woman sitting outside her tent at camp with a mug in her hands

15 Tips for Camping in the Rain

Camping season is upon us, with many of the Ontario Provincial Parks opening their gates to visitors starting in May for overnight us. Don’t allow spring showers to ruin your next adventure! Camping in the rain can be a fun experience, with a little planning.

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There are many things that we can control when planning for our next big hiking or camping trip. We can research our favourite locations, buy all the latest gadgets and equip ourselves with first-aid and wilderness training. However, even the most seasoned of campers is incapable of accurately predicting or controlling the weather. Try as we might, there’s a good chance that one of your trips is going to be a wet one!

If you’re like me, you are probably glued to your weather app in the days and weeks leading up to every trip, hoping for the best. If you do see that they are calling for rain, don’t just ignore it and don’t rush to cancel your trip just yet. A wet weather camping trip may not have been what you had in mind when you booked the time off work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the best of this. In fact, with a little advance preparation and a positive attitude, you can still have a good time!

man hiking on a backwoods trail with an orange hiking pack in the rain

Avoid Letting Wet Weather Ruin Your Next Adventure With These 15 Tips For Camping in the Rain:

#1 – Identify The Best Tent Location

When you first arrive at your campsite, take the time to scout out the area that you are working with. After all, location is everything! Ideally, you want to locate a relatively flat and clear area of land, avoiding overly rocky areas or large tree roots.

While you may be tempted to set up directly under a tree, it’s actually not the best spot to hunker down during wet weather. However, you do want a spot that has trees close enough to allow you to tie up your tarps! During a more severe storm, having trees too close will put you at an elevated risk for lightning or falling branches.

If you have the opportunity, select a spot on a higher elevation. This will ensure that the water is flowing away from your tent instead of pooling around it, after all, water will always run downhill when given the opportunity. Pay attention to dips in the ground that may cause water pooling and avoid those areas. No one wants to camp in a swimming pool!

#2 – Tarp Off An Outdoor Seating Area

One of the biggest complaints that many people have during the rain is the feeling of being trapped within their tent. Don’t let the wet weather keep you from enjoying the great outdoors! When you are setting up your tent, take the time to create a dry, outdoor seating area. Think of it as your own outdoor living room.

String up a tarp or two to create a rooftop area, keeping the rain from falling directly on your heads. Is the wind blowing slightly? A tarp strategically hung the right way can protect you from a cool breeze or blowing rain. Don’t worry about taking your newly created ‘roof’ down when the rain stops, it will also work to provide shade when the sun is out.

Set up this space with everything that you need to be comfortable and ‘hang out’, either on your own or with your family. A lounge chair and a radio will let you kick back and relax while you wait for a storm to pass, while a picnic table will provide the perfect space for a family game day. Make sure to keep snacks, a cooler of cold drinks or a thermos of coffee close at hand!

#3 – Pack Rain Gear and Extra Layers

The clothing you pack can make or break a wet weather adventure. Avoid cotton clothing whenever possible – it has a tendency to get damn and never dry, leaving you feeling wet and cold with no relief in sight. Instead, trade in your cotton clothing for lightweight, quick-drying options. Pack enough for layers, as this will help to keep you dry and warm.

Don’t forget extra layers so that you can change out of any wet clothing for dry options. Hanging out in cold, wet clothing can lead to skin irritation, risk of hypothermia, and, let’s be honest, an overall discomfort that can lead to a pretty miserable experience!

Overtop of your warm, moisture-wicking base layer, you will need a waterproof outer layer. If you are just hanging around the campsite, and therefore under a tarp, for the most part, you can get away with a good quality poncho or rain jacket. If, however, your adventure involves camping, canoeing/kayaking or any other outdoor activities, a pair of waterproof pants will also help.

#4 – Don’t Forget Your Waterproof Footwear

Whether you’re hitting the hiking trails or simply walking around the campsite, you don’t want to forget to bring waterproof footwear. Choose footwear that will serve you well depending on your plans for the day.

Hiking boots that have been adequately waterproofed, combined with moisture wicking socks, will keep your feet warm and dry. However, if you’re not planning on any major activities, you may prefer a simple pair of rubber boots or gaiters.

#5 – Hang Wet Clothes Out to Dry

Despite your best efforts and the most expensive rain gear, if it’s raining, you’re going to get wet to some degree. When you change into a dry layer, what are you going to do with your wet clothes? It may be tempting to throw these clothes in a pile in the corner of your tent or into a bag to deal with at a later time, but that’s a decision you’ll regret later.

String up a clothes line under your tarp where it’s free from the rain, and that a moment to hang your clothes up to dry. Why? Not only will this keep your clothing mildew free, but it will also allow you to rewear clothing, cutting back on the amount you have to pack.  (Obviously, this depends on whether your clothing is just wet, or if there is mud involved). You’ll be happy to know you’re not dragging a bag of wet, smelly clothing home at the end of your trip!

#6 – Bring Simple Meals That Require Little to No Cooking

There are additional challenges associated with cooking during the rain, challenges that you can avoid with a little pre-planning. If you know that there is a chance of rain during your camping trip, include some meals that you can throw together quickly and easily without the use of fires, BBQs or propane stoves, or simply with no prep work.

While some of these items can be moved under a large enough tarped area, it’s not always that easy. Furthermore, if you find yourself feeling wet or cold, the last thing you want to do is to have to cut and peel vegetables or measure our meal time. Instead, take the time to prep your snacks and meals so that they are ready to go.

Remember, if you’re cold you will actually require more calories in order to maintain your body heat. Therefore, you want to make it as easy as possible to keep yourself fed! Pack containers of fresh cut veggies and premade chilli that you simply have to heat up before eating.

#7 – Store All Food In Waterproof Containers

As you are preparing your easy to enjoy meals and snacks, take the time to consider how you are packing and transporting these items. Opening up a soggy package of crackers or a damp loaf of bread can easily bring down your mood and turn a potentially fun day into a complete drag. Instead, make use of Tupperware containers and Ziploc bags to ensure that your food is going to stay safe and dry, even if you forget to put the lid back on the Rubbermaid tote that you have been storing everything in!

#8 – Entertain Yourself With Rainy Day Activities

Don’t let the rain ruin all your fun! If you know there is a chance of rain during your next camping adventure, make sure to pack some rainy-day activities. If you’re planning on relaxing alone in your tent, bring along a good book or your favourite movies on your tablet. For family time, a deck of cards or a board game can make for a fun day together.

wet clothing hung outside in a forested area, on a clothesline

#9 – Waterproof Your Tent

If you are out shopping for a tent, you want to take into consideration the quality of the product you are purchasing. A sturdy, waterproof tent is far more likely to stand up to the wet weather than a flimsier, cheap tent. However, you don’t have to stop there! Purchase a waterproof spray from your local sporting goods or outdoors store. Set up your tent at home before your trip and carefully apply the spray evenly all over the exterior of the tent. Seam sealer can also be purchased and applied to the seams of the tent to keep any moisture from finding a way inside. Give the tent a chance to dry before packing it up.

When you get to the campsite to set-up, you are going to want 3 heavy-duty tarps. The first will be rolled out on the ground underneath your tent. When you place the tent on top, be careful to fold any excess tarp underneath the tent as any pieces that are sticking out may catch the rain and water and direct it under the tent. This tarp will work to protect you from any moisture on the ground, keeping it from soaking into your tent floor. The second tarp, the one that people are most familiar with, will be tied up above the tent, keeping it free from rain. Tie this tarp at an angle so that all rainwater will simply roll off the tarp and away from the tent, rather than pooling on top of it. You also want it to overhang in the front to give you space to take off your shoes and get into the tent without getting wet. Finally, the third tent will be used to line the inside of the tent, laying it along the floor. This is an additional safeguard to keep you, your bedding and your belongings safe and dry.

When you do move everything into the tent, keep your belongings near the center of the tent. Any bags, clothing or bedding that touches the side of the tent may actually draw moisture from outside, in.

#10 – Dig A Trench to Redirect Water

Most situations aren’t going to require such extensive measures, however, if the rain is exceptionally hard, or if you are stuck in a low-lying area, you may need to take steps to redirect the water away from your tent.

Carefully dig a trench all the way around your tent, allowing it to collect the water that may have otherwise pooled around your belongings. Extend this trench away from your tent following the natural drainage pattern of the land. The key here is to work with what is already existing rather than trying to completely change the area to work for you. Water will always follow the path of least resistance, so leverage that fact. This doesn’t have to be a deep trench, so don’t overdo it!

As always, when camping, the goal is to leave no trace that you were present. When it comes time to pack up and head home, fill your trench back in.

#11 – Pack Using Waterproof Luggage

Rain doesn’t always hold off to appear once we are set, and our luggage is safely stowed inside the tent. Even if you do get it safely into your tent, it’s always wise to prepare in the event there is a leak despite your best efforts. In order to ensure that your clothing stays dry, you want to pack smart!

There are many great dry sacs and water-resistant bags on the market. They are designed for various levels of waterproofing, from dry bags, designed for boating and water activities, to the cheaper water-resistant varieties designed to withstand light rain, but nothing more. Take the time to read the instructions on your bag to ensure that you are familiar with how it’s designed to work and the steps you have to take to seal it off appropriately. If you are using a hiking backpack, pick up a backpack rain cover to add a layer of protection.

If you’re stuck in a serious rainstorm, or if you are worried about more important items, such as your electronics or medication, you can take your waterproofing a step further. Place these items inside of a plastic bag or Ziploc bag within your bag, adding an extra layer of protection. You can never be too safe!

#12 – Newspaper Your Footwear At Night

Are your shoes or boots wet? Here’s a hack that every camper should know! Grab the newspaper that you brought along to start your campfire, ball up a few clumps and place them in your shoes before going to bed. Overnight, the newspaper will draw moisture out of your shoes, absorbing it, and helping them to dry before you have to put them back on again in the morning.

#13 – Always Watch Your Footing on Wet Ground

Don’t underestimate how slick the ground can become after just a little rain. If you’re out hiking, or simply trying to navigate your way across the campsite, you need to watch your footing. Rain doesn’t have to bring down the mood during a camping trip, but an injury or an impromptu trip to the hospital can definitely throw things off!

#14 – Keep the Campfire Burning

Wet weather often leaves us feeling chilled, even if the temperature appears to be at an enjoyable level. Rather than suffering in the cold, keeping your campfire burning can provide you with a reliable heat source, a place to cook and an opportunity to dry out a little faster. However, keeping that fire rolling in the rain certainly has its challenges. After all, rain and water aren’t exactly compatible.

If you know that the rain is coming, get your fire started while it’s still dry out. It’s far easier to keep a fire going through the rain than it is to start it. Place large logs on top of your fire, carefully arranging them to allow enough space for the necessary oxygen to make its way into the heart of the fire but protecting it from any falling rain. These logs may become soaked, but they will allow the fire to continue burning underneath, keeping the coals hot. Keep feeding the fire throughout the day, careful to keep it from going out if possible.

Store your firewood underneath a tarp in order to keep it dry. If you are using matches, as opposed to a lighter, ensure that they are in a waterproof case or Ziploc bag to avoid them getting wet and becoming unusable.

#15 – Be Sure To Dry Out All Gear When You Get Home

You may be tempted to toss all of your wet clothing and gear aside the second that you get home, forgetting about it entirely. Unfortunately, doing so is only going to cause you problems long-term, and potentially lead to damage to expensive gear.

As soon as you get home, take everything out and spread it out around the home to dry. While some items can go in the dryer, other items are going to require time to air dry. This includes tents, tarps, bedding, and more. When everything is dry, it can then be safely packed up and put away for your next adventure.

woman sitting outside her tent at camp with a mug in her hands and the title 15 tips for camping in the rain across the center of the image

Have you ever been camping in the rain? I would love to hear all about your experiences in the comment section!

40 thoughts on “15 Tips for Camping in the Rain”

    1. We seem to be 50/50 lately on sunny weather versus rain when we’re camping, so we’ve learned how to make the most out of our wet weather experiences lol

    1. It is such a fun experience, and SUPER relaxing. My husband had never stayed in a tent when we met and I’ve got him hooked now lol

    1. There is something about being in nature, in the middle of a forest, that is so incredibly calming for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love our hotel adventures as well, but I REALLY love getting a good camping trip in when I need to recenter myself and relax.

  1. It never fails! Every time we go camping it ends up raining! We have learned a few of these lessons by trial and error but there are also a few on here I wish we had thought of and will definitely have to keep in mind for next time!

    1. We got REALLY lucky last year and had the best weather we’ve ever seen for a camping trip since I introduced my husband to tent camping, so I’m hoping that doesn’t jinx us for this year lol However, if it does, we know how to make the best of it!

  2. Oooh, I love that even though camping means you’re out with nature, you can still do it with the rain. Setting up an outdoor seating area makes a huge difference – you’re not trapped within a little space. Ooooh yes, being able to stay dry and warm is very important. Wet socks are the worst! Digging a trench is a smart idea. Thanks for sharing all of these tips!

    Nancy ? exquisitely.me

    1. If there is even the slightest hint that there may be rain at some point, we make a point of getting a big tarp up to prepare an outdoor seating space near our tent (so we can easily move back and forth without getting wet). It makes the whole experience FAR more enjoyable. I honestly love the sound of the rain on the tarp as we’re relaxing there.

  3. It never fails that every time my family goes camping it pours all night and the second day. Regardless of what the forecast was when we arrived, it always rains heavily and sometimes storms on us. We have applied a lot of these tips already, but I’m going to have to put some of the others to use when we start starting soon.

    1. We went on a string of that luck with my husband and I, but it was always closer to the end of the trip. One year the storm was so bad we actually left to go stay at a family member’s house close by and went back after the storm to pack up because it was a safety concern. Hoping we get luckier with the weather this year lol

  4. I found myself nodding along to each and every one of these tips on your list, especially being a camper myself. The drying out the gear when you get back home is sooo important or you may regret it the next time you go and pull out your gear for the next camp trip.

    I’m not sure if we’ll get out much this year but we’re hoping to do a long trip again either this year or next… we’ll see how that all pans out.

    1. Unfortunately, we’re not going to get out as much as I would like to this summer, just too much going on. We are, however, still going to get our week in Muskoka that we do every July. I have my husband hooked on that trip each year at this point.

  5. I’m from Las Vegas where it basically never rains. So, I never think about preparing for the rain! This is so helpful, as always. Now that I have a kid I’m definitely thinking about doing more outdoorsy stuff with her. Now I know to prepare for the rain and what to do!

    Also, I want to let you know, that I nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award!

    1. Camping is SO much fun as a child, among my favourite childhood memories, hands down!
      Thank you for the nomination!

  6. I’ve never been camping when it hasn’t rained and it’s always ruined my experience but reading your tips, i think I will definitely follow them in hopes of improving my camping expereince! Hopefully now I can enjoy camping for once with my friends and family.

  7. I haven’t camped in years but I’ve never forgotten an archaeology dig trip I took when I was 18 and I camped and was cycling to the dig site; on one day it rained and my sleeping bag had been touching the wall and got soaked! But fortunately there was enough sun in the evening to dry it, then the next day there was a downpour as I was cycling to the dig site but a couple had taken my wet clothes the previous day home with them to dry for me so at least I had dry clothes!
    That evening, lying miserable in my tent, I was so happy when I heard this little voice saying “hello?” outside my tent (in the rain) and a lovely couple had come with a campervan and they let me sit inside with them and heated up my dinner (I had been expecting to have to eat it cold from the can) and they went out for the evening and let me stay in the warm and dry until I wanted to go back to my tent for bed!
    I’ve never forgotten that kindness that they extended to a stranger in a tiny little tent!

    1. That is such a sweet story – not the rain, but the kindness of that really nice couple. There are definitely some incredible people in the world and their love can brighten even the most miserable situation. An example for us all to live up to!

  8. These are some great tips! I live in the North of England so when we go camping you can guarantee it will rain! Last time we forgot to bring some games for the kids – that was a very long weekend! Extra sets of clothes are so important too – nothing worse than that soggy feeling and feeling wet to the core. xxx


    1. It definitely can ruin a trip and fast, but with some preplanning camping in the rain can be fun. There is something relaxing about the sound of rain on a tarp 🙂

    1. Our last week-long trip we had A LOT of rain at one point, but we had a great time! I LOVE the sound of rain on the tarps.

  9. My fiance and I used to camp at music festivals. We once got caught in Hurricane force winds and torrential down pour. One thing that really saved my soul that day was my mother’s old “always keep a clean pair of socks and clean underwear in a ziplock bag in your purse”. Whenever I travel (camping or not) I pack a pack of socks and a clean pair of underwear in their own bags. One bag for each day of my trip and then vacuum seal the air out of them (thankfully we now have a food saver so it’s a lot easier and way more cost effective)! Besides ensuring I always have clean things, it also saves space in my luggage :-).

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