Camping in Rain Checklist

From waterproof tents to extra clothes, we identify the tips and essentials to make the most out of camping in the rain.

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I’ll never forget my first camping trip in the rain—largely because it was unintentional and I was woefully under-prepared. The spring flowers were in bloom, and the valley I had hiked to was absolutely stunning.

But you know the saying about “April showers bring May flowers.” Well, in this case, I got both the flowers and the showers—and a pretty steady downpour to boot. I ended up getting so soaked that I only got a few hours of sleep that night, and had to head home early.

But you know what? I had the campsite to myself, which wouldn’t have happened during peak season. Camping in the rain can be an amazing experience of natural beauty and solitude—if you do it right. I have found that Spring and Fall seasons are my favorite times to go camping. With mild temperatures and less insects to battle with, I am willing to take my chances with a little bit of rain over hot and humid summer conditions. I don't often go camping in the winter, but if you are planning a trip check out our recent blog post for a guide to make your excursion a successful one.

So the next time I went camping in Spring, I went fully prepared for the rain. It was well worth it. Since then, I’ve hike and camped in the rain on numerous occasions, and I’ve managed to stay warm, dry (more or less), and comfortable.

To help you prepare for camping in the rain, I’ve put together a guide with a list of essential gear. If you have these items with you, you too can enjoy every moment of your adventure!

Waterproof Attire

First up, you are going to need a coat or jacket which is waterproof. You also should shop for water-resistant trousers. You will want a hat to keep your head dry and warm (you can lose a lot of heat through your head). Also vital is a pair of waterproof boots. I suggest testing them out at home before heading out on the trails. Make sure that you can tramp through puddles without the water leaking in.

Extra Clothing

Switch out your cotton hiking clothes for synthetic materials. These take longer to soak through and dry more rapidly. Also pack some duplicates. If you think you'll need two shirts, pack four. If you think you'll need three pairs of socks, consider packing four or five or even six.

No matter what you do to try and stay dry beneath your outerwear, it is almost a guarantee that at least some of your clothing is going to get wet. You will need something warm and dry to put on when that happens.

Waterproof Tent

You will need to pack the right type of tent. The best waterproof camping tent will not only be made out of a moisture repelling material, but it will also have high-quality seams and great ventilation. The reason the ventilation is critical is that without it, the inside walls of your tent will develop condensation.

Other great features to look for in a camping tent for rain include storage pockets off the ground, a bathtub floor and a vestibule. The shape of your tent should make it easy for rainfall to roll off the top. A dome is ideal, but an A-frame is also worth considering.

If you pick a high-quality tent and you set it up in the right location, you should be able to spend a relaxing night in the wilderness. The sound of the raindrops on the roof of your tent can be soothing and restful as you drift off to sleep.

Tarp

A tarp is an all-around useful supply. If you have a large one, you can feasibly cover your tent with it. It could also be used to cover supplies outside of your tent. Another use is on the ground you will be sleeping on. If you do this, make sure that the entire tarp is contained within the tent. If the edges are sticking out, they can wick moisture inside.

Makeshift rain shelter from tarp

Waterproof Packs or Trash Bags

If you will be doing a lot of camping in the rain, you may want to invest in some waterproof bags or packs which are designed specifically for hiking, kayaking and camping. If you prefer to save money, you can simply line the inside of a regular pack with a trash bag, and then put your supplies inside.

Fire Starters

It can be a challenge to get a fire going in the rain (in some cases, it may not even be realistic). So make sure that you pack some fire starters to make the job easier. One of the cheapest and easiest ways you can do this is by packing some cotton balls and petroleum jelly. Just apply petroleum jelly to your cotton balls, and they should work effectively.

Ready-to-Eat Meals

You may not want to count on being able to start a fire at all. Just to be on the safe side, make sure that at least some of the food which you pack can be eaten without being cooked first. Foods that don't require refridgeration and have a long shelf life are ideal.

Waterproof Spray

For an extra layer of protection, invest in some waterproof spray. You can apply this to your clothing, boots, jacket, hat, pack, and even your tent.

Entertainment

Last, but not least, what are you going to do all day if you are stuck in your tent in a severe downpour? You may not feel like venturing out to explore, so you should bring some items with you to keep you entertained while you wait for the weather to turn around. Is it the perfect time to catch up on a book, write in a journal, or so on.