You’re out enjoying a great weekend camping, when you notice the sky start to darken. Glancing up, you think to yourself “that kinda looks like rain…” And before you know it, the first drops start to fall. They keep falling, gaining in size and frequency. The next thing you know, the skies have opened up and the rain is torrential. What do you do? Do you pack up as quickly as you can and call it a weekend? Do you dive into your tent and hope the water stays out and your gear stays dry?
With a little prepping and planning, you’ll never be at the mercy of a passing storm again. Follow these simple, effective tips to ensure you have a great camping experience, rain or shine.
When it Comes to Setting Up Camp, it’s All About Location
If you choose a bad spot to set up your tent and establish your campsite, you may find yourself cold, wet and miserable.
High ground is king, and low ground should be avoided like the plague. If you can’t (or don’t want to) set up camp at the highest nearby point, middle ground will do (and can provide some shelter against wind) – just be sure not to settle in at the lowest point.
If you must establish your campsite in a valley or near a river, be sure to find the high water line and set up above it to avoid water creeping up in the event of a heavy downpour.
It may be tempting to set up your tent under a lush tree for some extra protection from the rain, but it’s best to keep some distance. Tall trees can attract lightning, and it can run along the tree & down through your tent. However, if you have enough rope (paracord), utilizing trees to suspend some tarps a safe distance away is great for adding some extra coverage over your tent, or your campfire spot, a clothesline, etc.
Protecting Your Campsite from Rain with Tarps
Whether you anticipate rain or not, always be sure to bring along a few tarps–even if there’s not a cloud in the sky, they can still provide some shade to keep things cool and protect you from sunburn.
When it’s raining, a tarp, some trees, and some paracord are all you need to create a roof that will shield your site from the rain. Just be sure to be generous with the paracord, as you don’t want to be too close to a tree should lightning strike.
If you have camping cookware set up in you camp kitchen, it’s a good idea to set up a tarp early on whether you’re anticipating rain or not to protect your cooking gear from potential unexpected downpours.
Become a Waterproofing Master
If you’re out looking for new gear before your next adventure, consider investing in waterproof gear. It’s a bit more expensive than your standard gear, but well worth it if you can work it into your budget.
If not, be sure to get some waterproof spay – it’s not quite as good, but it’s way better than nothing. One thing you should consider investing in is a dry bag. They come in various shapes and sizes, but here are a few really solid, affordable ones to consider:
With that being said, it’s a good idea to bring some heavy-duty trash bags along with you. They’re great for a wide variety of uses, including keeping clothes dry (if you want an extra layer of protection, wrap one around your clothes before packing them in your waterproof bag).
There’s a a wide variety of great affordable waterproof gear you can (and should) invest in when your budget allows, so be sure to check out our Camping in the Rain Checklist.
You Can–and Should–Build a Fire in the Rain
Getting a fire going in the rain may feel like a Sisyphean task, but it’s definitely possible and worth the effort. With a few tricks up your sleeve, you’ll never be without a fire again.
When it comes to having a successful & enjoyable outing, proper preparation can mean the difference between an enjoyable trip and a miserable trip. If you know it’s going to rain (or even if you don’t), it’s a good idea to pack some tinder and kindling in your bag (stored in a dry sack, trash bag, zip lock bag, etc.). If you don’t have room to bring any with you, or if you run out of reserved dry kindling, all is not lost.
Make your rounds and gather as much kindling as possible. When it comes to building a fire in the rain, when you think you have enough tender, kindling & fuel wood (timber), go back and collect 3x that. Once you have a nice pile to work with, start whittling away the wet bark on the wood. If you don’t have much tinder (leaves, paper, cotton, etc.) shave off fine pieces of dry wood from your kindling/fuel wood. If you have trouble getting your kindling to catch fire, try feathering it.
Check out our How to Build the Perfect Campfire guide for more information about starting a fire in the rain.
Wear the Right Clothing for the Rain
Be sure you, and each member of your party, packs one (or more, ideally) sets of rain gear. The essentials are: a raincoat or poncho, waterproof shoes or boots, and waterproof headgear.
Keep an Ear Out for Thunder
If you hear thunder rumbling in the distance, or catch a glimpse of lightning approaching, the situation has changed. Staying in a tent is no longer a safe option, so it’s time to kick things into the next gear to ensure that you (and everyone with you) remains safe until the storm passes. There’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to staying safe during a thunderstorm, so be sure to check out our post here where we go over Do’s & Don’ts to stay safe: How to Stay Safe Camping During a Thunderstorm.
Keep a Positive Attitude, No Matter How Hard it Pours
Getting hit with a rain shower during your weekend out can put a damper on your outing, but it’s important to keep a positive attitude. Getting in a bad mood won’t change the situation, so you might as well take the turn of events in stride. Of course, if you’ve prepped and packed accordingly by following this simple guide, you’ll be much better off than if you’d been caught off-guard, which makes it a bit easier to smile while you wait out the storm.