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How to Go Camping In The Rain

I’m super stoked to have Hussain from Hikes Needs on the blog today. In this guest post, he tells us how to go camping and have fun in the rain.

a hiking trail in the rain is shown

If you were psyched for your next camping trip, but the forecast is showing a bit of rain, you may have considered bailing. If you aren’t ready for it, rain can be a hazard on a camping trip. That doesn’t mean you have to forego your next adventure, all you need to do is plan for the conditions you may face.

Rain doesn’t have to be an obstacle, it can make nature feel more serene, and offer an extra layer of fun to your trip. Whether you love a rainy adventure or you’re scared that it’ll drizzle, a little preparedness will make sure you won’t have any problems in a downpour. 

Wear synthetic clothing and fleece, rainproof layers, waterproof footwear or gaiters, and a waterproof pack, you shouldn’t end up too wet or cold on your hike to a campsite if it rains hard. It’s also good to pack some extra clothing to change into. Picking a good campsite, setting up properly, and ventilating your tent are also vital.

Blisters are also more likely, so giving extra effort to prevention and care is important. There are more dangers like hypothermia, slick trails, and dehydration, but if you’re careful and pay attention to potential problems you won’t have any problems. 

Keep an Eye on The Weather

Perhaps the most important thing to consider when camping in rainy and stormy conditions is to consistently check the weather. While it may seem like common sense, everyone should have an understanding of what weather you may be dealing with. Even if you’ve got all the top-of-the-line gear and know-how, that won’t help you if you’re caught with your pants down in a hardcore storm.

Heavy rain can lead to things like flash flooding, so consistently checking the weather is essential. Before your trip, do your best to know what you’ll be going into. When camping, it may be a good idea to bring an NOAA weather radio so you’ll know if things will take a turn for the worst. A bit of rain won’t be problematic, but if it turns to a larger storm or tornado, you’ll want to be ready. 

Pick The Right Campsite

Picking a poor campsite in the rain can easily leave you in a puddle with your tent waterlogged. Look for a flat area that’s not in a depression or on low ground (For example, never camp in a dry riverbed), ideally with some tree coverage overhead. It’s also important to orient leeward of the wind, along with some sort of protection like boulders or trees. Make sure to avoid especially moist ground, and dead branches. If you notice any dead branches above you, it’s a good idea to move your tent.

A branch falling on you in the middle of the night is a less than ideal way to wake you from a deep sleep after a hard day of hiking. A tent footprint or a tarp is also helpful in preventing damage and leaks on the floor of your tent.

If your tent has vents, put them to good use. Condensation buildup is a real problem, and properly ventilating your tent when you have the chance will make your setup much more comfortable. Otherwise, make sure your tent is waterproofed properly (You can manually waterproof it if an older tent is beginning to have trouble keeping water out), and utilize your rain fly or shield, or rig a tarp over the top of it. 

Practice And Be Prepared

For the experienced and newbie alike, practicing the proper use of your equipment can be a huge time saver in a bad situation. If you’ve never pitched your tent but you need to in a storm, you’re most likely going to make mistakes, and at worst have to redo your setup at a less than opportune time.

Practice using any equipment you’re unfamiliar with, because you may not always have the time to learn on the fly. This rule is especially important for tents, as it can be the most essential item to put up in heavy rain, but you can easily end up drenched for the night if you do it wrong.

Clothing To Bring Camping In The Rain

While the clothing you bring will depend on if you plan to do more than just camp, the same principles will apply either way. Synthetic, wool, and fleece clothing are imperative in wet weather.

Avoid Cotton kills:

The old adage “Cotton kills” always holds up in the mountains, and on a rainy camping trip doubly so. Synthetic clothing items like merino wool, and fleece offer some warmth even when drenched, and they will dry much more quickly compared to cotton clothing.

waterproof outer layer:

Ideally, a waterproof outer layer will keep you dry, and your inner layers will be focused on warmth. Hardshell jackets are more suitable for higher amounts of rain, snow, and wind, and they’ll keep you protected in more hardcore weather. A softshell jacket will also often be waterproof, but will not offer the same protection as a hardshell jacket. Softshell jackets are generally more comfortable and breathable but offer less protection. 

Picking the ideal options for you comes down to the conditions of your trip, and how bad of weather you are expecting. There’s no need to break the bank, but especially if you’re going on a longer backpacking trip, making an at least mid-range investment will pay off.

Rain clothing with vents also makes wet, humid weather a bit more bearable. In especially rainy areas a pair of rain pants may be helpful as well. A waterproof, breathable pair of pants and gaiters go a long way in the rain, especially in lower temperatures.

If it’s very warm, you may be better off shedding layers instead of adding them. On a hot day, wearing a pair of shorts with a rain jacket or light shirt can feel extraordinarily refreshing in the rain. If you’re comfortable with it, hiking without a shirt in rainy, warm weather feels great as well.

When Your Clothes Are Wet

If you’re soaked through your layers, do your best to evaluate your warmth. Generally, it’s alright to keep on your wet clothing, especially if you’re wearing multiple layers of synthetic or wool items. It may not be comfortable, but unlike cotton, they will dry in a reasonable timeframe.

Change into dry clothing when you have the opportunity. If possible, hang up your wet clothes to dry. You should always have some dry clothing in bad weather if possible, especially if the forecast is expected to stay bleak and rainy.

If you do not have the opportunity to set up a clothesline or dry them in the sun, putting wet clothing under a sleeping pad if you have one can help them dry quicker. In a pinch, staying in wet clothing can dry it off. It may be uncomfortable and take a while, but if you’re relatively warm and safe it won’t be a problem. 

Other Tips For Rain Camping

  • Use waterproof gear when possible (Boots, tent, backpack, etc.)
  • Gaiters or rain pants are a massive help in wet weather
  • Bright colors like orange or red are easier to spot if you plan to hike or traverse hunting areas
  • Dry bags and/or plastic bags are a must-have in the rain
  • Hand warmers!
  • Layer clothing
  • Warm food is a great way to change a miserable, wet trip
  • Bring 1-2 tarps
  • Use trash bags to line gear/packs if you’re worried water will get through
  • A makeshift rain shelter made with tarps can be great to bring your group out of their tents
  • Newspapers can help dry out wet boots

Terrain Hazards

On your hike in (Or even just setting up your campsite), the primary dangers will be slippery rocks, hills, logs, and so on. A fall in the backcountry can be very dangerous, so caution is paramount, especially on more remote camping trips. Trekking poles are a great tool for slick terrain.

With two extra points of contact with the ground, you’ll have better balance. Otherwise, river crossings can pose a danger in the rain. Rising water levels can make it much more difficult, so practice extra caution. Flash Flooding, mud, and rock slides are more likely in rain as well.

Make sure to frequently check the weather in case of flash floods, and be aware of high ground you can quickly utilize if necessary. Heavier rains also make mud and/or rock slides more likely (Especially close to freezing temperatures), a danger that occasionally kills hikers.

Be aware of your surroundings, listen for sounds indicating moving debris, and be alert to changes in weather. When pitching your tent, practice the same caution of your environment as described earlier in this article, like setting up under trees for rain protection (Avoid dead branches) and avoiding low-lying ground and/or depressions for example. 

Know When You Should Bail 

If you aren’t prepared for hardcore rain on your trip, if you’re too miserable to carry on, or if you’re unsafe due to heavier storms and lightning with little shelter, it’s ok to bail. It may be daunting to consider, but safety is paramount over pride.

I’m not saying that you have to quit at the sight of a cloud that’s a little too gray or once you smell rain in the air, I’m saying that you will know when you should hang it up for the day. Like most situations, the time you decide the weather is too much for your camping trip will vary from person to person.

If you’re a more casual fan of camping who wants a short, comfortable, and fun trip, you may not enjoy your experience beyond light to moderate rain. If you like a challenging trip or you have a goal to pursue, it’s perfectly acceptable to be outdoors in heavier rainfall or storms. It all comes down to what you want your experience to be, and if you’re prepared for the task at hand. 

Bring The Right Mindset

Having the proper mindset is always important when camping or practicing outdoor sports, and even more so in poor conditions. Your trips won’t always be perfect, the weather will go bad, things will break, and plans will fall through.

Whether you’re planning to camp in the rain or not, being able to throw on a raincoat and laugh through it is very helpful.

You won’t always be in the best situation, similarly to going camping with an injury or while overweight, it’s about mindset and preparedness. While you don’t have to lie about enjoying it if you’re freezing and miserable, do your best to keep a good attitude and stay tough. Type 2 fun is a very real thing! 

Conclusion

Camping in the rain does pose some extra problems to deal with, but it can be a great time! Between less crowded trails, a peaceful environment, and an enjoyable challenge, I recommend that everyone try it.

I personally love to be in nature when it’s raining, and the feeling of calm that comes from relaxing in the rain outdoors is hard to beat.

If you properly prepare and make sure you’re aware of the potential dangers, you’ll have no problems. You’ll probably end up wet, and it may not always be a great time, but there’s no reason to fear camping in rain.  

About the Author

Hussain from Hikers Needs is shown

Hussain from Hikers Needs is a passionate hiker and traveler that love the outdoor and enjoys what nature has to give, whenever he can he love to write and give tips & honest reviews to help others get out there and just seek more unforgettable experiences

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