Are you just a few days away from that big family camping trip you’ve been planning for months, but the weather forecast doesn’t look good? That doesn’t mean you have to postpone everything.
Yes, camping can be difficult even when it’s nice and sunny, let alone when there’s a downpour, but the disappointment of abandoning your camping plans may be even worse than getting a bit wet.
And who says camping in the rain can’t be fun? All it takes is a little know-how. If you learn how to pick the right campsite, set up a tarp, waterproof your gear, and layer up, rest assured that you won’t regret moving forward with your plans.
Here’s everything you need to know in order to keep the stoke alive during a rainy camping trip.
Pick the Right Spot for Your Tent
Where you pitch your tent is quite important, so consider the environment. Finding a spot for your tent is easier if it’s already raining. Just steer clear of puddles.
If it isn’t, look for an area with high ground. You won’t risk waking up in a puddle as long as the water collects lower than you are.
The side of a natural windbreak, such as a boulder or bush, is the best place to pitch a tent. You will have an easier time setting up your tent if there are bushes and trees nearby. But, this doesn’t mean you should set up camp directly under a tree.
A tree may provide decent protection during heavy rainfall, but it will keep dripping for hours after the rain stops. Moreover, if the sky clears, the tree will still be blocking the sun, preventing it from drying things out.
When positioning your tent, make sure the door faces away from the wind.
Avoid setting up your tent too close to a lake or river. Heavy rain can easily lead to an overflow, and you might find yourself sharing a tent with fish and frogs.
If you are going camping at a designated campground, it’s best to choose one that has tent pads. Usually, these pads are built with wind and heavy rainfall in mind. Some even have trenches dug around the perimeter.
Go the Extra Mile
If you are at a dispersed campsite, consider digging a trench around your tent. A small moat around its perimeter should suffice. In case the trench becomes full, you should also dig a channel that will direct moat water away from your tent.
Bring Out the Tarps
Before you pitch your tent, you should set up a tarp. When choosing a tarp for your tent, get one that is as twice as big as the footprint of your tent.
Bring a few extra tarps and several hundred feet of paracord. You’ll be using tarps to protect your tent, cover your gear, add an extra layer to the bottom of your tent, and create an overhead shelter for lounging, so a single sheet won’t do.
The quality of the tarps you’ll be using also matters. The best camping tarps are made from vinyl-coated polyester, Siploly, Silnylon, or Cuben Fiber.
If rain is a constant threat on your camping trip, spending a bit more on thicker, more durable tarps should be well worth it. If you get a cheap tarp, the first rainstorm could easily rip all the grommets.
How to Hang a Tarp
Setting up a tarp shelter can be challenging, especially if you want to create a big communal kitchen and outdoor living area, so it’s a good idea to get some practice before you head out.
There are a few standard tarp hanging techniques, but the ‘rope through the middle’ is really the only one you need to be familiar with. Here’s how it goes:
- Make sure your cords are long enough to cover the area where you will lay out your tarp.
- To make your main high line, find your two main trees.
- Coil about 20 feet of paracord. Throw the cord over a bough (about 13 to 15 feet high). Then, walk it around the three a few times.
- After that, you can tie it to itself or to a branch. To keep up the tarp against the wind, you need to make sure the cord is secure enough. So, give it a good tug.
- Throw the other end of the cord over a bough on the other tree.
- Put the tarp over the cord and make sure it’s centred. Then, you can secure the tarp through the centre eyelets to the cord by using a wire tie or a small piece of twine.
- Before wrapping the other end of the cord around the tree and tying it, lift the tarp tight.
- Tie another cord to each corner eyelet of the tarp. You can either tie the cord to another three or stake it to the ground about 7 feet away. To secure the corner eyelets, tie a small rope or twine to each one of them.
Lay a tarp down inside your tent as well*
As hinted, it’s also a good idea to use one tarp as a groundsheet inside your tent. You should do this even when there’s no threat of rain. The tarp will tamp down any sharp twigs or brambles that might poke up as well as prevent moisture in the ground from seeping upward.
Laying a tarp underneath your tent may seem like a more logical solution, but it isn’t. If it’s laid under the tent, water will collect on top of it, between the groundsheet and your tent. Eventually, the water might soak through the tent.
When the tarp is laid inside, any water that might end up inside the tent will collect under the tarp. So, your sleeping pad, and everything else that’s on top of the groundsheet, will remain dry.
Rainy Day Campfire Tips
First of all, do know that lighting a campfire under a tarp is generally not advisable. Yes, we are still on the topic of tarps, sorry.
We know that you are not planning to create a raging inferno with the flames touching everything around them, but you could still end up with holes in your tarp.
Still, safely lighting a fire under a tarp is doable, but you must be extremely careful.
Instead of building a fire under the centre of the tarp, build it at the very edge—just enough to keep yourself sheltered from the rain.
The higher you set your tarp, the better. The corner of the tarp that’s directly over the fire should be elevated at a somewhat extreme angle. If you place it flat, you won’t have a shelter for very long.
You get bonus points if you can pull the furthest end of the tarp so low, that it almost touches the ground. This way, the sparks, heat, and smoke will roll up the edge of the tarp and escape.
You can use the Crua Firepit to keep your fire under control. Made of solid steel, it offers everything you need to get cooking.
Bring a Propane Camping Stove
Using a propane stove isn’t nearly as fun as building a campfire, but it is safer—especially if you want to cook under your tarp.
You’ll get to enjoy huddling around those cosy flames without having to worry about getting smoked out under your shelter. If you are wondering which model to get, here are the Crua Community’s 7 best camping stoves.
Building a Campfire in the Rain
If you still prefer to do things the old fashioned way, you can! Even if it’s raining! Here’s what you’ll need.
Ordinary matches are useless when wet and a cheap disposable lighter will always fail you when you need it the most. And forget about making a fire by rubbing dry sticks (YouTube makes it look way easier than it really is).
Rainy weather or not, a reliable fire starting option should always be on the top of your camping checklist. A magnesium fire starter is your best bet when the conditions are wet and humid. Stormproof matches are also a good choice.
Ideally, you should pack waterproof tinder for your camping trip. Bring some vaseline and cotton balls with you. When soaked in vaseline, cotton wool is excellent wet-weather tinder.
If you forget to bring a pre-made emergency fire-starting kit, don’t worry. You have a few potential options for tinder around the campsite even in a wet and rainy situation.
When searching for quality tinder in rain, you should always check under pine trees first. Usually, a pine tree has a thick bed of needles laying underneath it. You might find dry needles under the first layer if you are willing to dig a bit.
You can make your own tinder from a fallen log—provided that it isn’t completely drenched in water. Peel off the bark to see whether the wood underneath it is dry. If it is, use a knife to cut thin wood shavings.
If you think using vaseline-covered cotton balls as tinder sounds silly, wait until you hear that Doritos make for excellent kindling! No, we’re not pulling your leg. You can read more crazy but genius campfire and camping hacks.
You may be able to find great kindling on location. Look for dry pine cones, branches, and twigs under dense bushes, thick grass, or trees.
Don’t bring firewood with you if you are not camping close to home. By doing so, you would risk spreading tree disease.
If you’ve already gotten your tinder and kindling going, you won’t have a hard time getting your firewood to light.
Make sure to gather as much firewood as you can before you even begin building a fire. Use only wood from dead or fallen trees. Peel the park and split the firewood. This way, it will burn much easier.
Once you get everything going, keeping the fire burning won’t be difficult. A campfire will continue to burn in light rain, so you may not need to build it under a tarp.
Pack Food That Doesn’t Require Cooking
Cooking in the great outdoors is fun, but you may not feel like grilling all the time if it’s raining all the time. When you’re going camping, always pack some hiking snacks and a few ready-to-eat meals. You could even pack some military-style MREs, in case you need to go full survival mode.
If you lack ideas, here are a few simple and delicious no-cook camping meals:
Since it’s hearty and easy to make, oatmeal is a classic camping breakfast. Overnight oats are an ideal no-cook meal if you don’t want to go through the trouble of boiling water. Simply put the ingredients in a jar and let it sit overnight.
If you’re bringing a cooler, pack some milk and granola. Alternatively, you can get dehydrated milk. Breakfast doesn’t get much easier than cereal.
There’s a good reason avocado toast has become so popular. It’s simple, tasty, and nutritious. Moreover, there are numerous ways you can spice your avocado toast for flavour.
Before you head out, whip up a tuna salad. Alternatively, you can bring canned tuna and toss it together from the campground table. For a refreshing crunch, add greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
Hummus veggie wraps offer both the nutrients and the flavour. Bring some seasoned hummus, tortilla wraps, and any and every vegetable that suits your fancy. Avocado, carrots, leafy greens, cucumbers, and bell peppers make for a nice pairing with hummus.
While you are hiking or camping, a hearty sandwich often hits the spot. The Italian hoagie sandwich is classic, filling, and delicious. Pack a few classic Italian ingredients and some bread or rolls. For a zesty lunch outside that’ll fill you up, follow this Philly-style Italian hoagie recipe.
If you want a simple-fancy camping dinner, bring a charcuterie board as well as your favourite cured meats and cheeses. You can create a spread with crackers and condiments such as mustard, honey, or jam.
Prepping pasta salad before your trip is also a great option. Simply choose your favourite ingredients and toss them in.
You could add grated parmesan, cheese, onion, chopped bell peppers, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then, mix it all together with a few tablespoons of Italian dressing.
Layers, Layers, Layers
When you are spending time in precarious weather, layering is of the essence. At the very least, you should pack a base layer (top and bottom , an insulating layer that should stay dry at all costs, and a waterproof shell.
For base layers, choose lightweight merino wool or polyester shirts and long underwear. These fabrics are moisture-wicking and quick drying.
A lightweight fleece jacket makes for a great insulating layer. But, if it’s a bit colder, you may want to go with a lightweight down jacket.
Of course, make sure to bring waterproof/breathable rain pants. When it comes to rain pants, most models are made from ripstop nylon or polyester treated with DWR. The best models usually feature a 2.5-layer or 3-layer waterproof, breathable laminate.
Consider investing in a rain shell that features a waterproof/breathable membrane such as eVent or Gore-Tex.
When it comes to waterproof outerwear and footwear, Gore-Tex products are considered the best. Although, many brands have developed their own proprietary waterproofing technologies that come pretty close.
If you want to have something simple, a PVC rain poncho or rain suit will do. Although they are not that breathable, PVC rain suits are super affordable and offer solid protection against rain.
Avoid cotton clothing at all costs. Cotton may be comfortable, but, if it gets wet, it will stay wet for a very long time.
Like quality rain jackets, quality hiking shoes also feature Gore-Tex. You also may want to get waders or gaiters. If you don’t expect too much rain, you can save money and buy plain old rubber boots.
Waterproof Your Gear
Rain gear loses its waterproof properties over time. Waterproofing your gear on your own is the most effective way to ensure it will keep you dry. Moreover, you can waterproof some gear that wasn’t originally made waterproof.
Beeswax is a great choice for waterproofing shoes and backpacks. But quick DWR (durable water repellent) sprays are even better. And, you can use them on jackets and pants as well as shoes and packs.
Some of the best waterproofing products on the market include:
- Otter Wax Leather Salve and Boot Wax (for boots only)
- Gear Aid Seam Grip (for jacket seams only)
- Scotchgard Outdoor Water Shield
- Nikwax TX Direct Wash-In
Dry Bags Are Your Friends
Use dry bags to store your least waterproof stuff, such as underwear and specific food items.
Pack the most important items in Ziploc bags. Having some bin bags on hand is always a good idea. They are perfect for keeping kindling and firewood dry, and you can even make them into rain ponchos.
Get a rain cover for your backpack, even if it’s waterproof. A waterproof backpack cover will protect the gear stored on the outside of your pack while. Backpack covers are affordable and you can use them to protect other stuff as well, such as food, stoves, sleeping bags, etc.
Choose the Right Tent*
Of course, nothing is more important than choosing the right tent. Crua’s 4-season tents offer superior comfort and excellent protection come wind, rain, snow or shine.
So there you have it! Now that you know what it takes to camp in the rain, you’ll never have to cancel camping because of the forecast again.
*EDITOR'S NOTE- the article's author was addressing the topic of possible uses of supplemental tarps with tents generally, but that Crua's tents and groundsheets are specifically designed for the Crua groundsheet to be placed on the bare ground UNDERNEATH a corresponding Crua tent(s).
*The floors of Crua's tents are already puncture & water resistant, & proper tent location is very important whenever water may be an issue, e.g., if the tent cannot be placed on a level surface & generally higher than surrounding terrain, at least be sure it's not at the lowest point and also consider shallowly trenching along the high side and just a bit down on the two adjoining sides to divert any potential waterflow around the tent.