How do you deal with camping in the rain?

You got the days off, reservations are set, bags are packed, and you check your phone for the weather. It looks like you will be camping in the rain.

It has happened time and time again and well, I’m quite used to it I suppose. Even this weekend, the Fourth of July, of course it would be raining. I mean, it is 2020, right?

But I’ll have you know that rain has not stopped me from taking advantage of my husbands coveted days in a row off given that he is a nurse and he must plan those a while ahead.

While there have been times that the trip had to be postponed, we have definitely made camping happen when conditions are less than ideal. It even hailed once. I’m even saying this as a tent camper.

We even were able to camp with heavy fire bans throughout Colorado a few years back, obviously respecting the restrictions.

Related: How to camp without a campfire

Camping in the rain just takes a little preparation and strategy to keep you happy and warm. This is important for those like me that live in Colorado and the weather changes every hour.

Don’t spoil your plans just yet.

Here is how I plan for camping in the rain.

Prepare for camping in the rain

Research the weather

First Time Camping Weather

This is an obvious first step for any camping trip. I always check and double check the weather continuously before camping in general. It’s only natural to do this when camping in the rain. My favorite spot to check is on weather.gov because I feel like they give a nice accurate and long description and you can search for trailheads or regions rather than just the town you are camping near. Most of the time, your campsite is a bit of a drive from the town, so the weather predictions based on the city aren’t as accurate.  

Consider changing locations

If you are like me and you only camp in non-reserved public land dispersed campsites, there is no reason you can’t look for another area where the weather may be more hospitable. Honestly, unless you have a reservation, you can always keep looking. I like to use the site freecampsites.net to help me find something cool. You can also use your county outdoors pages to help you narrow your search if you find a region that works for you.

Pack for camping in the rain

Tent, tarps, and shade set up for camping in the rain

When packing, keep in mind the things that you may need when anticipating the rain. With it raining, you are guaranteed to get wet and may need a couple more items in your camping box. Also, if you don’t have a camping box to keep all your camping gear, you’ll want to get one. Trust me.

Something to keep in mind is that you might not be able to use a fire, or a fire may be hard to light. You can prepare for this by grabbing extra fire-making items and alternative heat and lighting sources for all your needs.  I’ve listed in this story cool ways to keep your camping trip fun without having a campfire that easily can be used for camping.

In addition, here are the things I would add to your shopping list for camping:

  1. Extra tarps and rope
  2. Warm clothes/layers
  3. Waterproof jacket
  4. Poncho
  5. Umbrella
  6. Rain boots/waterproof boots
  7. Extra towels – quick drying is a plus
  8. A portable heater like Mr. Heater just in case you can’t get a fire going
  9. Dry firewood to at least start the fire
  10. Extra blankets, sleeping bag, or anything to keep you warm at night
  11. Clothesline and clothespins
  12. Bucket, pot, or something to move water if it gets stuck in the tent – this has happened to me before
  13. Multiple ways to light a fire such as matches, small lighter, camping lighter, lighter fluid etc.
  14. Plastic bags (reusable is recommended) to store things if it gets wet
  15. Extra waterproof lighting to keep the ambiance cool without the fire

Consider meals that would warm you up

woman cooking a meal while camping in the rain

I am one to believe that you can embark on any culinary endeavor in the great outdoors. I personally love the challenge. But with camping in the rain, your meal can serve a secondary purpose than delighting the taste buds.

Cook foods that will warm you right up. I don’t think it is too difficult to find a nice recipe for a stew or a chili, and for my non-cooking friends, there are sweet premade soups available at a store near you.

I have cooked everything from seared tuna bowls to warm cheesy potatoes while ranging from trips with no ice or ice readily available minutes away. The possibilities really are endless when it comes to cooking outdoors but my recommendation is to go classic, stick to the ribs goodness when it comes to camping in the rain.

I mean, what really beats a great stew on a rainy day?

How to set up your campsite when camping in the rain

See if you can wait it out

This was a tip that came handy on that hail storm trip I was talking about earlier. It was last year on the Fourth of July if you’d believe that. We pulled up to our spot and it started raining a little bit after we got the tent up.

What did we do? We sat in the car and waited.

While we did have our tent up, we waited to put down any of the soft items like blankets and sleeping bags in until the storm passed, and boy did it help. Our tent got a little flooded, mainly because it’s old and it rained really hard.

Not only were we able to get the tent dry with the help of my trusty bucket, we slept warm and comfortable all night.

This obviously only works if the storm is destined to pass which is why checking on that weather beforehand is so important.

Set up your tent in the right spot

Don’t set your tent up somewhere where it can get flooded. I know it’s tempting because these spots are flat, but you need some kind of drainage, so it doesn’t pool. Honestly, I like to add a spot that has the capacity to build an extra tarp on top, so it takes pressure off the rain tarp. This is also because my tent is old.

Another thing to note is to make sure you are not in a flash flood area or too close to water features. Not only will this be annoying, but it could also get dangerous.

Tarp strategically

tent with tarp over

You know how I said you’ll need multiple tarps for camping in the rain? You’ll also want to use them strategically.

I like to place a tarp on the inside of my tent, especially if I’m camping in the rain. I learned this from other bloggers and it does work. With the tarp on the inside instead of the outside, you prevent water from pooling next to your tent which inevitably gets your stuff wet inside.

Next, build a shelter over your tent at an angle, preferably one like the angle of the ground so you get water away from hitting your tent in the first place.

Lastly, use what you must make a shelter. Go crazy with it. You can make an overhead shelter. You can make a whole cave. Let your imagination go wild.

When deciding what to make, consider your needs. Is it windy or cold? Maybe you need walls. Are you going to attempt a fire inside? You might need to use multiple tarps to layer in a vent.

Whatever you need, make sure you have it angle away from where you are hanging out so it doesn’t collect and create a pool of water. Think about those dump bucket things at waterpark playgrounds. You know what happens when it gets full.

Remember that this doesn’t need to be perfect either. The beauty of tarps is that you can always rearrange and play with design if it isn’t working for you initially. Even if you destroy it, it’s not too hard to replace. I’ve learned my best ways tarp by trial and error.

Just bring plenty.

What to do as it is raining

woman wearing a poncho while camping in the rain
Not the cutest rain poncho but it did the job.

When you are camping, and it starts raining, there are a few things you should take care of first. If you prepared beforehand, this shouldn’t be too big of a deal.

  1. Put away any sitting food, electronics, blankets, pillows or really anything that can be damaged by the rain.
  2. If you haven’t already, throw tarps on your things or place things under tarped areas.
  3. Put wood under tarps or in a car to stay dry.
  4. Contain your fire if that is going – you could put it out, secure it with a fire blanket, or if you ware staying out, watch closely while the storm passes. Storms can be windy which can create hazardous wildfire conditions, even while camping in the rain.
  5. Consolidate your campsite in general. Wind can also take any loose items in the area. You can always put these things in your trusty camp box with a lid.
  6. Don’t forget to fold up your camping chairs and put them under a tarp. No one wants a wet bum.
  7. Utilize your jacket, umbrella, or poncho to gather the remaining items at your site.
  8. Grab your drink, grab your music, grab your game, or whatever and just chill in your secured space. Whether you are in your car, in your tent or a lovely structure that you built, you can still have fun while you wait it out. Camping in the rain does not have to be lame.
  9. Use those extra towels to dry things off when the storm has passed, if it ever does of course.
  10. Hang up clothes, blankets or anything that may have gotten more damp than necessary. Bonus points if you have a sunny spot.

There you have it. Here is how I get by with camping in the rain. Do you have any cool tips that you would like to share? I’d love to hear them as I pack out for my next rainy trip.

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