Full, deep blue clouds hang in the sky, it is a rainy day. You’re sitting in your tent, soaked and freezing. It is dark! On the floor next to you, your sleeping bag lies in a cold puddle of cloudy, muddy water. It’s going to be a tough night.
Now imagine that you are sitting in your dry tent, wearing a cozy wool sweater and wrapped in a warm blanket. The tent is lit by the soft glow of a string of lights. You have a hot cup of mulled wine in your hand and listen to the relaxing drumming of the raindrops on your tent roof.
There are a number of tricks you can use so that you can stay dry and have a good time even in the biggest downpour when camping in the rain. In this guide, I’m going to share the best tips, equipment, and techniques so that your camping holiday on rainy days will be guaranteed not to fall into the water!
Prepare for a Rainy Camping Trip
Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a first-time camper, read on to discover how to turn a rainy forecast into an opportunity for adventure!
1. Find the right campsite
No matter how green the grass and how soft the moss is: never set up your tent in a hollow! In heavy rain, your tent can collect an impressive amount of water even in small depressions.
Unfortunately, trees are not a good place to set up a tent when it rains. After the rain has stopped, drops of water keep falling on the tent and on your head. However, a place where the sun can shine on your tent is ideal so that it gets dry and warm quickly again. By the way, I don’t like to hike for miles across the square in bad weather. If you feel the same, try to get a campsite near the toilets and washrooms.
2. Test your tent at home with garden hose
Not every tent is waterproof. Some tents are damaged by wind or flying sparks when barbecuing. However, newly purchased tents sometimes have minor manufacturing defects in the seams that allow water to get inside. Fortunately, you can easily test whether your tent will stay dry in the rain. Build your shelter in the garden and close all doors and windows.
A garden hose, a lawn sprinkler, or a watering can create an excellent artificial rain shower that mercilessly reveals weak points on the tent! If drops of water are then visible inside, you have to repair your tent. By running a sheet of blotting paper along the inside wall, you can find even tiny drops of water and the smallest holes in the tent wall.
3. Make your tent waterproof
You should make a leaky tent waterproof again before the camping trip so that you are not rudely woken up by cold water droplets on your face in the morning.
Repair leaky seams with a seam sealer. It is important that you use a silicone-based seam sealer for tents with a silicone coating. You can also seal small holes in the tent wall with the seam sealer. I always have a tube in my luggage when camping so that I can react immediately to minor damage.
Somewhat older tent walls like to soak up rainwater. Protect your tent by looking at it regularly. Every tent also needs a little care from time to time so that it remains beautiful and waterproof for a long time.
4. Bring the right tent
Camping in the rain is so much more comfortable when you have a good crap-weather tent with you. Pay attention to the following features:
- 2,000 mm water column. Sealed seams and a water column of at least 2,000 mm reliably keep the rain out.
- Double-walled tents protect you from the nasty condensation that forms on the inside of your tent tarpaulin in damp weather.
- A completely closed floor is an insurmountable barrier for water from below.
- A spacious awning is an ideal place to stow wet items, so your sleeping place stays dry!
- Clever assembly system. The faster the tent stands, the less rain you will get. It is possible that you can put up the outer tent in front of the inner tent first.
- Equipment loops on the ceiling make it easy for you to hang up damp clothes & socks to dry.
We’re thrilled with our crap-weather tent, a Coleman Oak Canyon 4 when camping in the rain. It has all the important properties.
waterproof: 4,500 mm water column & taped seams
5. Right tent fabrics: polyester yes, cotton no!
Tents made of cotton fabric are not a good idea because cotton gets wet quickly and dries very slowly! It doesn’t even have to rain for that. A high level of humidity and sweat is sufficient.
However, tents made of polyester or nylon are much better. The lightweight synthetic fibers absorb less moisture and dry much faster. That is the reason why good-quality outdoor clothing is practically always made from water-resistant synthetic fibers. A dry tent is also extremely important for your comfort and health!
- Would you like to know What Are Tents Made Of: which is the Best? We have guides for you!
6. Treat your inner tent like a dry sanctuary
Your most important equipment should be stored in your inner tent. It’s also immensely important that you stay dry while you sleeping so that you don’t get chilled at night! So leave your wet shoes and rainwear in the outer tent. This will prevent your sleeping bag from getting wet. You can also reduce the build-up of condensation in the inner tent.
Has your backpack soaked you full of water? Hopefully, you’ve stowed its contents in dry plastic bags! Take the dry contents with you into your inner tent and hang the backpack overnight in the outer tent so that it can drain off.
7. Open the ventilation flaps
Even when it rains, open the ventilation flaps on your tent every now and then so that warm, moist air can flow outside properly. This is especially important after sunset time when it is colder and wild outside. This will also reduce condensation in the tent at night.
Condensation occurs when warm, moist air meets a cool surface. It mainly forms on the inside of your tent walls and floor when the tent is on a cold surface. So water in the tent doesn’t always mean that your tent is leaking. Maybe you just need to ventilate again to reduce the humidity.
8. Wear right rain jacket
The right camping rainwear will help you stay dry when you go out and keep your body heat when you relax. For us, these rain jackets have proven to be ideal:
- Long raincoat: An extra-long raincoat is easy to throw on if you walk outside the door. The coat is also much longer than a rain jacket. That’s why your pants stay dry too. However, if you want to transport a backpack or other large dry items, you can use a wide rain poncho instead.
- Breathable all-weather jacket. On longer tours in the rain, we prefer to wear a breathable, waterproof and weatherproof jacket. These jackets are really comfortable because they have a breathable membrane and they transport sweat outside the tent during physical exertion. If possible, choose a model with ventilation openings under the arms so that you can regulate the temperature. It is also very important that the zippers are waterproof.
In heavy rain, you won’t get very far with water-repellent fabrics. You need clothes with a waterproof coating. You can recognize waterproof clothing by following the water column indication.
9. Wet clothes should hang up & hang out
When you get wet, it is tempting to just put the wet clothes in a bag and put on dry spare clothes. Don’t do that! In a plastic bag, damp textiles get mold stains and can get moldy over time. Hang your things up to dry. To do this, you can simply stretch a clothesline in your awning or under a pavilion.
Many campsites have a drying room or even a clothes dryer. Yes, it takes a little time to dry, but it’s worth it: Your camping holiday is much more pleasant if you always have dry clothes that don’t smell musty!
Pro tip: polyester dries much faster than cotton.
10. Choose right sleeping bag that dries quickly
A down sleeping bag is light and wonderfully warm – until it gets damp. Then the down clumps and loses its insulating effect. You can buy a good quality sleeping bag under $100, but make sure it is efficient enough in uncertain weather. Synthetic sleeping bags are ideal when the humidity is high. Synthetic fibers do not clump and keep their insulating effect when they get wet. Another advantage is they dry quickly.
Would you like even more protection against moisture and cold? Then a packsack is right for you. This additional layer of insulation protects your sleeping bag from moisture and helps to keep the heat at night. However, the packsack should be breathable so that no condensation forms in the sack.
11. Choose water-repellent and waterproof pants
Leave your favorite cotton jeans at the campsite today. Cotton soaks up water and dries slowly. Water-repellent, quick-drying, functional pants made of synthetic fiber that protect you from getting soaked.
In heavy rain, you need waterproof pants that you can pull over your functional pants. Just like your jacket, the pants should have a water protection coating and ideally a breathable membrane made of Gore-Tex or comparable material.
12. Dry feet are happy feet!
After a downpour, the air is clean, pure and fresh. A hike is now a special experience! However, damp grass and wet leaves can get you wet in no time. Dripping shoes is no fun. Waterproof hiking boots give you a good grip and stay dry in the mud. You can give your boots additional protection from water and dirt by freshly waterproofing them before camping in the rain.
For short distances on the campsite, we also take a pair of slippers or waterproof sandals with us. They’re quick to put on and take off; you can wear them in the shower too.
Another very important piece of advice to keep your feet happy: Take spare socks with you. I mean lots of spare socks. And keep a dry pair that you only wear in the tent.
13. Use old newspaper to save your shoes
Put dry newspaper in your wet shoes to help them dry faster. Because the paper absorbs moisture very well. You can also light a cozy campfire with the newspaper! Of course, kitchen paper is suitable for this purpose. However, old newspapers have the advantage that they are unrivaled in terms of price – they cost nothing.
14. Take plastic bags with you
When it’s pouring down and the wind is shaking your tent, large waterproof plastic garbage bags and small zippered bags can be more valuable than gold.
- Large garbage bags keep your backpack and luggage dry when you have to walk through the rain.
- You can carry muddy shoes and wet pants in them. Everything else stays dry.
- Before the storm, collect dry firewood in a plastic bag. After the shower, you can easily light a crackling campfire and warm up.
- Pack an “emergency bag” with spare clothing (don’t forget your socks!), Food, medication, sensitive electronics, and all other equipment that must not be allowed to get wet under any circumstances.
Are you often out and about in nature? Then you will surely have a situation, in which, you would have wished for a small, fine plastic bag.
15. Position the tent entrance on the leeward side
Set up your tent so that the tent entrance is on the leeward side. This simple trick will minimize the amount of rain that gets into your tent when you open the tent door. In Central Europe, the wind mostly comes from the west. Therefore, it is usually a good idea to orient the tent entrance to the east.
With many tents, this construction direction has another advantage: the sun does not shine directly on your sleeping cabin at sunrise and you can sleep better in the morning.
16. Brace your tent really well
To prevent water from collecting on the tent, a small puddle on the roof is not a problem. But remember, water is very heavy. A large pool above your head can damage the tent and find its way into the tent surprisingly quickly. That happened to me once on Texel. It was early in the morning. I was lying comfortably on my back in my sleeping bag and the tent leaked right over my face. Good morning, nature!
However, you can avoid such experiences by tensioning your tent really well. Avoid sagging areas and create tension on the flysheet. A good technique is to stretch the guy ropes out from the center of the tent.
Pro tip: Make sure that the sidewalls of your tent are tight enough. The inner tent must not touch the outer tent at any point. Otherwise, condensation can run from the outer tent into your inner tent.
17. Use tent pad under the tent
Tents are often flooded not from above, but from below. The reason: the last time we camped before the rain, pointed objects poked invisible, small holes in the tent floor. You can easily protect yourself from this wet fate. Put a tarp under your tent. The sturdy and lightweight tarpaulin protects your tent floor from sharp stones, water and mud. This also makes it easier for you to clean your tent after your vacation.
Keep in mind that the tarp must not peek out from under the tent! Otherwise, rainwater will collect under your tent. Slide any protruding corners under the tent floor. You do it right when you can no longer see the tarp.
18. Dry your equipment and your tent
Damp objects tend to mold. So don’t forget to dry your other gear and tent after your outing in the rain before packing them away at home. The easiest way is to spread the tent out on the ground in the sun. Make sure to open the doors beforehand. The clothesline in the basement is also good, the tumble dryer is taboo.
19. Pass on your wisdom
Camping in the rain is a skill. Knowing how to stay dry and have fun despite bad weather makes inexperienced campers jealous. Remember the days you sat in a cold, damp tent and share your wisdom about camping on rainy days with other campers. They will appreciate your help.
20. Enjoy the rain
The relaxing, rhythmic drumming of the raindrops on your tent roof. The wind rustles in the treetops. The clear and fresh air after the rain shower. Rain has a beautiful side.
If you have followed my tips above, you can enjoy the rain comfortably and dry your tent more easily. You have time to relax. Read a good book and play exciting board games with your family and friends.
- You can also read: 15 tips: camping in the rain is still fun
How do you stay dry when camping in the rain? Share your camping tips with me and write your opinion in the comment section below.