommend using a camping stove inside your tent because it is a real safety concern. You can set off a fire or even get carbon monoxide poisoning without knowing it.
Bring a wind shield to protect the camping stove from wind and to prevent the flame from blowing out.
Make sure to keep everyone fueled on food that’s high in carbs. Your body’s calorie requirements are much higher when camping outdoor as it is using more energy to keep warm.
4. Pack some plastic bags
If you have proper drybags then these will be ideal for your trip. However, you don’t need to run out and spend a ton on new bags. That collection of plastic bags you’ve accumulated from the supermarket will be just as useful when camping in the rain.
These can be ideal for packing wet clothes or shoes so that they don’t soak the rest of your clothes in your bag. You can never have too many plastic bags to hand – waterproof bags are an essential part of your camping in the rain checklist.
If you have a dedicated waterproof cover for your backpack, this is also essential if you’ll be carrying it any reasonable distance from your vehicle. If you don’t have one, you could always try and makeshift one from a standard bin bag, although it won’t have the full effect.
Activities for Camping in Bad Weather
1. You can still make a campfire in the rain
It might still be difficult to cook on a campfire in the rain, however, it’s certainly a good way to spread some warmth and dry off any soaking wet clothes.
Here are some top tips for making a fire in the rain:
- Tree bark makes great kindling wood as there is always one side that’s dry
- Get yourself some storm-proof matches. Yes, these are a thing. They stay lit for up to 15 seconds no matter what the weather is. Good storm-proof matches could even be placed in water and stay lit.
- If you’re camping with a vehicle, try collecting some wood and storing it under the vehicle to keep it dry.
2. Plan some ‘indoor’ activities
The bad weather can severely disrupt planned activities on a camping trip, so make sure you have plenty of things that can be done inside your tent, especially if you’ll be camping with kids.
This could include board games, a deck of cards, puzzle books, or maybe some pre-downloaded movies on a phone or tablet.
Alternatively, just bundle up and enjoy being outside. There is nothing kids like more than getting muddy. Or do something simple like collecting sticks and leaves and make a den or teepee.
3. Stay positive
Finally, stay positive. Camping in the rain might not sound like the ideal adventure, but with all of the above tips and a positive mental attitude, it’s definitely possible to have a fun trip!
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